America's Great Boxing Cards

Here is what a real N266 looks like:

May 17, 2008: Spring Auction Recap

OK, the economy may be in the toilet, gas may cost as much as wine and your house may have lost 25% of its value but you'd never know it from the auction results.

Mastro sold a master set of N310 Mayos, featuring all 35 cards with names at their tops and all 35 cards with names at their bottoms, spread across two lots. Together, they brought $12,600.00 (including the 20% buyer's premium, or "vig" as many prefer to call it). As you might expect with 19th century materials, only 9 cards out of 70 were better than vg-ex. N310 is a great set but it is relatively easy to find. Seems that there are odd lots on Ebay every week and typically a larger lot or two in the major auctions.

The #4 PSA registry set of 1948 Leaf went for $9,000.00. Not too shabby for a set that you could readily assemble any day of the week as long as you are not too choosy about condition. In a move I find hard to fathom, though, Mastro also offered the #8 PSA registry set, which was a steal at $900.00. Is the #8 set really worth only 10% of the #4 set, or is the whole grading thing out of control? I have to wonder.

Mastro continued its dealer-friendly practice of glopping together big lots of unrelated cards with a 253-card Frankenstein. First of all, slapping together partial sets of E caramel and T tobacco cards doesn't make a whole lot of sense, especially when they buried 9 pretty ok T226 Red Sun cards, including Attell, a near set of T220 silver borders, some near sets of common caramels, and even an ad poster cut set of T225 series 1. They even threw in a Churchman's set, which is just worthless trash. If I'd have had the dough this is a lot I would have gone after for the breakup value. Anyhow, the lucky dealer who purchased this lot got it for $6,600.00 and I am sure we will be seeing the breakdown on Ebay in the near future.

For a while a couple of years ago I was bidding on every large lot of Exhibit cards I could find, putting what I needed away, and trying to resell the rest. Mastro's Lot 1481 with 685 Exhibit cards would have sucked me right in. Unfortunately, I was outbid by the winner who took it home for $4,500.00. That is going to an interesting break when it hits Ebay...

Robert Edward Auctions has a big rep in the baseball field but surprisingly hosted a couple of boxing lots in its annual big time auction.

The first REA lot that caught my eye was one of those I have no idea lots. Some kid long ago glued down 17 T226 Red Sun cards in his scrap book. The big question is whether he used water based glue or oil based glue. If it was the watery stuff, the cards could be resurrected, but if not, the backs are gone. Despite that risk factor, bidding ended at $3,231.25.

REA also had an Old Judge N174 lot with five cards, all slabbed bySGC: Tom Chandler (good 30), Jack Dempsey (vg 40), Jack Fogarty (vg 40), George La Blanche (vg-ex 50), and Tommy Warren (ex 60). One big name, some other solid guys. REA remarked "if these were nineteenth-century baseball cards of similar rarity and condition, each card would sell for many thousands of dollars"; guess what--they nearly did, selling for $3,525.00.

​The one place I am seeing definite softness in pricing is for lower grade and midgrade common cards from common sets.

March 8, 2008: Do Auction Houses Add Value?

We recently had the chance to see rare cards head to head in an auction versus on Ebay. A group of T223 Dixie Queen cards in midgrade sold through Mastro Auctions and another, larger group sold on Ebay. The conditions and boxer mix were similar. The Mastrro group came out well ahead for the consignor ($1,700 for six cards) as compared to self-sold Ebay group ($10,100 for 51 cards). In this case, it seems, Mastro was a better deal, even with its higher commission.

In other news, Ebay has launched changes to its site that are going to make it much harder for bidders to track and expose shilling. Shill bidding (bidding up one's own items) is rampant on Ebay and has been for years. The only way to catch a shiller is to be able to see who is doing the bidding and scrutinize that bidder's history. Some sellers have even been stupid enough to use their alternate sales IDs to shill their own auctions. Now, Ebay has taken away the public's ability to see who is bidding on an auction. If we can't see who is bidding we can't tell who is a shill bidder. Nice Orwellian move, there, Ebay: cut down on shill bidding complaints by taking away the public's ability to see who is bidding, then declare victory over shilling because there are so few complaints. Sorta like destroying the village to save it.

February 18, 2008: Worthless Crap?

​​I have been under some pressure to include foreign issued boxing cards in the catalog. I am pleased to announce that I will be starting coverage of Canadian and Cuban cards in the 5th Edition. I am not covering European cards. My reasons are as follows:

  1. European and especially British cards are covered pretty well already by the various publications issued by the Cartophilic Society of Great Britain and Murray's in London. I can't really add to their work on many of these issues, especially the World Tobacco Index.
  2. I am not convinced of the legitimacy of many of these cards, especially the purportedly prewar cards coming out of those areas of Europe that saw heavy action in WWII. In particular there has been a slew of French and Italian issues coming to market over the last year. I've bid on some myself when the fighters were not issued in other sets. However, it bothers me that these cards apparently survived WWII in these war zones but haven't been heard of until now. I would have expected them to surface like the prewar issues familiar to us collectors; they haven't. Until we learn more about the issuers and the circumstances of their issue, I am loathe to spend big bucks on them.
  3. I remain skeptical of the supply of most of the postwar issues that we see offered for sale. It seems to me that these cards are offered for sale over and over on Ebay from the same sources, in seemingly endless supplies, and with seemingly endless permutations and variations. I don't know how many alleged Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali "rookies" I've seen from Italy and Sweden; a heck of a lot would be an understatement. Prices have been volatile on these cards as well, indicating to me that once a fighter specialist (like a Dempsey collector) gets one, no one else wants them.

So are they legitimate cards or worthless crap? I think the jury is still out on that one.

January 12, 2008: N310 Mayo Fraud Detection

Recently, I was asked by a collector to look over a scan of an N310 to determine whether it was fake, so I thought I would share what I know with you:

There is a very good reprint of this set out there. My understanding is that it was made in the UK some years ago and marketed as a reprint set, strictly above-board. Its quality and lack of reprint markings makes detecting the reprints very difficult unless you know precisely what to look for. I happened to purchase one on Ebay last year (I was able to return it for a refund) so I got a first-hand look at the reprint and a first-hand education in how easily you can get burned with these cards.

There are two basic indicators that you can use to weed out a fake Mayo. The first is the stock itself. Authentic Mayos have a creamy back stock. The reprint back stock is yellower, stiffer and smoother to the touch. You really have to feel the card and have it side by side with a real one to detect the reprint this way. The second indicator is the printing. Under a magnifying glass the lettering in the Mayo logo and the phrase "For Chewing And Smoking" looks a bit muddy on a reprint. Again, you have to see it side by side with a genuine one to really appreciate it.

I would also be very leery of an uncut strip. While there is at least one genuine strip known, the reprints were issued cut and uncut so odds are that any strip is a reprint.

January 5, 2008: Mastro December 2007 Auction Results

Mastro Auctions had a decent collection of boxing cards offered in its last auction of 2007. Overall, the prices on vintage materials held firm or gained, especially for high grade materials (more on that below). Here are my thoughts on some of the offerings (all prices include the 20% Buyer's Premium):

1890s N269 Lorillard's "Mechanic's Delight" SGC-Graded Collection (33) $20,442.00:
This grouping of 33 cards was the second largest offering I've ever seen, after the 70+ card find of 2006 that went to auction. The cards were low grade (only 4 better than vg) as is the norm for this thin, larger format set and the fighter selection was mostly commons. $619 per card was strong for this group.

1889 N223 Kinney "Magic Changing Cards" John L. Sullivan$1,516.80:
This is a rare card, but also a somewhat obscure one, and I'd been curious for a while to see what a decent one (SGC 40 vg) would do at auction. It has finally taken its place among the elite Sullivan offerings, and rightfully so.

1910 T220 Mecca "Champions" John L. Sullivan - PSA NM-MT 8$1,669.20:
Time now, fans, for my lecture on the stupidity of chasing plastic grades. I have long been ambivalent about slabbing cards. I strongly endorse the use of slabs to authenticate and aid collectors in ordering cards by mail, but the emphasis some people place on the numerical grades is just nuts. A really nice copy of this card can readily be had for under $100. I simply cannot believe that it is worthwhile to buy a common card in plastic for over ten times as much.

1910 T218 Hassan/Mecca "Champion Athletes and Prize Fighters" Jack Johnson $2,911.20
Are you friggin' kidding me!?!? This is a common card. It can be found readily on Ebay in a variety of lesser conditions and middle for 10% or less of what someone paid for this card. Sorry, but that price is insane.

1910 E79 Philadelphia Caramel "27 Scrappers" GAI-Graded Complete Set (21) $4,060.80
This set was graded by GAI. GAI recently had a "business interruption" that left its customers high and dry for a few weeks wondering about their submitted cards and has achieved a less than sterling reputation among vintage collectors for overgrading cards. Many vintage collectors I know will not purchase GAI-encapsulated cards unless they can see them in person and examine them closely and are cracking their GAI capsules to weed out their GAI-encapsulated cards in the hopes that the liberated cards will cross over to PSA or SGC. I personally view GAI cards as between 1 and 2 grades overgraded. My last experience with a GAI crossover was a GAI 1.5 N172 that went to an SGC 1. In light of the company's business issues and rep, $193+ per card for this set is huge. The cards averaged vg-ex, which is nice for candy cards. I looked over the lot and felt that at least three of the cards were likely trimmed. That is my opinion from the scans Mastro posted; GAI's graders obviously felt otherwise. I would be really interested to see this set crossed to SGC. I would not be surprised if 3 or more cards were rejected as trimmed.

1910 T220 Mecca "Champion Athlete and Prize Fighter Series" Complete Set (50) - #1 on SGC Set Retistry $7,918.80
My heart skipped a beat when I saw this result. This is a darn nice set, with 1 "8", 5 "7.5" and 13 "7" cards. Would I pay this for a set like this? Heck no! Again, a common set in extraordinary condition to me doesn't merit the money that people throw at it. But what do I know? Just call me "Mr. VG" and call it a day.

January 1, 2008: $27,600.00...Quite A Price

In 2001 a 1948 Leaf Rocky Graziano sold for $17,903.00. That was a record price for a boxing card, broken a short while ago by $20,000.00 paid for a PSA 8 complete two-card panel of Bob Murphy and Bob Fitzsimmons. The same Graziano card (and I mean the same one; same PSA cert #) surfaced on Ebay in December, where a lucky collector walked off with it for $27,600.00. I know the collector in question and can confirm that the sale was legitimate.

While Graziano is the "T206 Wagner" of boxing cards, viewed dispassionately, the card was not a great investment for the seller and may not be one for the buyer. Over the years he held it, the seller of the card realized a return of less than 8% per year, compounded. The same money put into any number of choices, from N174 Old Judge cards to high grade T cards, would have made a much bigger return on investment. But owning a Graziano isn't about investment, it is about bragging rights and the fortunate new owner certainly has a lot to brag about. It is the key card in boxing collecting. As is the case with the Wagner, there may be rarer cards and tougher cards but there are none as readily identified with the hobby.

In other news: the latest inductees to the International Boxing Hall of Fame included a few expected inductees (Larry Holmes and Frank Klaus, both overdue) but also two obscure ones (Harry Lewis and Holman Williams). Lewis, the nom de guerre of Harry Besterman, was a top caliber Jewish fighter from the early 20th century who is featured in a number of commonly collected T and E sets, and is well known to most collectors of vintage boxing cards. Williams, however, was one of those "who the heck is this guy?" head scratchers. He wasn't a champion but was a well respected contender. Of course, there are lots of well-respected contenders who aren't in the hall of fame. It turns out that one reason Williams was such an obscurity is that he was not featured in any card sets of note in the USA. Not even an Exhibit card, as far as I can tell. The only career-contemporaneous issue of his I have been able to locate is the 1947 Propagandas Montiel Los Reyes Del Deporte (Cuban) issue. If this was baseball, the value of the card would likely skyrocket as hall of fame collectors scrambled to fill in their sets. With boxing, who knows? Here is an image:

December 31, 2009: Happy New Year!

As everyone else is doing it I will give my recap of the year, geared to boxing cards. My Top 5 Boxing Card Stories of 2009:

  1. Prices Come Down To Earth: I am working on the 2010 book, which means I am compiling thousands of prices and replacing the late 2008 prices with the current ones. Lots of downdrafts on cards, both major and minor issues. The economy started to catch up with the card market in '09 and lots of stuff sold at lower prices than before. On the positive side, there were some great buying opportunities this year, ones that I don't think we'll see again unless we get a double-dip recession.
  2. 1948 Leaf Graziano: The existence of a new specimen of this card was big news, but bigger still was the way it came into the hobby-from the heir to the original purchaser within a group of other Leaf cards. Resolves any doubts about the nature of the card. It was issued, it was pulled, it was replaced.
  3. The Hull Collection: Jeff's fire sale was the biggest boxing card fiesta of all time. It set record prices and added material to the collections of even the most advanced collectors.
  4. Completion of the E211 York Caramel Checklist: After years of trying, the set is finally fully known. Want details? Buy the new book. A number of other sets also were fleshed out this year, but this one was the toughest.
  5. 2008 Topps Co-Signers: Yes, this is a 2008 baseball set, but I picked it because the issue has really taken off in terms of collector interest this year as many of the boxers who signed for the set shot to prominence. Chris John, Andre Berto, Andre Ward and Arthur Abraham all had really good years and their performances sparked interest in the set. Perhaps we will see a boxing set in 2010?

So, to all my readers (Hi Mom), I wish a happy, healthy and prosperous 2010. Keep Punching!

October 3, 2009: Fall Auction News and Views

The fall auction season has closed with some really interesting results. Heritage Auctions finished up with the Hull collection on October 1st. Some highlights and lowlights were as follows:

There were several high grade N174s of common fighters offered. The results were tepid:

  • N174 Mike Cleary SGC 84 $836.50
  • N174 JP Clow PSA 6 $567.63
  • N174 Mick Dooley SGC 80 $717.00
  • N174 George Godfrey SGC 84 $776.75

Only a few of the N174s broke the $1,000 mark and most finished between $400 and $750, which is ok but not great given that many of the cards would be considered among the nicer known examples. Generally, the cards pulled in about what cards in 2 or 3 grades lower would have pulled pre-Great Recession. There was only 1 N174 that did spectacularly well by comparison to any market: not surprisingly, it was the N174 John L. Sullivan SGC 40 $2,629.00

​A nice additional group of N269 Lorillards were offered. Prices on these were solid, with the singles going between $567.63 and $776.75 for cards that were mostly vg and vg-ex. The biggest name, "Butcher Bill" Poole, fetched $776.75 in vg. A group of 8 including another vg Poole pulled over $3,500! I guess someone really needed some of the cards in that lot.

An N162 Sullivan went for $1,015.75 in SGC 40 vg condition, which is a very strong price.

Another of those oh so elusive SF Hess cards sold well, John "Old Smoke" Morrissey going for $1,015.75 in SGC 10 poor condition, which was misleading since there was back damage but a nice card front. Disclosure: I was underbidder on that one. Whoever got it, I hate you...

N310 Mayos had to be disappointing for Heritage. The single cards did not even hit $150 for the most part and the big lot of 21 lower grade cards went for under $700. Sorry but basic cards from this set just aren't that hard to find.

Now I have to be a grading scold again. Someone paid $286.80 for an SGC 88 John L. Sullivan card from the 1909 Jim Jeffries playing card set. Yes, it is nice but is is really worth about half of what a full set in nice condition goes for?

T223 Dixie Queen has suffered of late from several liquidations by collectors having financial issues. Consequently, the Heritage offerings from this set did not do particularly well. A mixed grade near set (49 of 50 cards) sold for $4,481.25. By comparison, pre-Great Recession, a group of 51 cards (40 different) sold on Ebay for $10,100.00. Another group of 11 sold in a Collectible Classics auction for about $143 each. A few higher grade singles from the set also were offered and also fetched low prices: SGC 80 Jack O'Brien $478.00, SGC 84 Frank Klaus $657.25. A few of the cards did well: SGC 60 Peter Jackson $537.75 and the surprisingly strong John L. Sullivan SGC 50 $956.00.

There was a really interesting head to head offering of two T225 Series 101 sets. The lower grade set with various brands sold for $717.00. The higher grade set, which had matched brand of tobacco backs and several high grade cards sold for $2,712.65. A series 102 set went for $1,912.00, which is a good premium over what singles have been fetching lately on Ebay. Goes to show that a tougher set to assemble will fetch a premium at auction.

After April's T226 Red Sun extravaganza it is impossible to believe that Hull still had more cards but there they were in Heritage. This time, though, the prices were very modest. Eleven single cards were offered; none reached $400, not even an SGC 80 common. A lot of 8 cards including an SGC 10 poor Attell sold for $896.25. There has been an abundance of these cards offered lately on Ebay and combined with the April sales I think the collecting base for these cards has been worked out lately. I would not be surprised if these cards ended up being the big bargains of the auction.

The last group of cards from Heritage that I want to focus on are the T229 Pet and Kopec offerings. These are among my favorite T cards, with some really nice art, good multisport selection (though no baseball) and scarce Pacific regional appeal. Prices were strong on these cards with only 3 under $500 each (only 1 boxer). The SGC 40 vg Sullivan went for $1,912.50. A stellar lot of 19 Kopec backs mixed between boxers and other sports went for $7.170.00; frankly, I thought that lot should have been broken down a bit more since there were a few big names in there that could have gotten into four figures on their own.

A 1923 Olympia Games deck stank up the joint at $388.88. This is a rare set that is seldom offered. It barely made $10 per player card, which sucks for the seller and is very nice indeed for the lucky winner.

My favorite postwar research project set, the Kid Herman heavyweight champs issue, had an offering in this group and it further cemented the research I have been doing and publishing on the catalog updates page. A full set original issue with the envelope intact was offered. The kicker was an actual Kid Herman card in the group with a printed back listing him as "Park Row's Fighting Newsboy." Further proof that he was affiliated with the New York newstands where these cards were sold. I've never seen this promo before and went after the lot. Alas, I was outbid.

Huggins and Scott offered some boxing cards in a few badly matched and poorly promoted lots and whoever consigned to them got screwed, in my view. One of their lots, an offering of 20 T229 Pet Cigarettes cards, went for $2,937.50. The lot had Jeffries, Sullivan, Fitzsimmons and Corbett; Sullivan and Fitzsimmons did not even appear in the catalog photo. and Sullivan's name wasn't highlighted in the auction listing, yet Sullivan is the most valuable card in the set At under $150 a card someone scored a titanic bargain here. In my opinion the four heavyweights alone would have brought $2,000 or more in a properly handled sale. Another of its lots, 29 N28-29-43 cards, with 15 N28s (all but Sullivan plus some dupes), 10 N29s and 4 different N43s (including an SGC 70, 40 and 2 30's) went for $1,997.50. Not a great price for a group with four of the highly desired N43 cards. H&S did get a sick price on one boxing card, a 1937 Wolverine Ripley's Believe It Or Not John L. Sullivan, which went for $567.63 in SGC 30 good condition as part of an offering of BION cards in its nonsports auction.

So that's the auction news, now for the views. Card prices remain without real direction. Nice, rare, tough stuff sells well, especially when properly offered and publicized in a major auction. Let's face it: people who can still afford to collect need what they need and when rare cards come up they tend to sell to the collectors who have been chasing them. At the same time I am seeing a far smaller cushion of bidders willing to grab stuff and squirrel it away for later even if they don't really need it. The latest prices on T223 and T226 especially are proof of that. The market has absorbed a lot of those cards over the last year as Hull and a few others liquidated, and it has taken a toll. I'd look for prices on thise cards to go back up over the medium to long term--they really are a lot tougher to find than recent prices seem to indicate. Reminds me of what happened a decade ago when I first started buying on Ebay. I came into the Exhibit market just as a few sellers were unloading old accumulations of 1920s Exhibit boxing cards. I got a lot, passed on others figuring that they must be easy since here they are. I was wrong on those and in some cases have gone ten years without seeing them again.

Speaking of Ebay, it remains an abbatoir for many sellers, though that may be in part due to some idiotic changes that Ebay has instituted that have driven away many of its customers--like not differentiating the card categories, mandating paypal payments, not allowing separate offers of insurance on postage, and offering lower cost fixed price listings while jacking up the costs of listing and selling via auctions. It hasn't made for a very friendly selling environment, that's for certain, and has reduced the quality and variety of cards offered there.

August 26, 2009: National Recap and Other News

​My apologies, oh faithful readers, for my tardiness in posting about the 2009 National. Here goes:

I attended the Cleveland show for four days. On the happy side, there was more boxing than ever before--I'd estimate that at least 25 tables had boxing inventory. It seems that boxing cards are growing in popularity. Most of the other tables offering boxing cards were into the basic sets--N28, N310, T218, 1948 Leaf, 1951 Ringside, 1956 Adventure--but there was quite alot of inventory. Lots of postwar exhibits too. On the not so happy side, the recession is biting into the hobby, that's for sure. Attendance was light--some of my friends opted to stay home due to the cost, and that really hurts since I have so few to start. Cards priced at last year's prices did not sell unless they were discounted 25-40% at least. We are in a new pricing paradigm, friends, and are likely to stay there until things recover. Overall, the show was pretty tame compared to past years.

I did have one oddball experience: Stadiapex. This is a bizarre little meeting/show offsite run by a couple of collectors who specialize in postcard collecting. A few collectors and I trekked over to a German cultural center (really) near the airport and visited this meeting. I wouldn't call it a show exactly, since there were only about 4 guys there with stuff to sell or trade. It was a real throw-back to the 1970s collector club meetings, very nostalgic atmosphere for me. I did pick up a nice, previously unseen, Orcajo postcard of Joe and Marva Louis:

February 20, 2009: My Totally Unscientific Take On the Market

OK, we're mired in a recession/depression (repression?) and everyone's retirement accounts, homes and businesses feel as though they're in freefall. So what has it meant to the card market and what will it mean to the card market?

What I've noticed is that we really have two markets at work: the market for average cards and the market for rarities.

Let's take average cards first: One well-placed dealer I spoke with recently said that he has to work a lot harder and more personally with collectors to make sales and that in general about a 15% discount from his web site pricing is needed to make deals close. That's on "normal" cards. That is consistent with what I've heard from other dealers as well. People are still collecting, still working sets, but they are willing to wait for really good prices to come along before they buy.

For rare cards, the situation is different. I've heard of more and more private (non-Ebay, non auction) sales of significant cards. Believe it or not, there are still lots of buyers out there for rare and/or significant cards. The real acid test, so to speak, will be the spring auction season, which is one of the times when major boxing cards are traditionally offered for auction. My hunch is that great material will bring great results and mundane materials will end up in dealer inventories at significantly lower prices than had been the norm before the economy wet the bed.

My own experience has been that an astute buyer in this market can win some nice cards with very low bids on Ebay Frankly, I am stockpiling good material whenever I get the chance to grab it at a significant discount. Also, as I see it, the financial crisis is presenting many collectors with a potential "do over" on the cards they missed before prices ran up over the last several years.

​November 9, 2008: Memo to PSA—If A Tree Falls In TheForest…

​I have just had as bizarre an email exchange with the powers that be at PSA as I have ever imagined. PSA bought my last guide. It hasn’t made use of it, apparently, because their checklists for their registry are still full of errors and omissions. I recently sent them an email on the T220 Mecca silver bordered boxing set, telling them to delete the Jack Goodman that doesn’t exist and to add the Mike Donovan that does exist. I even sent them a scan of the Donovan card as encapsulated by SGC. PSA’s response was that they would remove the Goodman but not add the Donovan to the list because they haven’t graded one.

I emailed the President of PSA, Joe Orlando, and asked for His intervention in what I assumed was a decision by a logically-challenged lower level employee. His response left me shaking my head: PSA will not add the card to the checklist until they grade one because otherwise the set would not be possible to complete in PSA holder! This is sooo dumb on so many levels. First of all, they had a non-existent Goodman card listed in the set for years with no slabbed examples, a situation that is repeated in many other sets from various sports. Second, and more important, the Donovan demonstrably exists! I sent them a scan of it and it is on the SGC pop and registry.

It is Orwellian in scope: a card that exists doesn’t exist until PSA says it exists, and PSA says it exists only if they slab it.

​Does this make your head hurt, too?

​October 18, 2008: Cha-Ching!

​The first increment of the Hull Collection sold through Heritage yesterday. As promised, the auction contained some spectacular cards and broke price records in many categories. I can’t do more in terms of analysis than simply report that prices were very strong considering the overall economic news lately. Several results were of special note:

1886 N167 Old Judge Jem Smith, Horizontal Reverse SGC 30 Good $8,962.50: This card is a rare format N167 with a horizontal back. Any N167 is great; this one is one of only one or two known specimens. Quadrupled the last known sale.

1887 N269 Lorillard's #17 John L. Sullivan, Three-Quarter Profile SGC 50 VG/EX $4,481.25: Oddly, within $13 of the record for an N269 Sullivan.

1889 N386 Spaulding & Merrick John L. Sullivan SGC 40 VG 3 $4,182.50: I am surprised how much this one went for as it is a bad miscut.

1889 N386 Spaulding & Merrick "Echo Tobacco" #8 Jake Kilrain SGC 20 Fair 1.5 $3,107.00: Despite the low grade the rare ad variation made it fly.

1889 N386 Spaulding & Merrick #8 Jake Kilrain SGC 40 VG 3 $2,629.00. Ho-hum, another record price.

1889 N386 Spaulding and Merrick #7 John Sullivan SGC 60 EX 5 $6,572.50: This is now the highest price ever paid for an N386 at auction.

1890's Old Judge & Dog's Head Jack Burke SGC 10 Poor 1 $2,629.00: A rare tobacco wars card from England, this is the record price (triple the last known sale from the issue) and the card was significantly damaged.

1910 E125 American Caramel Jim Jeffries SGC Authentic $19,120.00: The killer card of the auction. I expected it to go into five figures; I did not expect it to become the third most expensive boxing card ever auctioned publicly. It is exceeded only by the 1948 Leaf Graziano I reported on earlier in the blog and a 1951 Ringside panel of Murphy-Fitzsimmons in PSA 8 that sold for $20,000.

1911 E80 Philadelphia Caramel Jack Johnson SGC 40 VG 3 $1,673.00: More than doubled the last known auction price on an SGC 30 Johnson.

1890's N537 Little Rhody Jas. J. Corbett SGC 10 Poor 1 $1,434.00: This card had a lighter image and a munched back but still pulled in a nice price. Probably the best deal among the marquee 19th century cards in this auction.

Despite the highlights above, many of the "common" cards were quite reasonable, selling at or slightly below the levels seen in the December 2006 epic sale of N269s on Ebay Live, for example. Again, given the extraordinary turmoil in the economy since 2006, I found the strength of the prices on these cards to be quite reassuring. Great, rare cards continue to bring strong interest, even in rough economies.

October 4, 2008: My Apologies (and other meaningless stuff)

​My apologies to Paul Holstein, whose name I inadvertently omitted from the credits section of the 2008-2009 price guide. Paul graciously lent me the image of the Benny Leonard exhibit card in the movie card section. Sorry, buddy, I'll catch you next year for sure.

If you happen to be in Los Angeles on November 15th, you may want to check out the World Boxing Hall of Fame event at the Los Angeles International Airport Marriott. The event, which is a small memorabilia show during the day and an induction banquet that evening, offers the unique (in sports collecting) chance to meet and speak with many retired and even a few current world class boxers in an informal setting. This year's headline inductee is Lennox Lewis, who may drop by the show and sign autographs. Last time I went, two years ago, I met and got autographs from Ken Norton, Roberto Duran, Jeff Chandler and Mike Weaver and got the chance to speak with many other fighters too: Emile Griffith, Gene Fullmer, Bobby Chacon, etc. I find that retired boxers are among the least pretentious, friendliest athletes you could ever want to meet. I may be sharing a table there that day to sell the guide, promote this site, and meet fellow boxing fans. I will be purchasing boxing cards and offering opinions (yipes!) on anything and everything cards-related. If anyone wants to come by and purchase a copy of the book I will be happy to sign it for you...and who knows what that could be worth (I have a sneaking suspicion, though). One note: there is no real schedule for the signers--you more or less take whoever shows up whenever they show up for however long they stay. I ended up waiting around until the very end of the show last year shooting the breeze with a friend but that is when Ken Norton showed up and signed a Ring magazine for me, so it was well worth putting in the day.

September 27, 2008: Wow

​​I am not easily impressed but the current auction offering from Heritage Auctions is monumental. Jeff Hull, one of the most prominent boxing card collectors in the world, is liquidating his collection. The auction, which runs through October 17th, is chock full of rarities; literally every lot is an "Oh, wow" offering. Visit their site at ha.com for a look at some cards that are rarely offered for sale. Hopefully, the economy's recently bed-wetting episode won't affect sales too badly (except, of course, on lots I am bidding on!).

In other, sadder, news, Joey Giardello recently passed away. The former middleweight champ was one of a dwindling number of living boxers depicted on Exhibit cards.

September 9, 2008: Exercise Extreme Caution

​Last year a group of I-don't-know-whats surfaced in a Heritage auction. The items had been encapsulated by PSA, an outfit not known for its boxing card expertise, as 1893 Lorillard Lorilliard cards from N266. The items plainly are not N266 cards. They are completely different. Anyhow, someone bought them despite the unfounded ID.

Fast forward to this year. In the last month I have been approached twice by people purporting to have found 20 of these cards with old relatives. The first time I told the person that I wasn't sure what they were but that on viewing his they looked a lot like something cut out of an ad poster or album. He made the rounds to various dealers; I know because they called on me to ID the items. This week another one came out of the woodworks.

I've never held these items in hand but I have seen scans of three different lots of them now. I am very, very dubious of the authenticity of these items. Why haven't they ever surfaced before? If they are N cards, why are they missing the critical (from the manufacturer's perspective) ciggie advertising? Until I have one in hand and these questions are better answered, my advice is to assume that they are well made counterfeit items. Here is an image:

The Site For Boxing Card Knowledge

August 31, 2007: Not An Investment? And Other Musings

​Recently, some friends and I were debating whether cards are an investment or an indulgence. We seem to have this debate at least a couple of times a year, usually after a spending spree like the National or a major auction. I happen to come down on the side of nontraditional investment. Cards have skyrocketed over the years with baseball leading the way. Boxing has come into its own over the last several years with the sorry result that I am increasingly priced out of the collecting marketplace. As with anything else, though, it is critical to know what you are doing. Buying the wrong cards is akin to buying a dog of a stock.

I'm doing my level best to front for the boxing card community. I am happy to announce that an interview with me is featured on the Boxing Writers Association of America's blog; have a a look:

http://bwundercard.blogspot.com/

August 11, 2007: Views From The National

​I am a week back from Cleveland and the National Sports Collectors Convention. My feet and liver have recovered from the concrete floor of the convention center and the scotch and sodas of the evenings in the Sheraton bar with my fellow collectors, respectively, and I am ready to tackle a recap.

I have to say, I have a blast at the National every year, even in Cleveland's convention facilities. Which suck, by the way. It isn't so much that the place is unpleasant as it is not pleasant. The food is abysmal and the Barney Fife clones in security rigidly enforce the "no outside food rule" so as to force you to eat the IX "cuisine". And if you served that crap to prisoners, they'd have a decent civil rights abuse case. I never thought it was possible to mess up a hamburger, but they did. In fact, the only thing that the Cleveland restaurants get right every time is the fried food. Which is why the locals either looked like extras from Supersize Me. The convention facilities are dilapidated and have all the charm of a former tank factory, which is what the building was before the city bought it and decided to convert it to a convention center on the cheap, and there isn't squat worth doing after you finish the Rock N Roll HOF and an Indians game if they are in town. Oh, and word to the organizers: in 2009, how about a bus that runs more than once an hour? Jacobs Field is very pleasant, however, especially if you are used to big city ballparks and big city ballpark inconveniences and prices. And I do have to say a good word for the Cleveland airport: it is small and quick compared to LAX, JFK, Ohare, or any other monster hub. Plus, the Mexican restaurant played Shakira's whole album while I had lunch...

Now on to the cards...

I am pleased to report seeing an increase in boxing materials at every National. True, most of what I saw was T218, T220, 1948 Leaf and 1951 Ringside, but more dealers each time stock boxing cards.

Prices were grotesque in comparison to Ebay, which is not surprising since you are paying for a convenience and certainty of having the cards there. I know I paid way too much for a T220 silver border card I needed for a set, probably twice what it would have cost on Ebay, but I never saw the damned thing on Ebay!

I did not see anything new and startling beyond the La Salle Hat cards discussed in the Catalog Updates page, but did find some commons from various Exhibit sets that I was able to add to the checklists for next year's book. I also got to hang out and talk boxing cards with Brent Butcher, who has amassed a world-class collection. A sign of the times, we sat around with laptop computers deployed and showed each other scans of our cards; no shoeboxes here!

The biggest story of the show and of the boxing card world is and will be for the next several months the entry of SGC into the realm of oversized and cabinet card slabbing. PSA will not encapsulate any cabinets other than T3/T9 Turkey Reds. Those cards have been selling for record prices since PSA started accepting them. SGC by virtue of its customizable holder gasket, will take any catalogued cabinet and many others as well if someone can explain it to their satisfaction. I had my Newsboy collection slabbed at the National as did some of my fellow collectors. You might want to go out and grab any reasonably priced cabinets of major fighters, especially from mainline documented sets, because as they get graded, the prices are likely to rise. As it is, I paid about $100 more for a Newsboy Corbett I needed at the show in an SGC vg-ex slab than a raw one should have run on Ebay.

One more good word for SGC: As many of you know, there is a lot of debate over what may happen if an altered card gets into a slab. Will the grader stand behind the product or not? All of the majors have weasely written guarantees that aren't worth a bucket of warm spit; go look at their web sites if you don't believe me. I am pleased to report, however, that SGC under Dave Forman will stand behind its work product. Dave is committed to getting bad cards in SGC holders off the street and out of circulation. I know because he not only told me so, he proved it. I brought in a T206 Waddell portrait with a trimmed side that made its way into an ex-mt SGC holder, and SGC bought it back.

My Soapbox

A few shout-outs from the show: Gary Schultz was there with his usual table devoted to boxing cards (mostly; gotta watch those nonsports cards...). I had a blast shooting the breeze with Gary and his lovely wife--who I was beginning to doubt existed since he never brought her to the show. After experiencing the grandeur that is Cleveland's IX Center, I fear she may not return... Gary and I traded cards and I ended up with a few really interesting beaux arts-style French trade cards of Battling Siki. Another table that was fun for boxing folks was Bill McAvoy's booth, which had a showcase devoted to boxing cards, albeit mostly at astronomical prices. Bill had a lot of European cards, which his staffer told me come mostly from a dealer in Spain. I guess there wasn't much action there; On Friday I bought a Spanish die-cut card of George Godfrey from the 1920s and the guy handling the booth said that it was the first boxing card he'd sold from the showcase. Bill Pollock was around as well and we compared notes on matchbooks. One final post-show shout out to John Gay, who I know isn't reading this since he doesn't have a computer, but who I wanted to include. John rarely takes a table but is a fixture at the shows with his usual bags of unusual boxing materials and we spent a nice afternoon visiting at the show. John lost his long time companion recently and is in mourning but opted to go to Cleveland anyway. Your friends' prayers are with you, buddy.

July 14, 2009: A New Graziano Surfaces

​As my loyal readers know, the 1948 Leaf Rocky Graziano is among the rarest boxing cards and is the most expensive card out there. In May I was contacted by someone who discovered a new specimen of this card in some papers and other cards left to her by her father. Two months later, the card is in a spiffy new SGC 50 (vg-ex) holder and residing in a very happy collector's hands. The purchase price on the card, raw with a guarantee to pass muster with SGC, was reportedly in the same neighborhood as the price that the last one sold for in auction on Ebay (see my report below).

The great thing about this card, from my perspective, is provenance. It came from outside the hobby via a lineal descendent of the original accumulator and was found with some other cards from the set. From a cataloguer's perspective, that is very strong proof that the card was actually issued to the public. It may have been rapidly withdrawn from the market and replaced with something else, but it was issued. Meaning that it is a short print, not a test card or prototype, and that there could be more of these hens' teeth out there for another lucky treasure seeker to find. What is also interesting is that the card is a white back, same as the others I've seen in person, which bolsters the concept that the white backs were issued first, with the inferior stock gray backs coming later on. Another minor insight I had when thinking about the set, bolstered by the cards I have seen and have records of, is that the really garish printing mistakes from the set--missing colors, flipped around printings on the fronts, wrong backs--are all white backs. Perhaps Leaf was working out some kinks early on and those cards slipped out like the Grazianos?

June 7, 2009: The Sky Is Falling!

No? Then would you believe that prices are falling? Well, they are.

I have to track card prices on an ongoing basis between issues of the book; it is how I compile data for the next edition. After doing that for nearly a decade one develops a "feel" for the market based on the data. What I am seeing, finally, is the economic collapse hitting home in the card market. I would say that prices on "average" cards have fallen anywhere from 25%-50%. Great example: a few years ago you could not touch a T226 Red Sun in a slab for under $100, even in low grade. Raw beaters were selling for $75. An SGC 10 (poor) Kaufman went for $211.50 at the height of the market in 2008. An SGC 10 Jim Stewart went for $50.00 on May 31st this year. Anoither example: a T220 Silver Border Joe Coburn PSA 5 sold for $124.72 in 2007; one closed this May in PSA 4.5 for $46.55. Is the half-grade worth 3x as much? I think not. Even desirable cards are selling cheaply on Ebay. A complete set of 20 1927 Spalding boxers sold for under $300 today. A year ago that would have been a $600 or more sale.

Personally, I am looking at this as a great buying opportunity. When things recover--and they always do--people will come back to their hobbies with a vengeance, so I am going after cards I want to own when they pop up and loving what has been in effect a "do over" from several years ago. The key, as with most other aspects of finance, is discipline. In a down market everything looks like a great deal--and most of it probably is--but that doesn't mean it is the right deal for the time. In my view, what you want to do is target the cards that you feel have been strongly affected and that you feel are going to roar back when the economy turns and get those cards into your collection now. Personally, I would skip the common issues in middle and lower grades and also the high grade versions of common cards (especially post-war) and concentrate my efforts on prewar and offbeat issues. As the Hull results (below) showed, even in the face of economic gotterdammerung, rare cards were vigorously pursued.

​On an unrelated note, I will be at the National in beautiful [sic] Cleveland this year once again. I don't have a table but I'll be the one roaming around all day asking for boxing cards. Hope to see you there!

April 25, 2009: The Hull Collection, Round 2

​Over Thursday and Friday Heritage finished the second round of Jeff Hull's collection. Overall, I'd say that the results were mixed. Marquee lots sold well though not as well as they might have pre-crash, nice lots were mixed, and mundane stuff was cheap:

T226 Red Sun Set: This was the biggest, most anticipated sale of T226 cards ever. In 2004, 46 spectacular Red Sun cards surfaced in a 19th Century Only auction. They were by far the nicest condition and most complete group ever offered for sale. They were offered in three lots: the Jack Johnson, 9 high grade cards, and 36 other cards. Overall, they brought $22,736.65, with Johnson fetching the then-spectacular price of $3,714.50. Missing from the group were Jim Jeffries, Dick Hyland, Grover Hayes and Ad Wolgast. Jeff filled in those four cards. Jeff snagged them all and filled out the set. The full 50-card set was offered this week broken into 39 lots. There was only 1 multi-card lot offered. In total the set brought $57,605.23. Jack Johnson led the way at $19,120; Jeffries was second at $4,781.20. Also of note were the following:

  • Joe Gans SGC 70 $2,629.00
  • Joe Jeannette SGC 86 $3,585.00
  • Harry Lewis SGC 88 $1,434.00
  • Abe Attell SGC 70 $1,912.00
  • Stanley Ketchel SGC 86 $2,629.00

I really thought the Johnson card had a shot at breaking the record for the most expensive boxing card [1948 Leaf Graziano; see below] but in this economy over $19,000 is nothing to sneeze at. Now tied with the E125 Jim Jeffries as the 3rd most expensive boxing card ever sold. Funny how Jeffries and Johnson stay linked together...

Here's a fact to contemplate in the dead of night while you look over your IRA statement: If we back out the four cards missing from the 19th Century Only offering in 2004 and recalculate, the group from the 2004 auction sold here for $51,853.08., better than 100% more in 5 years. Now, where was the S&P 500 in 2004 and where is it now? But I digress.

As I said before, other card prices were mixed:

N167 Old Judge Jem Carney SGC 40: $1,075.50. This was a $1,500+ card a few years ago. Someone will be very happy in a few years, I predict.

N28 Allen & Ginter John L. Sullivan SGC 84: $1,314.50. I thought this was a strong showing for the Boston Strong Boy. N28s are the easiest 19th century set to locate, but people are really into the grades. Candidly, I don't like easy cards that take their values from grading and I've gotten rid of near sets of N28, N29 and N43, except for Sullivan. It is the only N28 I care to own, because the image is that iconic.

N332 S.F. Hess Peter Jackson: SGC Authentic $657.25. There were a few Hess cards in this offering. This card tested the value of a card in any shape. The Jackson had a relatively strong image (always a key with an albumen card) but a vicious crease across the middle and was basically hanging on with the help of a piece of tape on the back. I really don't know what to make of the result: rare card, great HOFer, strong picture, but rotten condition.

N332 S.F. Hess Abe Micken SGC 30: $388.38; Harry Gilmore SGC 40 $388.38: These were low prices. Last April these are $500-$1000 cards.

N332 S.F. Hess Yankee Sullivan SGC 40: $1,135.25. This was an appropriate price for Sullivan. He was a heavyweight championship claimant in the rough early days of the sport, a gangster, and was probably murdered by the San Francisco Vigilance Committee while in prison awaiting trial; it was wrist cutting and looked like suicide but he was allowed to be buried in consecrated ground, so it was likely a "wink, wink" suicide determination.

N310 Mayo John L. Sullivan SGC 50: $1,434.00. I thought this was a very strong price. N310s are not all that hard to find and while this was a great card, it wasn't a super high grade one. By contrast, the Mayo Corbett offered in the same grade went for $478.00 and the Fitzsimmons in SGC 70 went for $448.13

N310 Joe Chonskia SGC 80: $448.13. Another surprisingly low price. Heritage had flagged this as a Platinum Lot as it was the highest graded by two full grades and expected it to go for much more. So did I.

C52 lot of 12: $286.80. Someone got a great deal here. C52, the Canadian version of the T218 set, is very tough but get no respect and it got none here.

E77 complete set of 24 plus 3 name variations: $1,912.00. Another surprisingly low result. The set was in lower grade but included Jack Johnson (individually and on two other cards), Abe Attell, and several other HOFers. A few years ago this is a $3,000 lot.

T219 Complete Set of Honest Long Cut backs: $1,912.00. This is a very tough set to put together. It has Johnson, Jeffries, Attell and many of the other stars of the T218 issue. Doing the whole thing in one shot for under $50 a card is very fortunate.

T219 High Grade Lot of 5: $388.38. Another steal. This group had 2 SGC 84 cards adn three SGC 80s. These cards are very tough to find in high grades.

T219 Red Cross back lot of 17: $4,182.50. The absolute steal of the auction. That's $246.03 per card, kids. Just last week a single from the set of Frank Klaus in comparable condition sold for $484 in the Lipset auction. There were no stars in this group comparable to HOFer Klaus (Leach Cross was probably the best fighter of the lot) but it was still way lower than I'd have expected. Heritage probably cost their consignor $100 a card on this lot by not breaking it up better.

T220 Silver Borders short set (23/25): $1,553.50. Missing the Mike Donovan Today and Jas. J. Corbett cards. There have been a few of these offered in the last year. This one was nice but not spectacular, with a few higher grade cards but most vg-ex or lower.

T223 Dixie Queen John L. Sullivan SGC Authentic $418.25. A surprisingly high price for this card, IMO.

V153 Robertson Sugar Candy lot of 4 SGC 20 (2) and SGC 40 (2) $1,314.50 and lot of 3 SGC 40 $956.00. About right on the money on these. Another very tough Canadian issue.

E78 Burke SGC 60 $956.00, Erne SGC 70 $776.75 and McGovern SGC 50 $629.77. All very strong prices for these cards, as all were at the top tiers of the graded population.

1926 Sports Co. of America (Spalding): There were two offerings of these Spalding scrip cards. Dempsey SGC 84 $388.38 and a group of 5 [Kaplan SGC 84, Corbett SGC 80, Leonard SGC 80, Rosenberg SGC 80, Tunney SGC 40] $836.50. These were strong prices, comparable to pre-crash prices.

1927 F52 Fro-Joy Gene Tunney Complete Set $507.88: A full set of these cards could be redeemed for a prize, and was offered for two weeks in the summer of 1927. This group was high grade for the issue, SGC 60 and 50. The price was well below the price of even lower grade cards, so another lot that flew under the radar in this auction.

1929-30 Rogers Peet Tunney SGC 84 and Schmeling PSA 5 $262.90. Man, have these cards fallen from grace. IMO a supply and demand thing. There have been some unopened packs found yielding nice cards and when they were selling for several hundred each, quite a few made it to market.

So there you have it, folks, the Hull Collection's 2nd phase sale. I wonder how the third group will do in August. Tune in again, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel!

April 18, 2009: Auction Season, Round 1!

​I love April. Baseball starts a new season, everything is green and new, and we enjoy waves of auctions from all the major auction houses. I spend much of my free time wading through thousands of pages of catalogs and reviewing listings online.

The first major auction of the season was Lew Lipset's (oldjudge.com). Lew always has a variety of interesting cards and this time around was no exception. Some highlights (all prices include buyers premium):

The auction featured a strong group of Exhibit cards:

  • 4-on-1 Exhibits: Ruth-Hornsby-Walker-Carpentier (fair-good $1,098.90); Criqui-Shade-Judge-Cobb (good $1,609.30); and Johnson-Simmons-Tunney-Leonard (listed as vg -I'd say more like good - $1,432.20). Lew has had a few of these cards in his last couple of auctions, all lower grade and all fetching very strong prices, no doubt from the baseball collectors. They are just plain rare and highly demanded. For more info on this very rare issue, please see the Catalog Updates page.
  • 96 assorted exhibits from 1920s-1930s. This lot was interesting because it had four wrestlers from the 1921 set (Caddock, Westergaard and dupes of Zybszco). Wrestlers from that set are very tough to find and being able to knock out 3/6 of them in one lot undoubtedly was very attractive and really drove this lot to a level I'd not expected to see. There was also a record of fighters card from the 1927 set, which is a very tough one as well. $2,715.90.
  • 68 assorted exhibits of heavyweights from the 1920s: Dempsey, Tunney, Carnera, Sharkey and Schmeling. $1,530.10 Another strong showing from exhibits.
  • 348 1930s-1950s exhibits: This one was tough to handicap. The cards get much, much easier to find after the mid-1930s and often go begging on Ebay but the chance to get a big lot of these drew some bidding from dealers (I understand that a dealer won it). $1,148.40; at $3.30 a card, I think the buyer will do just fine.

There were some nice non-Exhibit offerings:

  • T219 Red Cross Frank Klaus: About fair-good $484.00. That price is right in line with past results on these very rare T cards.
  • N266 Lorillard Red Cross: Lew offered 20 different cards split into two lots. The aggregate sale price of the two was $2,821.50. This issue has gotten easier over the years as more have surfaced and I'd say that it was a weaker than previous showing for a group that included the Corbett-Sullivan, Jackon-Slavin, and Choynski-Goddard cards.
  • 1949 Leaf set: a nice midgrade set with a lower grade Dempsey but solid cards of the other keys. At $645.70, proof of what I've been seeing lately, namely, that prices have remained strong on tougher items but have weakened significantly on run of the mill stuff.

Next up is Round 2 of the Hull Collection in the April 23rd Heritage auction. That should be a fun one!

March 7, 2009: Odds and Ends

​I finally got the inside story on a very rare N174 Jack Dempsey card that surfaced on Ebay for all of a few hours last year. The card features the N175-style large Gypsy Queen logo at the top and is one of only a handful of known cards with that style (oddly enough, of the four known cards in that format, each is a different fighter, meaning that each card at present is a 1 of 1). The seller did not really know what it was and told me that he'd gotten an offer of around $2,100 for it. I've recently spoken with the buyer and have his permission to report that the actual sales price was $4,500. Still a good deal for that card. Dempsey is the most significant fighter yet found in that format and now resides in an SGC holder.

I am thrilled to announce the discovery of an actual uncut strip of N310 Mayo name at bottom cards. The strip, which originally consisted of 14 cards across but is now in three pieces of 6-6-2 cards, contains Myers-Smith-Edwards-Griffo-Chonskia-Mayer [break] Griffen-Dime-Carney-Kilrain-Fitzsimmons-Van Heest [break] Slavin-Hall. I am certain that the cards were all part of one strip at one time because the edges between the pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The strip was cut close to the images to remove the tobacco ad at the bottom. The odds of a 19th century uncut piece like this surviving are very long indeed. The only other legitimate strip of N310 I've ever seen was a 3-card strip including Sullivan and Corbett that was part of the Hull Collection sale last year.

Here is where I get to blog away and spout off recklessly about whatever it is in the boxing card world that catches my fancy. As anyone who knows me will attest, I never pull my punches, so check back frequently because you never know what controversy I will stir up!

March 22, 2017:  Musings and Information

LOTG went well for an inaugural auction and we will probably do it again in the fall.  Check with Al or here after the National for more info. 

I opened an eBay store: AGBC The Store.  I will be offering lots of boxing cards for sale in the store.  So far, so good.  Please check it out!

With the help of some friendlies out there I've turned up still more sets of cards for the next edition.  Some really interesting cut-out type sets from publications, some obscure one-offs and Olympics cards too.  Gonna push the book up in size again.  Also some expansions to the Latin American issues, especially from Argentina and Venezuela. 

A quick updated caution on dealing with Argentina, Venezuela, etc.  It is taking a very long time for mail to reach the USA from those areas.  I have had cards on order from those nations for over a month now. 

November 11, 2016: Love Of The Game Auctions Is Up And Running!

Over 250 lots of cards and memorabilia and some really nice catalogs too.  Please check it out and bid.  If this succeeds the event will be annual.  If not, we will be relegated to the back of the regular books again.  Contact Al Crisafulli at info@loveofthegame.com or 973-452-9147.

October 15, 2016: Boxing Auction Season!

Well it is on!  LOTG is about to launch its inaugural boxing auction.  I've seen the stuff and it is gonna be really good.  Highlights:

  • E125 Jack Johnson
  • ca. 1870 Fredricks Specialite Heenan
  • ca. 1840 Eagan Boxiana book plates (60+) w/20+ HOFers
  • Ali-Frazier Press Kit and related materials.
  • Partial Sets of rare Venezuelan boxing cards
  • 1910 Dana Jeffries-Johnson postcards
  • Joe Louis photo and premiums collections
  • Police Gazette premiums (100+) w/numerous HOFers
  • Runs of sets from various eras, from the 1910s to the 2000s
  • A stellar collection of Jack Johnson cards

Plus a load of cards and memorabilia from many big names: Johnson, Louis, Dempsey, Ali, etc. 

If you haven't registered already, get it done!  The catalog (and yes there will be an actual catalog) goes to print next week.  If this auction does well LOTG will have it every year.  Finally an outlet for boxing...if we support it. 

I wrote a lot of the descriptions so the catalog is going to be a great research resource in and of itself. 

2016-2017 Book Is Available

http://www.lulu.com/shop/adam-warshaw/my-paperback-book/paperback/product-22777492.html

The LOTG planned auction is proceeding in the fall.  I will be at the National at Love of the Game's booth (when I'm not roaming the floor), so please stop by and talk boxing cards. 

I'm Baaaacckk! And I Have Big News

First things first: I am busy working on the next edition of the book and plan to have it out by the end of May. Lots of new stuff will be covered along with updates on old stuff.

Next, I have agreed to consult on boxing materials for Love of the Game Auctions. Al Crisafulli, who owns LOTG, and I had a long visit at the National and subsequent discussions about where he wants LOTG to be and what is needed in the Hobby and we both agree that boxing is terribly underserved as things currently stand. Auctioneers who do offer boxing cards usually do a piss-poor job of it and that has to stop. Al has decided to offer an annual boxing only auction, starting this fall. I will be consulting on write-ups, lotting and consignments. One thing you can be sure of is that the items will be accurately described and properly lotted. One of my pet peeves [besides other human beings] is auctioneers who throw together disparate items to make a big lot out of them. I guarantee you that LOTG will not dump Mayos and Kayos into one lot just to make it big. Starting with the first auctions of LOTG in 2016 and building until the fall boxing-only auction, expect to see boxing featured as you have not seen it before. Meanwhile, if you want to talk consignments, here is Al's contact info:

Love of the Game Auctions
PO Box 157
Great Meadows, NJ 07838
info@loveofthegameauctions.com
(973) 452-9147

March 23, 2013

​Well, here we are again. The Dreier collection has finished selling through Legendary. Prices were all over the place on boxing cards and some real rarities found new homes. Among the items that were sold were the only known E125 Jim Jeffries card, a 200+ card cluster of 1920s Romeo y Julieta cards, a group of 18 of the rare 1938 NX5 American Sweets cards from the Philippines issued just before the Japanese invasion, and incredibly deep collections of E, N and T cards. Congratulations to all who partook of the bounty. I added a few trinkets to my collection.

December 26, 2012: State of the Hobby

I figured I might as well make an audacious post as what will likely be my only post of the year on the soapbox [in my defense I did indeed post a bunch of stuff in the Catalog Update and put nearly 1,000 images on the Card Images pages, so I haven't been completely asleep at the wheel].

So where are we as of the end of 2012? Well, the general economy is weak but back from the brink of collapse, and card prices still reflect that. I'd say we hit bottom in the fall of 2010 and have stabilized or slightly rebounded since then, but for the most part prices remain at about 50% of what they were at the frothy peak of the market. That said, rare cards still command strong prices when collectors with decent bank rolls decide to slug it out.

Chad and Doug Dreier, supercollectors who had gobbled up a big chunk of the Hull Collection when it came up for sale, decided to divest themselves of their cards. They have been gradually unwinding their vast holdings through Legendary Auctions. Since some of their cards are the Hull cards with labeled pedigrees, they are a great test of the market. Here are some comparable sales figures:

2009 T226 Johnson SGC 80: $19,120.00
2012 T226 Johnson SGC 80: $8,365.00

I had predicted it would not break $10,000.00 based on the underwhelming performance of a lower grade one that sold earlier this year for under $4,000.

2009 E125 Jeffries: $19,120.00
2012 E125 Jeffries: $4,182.50

This card lost 75% of its value over the three year period. I discussed the card with the eventual buyer afterwards and it was his view that the card is a good long term investment.

2009: Joe Gans SGC 70 $2,629.00
2012: Joe Gans SGC 70 $388.38

Someone got a steal on Gans. I forgot all about it. Had I remembered the auction was closing the card would have been double its price.

2009: Joe Jeannette SGC 86 $3,585.00
2012: Joe Jeannette SGC 86 $1,135.25

Actually, I was stunned at the price this card fetched in 2009, so the 2012 price is a lot closer to reality in my mind.

The pounding these big cards took is possibly a consequence of so many T226 cards hitting the market in recent years. It used to be a 'jump when you see it' set but for type collectors it is now ubiquitous on Ebay and in auctions, so the excitement has ebbed. My pal Brent Butcher did point out that the black fighters--Gans, Jeannette, Johnson and Langford--are very hard to find and might be short prints. I cannot say for sure.

Lest you think I am all doom and gloom, friends, let me reassure you that many items had very strong price showings in the last year. Single printed exhibit cards, for example, remain strong. A tough 1928 SP of Ignacio Fernandez topped $100 recently on Ebay, and several 1926 commons brought very solid prices. What are sitting around gathering dust are mainstream cards in unexceptional conditions.

Now, as far as forgetting to bid goes, my fiasco with the T226 Gans was repeated with a few cards from Heritage's fall offerings, where I forgot all about the sale on the first day and did not go after a few cards I wanted. I also got confused on the bidding rules on some auctions and made late hour mistakes in them. So, I have to ask: are there too many auctions? I am beginning to think so. During the 'high seasons' of April and October-November I simply cannot keep up with the data flow from the many auctioneers actively offering cards, nor can I keep a handle on the different rules that every AH seems to employ. In addition to Legendary and Heritage, there are Huggins & Scott, Goodwin, SCP, Mile High, REA [spring; rumor has it that fall is going to happen], Hunt, CCA, Love of the Game, Sterling [monthly], Clean Sweep, Memory Lane, Lelands, and a bunch of others I've forgotten. I used to attend a card show a weekend; now it feels like there is an online auction ending every week. Plus Ebay.

Final observation for this rant: There are great, great cards still coming to light on a regular basis, especially from Latin America. Look for them on the catalog update page.

October 22, 2011: A Great Card Show Next Weekend

​Sorry about that last show; it was crappy, though all of the advertised guests did show and I did get many, many signatures, plus a nice N269 on a walk-in trade, so the day wasn't a complete loss. Boxers are very good show guests, BTW: mellow, down to earth, very engaging. But enough about the past. This next show is going to be AWESOME! Here are the details:

Glendale Civic Auditorium, 1401 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale, CA 91208, October 28-30, 2011

Friday 2-8, Saturday 10-6, Sunday 10-4. $5 admission.

This one looks to be a lot bigger and stronger than the last show this promoter had, which is great for us locals since the last show was pretty good. In particular there are several out of town companies and dealers coming in this time. PSA will be there, a couple of auction houses too. I am setting up across from Mark Macrae and next to Ryan Christoff [Cubanbaseballcards.com]. Other "white hat" dealers on hand will include Dave Levin, Marty Pritchard [All Marty's Cards], Paul Markoe, and there are many more dealers I've not mentioned. For further information, have a look at the show's web site:

http://www.diamondstarsportscards.com/

Anyone who has an AGBC that they want me to deface with my signature and inscription, bring 'er down to the show and I'll be glad to oblige.

September 17, 2011: Card Show Next Sunday [Really]

Oddly enough, there will be a card show in Los Angeles next weekend. The V.F.W. in San Fernando is putting on its first sports memorabilia show. In addition to dealers there will be the following autograph guests, all at $5 a pop: Former WBC superfeatherweight champ Gabriel Ruelas, former WBC welterweight champ Carlos Palomino, former 2 division WBC champ Bobby Chacon, former IBF lightweight champ Rafael Ruelas, WBHOFer Jesus Pimentel, and USC sports hero Anthony Davis. Admission is $7. The show will be at 111 N. Hagar Street, San Fernando, CA 91341 from 10:00-4:00. I plan to be there with a table. Bring your books and I will be happy to sign them, though I won't be selling books there. I've spoken with a few other boxing collectors and we are planning a strong showing of boxing cards and memorabilia.

June 19, 2011: Happy Father's Day And Other Stuff

​​Well, the Spring auction season passed and there were some interesting results. Recall that there were an unprecedented two 1948 Leaf Graziano cards offered at the same time, one by Legendary and one by REA. The Legendary card, a PSA 6.5, was scheduled to go up for sale shortly after REA's auction closed. A few days before the close of REA Legendary issued a press release revealing that their Graziano had been privately sold. I could almost hear the gasps from the bidders on the REA card; it shot up in price by a huge amount and closed at $41,825.00, a new record for a boxing card.

April 8, 2011: At Last I Can Reveal The Graziano

​​Look into the Robert Edward Auctions spring 2011 catalog and you will find a PSA 5 Graziano. Good luck!

Also, my 2011-2012 book is freshly released:

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/americas-great-boxing-cards-2011-2012/15370683

March 5, 2011: Holy Gum Cards, Batman, Yet Another Graziano!

A momentous, monumental, stupendous run of luck for fans of boxing cards in the last year as no less than four, yes four, 1948 Leaf Graziano cards have surfaced. The first was a fresh to market from an estate card that was privately sold, then there was the SGC "A" detailed below that sold in the fall. Another Graziano I know about but can't yet give the details on; suffice it to say that someone will have a very happy spring. And yesterday I got an email from Legendary Auctions touting another freshly found Graziano. This one comes from the northeast in a group of 1948 Leafs and graded a 6.5 with PSA, making it the nicest publicly known example. It also means that the known population of these cards has about doubled over the last year. Paradoxically, I expect that prices will rise as the pop grows--more chances to get them and more hype of past sales results.

Not to gloss Legendary's auction too much but I think the card is a cinch to break every price record for a single boxing card. I know if I had the bank I'd go after it big time. Alas, I remain a poor journalist and will have to worship it from afar...like Anne Hathaway.

January 4, 2011: Happy New Year To All

The fall auction season has come and gone and there were some real eye-openers in there, good and bad.

We start with Legendary Auctions:

1948 Leaf Rocky Graziano: An SGC "A" Graziano broke the old price record for a boxing card, selling for $29,625.00!

1951 Bread For Energy display w/Marciano: A store display for Junge Bread featured an uncut sheet of 16 labels including the Rock. I'd never seen a Marciano before. The display had been partially repaired. $1,540.50.

Heritage Auctions:

Much of the Heritage offering consisted of culls from the Hull Collection auctions of a few years ago, probably purchaser(s) from that auction getting around to liquidating their excess cards, dupes, lower grade examples, etc. Prices were modest on mixed groups, considerably down from the averages in that great liquidation. I'd attribute that partially to the recession and partially to the fact that the 'meat' of the Hull lots had been removed from these carcasses. There were a few interesting lots sold:

1951 Ringside Murphy PSA 7 $1,075.50: I found this interesting because the same grade card sold on Ebay for a lot less. this year Some big-time auction buyers are not Ebay rats--they prefer to spend more to get their cards without the muss and fuss of browsing tons of Ebay listings.

1956 Adventure PSA 8 Schmeling $597.50: Another card that exceeded its prior Ebay sales point by a considerable sum.

1951 Ringside Trio of Uncut Panels $657.25. There was a dealer at the National with several uncut panels of Ringside cards. His asking price on them was much more than these cards realized at auction, and one of these panels included Marciano. A very disappointing outcome, in my view.

On a more personal note, I am deep into the revisions of the 2011-2012 book right now and I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I have greatly expanded the offerings to include a variety of ephemera such as advertising pieces, postcards, pinbacks, medals, pennants, fighter-issued publicity photos, and so on, added more sets, expanded some existing sets, and even gone (gasp) modern with the 2008 Topps Co-Signers, Sport Kings and 2010 Ringside autographed cards.

August 17, 2010: What A Show!

Two big thumbs up for the Baltimore National. The venue was good, the hotels were close by, Camden Yards (baseball park) was literally across the street from the convention center and some of the hotels (I could see the games from the deck on my floor at the Hilton). I'd definitely go back if they hold it there again. 2014 is the next open date for the show; I guess we'll see. Next year, back to Chicago, which is also a very strong venue.

I am pleased to report that this was the best National for boxing materials that I've ever seen. I saw boxing materials on dozens of the tables there. Most had the "standard" spread of T218, 1948 Leaf and 1951 Ringside cards but there were quite a few N, E and cabinet cards too. And a lot of really interesting memorabilia. I particularly enjoyed seeing some of the boxing publicity photos from the 1930s and 1940s. Prices were mixed. As has been the case with boxing cards on Ebay and at auction over the last two years or so, very rare cards--which were there in surprising quantities relative to prior years--flew off the tables the first day while mainstream stuff sat unless it was priced to move. Highlights seen at the show (for me) were an N692 Old Fashioned Fine Cut card, a 1950 Bread For Energy Kid Gavilan, a bunch of 1920s Romeo y Julieta tobacco cards (including Jack Johnson), some new additions to the checklist for the 1920s Aguilitas boxing cards, and some Venezuelan cards that I've never seen before--no one had. Great stuff.

Ringside was there at a corporate booth with a box-breaking promotion: break a box of the 2010 product at their table and get an entry in a drawing for signed memorabilia. I broke down one box but didn't win anything in the drawings. As for the product itself, my feelings were mixed. The box I broke had only 40 cards in it. They were very thick (4 normal cards thick each). which is really inconvenient. Most of the cards were retired fighters, which I found disappointing. Of the 40 cards I pulled (no dupes) only two--Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto--were of active fighters. As for inserts, it is just gambling, plain and simple. The final pack I opened had a "1 of 1" card of Vito Antuofermo. Not even signed. I could have cared less but the guys working the table acted like I'd pulled out a golden ticket to the Wonka factory. A dealer sitting next to me breaking down boxes of Sport Kings product invited me over to his table and bought the card for more than I paid for the entire box! I will confess that I am baffled by the insert mania of the modern card market. I totally "get" autographed cards' appeal. I even see (though do not share enthusiasm for) the appeal of fighter-worn swatch cards. But the 1 of 1 and parallel set stuff is alien to me. I just do not understand the appeal of manufactured rarity. Why is a card that was intentionally made 1 of 1 and that isn't even signed and doesn't contain any fight-worn equipment swatches worth money to anyone? It seems so contrived. As for the base product, my feeling is that if collectors are going to basically throw away the base cards, the set is a failure. And what's with all the old dudes? I'd much, much rather see a set of base cards devoted to active fighters with autographs (like the 2008 Topps Co-Signers) or fight-worn materials on each "significant" card. We also need cards at base price far below the price point of the Ringside cards. At $85 a box retail for the TKO--40 cards total spread through 10 packs--and $175 for the KO--16 cards total but guaranteed at least 2 autographs and 1 memorabilia card--the issue is way too pricey to get a casual collector interested. I had to think long and hard over buying a TKO box and even then I'd not have done it but for the drawing promotion. My trepidation was financial--even the TKO boxes, which guarantee nothing by way of insert cards, cost over $2 per card. I guess the mfg. knows its business since the issue sold out at the wholesale level, but Ebay is flooded with the cards now and prices are dropping like bricks on most of the cards. That can't be good for the overall health of the card market; it was poisonous in the baseball card market in the 1990s.

But I digress. The fact is that the National was a great party for the hobby and especially for boxing collectors.

June 5, 2010: Reflections On Spring Auction Season

Now that we've got a lull in the auction action before the IBHOF show at Canastota next week and the National Sports Collectors Convention in August in Baltimore, let's reflect back on the boxing offerings by the majors in their spring auctions:

To begin with, those who predicted the demise of the auction industry in the wake of the economic collapse are mistaken. I think there were more damned auctions this year than ever before. I felt like I was inundated with catalogs and nearly overwhelmed with emails and solicitations to bid. REA and Heritage let the way with 721 and 606 pages of items, respectively. There were also quite a few smaller catalogs that found their way into the mailbox. Here are the highlights from the various sales (all prices include the Buyer's Premium):

REA

  • N167 McAuliffe SGC 20 $822.50. A decent card with a heavy corner crease and writing on the back.
  • E78 Jim Jeffries PSA 4.5. $705.00. A great card, I'd have bought it if I'd had the resources.
  • 1951 Ringside Rocky Marciano PSA 8 nm-mt $1,527.50.
  • 1948 Leaf complete uncut sheet $1,410.00. This was the worst of the uncut sheets I've seen offered, as it had nasty paper pulls across the fronts of Forbes, Sullivan and La Motta. Still pulled a nice price.
  • 1909 Jeffries playing card high grade set. $2,115.00. This was the #1 PSA registry set and it was very nice. Very strong price.
  • Lot of 19 Wood cabinets including HOFers $2,643.75. Several HOFers. All had condition issues on the mounts but presented beautifully.
  • N150 Sullivan (1 ear) SGC A $587.50. A nice card with a miscut bottom hence the A grade.

Heritage

  • T223 Mitchell SGC 88 nm-mt $448.13. An economy-driven low outcome IMO, since Dixie Queens are very tough in high grade owing to the cruddy paper stock used to make them.
  • 1952 Ringside Jersey Joe Walcott SGC 96 mint $567.63. Strong outcome for an SGC-slabbed Ringside. Won't be surprised to see this one in a PSA 9 holder and offered to registry collectors.
  • 1951 Ringside Rocky Marciano SGC 88 nm-mt $1,254.75. Although comparing across different auctions is less accurate that comparing the same card's performance in the same auction, it appears that buyers will pay an extra 20% for the PSA slabbed high grade Ringside card, undoubtedly a product of PSA's vastly more influential registry.
  • 1951 Ringside Rocky Marciano SGC 86 nm+ $448.13. My fascination with the pricing on high grade slabs never ends. This card was at least as sharp but slightly off center as compared to the PSA 8 REA sold.
  • T229 Pet Eddie Campi SGC 40 vg $310.70. For a 'common' from a scarce set, not a bad price.

Clean Sweep

  • 1950 Bread For Energy Billy Graham $470.35. Lots of you are asking "what is that?" right about now. What it is is a very rare item. The National Baking Company stuck one of these fragile labels on the end of each loaf of bread. There were all sorts of subjects including basketball, football, baseball and boxing. They are very rarely seen and this one broke the previous single label sales record of $350.00 set by a Kid Gavilan that sold on Ebay several years ago.

Legendary

  • T220 White Borders set #6 (4.96 GPA) on PSA registry. $1,303.50. Not bad for what was basically a mid-grade set.
  • 1950 Bowman "Wild Man" #15 Last Bare Knuckle Fight PSA 8.5 nm-mt+ $888.75. This was a fun one. The wild man card shows a generic depiction of the Sullivan-Kilrain melee. It isn't that hard to find but is not a frequently encountered card in high grade, so I was curious where it would end up. Now I know...
  • So there you have it. The market remains as it has been for much of the last two years. Great stuff brings great prices. Run of the mill stuff goes cheap. Weak stuff rots.
April 24, 2010: Hello, It's Been A While

Although I've been updating new cards on the Catalog Updates page, I realized that I haven't written here in almost four months. Miss me? I will try to blog more often going forward. So, here are my takes, short and long:

  • A few weeks from now marks the launch date of a new set of boxing cards! Ringside Boxing by Creative Cardboard Distribution, Inc. The issue will have two versions, KO and TKO, with more goodies (autographs and fight work cut cards) in the KO version. The cards shown thus far look nice. It will be pricey.
  • Prices on cards continued their slide since I last posted. It is the best buyer's market in a decade. Not so great for sellers. The key, if you have longer term holding capacity, is to get in on quality items now at good prices and hang tight for 2-5 years. If you buy astutely, I predict a return on investment in excess of anything that stocks are likely to return. And the cards look so much nicer!
  • Recent months have been just horrible for boxing fans as Vernon Forrest, Alexis Arguello, Arturo Gatti and now Edwin Valero have died violent deaths. Forrest's murder was a tragedy; the man was by all accounts a kind, charitable and upstanding fellow who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Arguello descended into the cesspit of politics and it consumed him. Gatti may have been strangled by his wife a few months after the prenup was dropped. Valero spiraled downward in a cycle of domestic violence culminating in a murder-suicide. These warriors of the ring are often so vulnerable out of it.
  • On a much happier note, there are some great fights on the horizon. Mayweather v. Mosley may be a fight for the ages, and I am particularly looking forward to Foreman v. Cotto (I confess an ethnic affinity for Jewish fighters; kick his tail, landsmann):