– November 21, 2005
Watchung, New Jersey. Robert Edward Auctions is pleased to announce a very significant new baseball card discovery: a card of legendary Hall of Fames Josh Gibson dating from spring training of his rookie season in the Negro Leagues in 1931. It has long been thought that no card of Josh Gibson exists dating from his playing days. Very few card issues featuring Negro Leaguers were produced in the 1930s and 1940s, and of these few, most were not issued in the United States. One exception is the 1931 Harrison Studios real photo postcard set featuring members of the Homestead Greys. Only a few examples are known to exist from this set, which was produced in Hot Springs, Arkansas during spring training in 1931. Until this discovery, no example of Josh Gibson’s card in the 1931 Harrison Studios set has ever been documented or reported. Incredibly, the card is autographed by Josh Gibson twice – once on the front, and a second time on the reverse (personalized to fellow Negro League catcher Joe Lewis). Josh Gibson’s signature is extremely rare in any form, making this not only an extraordinary card discovery, but an extremely significant autograph discovery as well. According to Robert Edward Auctions, this may be the only authentic Josh Gibson autograph on a photograph of Gibson alone known to exist. The card has been encapsulated by PSA and the signatures have been authenticated by PSA/DNA. Being the only known card of Josh Gibson from his playing days, let alone dating from his rookie season, may give this card a special significance to Hall of Fame card collectors.
This card will be included in Robert Edward Auctions’ spring sale. The complete catalog description follows:
“Real photo postcard of the legendary Josh Gibson in his first full season as a professional ballplayer with the Homestead Grays, signed on the front “Joshua Gibson” (“7”), also signed on the back “To my pal Joe Lewis From Joshua Gibson” (“7”), dating from spring training of 1931. This postcard is one of a series of Homestead Grays players produced during spring training of 1931 by Harrison Studios of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Several players from this set are known, as well as a team card of the Homestead Grays which is precisely dated by the photographer “4-3-31”. All have traditional postcard backs. This is an extraordinary find both as a card and as an autographed photograph. Before we made others aware of the existence of this postcard, it was believed that no cards were ever produced of Josh Gibson picturing him alone dating from his playing days. This may be the only one. The fact that the postcard is autographed also makes this very possibly the only known signed photograph of Josh Gibson in existence (we know of no other, though we have seen at least one signed team photo with Gibson over the years). Josh Gibson is one of the rarest and most important of all Hall of Famer autographs. A signed photograph for some Hall of Famers is an ideal which in many cases simply does not exist. Prior to the discovery of this example, most collectors would have counted Josh Gibson among those Hall of Famer signatures impossible to obtain on a photograph. This photograph is all the more extraordinary in that it features Gibson as an eighteen-year-old in his rookie season. Josh Gibson actually joined the Homestead Grays in the middle of the 1930 season, and he left the Grays to join the Pittsburg Crawfords early in 1932, when Crawfords owner (and top numbers racketeer) Gus Greenlee raided the Grays roster, signing both Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston. This sequence combined with the photographers credit (“Harrison, Hot Springs Arkansas” in white lettering in the lower right, as others in the series) also dates the postcard to spring training of 1931, as it could not be from spring training of 1930 (Gibson did not join the Grays until the middle of the season) and Gibson was already with the Pittsburg Crawfords during spring training of 1932. Josh Gibson was the star of the 1931 Homestead Grays, considered by most historians to be the best black baseball team of all time. Playing as an independent team in 1931, the Homestead Grays are credited with a record of 163-23 against all levels of competition. 1931 was the year in which Josh Gibson is credited with hitting a record 75 home runs. This signed postcard has never before been seen in the organized collecting world, however Robert Edward Auctions has known about this piece for many years. In 1995, REA handled a significant collection of Negro League materials including photographs from the collection of Louis Santop, one of the greats of the Negro Leagues. When we auctioned this collection, included were several autographed postcards (two with salutations, one personalized to “Lewis”), including two signed Homestead Grays postcards from the 1931 Harrison Studios Hot Springs Arkansas set. These appeared as Lot 639 in the June 1995 REA auction. When these signed postcards (along with several other significant photographic pieces) were consigned, there was one postcard that the consignor chose to keep. That postcard was the signed Josh Gibson. After over a decade since the sale of this collection, we are extremely pleased to be able to offer this card, the prize of the collection, the signed Josh Gibson card. The “Joe Lewis” in the salutation is almost certainly Joseph Herman (Sleepy) Lewis, who was a star catcher in the Negro Leagues from 1919 to 1936 with many teams including the Baltimore Black Sox, Washington Potamics, Hilldale, and the Lincoln Giants. It is interesting to note that Santop, Gibson, and Lewis were all star catchers, and this fact no doubt relates to why this why this signed postcard happened to come into the possession and be saved by Santop. The card has no creases. A small area of very light discoloration in the lower left has the look of light soiling but appears to be as-made. The card has two small, clean pinholes: one at top center above Gibson’s image and another at the bottom center which goes through the bottom loop of the “G” in “Gibson,” an undetectable hint of adhesive removal in the corners of the reverse (the card was mounted in a frame and professionally removed); the card is otherwise in Vg-Ex/Ex condition. LOAs from James Spence/JSA and Steve Grad, Mike Gutierrez & Zach Rullo/PSA DNA. Reserve $5,000. Estimate 10,000/$20,000+.”
Robert Edward Auctions is one of the collecting world’s leading collectibles auction companies, specializing in the rarest and most historic baseball cards and memorabilia, as well as other sport, non-sport, and Americana collectibles.
For further information regarding consignments or to register for a complimentary auction catalog please contact: Robert Edward Auctions, PO Box 7256, Watchung, NJ 07069 or call (908)-226-9900 or visit www.RobertEdwardAuctions.com