Former Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox third baseman Marv Owen’s impact on professional baseball may be unremarkable, but the late Major Leaguer helped set a record over the weekend when a ball he had autographed by 11 members of the inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1939 was sold at auction for a whopping $623,369.
Those who signed the most valuable autographed baseball ever include sluggers Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb as well as legendary pitchers Cy Young and Walter Johnson. The missing signature on the ball is that of Lou Gehrig, who was too sick with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to attend the first induction ceremony.
Prior to his death in 1991, Owen had the foresight to store the ball in a fur-lined glove that he kept in a safe deposit box, which is why the piece is in such good condition.
Legendary sluggers Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner are just three of the 11 signatures found on the ball, which former Tigers third baseman Marv Owen (right) passed around at the first Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, New York in 1939
According to ESPN , the previous record for a signed baseball was $388,375 in 2012 for a souvenir with Babe Ruth’s signature. Ruth was a member of baseball’s first Hall of Fame class
‘The sheer greatness of this ball is simply unrivaled,’ SCP Auctions president David Kohler said in a statement. ‘Its historical importance compounded by the impeccable provenance and state of preservation elevate it to singular status as the most important and valuable autographed baseball in the world. The final price certainly proved this.’
The induction ceremony in 1939 included Hall of Fame classes from 1936 to 39.
Other members of that class include former Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner, Philadelphia Athletics second baseman Eddie Collins, St. Louise Browns first baseman George Sisler, Cleveland Naps second baseman Nap Lajoie (the team’s namesake), Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians center fielder Tris Speaker, as well as Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, and Athletics manager Connie Mack.
(From left) Lou Gehrig, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, and Babe Ruth were all inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1939, but Gehrig was too sick with ALS to attend
Ty Cobb (left) and Grover Cleveland Alexander (right) both signed the nearly-priceless ball
Honus Wagner memorabilia is quite valuable. His baseball card has sold for over $2 million
The price hit $156,000 on Friday night, but things progressed quickly from there, and by Saturday the ball had sold for over $600,000.
According to ESPN, the previous record for a signed baseball was $388,375 in 2012 for a souvenir with Ruth’s signature.
The largest price ever paid for a baseball was $3 million, which is what collector Todd McFarlane spent in 1999 for Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball from the previous season.
Valuable collectibles have been popping up in the news frequently.
Earlier this month, two New Jersey men were stunned to discover five Mickey Mantle cards had been stored in an old stash, one of which was valued at $1 million.
A 76-year-old man who asked to be identified only by his first name, John, saw that former NFL lineman Evan Mathis sold Mickey Mantle card for $2.88 million.
(Left) Eddie Collins of the Philadelphia Athletics poses for a portrait during the 1911 World Series against the New York Giants circa October, 1911 at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Right) Denton ‘Cy’ Young warms up before a game
Walter Johnson (known as ‘The Big Train’) was the game’s top pitcher for nearly 20 years
Former Red Sox center fielder Tris Speaker (left) and Philadelphia Athletics second baseman Nap Lajoie (right) were considered two of the best hitters before the ‘live ball’ era (1920-)
That’s when John decided to call Heritage Auctions to have them evaluate his cards.
As it turns out, he and his brother’s collection includes five Mantle Topps cards from 1952, similar to the one Mathis sold. However, that card was graded a Mint 9 by PSA, one of the leading sports memorabilia authenticators.
The best in the brothers’ collection is a PSA 8.5 that has been valued at $1 million by Heritage and is part of its Summer Platinum Night Sports Auction that runs through Aug. 19.
John recalled he and his brother began collecting cards in 1951 when they were growing up in West Hartford, Connecticut. John was nine-years old at the time, and brother Ed was 12. They each had separate collections that got merged at some point years later as they were being stored.
There was a big attic in their house and John said a lot of things were stored there over the years after they were no longer being used, including his Cub scout uniform and his Army uniforms. At some point the cards went up there, too.
That’s where they remained until his mother passed away in late 2006. Her house was sold and her belongings were divided between John and his brother, who lives in Massachusetts. The cards ended up in John’s basement.
‘We always knew we had the cards, but they were just in the attic,’ John told the Associated Press. ‘We were fortunate our mother stayed and lived in the house until she was almost 102.’
Walter Johnson pitches for the Senators in the season opener at the Polo Grounds in 1916
(Left) In perhaps Ty Cobb’s most iconic photo, the Georgia Peach shows off his base-running skills. (Right) George Sisler poses at the steps of the visitors dugout, League Park