Sports Collectors

Al Kaline Collection, Baseball Rookie Cards Star in $26 Million Auction

Throughout his seven decades in baseball, Al Kaline accumulated countless memories he shared with fans.  He also accumulated plenty of stuff.

The collection of the late “Mr. Tiger” was big enough and important enough to have its own dedicated auction catalog.  Now, the thousands of pieces that were consigned by his family are on the way to collectors after Heritage Auctions closed out the online sale over the weekend. 

The Kaline collection generated $1.64 million in all, topped by the Wilson model 1265 outfielder’s glove he used during the 1973 season. 

The glove was expected to sell somewhere in the low five figures, but by the time the sun rose on Sunday it had been caught by a collector who paid $126,000.  In fact, almost everything in The Al Kaline Collection –  from the 1984 Detroit Tigers World Series ring that sold for $87,000 to the 1968 Detroit Tigers World Series Championship Trophy that realized $56,400 – surpassed pre-auction estimates.

Heritage also presented items from the collections of Hall of Famer Lou Brock, Chicago Bulls three-peat champion Scott Williams and Pro Football Hall of Famers Dave Wilcox and Jack Youngblood.

“We do not take this responsibility lightly, and it’s as much an honor as it is a pleasure working with these sports greats and their families to find new homes for their treasures and trophies,” stated Heritage Sports President and Founder Chris Ivy. “This is one of the great joys of this job: uniting players and fans through these tangible collections of moments and memories. And we can’t wait to do it all over again.”

The entire auction—three catalogs worth in all—closed early Sunday morning with total sales and buyer’s premiums reaching past $26 million.

Two Mickey Mantle items sat among the auction’s top three once the dust settled: a game-worn New York Yankees jersey and a high-grade copy of his 1951 rookie card.

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Al Kaline Collection, Baseball Rookie Cards Star in $26 Million Auction

The slightly soiled, sweat-stained gray jersey with “NEW YORK” on the front and “7” on the back sold early Sunday morning for $615,000. He wore it on the road during the 1954 season, his first in which he drove in more than 100 runs. Mantle had also signed the jersey — inside, near the collar — just below the embroidered “M. Mantle.”

A 1951 Bowman Mantle rookie, graded PSA NM-MT 8, realized $420,000; only 10 examples are higher in PSA’s registry.  

A group of Jackie Robinson cards also drew plenty of bidder interest.  Robinson’s 1948-49 Leaf, in a PSA NM-MT 8 holder, sold for $444,000 while a PSA 9 copy of Robinson’s 1949 Bowman card from his MVP-winning season went for $360,000. A PSA 9 1953 Topps Robinson shattered its pre-sale estimates to sell for $252,000.

Al Kaline Collection, Baseball Rookie Cards Star in $26 Million Auction

Another card to fly past its pre-auction estimate was a 1909-11 T206 Old Mill Ty Cobb graded PSA NM-MT 8. The red portrait example sold for a final price of $312,000.

Other sales included a 1955 Topps Sandy Koufax PSA 9 ($384,000); a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth SGC 8 ($288,000) and a 1938 Goudey Joe DiMaggio SGC 9 ($276,000).

It wasn’t just vintage baseball greats who brought big bucks, though.  A 2000 Bowman Gold Rookie card numbered 12/99 (Brady’s jersey number) sold for $288,000.

In all, 22 cards sold for $100,000 or more.

Brady was also responsible for one of the biggest scores of the weekend, when a complete signed ticket from the New England Patriots’ Oct. 14, 2001, showdown with the San Diego Chargers sold for $144,000. That was the game during which Brady threw his first pro touchdown. It’s one of only two known autographed copies in PSA’s database.

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Al Kaline Collection, Baseball Rookie Cards Star in $26 Million Auction

Also sold was a 1946 Joe DiMaggio game-worn and autographed Yankees jersey, photomatched to DiMaggio’s first game after World War II.

From 1924 came a World Series ball signed by Walter Johnson, who, three years later, would retire after 21 seasons spent hurling for the club from D.C. According to Johnson’s family he kept few mementos from his playing days, and this ball, says his grandson in a letter accompanying it, was one of only three in his collection: “I believe this to be the ball Earl McNeely hit in the bottom of the 12th inning of the seventh game to win the game for Walter Johnson and the World Series for Washington, the greatest event of his spectacular career.”

Al Kaline Collection, Baseball Rookie Cards Star in $26 Million Auction

According to experts who have examined and authenticated the ball, it was signed by Johnson, who added “World Series 1924.” Once the ball hit the auction block, The Washington Post dug in even further, with Johnson’s grandson predicting that the ball should sell for twice its 2007 sale price of $90,000. Which is exactly what happened: The ball sold for $180,000.

Not far behind was a Ted Williams bat from his 1949 MVP season that netted $168,000.

Modern memorabilia sold in the auction included a pair of Kobe Bryant Adidas shoes dated to his 1996-97 rookie season, which soared to $192,000.  The highest graded ticket from Tiger Woods’ pro golf debut at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open sold for $87,000.

Heritage says a record number of bidders participated in the auction–over 4,300 worldwide.  The event was the last major auction for Heritage in 2021, one Ivy called “an extraordinary year for our consignors and our clients.”

For complete results, click here.

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