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Circa 1921 Christy Mathewson Single-Signed Ball
Starting Bid - $10,000, Sold For - $45,000
Few items in the field of baseball autographs are as rare or as highly prized by collectors as this spectacular piece: a single-signed Christy Mathewson ball. The official National League (Heydler) ball has been signed by Mathewson in black fountain pen across the sweet spot, with the signature grading "7/8" overall. This is an exceptional Mathewson single and one of the finest examples we have ever seen, let alone offered. While there is some minor toning along the ball label, the signature panel remains clean and bright and the ball is in Excellent to Mint condition overall. Based upon the manufacturer's stampings, this ball dates to the 1919-1924 labeling period, a time when Mathewson was suffering from tuberculosis, an illness he contracted after being accidentally poisoned by mustard gas in World War I. He eventually succumbed to the disease in 1925 at the age of forty-five. As a result, Mathewson's signature on any item, let alone by itself on a ball, is extremely rare. Mathewson is also the key rarity, by far, in the assembly of a complete set of single-signed baseballs of the first five Hall of Famers (the other four are Ruth, Cobb, Johnson, and Wagner).
Mathewson's reputation as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history is well founded. However, his legendary status today has more to do with his character, and the way in which he conducted himself both on and off the field, than his mound achievements. Sportswriter Fred Lieb once wrote: "Fans regarded him as the All-American boy...Christy Mathewson was the most admired player in baseball, the one fathers would take their sons to see pitch on their first visit to a ball park." Even after all these years, Mathewson still holds a special place in the eyes of collectors and his signature in any form remains one of the essentials for any advanced collection. Mathewson single-signed balls appear quite infrequently at public auction and always command a high price. As a point of reference (and of course each ball is ultimately unique), a Mathewson single-signed ball sold at Heritage Auctions for $95,600 in February 2015, while a lower-grade example sold at REA in May 2012 (Lot 787) for $44,438. This is just the third Mathewson single-signed ball we have offered in the past fifteen years and one of probably fewer than twelve we have ever seen (the majority of which were in far lesser condition). According to JSA, which has provided a full LOA for the ball, there has been a very slight enhancement to a portion of the "c" and the "a," neither of which are readily evident to the naked eye. This ball has appeared at auction only once before: It was offered at Hunt Auctions' Major League Baseball All Star sale in July 2009 (Lot 645), at which time it sold for $50,600. It has not seen the light of day since and has been consigned to this auction directly by the buyer at the 2009 All Star auction! This is a stunning Christy Mathewson single-signed ball with tremendous visual appeal, worthy of the finest museum-caliber collection! Full LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $45,000
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