Over the past few months I have devoted some time to write about memorabilia auctions from a number of perspectives…by and large these have focused on current issues as well as what the future might hold. With that in mind, I would like to spend some time looking at the past. This particular story begins for me about five years ago, and almost a decade ago for the larger hobby/industry. As you know, I have often written about the value of building and leveraging data bases. This is one of the things I introduced to SCDA and have continued with for MEARS.

Getting back to the topic at hand, about five years ago, I purchased a collection of old auction catalogs from an advanced collector and long time hobbyist. Among these where a number of catalogs from Richard Wolfers Auctions, Inc., covering the period from September 1991 through June 1994. These catalogs where of particular interest to me as I had not seen them before and they seemed to be full of many vintage offerings. The other thing I found interesting was that the collector had taken the time to record the purchase price next to many of the lots. Although these eleven volumes represent only small portion of my reference archive of sports memorabilia auction catalogs (well over 200 at this point), I find them to be as welcome additions as much today as when I got them.

One of things that is most striking is just the simplicity of them. Lots are done with a photograph (color or black or white) and an item description. No time or space is devoted to “pumping up” the item with any story or fan fair. I have always felt that if you have to spend a lot of effort in trying to convince someone that an item is truly special, then it probably isn’t, but that’s just me. As a uniform researcher, something I found both useful and helpful was that in cases when the photograph of the item did not lend itself to “speaking about the piece”, the description did. By that I mean if the tags where not visible in the photo, the description contained information with respect to things like the size and the manufacturer. These are both important things to know when building a data base as the serve as the basis for doing trend analysis.

Another thing that has been helpful with respect to these catalogs, is that it becomes very clear that many of these same items have continued to move through the hobby over the years. While not readily apparent to some, they offer some help in evaluating provenance at times, once again the value of a data base. The point I am trying to make is that when you are asked to look at an item that comes with a “great story” about how it has been in the family for years or came from a guy who’s dad or granddad was a bat boy back in the day, it is often nice to be able to go back and say, maybe, but it looks like this same jersey was sold over ten ago in such and such auction.

One of the things that still causes a buzz in the hobby these days is when a Hall of Fame Flannel hits the market. They are showing up with less frequency as time goes on. This was not the case back then as a sampling of items from these catalogs include:

Date Player/Item
Sept 1991 C 1930 Charlie Gehringer Road Jersey
“ 1938 Lou Gehrig Road Jersey
“ 1941 Hank Greenberg Home Jersey
“ 1953 Warren Spahn Road Jersey
“ 1960 Stan Musial Home Jersey
“ 1962 Willie Mays Home Uniform
“ 1964 Sandy Koufax Home Jersey
“ 1964-65 Casey Stengel Home Jersey
“ 1967 Ernie Banks Home Jersey
“ 1968 Joe DiMaggio Road Jersey

Nov 1991 1889 Tim Keefe NY Giants Jersey
“ 1932 Rogers Hornsby Home Jersey
“ 1941 Lefty Grove Road Uniform
“ 1957 Brooks Robinson Road Jersey
“ 1962 Yogi Berra Road Jersey
“ 1964 Harmon Killibrew Road Uniform
“ 1965 Sandy Koufax Road Jersey
“ 1966 Carl Yastrezemski Home Jersey
“ 1967 Rod Carew Home Jersey
“ 1968 Joe Morgan Road Jersey
“ 1970 Reggie Jackson Home Jersey

Sept 1992 1896-97 Dummy Hoy Road Jersey
“ 1927 Lou Gehrig Road Jersey
“ 1938 Babe Ruth Road Jersey
“ 1942 Mel Ott Home Jersey
“ 1946 Frankie Frisch Road Uniform
“ 1949 Warren Spahn Home Jersey
“ 1951 Stan Musial Road Jersey
“ 1952 Bob Feller Home Jersey
“ 1956 Sandy Koufax Home Jersey
“ 1960 Harmon Killibrew Home Uniform
“ 1960 Ted Williams Home Jersey
“ 1962 Duke Snider Road Jersey
“ 1964 Jim Bunning Road Jersey
“ 1964 Al Kaline Road Jersey
“ 1965 Mickey Mantle Road Jersey
“ 1967 Rod Carew Home Jersey
“ 1967 Eddie Mathews Home Jersey
“ 1967 Willie Mays Home Jersey
“ 1968 Luis Aparacio Home Jersey
“ 1968 Bob Gibson Home Jersey
“ 1971 Jim Plamer Road Jersey
“ 1971 Tom Seaver Home Jersey

March 1992 1924 Casey Stengel Road Jersey
“ 1932-33 Dizzy Dean Road Uniform
“ 1933 Ki Ki Cuyler Home Jersey
“ 1953 Ted Williams Home Jersey
“ 1958 Willie Mays Home Jersey
“ 1965 Bill Mazeroski Road Jersey
“ 1966 Fergie Jenkins Home Jersey
“ 1966 Brooks Robinson Home Jersey
“ 1966 Billy Williams Road Jersey
“ 1967 Whitey Ford Road Jersey
“ 1967 Harmon Killibrew Road Jersey
“ 1967 Tom Seaver Home Jersey
“ 1968 Luis Aparicio Home Jersey
“ 1968 Johnny Bench Home Jersey
“ 1968 Willie Stargell Home Jersey
“ 1969 Don Drysdale Road Jersey
“ 1970 Rollie Fingers Road Jersey
“ 1970 Hoyt Wilhelm Home Jersey

Feb 1993 1950 Jackie Robinson Home Jersey
“ 1954 Ted Williams Home Jersey
“ 1955 Willie Mays Road Jersey
“ 1961 Sandy Koufax Home Jersey
“ 1962 Roger Maris Road Jersey
“ 1962 Stan Musial Road Jersey
“ 1963 Harmon Killibrew Home Jersey
“ 1966 Willie McCovey Road Jersey
“ 1969 Gaylord Perry Home Jersey
“ 1970 Reggie Jackson Road Jersey
“ 1970 Tom Seaver Home Jersey
“ 1971 Hank Aaron Home Jersey

June 1993 1937-39 Lou Gerhig Road Jersey
“ 1952 Lou Boudreau Road Jersey
“ 1954 Stan Musial Road Jersey
“ 1962 Warren Spahn Home Jersey
“ 1963 Willie Mays Road Jersey
“ 1964 Willie McCovey Home Jersey
“ 1965 Eddie Mathews Road Jersey
“ 1966 Sandy Koufax Home Jersey
“ 1971 Hank Aaron Road Jersey

Nov 1993 c 1934 Lou Gehrig Home Jersey
“ 1955 Ralph Kiner Home Jersey
“ 1962 Juan Marichal Home Jersey
“ 1969 Willie Mays Home Uniform
“ 1969 Hank Aaron Home Jersey

March 1994 Late 1920s John McGraw Home Jersey

June 1994 1938 Babe Ruth Home Uniform
“ c 1940 Jimmy Foxx Road Jersey

This represents 90 flannels in 45 months and I am missing catalogs from Wolfers from this period as well. The thing to remember is that all of these jerseys are different. There are some jerseys in this mix that where offered by them more than once, something we still today. What we clearly don’t see today are offerings like the September 1992 Auction that featured flannels from 21 different Hall of Famers.

Fast forward a decade to the April – December of 2002, and by comparison between these three auctions:

Mastro April 2002
Grey Flannel June 2002
Lelands December 2002

They offered only about 3/4ths of this total between them in terms of Hall of Fame Flannels. Today, auctions are often built around one or maybe two.

Flannels are not the only items featured in these catalogs as they offered game used material from all the major sports as well as cards, awards, and various paper items.

One of things I have always encouraged collectors to do is build a reference library. If you are ever offered the opportunity to buy older catalogs, do it…You won’t regret it. The tough thing is finding someone who is willing to part with them…that may prove tougher than finding some of the jersey offered by Richard Wolfer’s Auctions over a decade ago.


LTC MEARS Auth, LLC can be reached for comments or questions about this article at DaveGrob1@aol.com