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.