1917-20 M101-6 Felix Mendelsohn Babe Ruth: one of his most rare cards!

Mendelsohn Ruth

Fewer than ten examples of the 1917-20 Felix Mendelsohn Babe Ruth card have been graded by either grading company.  That so few examples are known to exist of the most popular player of the era and the issue’s undisputed key is a true testament to the rarity of the issue.

More interesting – and certainly more important, however – is the fact that Ruth’s 1917-20 Felix Mendelsohn card is the first card to depict him as a member of the New York Yankees.  Initially issued listing Ruth with the Red Sox, the card was changed after the Babe was sold to the Yankees.  Today, it remains one of the most rare of all Ruth’s cards, orders of magnitude more so than his acknowledged “rookie” card, the M101-4/5.

The Mendelsohn cards were offered in advertisements in The Sporting News for the price of $5 for 100 pictures.  Since the set was issued over a three-year period, more than 100 different subjects are known, and more may yet to be discovered.  The Ruth, however, stands far above the rest.

This example presents far better than the technical grade, a victim of the grading issues that occur with oversized cards such as this (it measures 4 3/8″ x 6 3/8″ and is housed in SGC’s holder for cabinet cards). The surface and corner wear is visible but unobtrusive, some mild wrinkling on the surface made more noticeable due to the size of the card.  The reverse exhibits some staining, not easily evident on the card front.  None of the wear obstructs the image of Ruth, an image similar to his M101-4 or E121 cards, though considerably larger and more clear.  Quite possibly the most attractive of all the photographic issues of Ruth, simply due to its size.

Hottest Card in the Hobby?

1925 Exhibit Gehrig Front

Few cards in the hobby are better examples of a “hot card” than the 1925 Exhibit Lou Gehrig.  Throughout the “rookie card craze,” the Gehrig RC remained an underrated card, certainly expensive relative to some of Gehrig’s contemporaries but not in comparison with other players of his great stature.  In recent years, however, collectors have become more appreciative of Exhibits in general, and demand for the card has skyrocketed, with an example graded GOOD 30 by SGC eclipsing the $30,000 mark last summer, a PSA VG 3 example reaching $60,000 in January and a higher-grade example topping the $100,000 mark just a few weeks ago.  The card breaks records each time a new example hits the hobby.

The growth is, of course, with good reason: Lou Gehrig is one of the most popular players ever to set foot on a baseball field, and is certainly one of the greatest of all-time.  His legend has only increased with the years, and values of Gehrig memorabilia has begin to take its rightful place among the most valuable of all baseball collectibles.  It was, after all, just two years ago that a Gehrig game-used bat attracted considerable attention in the media and ultimately sold for the record price of $437,000 right in a Love of the Game auction.  Unquestionably, the demand for quality Gehrig-related material continues to rise dramatically as hobbyists continue to seek out the finest material from the game’s all-time greats.

Graded VG 40 by SGC, this example boasts less surface wear than similarly-graded examples that have recently sold, along with a clear, well-contrasted image.  Corners are evenly rounded, with some moderate creasing at the very lower-right corner.  Some foxing and age-related toning is evident, but nothing that would distract from the card’s overall eye appeal within the grade.  A strong, high-quality card, one of the hobby’s most desirable, finally taking its place among the hobby’s most elite cards.

A CHILDHOOD DREAM

Ruth Lot AOf the many items that we have offered for sale in our auctions, it could be that this one is our favorite.  It may not have the panache of a T206 Wagner or a Babe Ruth jersey, but it is likely the only one of its kind, and it represents everything that made baseball the national pastime in its earliest days.

Picture this: the year is 1934, and a 10-year-old boy listening to the radio learns about a contest involving Babe Ruth.  First prize, a trip to Florida with Ruth for Spring Training, seems out of reach.  But perhaps by entering, he can win a lesser prize, like a baseball or a glove.

A few weeks later, young Gerard Knapp of Menands, NY receives a letter from the Babe himself, telling him he’s qualified for the “World Series Finals” of his contest.  By simply choosing an “all-star” team and explaining why he’s chosen the players he had, he could be one of just fifty boys to accompany the Sultan Of Swat to Florida.  And on March 5, the young boy receives a Western Union Telegram from the Babe, that he won the contest and would be traveling to Florida!  Alone, without his parents, but accompanied by “experienced leaders.”

Everything about this sets off alarm bells with even the least experienced parents, but 1934 was a different time, and this really happened.  Every piece of this lot was saved by the Knapp family, chronicling the young boy’s adventure, from his entry into the contest, his instructions on how the trip would work, and even the newspaper article announcing “Menands Boy Will Be Guest of Babe Ruth in Florida Camp.”

The entire lot contains 14 pieces that chronicle the young boy’s entrance into the contest (which, we learn, was sponsored somehow by Standard Oil), his winning, the telegram from Babe Ruth himself (!), the entire itinerary for their time in Florida.  It even includes a postcard from young Knapp to his family back in New York.  Our upcoming catalog and auction description will describe each of the 14 pieces in detail.

The 1934 Spring Training was particularly newsworthy, as much news was made of Babe Ruth’s physical conditioning.  It would be Ruth’s final Spring in a Yankee uniform, and the 40-year-old superstar reflected on his career often, in a host of news stories across the country.   On March 25 of that spring, Ruth hit a home run off Boston’s Huck Betts that was measured as having traveled an amazing 624 feet – just two days after leaving the company of young Gerard Knapp and 49 other boys who were winners of the radio contest.

An outstanding document, chronicling the excitement of winning a chance to spend time with the greatest player of all-time, the leap of faith that parents took in putting their children on a train with strangers, and a detailed itinerary of what was likely one of Gerard Knapp’s greatest memories.

Ruth Lot C

Ruth Lot M

CHECK OUT OUR NEW WEBSITE!

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Lots going on here at Love of the Game.

First and foremost, we’ve got a brand-new website.  Believe it or not, it’s been nearly five years since we launched LOTG, and while we’ve been working really hard on presenting quality auctions and designing beautiful, useful auction catalogs, we haven’t spent a whole lot of time on our website.  So, it was time.

Our new website is much cleaner and easier to use than our last one (though we loved the last one when we launched it, web technology has changed quite a bit over the last five years).  We wanted a way to present you with the most important information right up front, in a way that you couldn’t miss it, so we created a dominant home page graphic with a clear headline.  We also wanted a way to make it easier for you to get in touch with us about consignments, so we placed that information in an easy-to-find place.  And we also wanted to create a way for non-registered bidders to sign up to receive our email updates, so we added that technology right to the home page.

We also updated the actual auction software, changing the layout dramatically to incorporate longer lot titles (so you can see what each lot is more easily), and enabling you to add items to your watch list without having to click through to that item.

More importantly, we incorporated two brand new pieces of technology into the auction, to make bidding easier and more user-friendly:

  1. Our entire website, including the auction catalog page and individual lot pages, are now mobile-friendly.  This means that it is much easier for you to view the auction and place bids from your mobile device or tablet.  Next auction, give it a try!
  2. We’ve added a new feature to the site – you now have the ability to receive your outbid notices by text message!  It is our hope that this feature helps to un-tether you from your desktop computer on auction night.  Now, you’ll be able to configure your account so that instead of waiting for outbid emails or refreshing the page, you can simply get a text message if you’re outbid on a lot, and then increase your bid right from your mobile phone.  No more waiting up all night in case you’re outbid!

Of course, we realize that not everybody wants to receive their outbid notices on their cellphone, so we set it up so that you actually have to turn this feature on yourself.  To set it up, simply follow these steps:

  1. Log into your account.
  2. Click “Edit User Information.”
  3. Add your cell phone number in the “Cell Phone” box.
  4. Click “Receive Outbid Text Messages”
  5. Choose your cell phone company from the drop-down menu
  6. Click “Submit.”

That’s it.  It’s that simple, and you can change it any time, just by un-clicking the “Receive Outbid Text Messages” box.

Our Spring auction is right around the corner.  The photo above includes many of the items you’ll see (and yes, that’s a Gehrig rookie, and a Voskamp Coffee Wagner, and a 1923-24 Exhibit Babe Ruth).  This auction includes another outstanding assortment of type cards, 19th Century cards and memorabilia, plus a large run of Felix Mendelsohns, a huge assortment of Exhibits (including tons of Ruths, Gehrigs, and Cobbs), and more T210s than we have ever seen in one place.  For you postwar collectors, we have an enormous assortment of signed 1952 Topps (more than 400!), a stunning Roberto Clemente collection, and a beautiful grouping of 1950-52 Bowman Yankees, Dodgers and Giants.  Keep coming back for more details – catalogs will mail in late March!

“STOCKTON FIND” OF RARE CRACKER JACK BASEBALL CARDS TO BE FEATURED IN LOVE OF THE GAME FALL AUCTION

Newly-discovered horde of rare baseball cards to be auctioned November 19 

1915-cj-30-cobb-frontHACKETTSTOWN, N.J., October 31, 2016 – Beginning in 1908, when “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” became one of the year’s most popular songs, the Cracker Jack brand has been synonymous with baseball.  Today, the company’s baseball cards are likely to provide a New Jersey family with a six-figure windfall.

Love of the Game Auctions, a Hackettstown, NJ-based sports memorabilia auction company, will be auctioning a group of more than 170 newly-discovered 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack cards, including ultra-valuable cards of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson.  The cards were discovered by a family who inherited them from a favorite uncle in 2002, in a box of assorted personal belongings.

“A find like this is a rare occurrence,” explained Auction Director Al Crisafulli.  “In 1914 and 1915, Cracker Jack included baseball cards as the ‘prize’ inside each box.  They were tremendously popular when they were issued, but they’re very scarce today, especially the 1914 cards.  Some collectors speculate that fewer than a dozen complete 1914 sets exist in the entire hobby.  The Christy Mathewson alone is a $20,000 card.”

The cards were initially collected by a South Dakota boy named Oliver, who at 9 or 10 years old, bought as many boxes of Cracker Jack as he could afford, tucking the cards away into his growing collection.  Oliver, like many of us, eventually outgrew his baseball cards, but his mother didn’t throw them away – she packed them away in a box of his personal memorabilia, which included old report cards, Playbills, and letters.  Along with other heirlooms, the box was passed down through Oliver’s family over the years, eventually landing in the sleepy town of Stockton, New Jersey with his descendants in 2002 – where it remained unopened until this past summer.

The family reached out to Love of the Game Auctions due to the company’s reputation for handling significant sports memorabilia finds.  “The family had done their homework,” explained Crisafulli.  “There isn’t much historical precedent with collections like this when it comes to establishing value.  They took the time to understand what they had, how to properly assess their condition, and the best way to sell them.  They took great care to make the right decision when it came to selling the cards.  I’m thrilled that they chose Love of the Game to auction the collection.”

The cards, all of which have been professionally authenticated and graded by industry leader Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), will be sold as part of Love of the Game’s Fall Auction.

“The cards are unbelievably clean,” stated Crisafulli.  “They’ve got some normal wear, because young Oliver clearly loved them and played with them as a boy – but once they were packed away, they didn’t see the light of day for the better part of a century.  Almost all the important cards are included – it’s the largest ‘original owner’ collection of Cracker Jacks we’ve ever seen.”

According to Crisafulli, early word of the consignment has been met with strong enthusiasm. “Beyond its significant value, this is the kind of collection that makes baseball fans of all ages feel like kids again,” he said. “Everyone knows Cracker Jack – it’s one of the oldest and most respected American brands.  Everyone knows players like Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson – they bring us back to a more innocent time.  It’s a truly fantastic and rare find.”

LOTG’s call auction will open in early November and run through November 19. Crisafulli added that the Cracker Jack collection will share the spotlight with an impressive lineup of featured items including Christy Mathewson’s World War I garment bag, a beautiful 1909-11 T206 near set, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle graded SGC VG 40, a beautiful selection of 19th Century baseball cards, and much, much more. For more information, visit www.loveofthegameauctions.com.

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Two auctions at once? You betcha!

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Next week, in addition to our eagerly-anticipated Fall Premier Auction, we will be launching our inaugural Ringside Auction, which features approximately 250 lots of boxing-specific cards and memorabilia.

The auction was curated in conjunction with Adam Warshaw, author of America’s Great Boxing Cards.  Adam helped with lotting and descriptions, and we’re really enthusiastic about the result, which features some truly special boxing material.

One of the items we’re most excited about is an American Caramel E125 Jack Johnson.  Graded AUTHENTIC by PSA, this is one of just three examples known, and the first to be graded by PSA.  It, along with a host of other cards, is part of the PSA Set Registry’s #2 Jack Johnson set, which we’ll be offering in this auction.

The auction will launch at the same time as our Premier auction, but will close one week after – the closing date is Saturday, November 26.  Catalogs will mail together.  Be on the lookout!

 

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Christy Mathewson’s Military Garment Bag

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Of all the players of the Deadball Era, Christy Mathewson is among the most revered among hobbyists.  The legend of the “Christian Gentleman” as exactly that – a college educated gentleman, playing a sport at the time often reserved for miscreants, led him to be one of the most popular and well-liked players of his era.  During the War, Mathewson enlisted in the US Army, and was appointed a Captain in the Chemical Warfare Service (along with fellow ballplayers Ty Cobb and Branch Rickey). The tragic 1918 accident that resulted in Mathewson’s exposure to mustard gas during a training excercise certainly shortened his life; eight soldiers died that day but Mathewson and Cobb escaped with their lives.  

Memorabilia from Mathewson’s time in the military has filtered its way throughout the hobby over the years; this is one of the most significant pieces we have encountered: Mathewson’s military garment bag.  Emblazoned with Mathewson’s name, rank and “C.W.S.,” this outstanding relic is constructed of durable cloth with a heavy leather handle, and measures approximately 28″ x 50″ with multiple pockets, straps, and spaces for the Captain’s uniform and garments.  Indeed, Mathewson’s clothing likely accompanied him to France in late 1918 in this very bag – and returned home with him after the accident which ultimately cut his life short.

The bag itself is in ourstanding condition, with normal wear and tear related to its age and usage, including multiple pronounced, visible stains throughout.  Mathewson’s printed name and the CWS insignia are printed clearly on the front pocket.  We have also included a 6″ x 9″ photo of Mathewson in his military uniform – likely a Type II photo of vintage origin, marked 1922 on the reverse.

One of the more remarkable items we have had the pleasure of offering, a piece that bridges the life of one of the game’s greatest ever ballplayers with the branch of the US Army in which he served, to which ultimately gave his life.  A wonderful, museum-quality piece, coming soon in our Fall Premier Auction.