DIRECTOR OF SPORTS AUCTIONS CHRIS IVY TELLS WHY THESE 5 PIECES ARE HOME RUNS
You can say that collecting is part of my DNA. I started attending coin shows with my father when I was old enough to walk, but I was always drawn to that one table with sports cards. I never could have imagined that the field would grow to the size and strength we enjoy today, or that I would find myself as director of the hobby’s leading sports collectibles auctioneer. But while our success is really gratifying, the best thing about my job is how it provides a never-ending education. Every artifact that crosses my desk at Heritage Auctions speaks to its own past, often widening the scope of not just my own personal knowledge, but that of sports history at large.
1909-11 T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner
It’s always a thrill to handle one of only several dozen Wagners that exist, but this one was really special. It’s not a particularly fine example, but the provenance was extraordinary, willed to a nun at a Virginia diocese by her brother, who left it behind with a note reading, “Although damaged, the value of this baseball card should increase exponentially throughout the 21th century!” He was right — in November 2010, it sold for $262,900 and scored Heritage Sports the biggest press coverage we’d realized until that point.
1911 ‘Shoeless Joe’ Jackson Signed Photograph
When the person on the other end of the phone line told us she had a photograph signed by “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, we were enormously skeptical. Jackson was famously illiterate, and almost never signed unless it was required for a legal document. We’ve never been more pleased to be proven wrong. It’s arguably the most significant autographed item we’ve ever handled. It realized $179,250 in February 2015.
1965 Muhammad Ali & Sonny Liston Fight-Worn Gloves
The image of Muhammad Ali standing above a fallen Sonny Liston in the pair’s 1965 rematch is widely considered the greatest sports photograph ever taken. But the bout is shrouded in controversy — legitimate knockout or “Phantom Punch?” These are both pairs of gloves, from the victor and the vanquished, worn in that contest. They commanded $956,000 in February 2015, the highest price ever paid at auction for a boxing lot.
1970 Baltimore Orioles World Series Championship Ring
Working directly with sports legends is one of my job’s greatest perks, but our experience with Brooks Robinson really stands out. I’ve never met anybody with such a remarkable combination of achievement and humility. Sixteen Gold Gloves, two World Championships and Hall of Fame immortality, but one of the most unassuming and generous humans on Earth. His 1970 Orioles Championship ring, sold in November 2015, accounted for $143,400 of the $1.2 million he raised for his charitable endeavors through the sale of his collection.
1935 Babe Ruth Letter Discussing His St. Mary’s School Days
No list of sports memorabilia highlights is complete without the Babe, and this piece, which sold for $41,825 in May 2012, really spoke to me. We’ve sold jerseys, bats, even his first Yankees Championship award, but this sweet letter to his business manager’s son about his childhood experiences in a Baltimore orphanage shows us the tender side of sports’ first global superstar. “But the main thing in life to remember is that your success and happiness in the future will depend upon your own efforts and not the money or clothes which you might receive from your parents,” he writes. “The most successful men that I know today were poor boys.”
CHRIS IVY is director of sports auctions at Heritage Auctions. He can be reached at CIvy@HA.com.