By Peter Schwartz
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For the avid baseball fan, a trip to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is an out-of-body experience.
With artifacts and exhibits from every era and every team, it’s truly like a kid in a candy store for someone who loves the game and appreciates its history. I remember just being in awe of all of those balls, bats, photos and other items the first time I visited the Hall.
But aside from what can be found in Cooperstown, there are other vast collections of baseball memorabilia, including a comprehensive collection that is coming to New York next month.
Christie’s will be presenting “The Golden Age of Baseball, Selections from the National Pastime Museum.” It’s a two-day auction Oct. 19-20 at Christie’s auction house in Manhattan and features 485 lots covering over 130 years of baseball history.
The quality and scope of memorabilia available makes this collection quite unique for the avid collector or just a casual baseball fan.
“From a remarkable collection of game-used baseball bats swung by many of the game’s most legendary players to letters and contracts and a treasury of baseball photography, it really is encyclopedic in its nature,” said Simeon Lipman, consultant of pop culture at Christie’s.
In addition to the auction, the items in the collection will also be on display for the general public at Christie’s in Rockefeller Plaza on Oct. 13-15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Oct. 16 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Oct. 17-18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The collection has a big New York baseball presence with items from Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays and a bat used by Derek Jeter. Given the number of baseball fans in the tri-state area and the storied history of baseball in New York, having these iconic figures included in the collection is vital for a successful auction.
“Some of baseball’s greatest stars plied their trade in the New York metropolitan area,” said Lipman. “It is indeed important to have them represented in the sale.”
There are also pieces relating to Roberto Clemente and Christy Mathewson as well as artifacts from the Negro Leagues, including items from Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson. It’s the largest collection of baseball memorabilia to appear at an international auction house in more than 15 years.
Day 1 of the auction will feature memorabilia, and then Day 2 will be devoted to photography. There is something for just about everyone in terms of budget as there will be items with estimates starting at $300 to $500. On the other end of the spectrum, there is a “Shoeless” Joe Jackson bat that is expected to fetch $500,000 to $700,000.
Even if you don’t plan on bidding for any of the items, just coming to see the exhibit is a must for a true baseball fan.
“That’s the beauty of an auction like this,” Lipman said. “As a youngster in the late 1980s, I was fortunate to be able to view some of the great sports memorabilia sales of that time. I certainly could not afford any of the pieces then, but I was able to obtain a catalog and see the wonderful objects in person. I hope that people take advantage of that opportunity with this sale. It’s something special to see.”
I love to collect sports memorabilia, but sometimes just window shopping is a fun experience. Given the scope of this collection, just getting a look at these artifacts will be an incredible feeling. And for those who are planning on getting their checkbooks out, owning any of these items would be unbelievable given the history that is going to be in that room.
For more information on the auction, visit Christies.com/baseball.
Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow Christies @ChristiesInc and The National Pastime Museum @TNPMuseum.