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Auction Action: REA Spring 2023 Preview

Auction Action: REA Spring 2023 Preview
April 21, 2023
Bradley Calleja

In this edition of Auction Action, preview the 2023 Spring Auction hosted by REA.

Lots to Watch

Lot #6: 1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente Rookie PSA MINT 9

Roberto Clemente played 18 seasons in the major leagues, all with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and won four National League batting titles, 12 Gold Gloves, and two World Series championships. For all he delivered on the field, it would be his off-field contributions that would carry equal weight for his legacy and for collectors, his story begins with his 1955 Topps rookie card.

The 1955 Topps set featured 206 cards, and Clemente's card was #164. Numerically, the set is the smallest Topps issue ever sent to market and was supposed to contain 210 cards but four were never printed. The cards combined multiple images of each player including a portrait and action shot which is matched with a facsimile autograph.

In 2021, the first million-dollar Clemente card was sold at auction for $1.1 million by way of a different PSA 9 graded copy. In total, there are more than 6,500 graded Clemente rookie cards within the PSA census but only 12 have been graded PSA 9 or 10, representing a minuscule 0.18% of the population. This PSA 9 does have a reserve that has not been met but has attracted 28 bids and $700,000 through early action.

Lots #1: 1932 R328 U. S. Caramel #32 Babe Ruth PSA NM-MT 8

One of the rarest pre-war multisport sets known to exist, the 1932 U.S. Caramel card combined colorful player images with bright backgrounds to create an attractive canvas for some of the games greatest stars. This PSA 8 graded example card features Babe Ruth in his Yankees uniform and an off-centered 'NY' hat while the reverse includes biographical information about Ruth as well as an ad that promotes the completion of full sets. At the time, U.S. Caramel Co. offered collectors a baseball (valued at $1.00) or a glove (valued at $3.00) if they returned a complete 32-card set. It's probably worth noting that a $1 prize would've been a terrible tradeoff considering this single Ruth card has already reached six-figures.

This 1932 U.S. Caramel Ruth card is particularly significant because it was produced during the height of Ruth's career, when he was still breaking records and setting new standards for the game. The card captures Ruth at his most dominant, and is a symbol of his larger-than-life persona. In addition to its historical significance, the 1932 U.S. Caramel Ruth card is also incredibly rare. There are only two example graded higher and only 145 total within PSA's database. One key factor was production sizes, as the U.S. Caramel was a smaller candy company that did not have the distribution power of other competitors like Goudey or Bowman.

Today, the 1932 U.S. Caramel Babe Ruth card remains a symbol of baseball's golden age, and a testament to the enduring popularity of one of the game's greatest legends. After opening for $50,000, this prewar vintage classic has garnered 23 bids and sits at $150,000 with two days remaining in the event.

Lot #20: Christy Mathewson Single-Signed Baseball - 1921 Testimonial at the Polo Grounds

On September 30, 1921, a special event was held at the Polo Grounds in New York City to honor one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Christy Mathewson.

The legendary pitcher for the New York Giants from 1900 to 1916  was widely regarded as one of the best pitchers in baseball history. Over the course of his career, Mathewson won 373 games, had an ERA of 2.13, and was a three-time National League MVP. He also served as a captain in World War I and even played professional football for the Pittsburgh Stars at the turn of the 20th century.

Attended by over 38,000 fans, including New York City Mayor John Hylan and baseball star Connie Mack, the Testimonial included a special game to honor Mathewson and during an intermission, 36 baseballs signed by the Giants ace and his teammates were auctioned. This particular baseball at REA is a single-signed example, though, which is dated and inscribed to match that 1921 Testimonial but only carries the penmanship of Mathewson himself. Mathewson's auto is centered perfectly on the sweet spot of the dated baseball and the ink has withstood the test of time. Through the first 16 bids, the price for this ball has reached $30,000 before premium.

All Images via REA

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