Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2021 Issue

Yet Another Record Price for a Baseball Card - $6.6 Million

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You are looking at $6.6 million (Robert Edward Auctions photo).

Are we in the midst of a bubble but don't realize it? The only way we can positively know that rapidly rising prices are a bubble is if they fall back down to Earth. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Those who correctly call a bubble get recognition for their wisdom later, but what we forget is when they called something a bubble and it was not. So here we are, another record price for a sports card, which we seem to be writing about every month, and no one knows where we will go next. One thing we can say is that baseball and other sports cards are one incredibly hot market today. The future is yet to be determined.

 

This month's record price is for a baseball card. When we entered this year, the record price for a baseball card was $3.9 million, paid last year for a Mike Trout “Superfractor” card. That price seemed impossible way back in 2020. However, it was quickly eclipsed earlier this year when a Mickey Mantle rookie card sold for $5.2 million. That record fell too, although there is some question on the next one. In June, a pre-rookie Babe Ruth card sold for approximately $6 million, but that was in a private sale, rather than a publicly verifiable auction. It was a “pre-rookie” card because it was from Ruth's stint with the Baltimore Orioles, a minor league team at the time.

 

While some may be unsure of that price, there is no question about the record price any longer. That price was eclipsed by a sale at Robert Edward Auctions. The price for this one was $6,606,296. It represented a return to the longtime champion of baseball card values, literally the Most Value Player, Honus Wagner. This was his 1909-1911 Sweet Caporal card, put out by the American Tobacco Company to promote their Sweet Caporal cigarette brand. It is a rarity, but not so much of one that copies don't come up for auction fairly regularly. There are at least 57 known examples, but as with old books, condition is paramount to value. Few rival this Honus Wagner card for condition.

 

The rarity of the Wagner card can be attributed to Honus himself. He was a non-smoker and did not want to be associated with tobacco. Good for you, Honus! He demanded they be withdrawn.

 

This is not the first time a Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner card has held the price record. One was sold in 2016 for $3.12 million. That was a record price at the time and undoubtedly some people thought that represented a bubble. That record held until the Mike Trout card sold for $3.9 million late last year.

 

Robert Edward Auctions was able to provide a bit more of this card's history. It was discovered by collector/dealer Mike Aronstein in 1973. He put it up for auction that year and it sold to Fred McKie for a whopping $1,100. For the record, the current price represents a six hundred thousand percent increase since then. I guess we can safely say that the $1,100 price was not a bubble though it must have seemed so to many in 1973. In 1976, McKie sold it to collector Barry Halper, price unknown. Halper later traded it to a Texas collector (as an aside, in my youth I used to trade baseball cards too, though not on this level). Eventually, it made it to auction in 2012 where it sold for $1,232,466. It sold privately within the last two years for what Edward says was “at a significant premium to its 2012 sale price.”

 

The astonishing prices have not been limited to baseball cards. The $3.12 million 2016 price was not just a record for baseball cards, but for all sports cards. However, just this year, we have seen it exceeded by basketball cards for Lebron James, $5.2 million, and Luca Doncik, $4.6 million, a football card for Patrick Mahomes, $4.3 million, and a hockey card for Wayne Gretzky, $3.75 million. So far, the collectible card market, like the stock market, is in bull mode. How long this will continue is anyone's guess.

Rare Book Monthly

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    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>The Luzzatto High Holiday Mahzor:<br>A Magnificent Illuminated Ashkenazic Prayer Book<br>19 October 2021</b>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Pancho Villa, passport for a news correspondent covering the Mexican revolution, signed, 1914. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Nirvana’s <i>Nevermind,</i> CD insert signed & inscribed days after release by Cobain, inscribed by Novoselic, 1991. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Robert Indiana, <i>The Book of Love,</i> complete portfolio, artist’s proof set, 1997. $100,000 to $125,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Marcel Vertés, Colette, <i>Chéri,</i> two volumes, deluxe edition, signed by the artist, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Virginia Woolf, <i>Orlando,</i> first trade edition, first impression, London, 1928. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Mark Twain, receipt for payment of the Mark Twain Public Library Tax, 1908. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk von Gustav Klimt,</i> portfolio, collotype plates, 1918. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A third selection of 16th and 17th<br>Century English Books from<br>the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>Thursday 21st October 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Hawking & Hunting.- Turberville (George). <i>The Booke of Falconrie or Hawking,</i> second edition, Printed by Thomas Purfoot, 1611. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> George Steevens' copy.- Coryate (Thomas). <i>Coryats Crudities Hastily gobbled up in five Moneths travells in France, Savoy, Italy, Rhetia...,</i> first edition, complete copy, Printed by W. S[tansby], 1611. £4,000 to £6,00
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Butler (Charles). <i>The Feminine Monarchie: or The Historie of Bees,</i> second edition, Printed by John Haviland for Roger Jackson, 1623. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A third selection of 16th and 17th<br>Century English Books from<br>the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>Thursday 21st October 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Brathwait (Richard). <i>The English Gentlewoman, drawne out to the full Body: expressing, What Habilliments doe best attire her…,</i> Printed by B. Alsop and T. Fawcet, for Michaell Sparke, 1631. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Glapthorne (Henry). <i>The Ladies Priviledge,</i> first edition, Imprinted...by J. Okes, for Francis Constable, 1640. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Witchcraft.- F. (H.) <i>A true and exact Relation Of the severall Informations, Examinations, and Confessions of the late Witches, arraigned and executed in the County of Essex,</i> first edition, 1645. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A third selection of 16th and 17th<br>Century English Books from<br>the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>Thursday 21st October 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Hobbes (Thomas). <i>De Corpore Politico. Or the Elements of Law, Moral & Politick,</i> first edition, 1650. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Early steam engine.- Worcester (Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquis). <i>A Century of the Names and Scantlings of such Inventions…,</i> first edition, 1663. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Cookery.- M[ontagu] (W[alter]). <i>The Queens Closet Opened. Incomparable secrets in physick, chirurgery, preserving and candying, &c,</i> 3 parts in 1 vol., 1674. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A third selection of 16th and 17th<br>Century English Books from<br>the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>Thursday 21st October 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Speed (John). <i>An Epitome of Mr. John Speed's Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain,</i> 2 parts in 1, 90 engraved maps, Printed for Tho. Basset, and Ric. Chiswel, 1676. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Le Boe (Franciscus). <i>Of Childrens Diseases... also a Treatise of the Rickets,</i> first edition, Printed for George Downs, 1682. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Oct. 21:</b> Economics.- Locke (John). <i>Several Papers Relating to Money, Interest and Trade,</i> first collected edition, Printed for A. and J. Churchill, 1696. £2,000 to £3,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>26th-29th of October 2021</b>
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th- 29th:</b><br>Books from XV to XX Century
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th:</b><br>Manuscripts and autographs
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th:</b><br>Artist books
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th:</b><br>Cars & more
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th:</b><br>Magazines
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th- 29th:</b><br>Books from XV to XX Century

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