Jim Bottomley: Pioneer of A Baseball Dynasty

The St. Louis Cardinals baseball franchise was founded in 1882 as the St. Louis Brown Stockings. The following year, they shortened their nickname to the Browns until 1899, when they spent one season calling themselves the Perfectos (though their 5th place finish was far from perfect). Starting in 1900, the name Cardinals was adopted as a result of a female fan commenting on the uniforms being “a lovely shade of cardinal.” The uniforms did look good; unfortunately, the team didn’t. For the next quarter century, and despite legendary Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby winning six consecutive batting titles, the Cardinals could muster no better than a 3rd place finish. But just as Babe Ruth did in New York, a player came to town in St. Louis and helped build a National League version of a Yankees dynasty. That was Jim Bottomley.

Now, the tale of Jim Bottomley may not be as distressed as that of “The Bambino” but his childhood in the town of Nokomis, Illinois was anything but easy. As with many other children during World War I, Bottomley dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to help raise money for his family. He took jobs as a truck driver, grocery clerk, railroad clerk, and at one point, coal miner, an occupation that took his brother, Ralph’s life in an accident in 1920. He earned the nickname “Sunny Jim” for his unwavering optimism in the face of all his hardship and uncertainty, always offering a light-hearted smile and a word of encouragement. Bottomley’s luck started to turn when he signed on with a semi-pro baseball team to extra money and caught the eye of a police officer who knew Cardinals General Manager Branch Rickey. Soon after, Bottomley was offered a tryout and signed a minor league contract with the Cardinals. Two years later, he was making his debut in St. Louis.

While Jim Bottomley turned out to be a major “find” for the organization, he was but the first, resulting from what would become a standard practice that would advance the winning culture Hornsby and Bottomley were building in St. Louis. With Branch Rickey taking the reins as business manager in 1920, he expanded scouting, player development, and pioneered the minor league farm system. Marty Marion, Enos Slaughter, Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst were just some of the great players produced through the Cards’ farm system that kept the team on a winning path for decades to come.

The Birth of the Cardinals’ Dynasty

Though Rogers Hornsby was considered one of the top players in baseball, having won the National League Triple Crown in 1922 and 1925, the Cardinals were never serious contenders for the pennant. That changed in 1926 when the Cardinals fielded a lineup with seven of the eight starters batting .290 or better and Jim Bottomley leading the team in home runs and RBI. With some bookmakers installing the mighty New York Yankees as high as a 15-1 favorite, the Cardinals came back from down 3 games to 2 to sweep the final two games in New York and claim their first title. Two years later, the Cards returned to the World Series behind Bottomley’s NL MVP season, leading the league in triples (20), homers (31) and RBI (136) while posting a .325 batting average. This time it was the Yankees that were victorious, but St. Louis would return to the World Series in 1930 and 1931, losing the first to the Philadelphia Athletics while taking the crown the next season in a rematch. Bottomley was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1932 but the culture of winning stuck with the Redbirds, making five more World Series appearances (winning four of them) from 1934-1946. A quarter century with no championship appearances was followed by four in just a six-year span, with Jim Bottomley and the St. Louis Cardinals beginning a run that includes 19 NL pennants and 11 World Series championships for the history of the franchise. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 1974 by the Veterans Committee.

Mile High Card Company Is Proud To Present Items From The Personal Estate of Jim Bottomley

Jim Bottomley passed away in 1959 and, having had no children, all of his personal items were left to his wife, Betty. Betty remarried in 1972 to J. J. Tucker, a friend of and pallbearer to Jim who had a daughter from a previous marriage. Upon Betty’s passing in 1977, three years after Jim’s induction into the baseball Hall of Fame, the Bottomley estate was inherited by Tucker, who then left the items to his daughter upon his passing. These items were then acquired from the daughter of J. J. Tucker and consigned to MHCC. Leading the list of 85 Jim Bottomley items in the June auction is his 1926 World Series game-used bat, an H117 model Hillerich & Bradsby gamer that is un-cracked yet exhibits plenty of game and is graded a conclusive GU 10 by PSA/DNA. Also featured is Bottomley’s 1931 World Series championship ring, which he left in the care of his wife after losing his ’26 championship ring while pheasant hunting. Other key pieces include a game-used Rawlings profession model JB glove that shows evidence of extensive use with heavy game wear in the pocket as well as the reverse side, and authenticated by PSA/DNA. Other key items include his Hall of Fame Induction Plaque, a one of a kind piece specially made for the inductee, Bottomley’s Major League Lifetime Silver pass and 200 Home Run Club Award Presented to Jim Bottomley Signed by Cronin and Giles. More personal items include Bottomley’s Engraved Lighter with Wrapped Cigar and Diamond Matchbooks, Personal Shaving Kit, Engraved Doorknocker, Selective Service System Certificate of Appreciation, A.A.S.R. Freemasonry Certificate From 1929, Birth Certificate with Certified Copy of Wife Betty’s Birth Certificate, Official Marriage Certificate, Ceremonial Marriage Certificate, Pair of Cowbells Belonging to Jim Bottomley’s Cow “Fielder’s Choice”, many never before seen photos of Bottomley and a 1932 Dizzy Dean Rookie Year St. Louis Cardinals Game-Used Warm Up Jacket Gifted to Jim Bottomley. Autograph seekers will be impressed with the array of unique, signed items that include a Jim Bottomley Signed and Cancelled Bank Check, Signed 1934 ANSAR Temple Shriner’s Membership Card, Personal Signed and Inscribed Bible, Signed Bank Deposit Slip, Jim Bottomley Oil Company Ledger Written in his Hand and a 1954 St. Louis Cardinals Season Pass Extended to and Signed by Jim Bottomley.

Rare J. A. Peach Gloves Advertising Display To Be Sold In Mile High Card Company June Auction

Dating back to virtually the very beginnings of the game itself, baseball’s greatest players and most colorful personalities have been used by advertisers to endorse products ranging from sports equipment to tobacco products to candy and gum and just about every saleable item in between. And while Mile High Card Company has had the privilege of offering some of the most famous of baseball display pieces, notably the 1915 E145 Cracker Jack Advertising Display Poster and 1910 Christy Mathewson “Won in the Ninth” Cardboard Advertising Display, MHCC is extremely proud to present what is considered by many enthusiasts to be the single greatest baseball advertising display piece ever made: the 1910 Spectacular Peach Baseball Gloves Advertising Display in near pristine condition.

Produced for the J. A. Peach Company of Gloversville, New York, the approximately 19-½” x 29-¾” piece is a promotional advertisement for their baseball glove line that depicts a stadium scene with various players, coaches and fans. Perhaps trying to ride the coattails of the well-established A. J. Reach Company, J. A. Peach lined up every star of the day save for Joe Jackson for this display. Putting aside the rarity and historical significance of the piece, the sheer magnetism and use of color and design is simply breathtaking. Of the 19 professionals in the display, 13 are members of the Hall of Fame with Cobb, Wagner, Mathewson and W. Johnson leading a group that includes Speaker, Baker, Lajoie, Bender, Walsh, Bresnahan, Chance, McGraw and Mack. Originally discovered in worn condition, the piece has been expertly restored to its original mint-like state and any alterations, if you can even spot them, are completely unobtrusive. Given that only two other examples are known to exist, one of which resides in the Baseball Hall of Fame, this is simply the absolute gold standard of any and all advertising pieces

This tremendous item will be featured in Mile High Card Company’s June Auction. MHCC is presently accepting consignments, so if you desire the maximum possible return for your prized sports cards and/or memorabilia, please call our office at (303) 840-2784 to speak with one of our team of experts, contact us at www.milehighcardco.com.

The 1965 Topps Set: The “Empire” Strikes Back

You can criticize Topps for many things, but lack of imagination isn’t one of them. Though they controlled a virtual monopoly in the national baseball card market following Bowman’s demise in 1955, Topps never stopped searching for new ways to deliver their product, but not all of them were home runs. The 1964 series was a disappointment for many collectors. They said the cards were simple and boring, that there weren’t any good rookie cards and the orange backs just seemed out of place. In short, the set just lacked pizzazz. And then came the 1965 Topps set! Topps broke out the Crayolas to deliver one of the most enticing and colorful collections in the company’s history. With sharp photographic displays, most set against a bright blue sky, surrounded by boldly pigmented frames of various colors, the 1965 Topps set became an instant hit that has withstood the test of time as one of the most beloved collections of the decade.

This Set Has It All!

For the first time since the 1957 collection, the 598-card ’65 set featured a great selection of rookie cards with Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Steve Carlton as well as short-printed cards of Catfish Hunter and Tony Perez leading the way. The debut card featuring Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese player in the majors, added an international flair while star pitchers Luis Tiant, Denny McLain and Tug McGraw also making their first appearances. For the third straight year, the set opens with American and National League Leaders cards and includes World Series Highlights cards from #132-139. Of course, the key cards in the set are Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose and Sandy Koufax, all of which are among their priciest cards in high-grade. Speaking of which, the set is tough but possible to assemble at or near of the top of PSA’s grading scale with only 1,332 cards have graded PSA 10 or about one out of every 150 submissions, and just over 11% of all submissions have received a MINT grade. Several significant Hall of Fame issues have yet to find their way to the PSA 10 level, including 50 Marichal, 160 Clemente, 300 Koufax, 330 Ford, 350 Mantle and 400 Killebrew. And that leads us to one of the most amazing post-war sets ever assembled.

Mile High Card Company to Offer 1965 Topps Set Ranked #1 All-Time on the PSA Set Registry in MHCC’s March Auction.

At an overall GPA of approximately 9.85, the 1965 Topps Set featured in MHCC’s March auction is well over a half-point ahead of its next closest challenger. There are 211 cards graded GEM MINT; that’s almost 16% of all existing GEM MINT specimens. Key cards to earn PSA’s top grade include #1 AL Batting Ldrs., 5 AL RBI Ldrs., 6 NL RBI Ldrs., 10 NL Pitching Ldrs., 12 NL Strikeout Ldrs., 95 Mazeroski, 155 Maris, 187 Stengel, 193 Perry, 205 Spahn, 377 Stargell, 500 Mathews, 513 Yankees Team and 540 Brock. Every other card is graded PSA 9. For high-grade set-builders, this is a golden opportunity to raise your set rating because this set is being offered two ways; in its entirety as well as individual lots, with the final sale determined by the greater total of the set versus the sum of the lots.

The Sigurd Berg Collection: Autograph Collection Down to a Science

When I was 9 years old, I bought a 1959 Hank Aaron All-Star card #561 at a flea market for three dollars. I had this idea that I would mail it to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and ask “The Hammer” if he would autograph it for me. I included a very polite letter and a self-addressed stamped envelope. Aaron was by no means my favorite player but he had just passed the Babe as the all-time home run king so he was the biggest name in baseball. I figured he would get it in a few days, sign it, and mail it back. Maybe two weeks total (did I mention I was 9 years old?). Two weeks went by … nothing. Then it became two months … still nothing. After the third month, I’d given up on it and moved on. As it so happens, eight months after I sent the card, I had mail. It was my Hank Aaron card with a black marker signature across the image! Many of you probably tried this at one time. In the 1940s and 50s, Sigurd Berg did it all the time, and he had it down to a science. Cranking out autograph requests on a massive scale, the Sigurd Berg collection now stands as a testimonial to autograph hunting as an art form.

You’ve Got Mail! 

The Sigurd Berg approach to autograph collecting was simple; arm yourself with note cards, envelopes and stamps and write to everyone! Not only did he write to the greatest baseball players of his time, he wrote to athletes of all sports. He wrote to Olympians. He wrote to coaches. There are even rumors that he wrote to scientists, entertainers, politicians, inventors, anyone he thought might sign an autograph for him. I’m sure plenty of people never responded, but all it cost him was some paper and a pair of postage stamps. Berg would send out a note card with a request for an autograph to add to his collection, placing a typed dotted line and a title, something along the lines of “Cy Young- Star Baseball Pitcher.” More often than not, the autograph he received was a bold, clean signature as the signer was able to oblige at their convenience, not having to rush through the autograph to get to the next one as usually happens with personal appearances. Virtually every autograph is of at least NM/MT quality with many of the really high-prized pieces assessed at MINT or GEM MINT. Berg would even format the return envelope the same way, adding his return address somewhere out of the way to make the signature the focal point of the piece but also ensure its safe return. Quite often, the signer would sign that as well, giving Berg a very shrewd “two-fer.”  The daily trip to the mailbox to mark that day’s haul became a source of adventure and excitement, not knowing if he scored a beautiful signature of Golf Hall of Famer Julius Boros, Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens, legendary college basketball coach Adolph Rupp or Baseball Hall of Famer Zack Wheat; maybe even all four. Sometimes it was just the envelope that came back signed but not the note card. Some envelopes likely ended up “lost” in the mail as the signature of a Jimmie Foxx or Charles Lindbergh would be exposed for the world to see. But enough of them found their way home, and most are truly spectacular!

Mile High Card Company Offers the Sigurd Berg Collection in the March Catalog Auction. 

Over 100 lots are dedicated to the Sigurd Berg Collection, led by a wonderful PSA/DNA 9 MINT example of Babe Ruth. There are several pieces that rank among the finest autographs known, with PSA/DNA 10 GEM MINT autographs of Grover Cleveland Alexander, Tris Speaker and Nellie Fox and PSA/DNA 9 MINT signatures of Ty Cobb, Dazzy Vance, Nap Lajoie, Cy Young and Honus Wagner. There is a wide variety of autographs from heroes of various sports, including Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Pop Warner, Helen Wills Moody, George Halas, James Jefferies, Gene Tunney, Jesse Owens, Althea Gibson and Jack Dempsey. A stunning Jack Nicklaus signature, signed shortly after defeating Arnold Palmer at the 1962 U. S. Open for his first career victory, heads up a large selection of golfers. If you’re a vintage autograph collector, you’ll be amazed at the wide variety of hard to find signatures, all authenticated by PSA/DNA and delivered with NM/MT to GEM MINT quality.

The “E” Series: Sweetest of All Baseball Cards

Few would dispute that the T206 collection is the godfather of all baseball card sets. Oh sure, notable issues like Allen & Ginter’s, Old Judge and Mayo’s Cut Plug predate the T206 series. But with its expansive lineup, mainstream introduction of the forefathers of baseball royalty that include Cobb, Lajoie, W. Johnson, Mathewson, Speaker and Young, and of course the incredibly rare Honus Wagner card, the T206 series has become the “Mt. Everest” of the hobby. To this date, there isn’t a single collection on the PSA Set Registry (including the “big four”) that is 100% complete. It’s also the only set that gets its own link on the PSA website, with over 60 subset classifications by player, league, ad back and factory variation. The T206 collection is a hobby within a hobby. But with all the pomp and circumstance afforded this phenomenal series, the savvy collector has already caught on to what might be the next big market boom in the hobby; caramel cards, known better as the “E” series.

Caramel Cards – Tobacco’s More Colorful Cousin

Right about the same time tobacco cards were making the rounds, another wave of pasteboards targeting a younger crowd were landing in candy stores. Much like their tobacco cousins, caramel cards are of nearly identical size and have various ad backs. While some are known by the advertising on the reverse; American Caramel, Philadelphia Caramel, Standard Caramel, Croft’s Candy, Nadja Caramels, Dockman & Son, George Close Candy, Briggs Co., Bishop & Company and Williams Caramel among them, others merely have a checklist on the back and are referred to by their “E” designation and “anonymous” or by the number of cards in the set, labeled “Set of 30” for example. Most of these collections are very small, 25 to 50 cards in all, but contain such stars as Cobb, Wagner, Mathewson, Plank, Bender, Collins any many more. Tobacco-using adults that caught card collecting fever often turned to caramel cards if they wanted a Wagner or Plank since they were nearly impossible to acquire from the T206 series. The “E’ cards are bolder and more colorful in general, making them appealing to the children to which they were marketed. However, staining from the candy was virtually unavoidable, especially for those that sat on shelves through the hot summer months. It’s likely that the few that surface in high-grade were both well cared for and acquired during the earlier months of the year, when the caramel wasn’t as susceptible to the elements. For decades, caramel cards were overlooked by collectors … until one recent discovery put them squarely at the forefront of the baseball card world.

The E98 “Black Swamp Find” – A Game Changer!

In July of 2012, one of the greatest finds of early 20th century caramel cards was discovered in Defiance, Ohio, a town that was coined “The Black Swamp” by General “Mad” Anthony Wayne in 1794. This Black Swamp find consisted entirely of cards from the 1910 E98 Set of 30 series, a handsome collection that features different background color variations of each card, with 17 of the presented 30 subjects in the Hall of Fame. The find yielded almost 700 cards, virtually all of them in NM or better condition with four examples, including one of Honus Wagner, achieving a mark of PSA 10 GEM MINT. Considered the most celebrated addition to the baseball card market since the 1952 Topps find of the 1980s, caramel cards were finally getting the notoriety they deserved.

Mile High Card Company To Offer Over 300 Lots of Caramel Cards in March 2018 Auction.

In continuation of a record-setting 2017 year, Mile High Card Company presents a fantastic March auction to open the 2018 year that features over 300 caramel cards, ten of which come from the amazing “Black Swamp” find of 2012, as well as hundreds more from other rare early 20th century collections. Loaded with cards from all of the sets mentioned earlier, other tough issues from the time period are well-represented, including cards from T201, T202, T3 Turkey Red, M116 Sporting Life, 1915 Cracker Jack, D304 Brunners Bread, 1910 Tip Top Bread, T204 Ramly, 1916 Tango Eggs, and of course, 1909-11 T206. MHCC is still accepting consignments but time is running out. If you desire the maximum possible return for your prized sports cards and/or memorabilia, please call our office at (303) 840-2784 to speak with one of our team of experts, contact us at www.milehighcardco.com.

Jackie Robinson: A Man For All Time

Jackie Robinson Signed Ball

William Shakespeare once said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” It can be said that Brooklyn Dodgers infielder Jackie Robinson experienced all three. While Robinson’s career numbers don’t place him in the company of a Ruth, Gehrig or Cobb, his contribution to the history of baseball, as well as that of American society, makes him one of the most important figures of the 20th century. Baseball has always been considered an American institution, one that holds sacred its storied traditions and doesn’t take kindly to change. And with racial segregation dominating the climate of the time, it was a bold and daring move for Dodgers owner Branch Rickey to choose that moment to sign two black players, Robinson and pitcher Johnny Wright, and assign them to the class AAA Montreal Royals. Robinson quickly displayed the kind of superior talent that was major league material, but was that enough?

Why Jackie Robinson?

1947 I'm Rooting For Jackie Robinson Pin White Background PSA 7 NM

The answer, quite definitively, was no. There were black players in the Negro League with more talent and far more extensive accomplishments, but Rickey knew that performance alone wouldn’t break a color barrier that had been in place for over 60 years. If there was going to be any chance of success, the man chosen to integrate baseball would have to have impeccable credentials off the field as well as on the diamond with the temperament to absorb the wrangling of racist hatred and abuse while armed with nothing more than a smile and his ability to play the game. Jackie was that man. A multi-sport star athlete at UCLA who served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army, Robinson was educated, well-spoken, and an honorably discharged Army officer. He was a man of integrity and, most importantly, was willing stand up for a cause he believed in. His message was clear – “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

 

The Post-Robinson Era of Baseball 

Jackie Robinson Signed Dodgers Photograph PSA/DNA AuthenticStarting his major league career at the advanced age of 28, Robinson played only ten seasons from 1947 – 1956, all of them for the Brooklyn Dodgers. During that time, the Dodgers played in six World Series and Robinson was selected to play in six All-Star games. His career marked the beginning of the “post long-ball” era that saw the strategy of raw power give way to a more balanced attack that included speed and superior base running. Robinson was one of only two players during his career to accumulate at least 125

Leaf Jackie Robinson SGC 84

steals while registering a slugging percentage over  .425. More importantly, Robinson’s career made possible the rise of fellow teammates Don Newcombe, Jim Gilliam, Joe Black and Roy Campanella as well as baseball legends Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and those who would follow.

The Finest Known Jackie Robinson Single-Signed Baseball Comes to MHCC December Auction

It has to be seen to be believed! When this ball arrived in the MHCC office, we were amazed at how incredibly clean and bold the signature projects, virtually perfect and easily the best known to exist. Sporting the customary “Best Wishes” greeting and side panel placement, a trademark of the Hall of Famer, the ball has been giving a triple authentication from JSA, SGC and PSA/DNA, the latter two grading the ball at MINT 9. Simply put, it is virtual perfection! The ball will be featured in the Mile High Card Company catalog auction, beginning on Monday, Nov 20th and concluding on Thursday, Dec 7th.

1946 Jackie Robinson Type I Original News PhotoJackie Robinson Signed Check

1967 Leaf Star Trek – To boldly go … well, you know

When the Soviet Union beat the United States by launching the first man into orbit in 1961, President John F. Kennedy declared, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” The “Space Race” was on, and suddenly the TV airwaves were flooded with science fiction programs that featured various futuristic and paranormal plotlines. The Outer Limits, My Favorite Martian, The Twilight Zone, Lost In Space and even animated shows like The Jetsons all catered to the growing frenzy of space travel and its impact on the future. But no other science fiction show has captivated American society more than Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek.”

The Future is Now

While NASA was working to put a man on the moon, Star Trek dared dream of moving beyond the stars into the far reaches of the galaxy. Though set in the 23rd Century and offering an optimistic outlook for humanity where war, famine and disease were virtually extinct, Star Trek was actually a commentary about the present, each adventure containing allegories of contemporary societal realities; authoritarianism, prejudice, human rights, religion, morality, class warfare and the uses and abuses of technology. With its ethnically diverse cast, it served as a reminder that although our sensibilities can evolve and advance with time, there are always those failings that can rise to prominence if we let them. After all, we’re only human.

The Cult Following Begins

The U. S. S. Enterprise only completed three seasons of its “five-year mission,” ending its run in 1967. But when Apollo 11 landed on the moon two years later and Neil Armstrong declared Space Race victory with the planting of the Stars and Stripes on the lunar surface, the idea of exploring the galaxy no longer seemed like only a fantasy. A national letter-writing campaign brought Star Trek back in syndication and provided inspiration for many other space-travel themes, including Battlestar Galactica, Space 1999 and Andromeda. With four spin-offs, 13 movies, billions of dollars in merchandising and a new television series set to debut in the fall of 2017, the Star Trek franchise has become one of the most lucrative “enterprises” in entertainment history.

1967 Leaf Star Trek – Here … and Gone

After Star Trek’s first season, the Leaf Company hoped to capitalize on the growing sci-fi phenomenon by producing a 72-card compilation that featured action shots of Kirk, Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew. But the cards mysteriously disappeared from store shelves as fast as they arrived, the most likely explanation being that either Leaf did not acquire the proper licensing or that the cast objected to their likenesses being used without compensation, forcing Leaf to stop production and recall the boxes that had already been distributed. Another theory is that the collection was a test issue that was marketed in a few select cities but didn’t perform well and was discontinued. Though the TV show was futuristic, Leaf’s black and white images on poor card stock were clearly rooted in the past while the heavily-glossed coating made every surface scuff and scratch visible. Each card has a paragraph on the reverse that is intended to describe the shot, though most of them don’t seem to match and many are just hilariously absurd, not actual Star Trek plotlines.

MHCC Offering the One and Only Unopened Pack Ever Graded by PSA in September Auction

1967 Star Trek #1 No Time For Escape PSA 8 NM/MT

Cards from the 1967 Leaf Star Trek series surface from time to time, but Mile High Card Company is proud to present the one and only unopened five-cent wax pack ever graded by PSA. Recently evaluated and graded PSA 7, it bears the unique distinction of receiving the blessing of Steve Hart and Baseball Card Exchange (BBCE). Mr. Hart explained that he’s seen several Star Trek packs in the past, but all were previously opened packs that had been re-sealed at some point in time. The featured item is the only example he’s ever examined that he can state is undeniably authentic. MHCC is also offering the incredibly rare card #1 “No Time For Escape” in the elite grade of PSA 8, one of just 9 to earn such an assessment with just one graded higher.

1933 DeLong: Baseball’s Ultimate One-Hit Wonder!

If ever there was a case of being in the right place at the wrong time, it existed for Harold Clark DeLong. A Treasurer at the Goudey Gum Company, DeLong left the organization in 1932 when Enos Goudey sold the business, starting his own company just blocks away from the Boston conglomerate. And while DeLong’s ill-fated foray into the baseball card market wouldn’t last longer than a single season, he produced one of the most memorable and coveted collections in baseball card history. 

Underfunded and Poorly Distributed

Harold DeLong had an advantage as a key executive in the development of the Goudey series prior to his departure, allowing him to create a clearly more aesthetic product than his former employer, but there were just too many obstacles standing in his way. Goudey, founded in 1919, was a well-established purveyor of chewing gum and had the financial might to secure the materials needed to produce the largest mainstream collection since the legendary T206 series. DeLong, on the other hand, was pioneering a poorly funded start-up that could only muster the ability to release a diminutive 24-card collection. Oh, but what a collection it was! While the brightly colored pigments, real life player depictions and ornate background artistry were a tremendous contrast from the straightforward and often monochrome format of the Goudey collection, there simply was no way that DeLong’s small series could compete with a Goudey set ten times the size that included a quartet of Babe Ruth cards. In addition, the DeLong cards didn’t have the nationwide distribution channel of the Goudey series, and if that wasn’t enough of a handicap, it was widely thought that Goudey’s bubble gum was just clearly superior. Even in the hometown Boston area, DeLong had to contend not only with Goudey but also had to compete with the regionally issued George C. Miller collection. All things considered, DeLong never really stood a chance of success.

A True Collector Classic! 

Although there is no Babe Ruth card in the DeLong set, the 24-card collection is jam-packed with star power, boasting 15 Hall of Famers and led by the issues of Yankees Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig and fellow Cooperstown resident Jimmie Foxx. In addition to their groundbreaking appearance, what makes the DeLong series so highly collectible to advanced hobbyists is the difficulty to build an elite assemblage. Nearly 3,000 cards from the entire 24-card collection have passed through the halls of PSA without a single GEM MINT specimen, only two graded MINT and just five subjects (McManus, Terry, Traynor, Gomez and Klein) making it into double-digits pops at the PSA 8 level. Ironically, some of the most difficult high-grade finds from the series are not Hall of Famers: Oscar Melillo, Riggs Stephenson and Lon Warneke. While the series is a challenge to build, there are presently 31 complete collections on the PSA Set Registry with just eight that have reached a level of 7.0 or higher.

Mile High Card Company to Offer One of the Finest Complete 1933 DeLong Sets Ever Assembled 

Featured in the Mile High Card Company September Auction is the second finest 1933 DeLong set ever assembled, boasting a set rating of approximately 8.83 with several PSA 8.5 cards that stand as the one and only examples at that grading tier with none graded higher. All but two of the cards in the collection have a grade of NM/MT or better. As MHCC has done in the past with world-ranked assemblages, this collection is being offered as a complete set as well as each card offered individually, with the final sale going to whichever total (the set versus the sum of the individual lots) is higher.

MHCC is presently in the process of lining up more breathtaking items to make our next auction even greater and you still have time to be a part of it. If you desire the maximum possible return for your prized sports cards and/or memorabilia, please call (303) 840-2784, contact us at www.milehighcardco.com. or visit the MHCC booth at #1136 and #1138 of  the 38th National Sports Card Convention in Chicago, July 26th-30th.  You might even walk away with an added bonus – a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card PSA AUTHENTIC.

For each $500 of value consigned to the September MHCC auction, you’ll earn one ticket for the drawing. The larger the consignment, the more tickets you’ll receive, but everyone who consigns to MHCC at the National will be entered. The card is valued at $10,000 and the winner does not need to be present for the drawing, which is at 3:00 PM on July 30th.

Unprecedented Wax Box Find with 1948 Bowman Baseball Near Full Box Heads to Mile High Card Company June Auction

A few weeks ago, we were getting ready to put the final touches on the upcoming June auction when the phone rang … “Hello, I have some unopened full boxes and almost full boxes from the 1950s and 1960s that I am considering for your auction.” Well that certainly sounded promising, so I asked, “that’s great, what do you have?” He started off by telling me about a complete 1959 Fleer Ted Williams box, which certainly caught my attention, and then went into material that included near full wax boxes of 1961 Topps football five cent, 1962 Topps football and 1962 Fleer football. As he went on further (1960 Fleer baseball near full box, 1961 Fleer football full box, 1961 Fleer baseball near full box, 1961 Nu-Card Scoops near full box and 1961 Nu-Card Football near full box), I was trying to put a dollar value on the whole group when he hits me with “ and there’s a 1961 Fleer basketball unopened box.” I was already impressed at this point, but when he mentioned the 1961 Fleer basketball box, I said to him, “Aha! You buried the headline on me.” Actually, we still hadn’t reached the headline!

1961 Fleer Basketball Full Unopened Wax Box BBCE 1961 Topps Football 5 Cent Pack Full Unopened Wax Box BBCE 1961 Fleer Football Full Unopened Wax Box BBCE

“I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

This was already the greatest compilation of unopened material I’d ever heard of, and then he said, “Oh, and I have a box, it’s only 19 of the 24 packs, but it’s a Play Ball box from 1948. Wait, no, it’s 1948 Bowman.” Now I’m starting to wonder if Brian (Drent, MHCC President and CEO) is trying to punk me. I said, “I’m sorry can you repeat that?” He said, “1948 Bowman. The box and the wrappers say Play Ball on them but it’s Bowman. There was an extra pack that’s open and it’s the little black and white cards.” Now I’ve never seen or even heard of anyone who has seen a 1948 Bowman pack, but he’s claiming to have 19 unopened packs and the original box (which I also have never seen or heard of). I had to ask the obvious question, “How did you come across all of this?” He told me it was left to him by a member of his family who owned and operated a confectionary company that produced trading cards in the 1950s and 60s, though not a competitor to Topps, Fleer or Bowman in the sports card market. A quick Google search confirmed it and he still lived in the city from which the company had operated. Realizing that this would require an in-person pick-up due to our quickly approaching deadline, I asked if we could call him back in 5 minutes and sprinted down the hall with my page of notes to Brian’s office.

“You need to get off the phone NOW!”

Brian was looking out the window while talking on his cell phone when I walked in. As he turned and caught my eye, I said, “You need to get off the phone now!” Looking slightly perplexed but still, I handed him the notes, still listening to the person on the other end of the phone. After a few seconds of perusing the paper, he said, “Listen I gotta call you back.” Brian looked at me as if now I’m trying to punk him, but once I explained the lineage of the collection, he was back on the phone. Fifteen minutes later, he was booking a flight to pick up the collection.

Incredible 1948 Bowman Baseball Nearly Full Unopened Wax Box (19/24) Packs BBCE Incredible 1948 Bowman Baseball Nearly Full Unopened Wax Box (19/24) Packs BBCE

Untouched for over a half-century

The next day, Brian arrived to find the boxes laid out on a white linen across a dining room table. He was immediately drawn to the ’48 Bowman box, which seemed odd because it had “Play Ball” advertised all over the box and the packs. The thickness of the packs was also unusual but similar to a 1952 Bowman pack he has once seen. If not for the one opened pack, which contained five well-centered NM/MT to potentially GEM MINT examples and three large slabs of gum, there really wasn’t any indication that they were 1948 Bowman packs. The collection had been stored in a vintage Stroh’s beer case that was as old as the cards, the ones made of thick cardboard stock that originally had the insert to separate individual bottles. It was clear that this collection had been untouched for over a half-century. The consignor asked what he thought the collection was worth and revealed a dollar figure with his own estimate. Brian looked at the number and said, “Let’s put it this way; I’ll pay you four times that amount right now but I advise you not to take it. That’s what I think it’s worth”

“It’s Marvelous …”

We contacted Baseball Card Exchange owner Steve Hart, widely recognized as the foremost authority of unopened material, to examine and authenticate all of the material. After a few days of the material in his possession, we called Steve to ask what he thought. “It’s marvelous, all of it,” he claimed, verifying the authenticity by sealing the full boxes and adding their stamp of approval while providing a Letter of Authenticity and wrapping the near full boxes. Even Mr. Hart was not aware of any other 1948 Bowman baseball packs known to exist. The five cent packs are “NM to NM/MT and awesome” according to BBCE. The original box, though heavily damaged and taped, is also the only known example. In fact, BBCE had specific comments for each of the boxes:

  • 1959 Full Ted Williams full wax box – This one is extremely clean with NM/MT to MINT packs.
  • 1961 Fleer football full wax box – Most boxes have been salted away in collections and don’t come out anymore. Packs are NM/MT.
  • 1961 Topps football full wax box – The crown jewel of the find (other than the ’48 Bowman). I’ve seen less than 10 packs and they are usually EX … I’ve never heard of a full box. These packs are NM/MT to MINT.
  • 1961-62 Fleer basketball full wax box – Packs are NM to NM/MT and as fresh as can be.
  • 1962 Topps football near full wax box (20/24) – Packs are NM/MT overall and sweet.
  • 1960 Fleer Baseball Greats near full box (20/24) – Ten of the packs have mildew damage, the other 10 packs are NM to NM/MT.
  • 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats near full box (20/24) – Packs are sweet and NM/MT.
  • 1962 Fleer football near full box (19/24) – Packs are NM/MT and very rare.
  • 1961 Nu-Card Scoops baseball near full box (23/24) – Packs are NM to NM/MT overall.

Whether you’re a serious collector or just a curious bystander, this collection of unopened material will certainly be remember throughout the sports card hobby for generations to come. The Mile High Card Company Spring Auction will begin May 30th and conclude on June 15th. For additional information or to consign to an upcoming auction, please visit our website at www.milehighcardco.com or call our office at (303) 840-2784.

1948 Bowman Baseball: The Pioneer of the Post-War Era

From T206 to Goudey and everywhere in between, tobacco, caramel and gum companies tried to lay claim to the baseball card market, never getting past just a few seasons. While Gum Inc., manufacturer of the 1939-41 Play Ball series, appeared poised to mount a run at becoming the driving force that would lead the hobby into the next generation, their aspirations were halted by material shortages from World War II. Three years after the fighting subsided, Leaf and Bowman came forth to revive the industry, offering vastly different concepts of the future of the baseball card market. In the end, Bowman survived and went on 8-year run that dominated the industry until Topps permanently took over in 1956.

What if the roles had been reversed and Bowman was able to push Topps out of the market? One thing is for sure; the 1951 Mickey Mantle card, his true rookie card, would have no competition whatsoever as most coveted sports card ever produced. But while Bowman had the advantage of experience and an established customer base, Topps quite simply made a superior product. The simple black and white design of the inaugural 1948 Bowman series might not win any accolades for innovation, but the 48-card collection is one of the most important compilations in the hobby and the undisputed pioneer of the post-war era!

48 for ‘48

Whether it was meant to be a test set or a means to keep production costs as low as possible in a once again uncharted market, Bowman limited their introductory series to a mere 48 cards, formatting and sizing them almost identically to the football and movie star sets of the same year. While the cards were rife with centering issues characteristic of new start-ups, it was the first mainstream set produced in 7 years and thus, loaded with “rookie” cards of established players that had yet to appear on cardboard. Nine Hall of Famers are scattered within the set, and with a debut lineup that includes Musial, Berra, Kiner, Rizzuto, Spahn and Schoendienst, the 1948 Bowman series lives up to the words of William Shakespeare, “Though she be but little, she is fierce!”

The Only 1948 Bowman Baseball Packs Known to Exist Offered in June Mile High Card Company Auction

MHCC is proud to present one of the greatest finds of unopened wax boxes ever offered, headlined by a 1948 Bowman Baseball Near Full Wax Box with 19/24 packs. Until now there was not a single known pack to have survived, but this collection was consigned by the family of a rival trading card company that acquired all of the material for product research and has been stored away over half a century. Steve Hart of Baseball Card Exchange (BBCE) has examined all of the offered material and verified its authenticity, placing the BBCE wrapping and seal of approval on the full boxes and providing a Letter of Authenticity for the near full boxes. In each case, the packs are all NM to MINT and absolutely fabulous! Whether you’re a serious bidder or just an interested observer, this amazing event will be at the forefront of the hobby for a very long time.