Christmas In April

March 13, 2010

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A few days ago, Johnny Goodman made me aware of the fact that the Robert Edward catalog would soon be shipping.  What sort of catalog is the Robert Edward book?  Men’s apparel?  Fine wines?

No, something even better.  Sports collectibles.  Not just any sports collectibles, but high end sports collectibles.  And we’re not talking about your run of the mill Tigers Woods autograph on a Hooters menu (ha ha, Tiger Woods at Hooters – yeah, we understand the irony) type of sports collectible.  We’re talking about collectibles that often have unique histories behind them.

The full name of the organization is Robert Edward Auctions.  Each year, I go to the site, click on the “Contact” link and request a copy of the catalog.  The glossy, full color catalog is filled with about 700 pages of consigned auction items.  Some guys anxiously await the SI Swimsuit issue; I anxiously await the REA catalog.  It truly is Christmas in April.

Sadly, it appears that I don’t have a 2009 catalog.  I wonder what sort of life event made me forget to order my copy.  I guarantee that I didn’t throw the catalog out – I keep the old catalogs to leaf through from time to time.  I’ll pull out my 2008 copy to share some highlights.

What would a high end sports auction be without the requisite T-206 Honus Wagner card (circa 1909-1911)?  The card – of the Pirates Hall of Fame Shortstop – is rare because Wagner demanded that the American Tobacco Company pull the card from their set.  There are a few theories on the reasoning.  Historically, it was said that Wagner did this to prevent youngsters from buying tobacco to get his card.  More recently, the thought is that Wagner simply wanted more money from ATC.

In 2008, a collector paid $1.6 million for a Wagner (not in the Robert Edward auction) with a grade of 5 (out of 10).  The example in the REA catalog was a 1 (poor condition).  The reserve was $50,000 – and the card sold for $317,250!

The auction isn’t limited just to cards, though.  There are a variety of other unique collectibles.

In recent years, canceled checks have gained popularity with collectors.  In the 2008 Robert Edward auction, there’s a check from Babe Ruth to his wife for $1000.  Why is there interest in this sort of item?  Because Babe Ruth would have put actual thought into writing out this check, as opposed to a player blindly scribbling his name on a ball.  The $1000 check – which has no actual financial value – sold for $4112.50.

An interesting modern era piece was lot 165 – a 1988 lithography featuring  the 11 living members of the 500 home run club at that time.  Not only is it a nice work of art, but it is signed by those members – Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, and Willie McCovey.  I couldn’t afford the $1800 it sold for – but it would look pretty sweet on my mantle.

While the auction centers around sports – and specifically baseball – there are also some non-sports items included.  Lot 1618 was the cape worn by George Reeve in the 1950s Superman television show.  How much would you pay for a rather simple piece of red fabric?  A collector paid $32,213.50.

Not everything sells for tens of thousands of dollars, of course.  A Japanese biography of Babe Ruth, published in 1948, sold for $117.50.  If you’re looking to add to your wardrobe, you could have bought the 1944 game used pants of Joe “Ducky” Medwick (last National League player to win the triple crown).  If you wanted to buy some sweet kicks, a pair of Karl Malone’s shoes from his final NBA season sold for a mere $293.75.

No, I’m not paid by REA to write this article – I’m just a big fan of their work.  If you’re a big sports fan like me, swing by their site, order a catalog, and if you have the financial ability, bid on a few items.

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