The March 22-23 sports memorabilia auction at Sotheby's in New York produced oohs and aahs when a rare Honus Wagner card was sold for a record $451,000 and a not-so-rare Mickey Mantle card went for $49,500.
For the collector whose taste runs to recent issues, the auction will probably have no impact beyond the credibility it gave the hobby. Fans of early Topps cards and others that commanded premium prices could see higher prices in the market.
"It was just mind-boggling," says Joe Bosley of The Old Ball Game in Reisterstown, who attended the auction to add to his collection and to obtain items to sell. He did both. "It was not an auction for the average person. . . . There were some people
there with more money than brains.
"What that auction basically did," he adds, "is acknowledge that high-quality older material is harder to find" and consequently more expensive.
He says the high prices for the early Topps items might have been due to collectors who single-mindedly were bidding on one or two items -- and determined to get them. The cachet of having purchased it at Sotheby's may have added to the price.
"There wasn't a single Topps set sold that didn't exceed the minimum value by $500," he says. "Consequently, I think that's DTC going to drive the price of early Topps up 10 or 20 percent.
"The real problem was in the end cards [19th century cards offered in the fourth session] because people aren't familiar with them."
But some of the items may have been overbid.
"In my opinion some of the stuff was not in as good a condition as was described in the catalog," Bosley says. "Obviously, I didn't look at everything, but I heard a number of people say that the condition of some of the stuff was less than what was described in the catalog."
Jay Finglass spent the two days at his store, Jay's Sports Connection in Towson, but his heart was in New York.
"I think it's [auction] a wonderful shot of credibility for the hobby," he says. "To get Sotheby's involved in our hobby is a big plus."
For the record, the grand sale total of the auction was $4,641,202, somewhat under the estimate of $5 million to $7 million. Eighty-two percent of the 880 lots were sold. The auction catalog has gone through two printings. The first, of 6,000 copies, sold out in February, according to Laura Stewart, Sotheby's assistant vice president for corporate affairs. A second printing of 8,000 was ordered and was expected to sell out, too, making it one of Sotheby's most popular catalogs.
Three baseball-card-related companies are publicly traded on the over-the-counter market. Scoreboard, whose major business is a television-shopping service, traded an all-time high 458,000 shares Thursday and closed at an all-time high of 13. Also available are Fleer (29 1/4 ) and Topps (16 3/4 ).
The customer at The Old Ball Game in Reisterstown has redeemed his Topps X card. He received a 1956 high-number card worth $10 and a letter entitling him to an uncut sheet of 1991 cards. This is part of Topps' vintage-card giveaway during its 40th anniversary.
Saturday, baseball card show, Towson Sheraton, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8892.
Sunday, baseball card show, Freedom District Fire Hall, Sykesville, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8366.
April 13, baseball card show, St. John's School, Long Green Pike, Hydes, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 557-9628.
April 14, baseball card show, Glen Burnie Elks Hall, Severn, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8366.
April 21, baseball card show, Martin's Ballroom-North Point, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8366.
April 21, baseball card show, Towson Quality Inn, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
April 27, baseball card show, Airport Comfort Inn, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8892.
April 28, baseball card show, Security Holiday Inn, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8366.