Auction of Rare Honus Wagner Baseball Card

Like a lot of youngsters growing up, I bought plenty of baseball and other sports cards — especially during a stretch of about three years from 1970-72 when I simply couldn’t get enough of them.  I still have all those cards too, though I pretty much lost interest in them as a teenager.

But baseball card collectors of all stripes probably will be interested in this story:  a rare ca. 1910 Honus Wagner card is currently being auctioned online.

Wagner (1874-1955) was an all-time great shortstop who won eight batting titles during a career that spanned between 1897 and 1917. 

Fewer than sixty cards depicting him from the T206 American Tobacco Company series are believed to have survived.  Among sports card collectors, the Honus Wagner baseball card has an almost legendary status — you might call it “the black tulip of baseball cards.”    

A few years ago a Wagner card sold for $2.8 million.  But the card currently up for auction at Heritage Auction Galleries is in poor condition, and it’s believed it won’t fetch more than $200,000 — still a nifty little sum for a baseball card!  The auction ends November 4th, by the way.  You can examine the card and read the description of it here.      

If you’re interested in learning more about the Honus Wagner baseball card, here’s a juvenile title kids out there might like.   Greensboro Public Library also owns an adult book on the Honus Wagner card, titled The Card:  Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History’s Most Desired Baseball Card by Michael O’Keeffe and Teri Thompson. 

And if you think you might have a valuable baseball card, you can check its value in our copy of Krause Publications’ Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards.

L.A. Judge to Decide Dispute Over Giant Bahia Emerald

As we recently posted on a valuable emerald found at the little hamlet of Hiddenite right here in North Carolina, I thought this story about an ownership controversy over a huge Brazilian emerald was apropos

Known as the Bahia Emerald, after the Brazilian state where it was found, the specimen weighs in at an extraordinary 840 pounds.  It’s really a cluster of emeralds embedded in a matrix, and its value is believed to be as much as $400 million. 

Why the controversy?  Well, a man named Anthony Thomas claims he paid $60,000 for the emerald soon after it was mined in 2001 and is therefore the rightful owner.  But there are a number of other claimants in addition to Mr. Thomas, and a judge in Los Angeles began hearing from them Friday.  For now, this remarkable gem is in the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. 

If you’re interested in reading more about rare gems and jewels, as well as the legends and lore often associated with them, try some of these titles from Greensboro Public Library:  Gems of the World by Cally Oldershaw; Jewels:  A Secret History by Victoria Finlay; Jewelry & Gems, the Buying Guide:  How to Buy Diamonds, Pearls, Colored Gemstones, Gold & Jewelry with Confidence and Knowledge by Antoinette L. Matlins & Antonio C. Bonanno; Gemstones:  Symbols of Beauty and Power by Eduard Gubelin, Franz-Xaver Erni; Field Collecting Gemstones and Minerals, Gemstones of North America, and Prospecting for Gemstones and Minerals by John Sinkankas; Hitler’s Holy Relics:  A True Story of Nazi Plunder and the Race to Recover the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick; The Great Crown Jewels Robbery of 1303: The Extraordinary Story of the First Big Bank Raid in History by Paul Doherty; and Treasures in the Smithsonian:  The Gem Collection by Paul E. Desautels.

Rare Book Found in Toilet to be Auctioned

Here’s a neat AP story about a rare 1st edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species which will be auctioned at Christie’s in London on Tuesday.  The story seems to have originated with this report from the Oxford Daily Mail

The irony is that the book was kept on someone’s toilet bookshelf in Oxford, England, for many years — and now is expected to bring as much as $99,000 at auction!  The owner is said to have paid only a few shillings for the book when it was purchased some forty years ago.

You can find a description of the book on the Christie’s page here.

The story begs the question:  what unrecognized treasures might you have languishing on the bookshelves at your home?  For things like this happen all the time.

For example, back in the 1920s a book collector and Edgar Allan Poe enthusiast named Vincent Starrett wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post called, I believe, “Have You a Tamerlane in Your Attic?”  Starrett of course referred to the great rarity, Tamerlane and Other Poems, Poe’s first published work, which he published anonymously in 1827.

As it turned out, a lady who read that article actually did have a Tamerlane in her attic (I think she lived in an attic apartment).  She tried to contact Starrett about it, but, missing him, instead gave her business to a prominent Boston bookseller named Charles Goodspeed — and the two of them made quite a good little profit.

About twenty years or so ago the twelfth and last copy of Tamerlane turned up in an antique shop in New Hampshire.  The man who bought it just paid fifteen dollars, then sold it at auction for a little under $200,000.

At any rate, if you’ve got a book or any kind of collectible which you think may be valuable, Greensboro Public Library may be able to help you identify the item and get some idea of its value, though, of course, we cannot do formal appraisals.  For that, you should go to a reputable antiques dealer or the appropriate specialist, e.g., a seller of fine and rare books. 

But we have lots of books — too many and varied to mention — and other resources, such as our p4A Antiques Reference Database of auction records, which you may find helpful in researching an item.  As another example, sometimes local history resources, such as our old Greensboro city directories, can be useful in determining when a local item was manufactured.

By all means, if you have something you’d like to research, please feel free to contact us (335-5430) at the Informations Services desk at Central Library.  We’d be glad to help in any way we can.

John F. Kennedy’s Last Autograph?

Of possible interest to all you autograph hounds out there, JFK items have been in the news lately.

This CNN article tells of the recent sale of what may well have been President Kennedy’s last autograph, written on the front page of the Dallas Morning Herald on November 22nd, 1963.  He signed the paper for a maid named Jan White as he entered the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce on his way to give a breakfast speech that morning.  Later that day in Dallas, he was of course felled by an assassin’s bullets.     

And here’s another article from MSNBC which discusses the newspaper auction above as well as that of an autographed photograph of Kennedy, ca. 1956.

The signed newspaper sold for about $39,000, while the photograph went for over $4,000.

Why do people pay so much for ordinary items like this?  As an employee of the gallery which sold the photo put it, “What people are buying is the mystique.  They are taking home the autograph knowing that this person once actually touched this item, this person once actually left this imprint, this signature.”

The library has some books on autograph collecting, including Charles Hamilton’s The Book of Autographs:  An Introduction to the Joys and Techniques of Autograph Collecting by the World’s Fore-most Authority; and The Standard Guide to Collecting Autographs:  A Reference & Value Guide by Mark Allen Baker.  

I especially think the Hamilton book would be a good one.  Hamilton gained considerable notoriety in 1983 for his determination that the so-called Hitler diaries were fakes — after they had been authenticated by the famous historian, Hugh Trevor-Roper.

Of course, Greensboro Public Library also has lots of books on John F. Kennedy and the assassination.  It’s hard to believe we’re coming up on the 50th anniversary of the latter.