Top 10 Biggest Sports Memorabilia Auctions of 2014

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2015-06-26 11:26:07

The ten most valuable pieces of sports history to cross the auction block in 2014.


10) Lou Gehrig's 1928 World Series watch

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(Image: SCP Auctions)

In 1928 The New York Yankees became the first team in history to sweep the World Series two years running. Each of the team were presented with Hamilton Piping Rock watches, highly rare and sought-after in their own right, bearing their names and the inscription "Yankees 1928 World Champions".

Amongst the team were some of the finest players in the sport's history, including the 'Iron Horse' Lou Gehrig, whose watch came up for sale during the summer. The watch was described as “not only as the pinnacle of Gehrig’s surviving awards, [but] indisputably among the world’s finest sports awards, period.” It crossed the block at an SCP Auctions sale in August, selling for $340,000. - - - - - -

9) Lou Gehrig's 1924 signed New York Yankees rookie contract

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(Image: Heritage Auctions)

The contract that took Lou Gehrig to the New York Yankees in 1924 sold at Heritage Auctions in July. Having made his name with the minor league Hartford Senators, earning himself the nickname ‘The Eastern Babe’ for his countless home-runs, Gehrig moved up to the Majors with the Yankees.

He became one of the finest and best-loved players in baseball history, setting MLB records which would stand for decades. The signed document that began his story in New York was described as "one of the most significant documents in Yankees history", and sold for $358,500. - - - - - -

8) Muhammad Ali's 1971 ‘Fight of the Century’ worn gloves

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(Image: Heritage Auctions)

In 1971 Ali returned to boxing, having served a controversial ban for his refusal of the Vietnam War draft. His World Championship bout against Joe Frazier was dubbed the 'Fight of the Century', and supposedly represented a straight fight between America's liberal ideals and its right-wing politics.

In reality, Frazier was enraged by Ali's claim that he was only supported by "white people in suits, Alabama sheriffs, and members of the Ku Klux Klan". He used this anger to claim a unanimous points decision, handing Ali the first defeat of his professional career – a turning point in his career which later saw him twice reclaim the World Title. Ali's worn gloves from the first Frazier fight sold at Heritage in August for $388,375. - - - - - -

7) Torch from the 1956 Stockholm Equestrian Olympic Games

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(Image: Ingrid O'Neil)

A rare Olympic torche from the unusual 1956 Equestrian Games crossed the auction block in April. Whilst the 1956 Summer Olympics took place in Melbourne, Australia, the country's strict quarantine laws meant that horses could not make the journey. So for the only time in history, a section of the games was held in a different country – Sweden.

The Stockholm Equestrian Games took place in June, and featured events such as Dressage, Eventing, and Show Jumping. The event also had its own torch relay leading to the opening ceremony, during which just five Olympic torches were used. With two examples owned by museums, and a further two in private collections, the rare torch was snapped up during an Ingrid O'Neil auction of Olympic memorabilia for $412,500. - - - - - -

6) Mickey Mantle's 1956 All-Star Game used & signed bat

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(Image: Heritage Auctions)

This bat was used by baseball legend Mickey mantle during the 1956 All-Star game, which he hit a home run off Warren Spahn. The bat is the only-known example dating from Mantle's remarkable Triple Crown year, in which he topped the league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted.

The bat was described as “arguably the most significant Mantle artefact ever listed for sale”, and regarded as one of the most important game-used bats in the hobby. It was offered during the Heritage Auctions Platinum Night sale in February, where it sold for $430,200. - - - - - -

5) Babe Ruth’s 1948 Yankee Stadium farewell watch

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(Image: SCP Auctions)

The watch presented to Babe Ruth during his emotional last appearance at Yankee Stadium came to auction in May. On June 13, 1948 a visibly frail Ruth bid farewell to his fans at a ceremony celebrating the silver anniversary of Yankee Stadium.

That day the Yankees retired Ruth’s number ‘3’ uniform, and presented him with the gold Longines pocket watch engraved “Babe Ruth – Silver Anniversary – Yankee Stadium 1923-1948 ‘The House That Ruth Built.’” Two months later Ruth succumbed to cancer in New York, and the watch remained in his family for more than 60 years. It was sold during an SCP Auctions sale for $650,000. - - - - - -

4) Babe Ruth's 1923 New York Yankees World Championship watch

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(Image: Heritage Auctions)

In 1923 the Yankees won their first World Series, defeating their cross-town rivals the New York Giants 4-2 with the help of their star player Babe Ruth. Each of the players received a 14-karat gold ‘Gruen Verithin’ watch for their efforts, and in 1948 Ruth gifted his watch to close friend Charles Schwefel, who had supported him during his terminal cancer.

After passing to Schwefel's nephew, the watch remained in the family until 1988 when it sold privately to a collector. It appeared for the first time at auction in 2014, as part of a Heritage sports memorabilia auction in February. Described as "arguably the most important article of sports memorabilia that exists", the watch sold for a price of $717,000. - - - - - -

3) Muhammad Ali's 1964 World Championship fight worn gloves

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(Image: Heritage Auctions)

The boxing gloves worn by Muhammad Ali during his first World Title victory came to auction in February. Dating from 1964, the gloves were worn during Ali's (then Cassius Clay) historic 1964 World Championship fight against Sonny Liston. It marked Ali's transformation from a contender into a superstar, and important figure culturally both in and out of the ring.

Prior to the sale, the gloves were described as “the most important boxing gloves that exist, relics not only of one of sport's great David and Goliath tales, but also instruments that changed the course of American history”. They sold as part of Heritage's Platinum Night sale for $836,000. - - - - - -

2) 'Shoeless Joe' Jackson's 1911 game used rookie bat

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(Image: Heritage Auctions)

'Shoeless Joe' Jackson was described by Babe Ruth as "the greatest natural hitter I ever saw". His involvement in the Chicago Black Sox Scandal, and subsequent expulsion from baseball, remains a point of contention over a century later, but his talent remains undeniable.

Jackson's short-lived career means memorabilia is scarce, and in February Heritage offered the only-known documented bat from his Major League career. Dating from Jackson's 1911 rookie season - the best rookie season ever recorded in Major League history – the bat sold in February for $956,000, setting a new auction record for sports memorabilia at Heritage. - - - - - -

1) Babe Ruth's 1918 contract with the Red Sox

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(Image: Goldin Auctions)

In 1918 Babe Ruth signed a new contract with the Boston Red Sox, having become one of the team's most popular players. Although he had begun his career as a pitcher, his power with the bat had elevated him to 'indispensible' status and he guaranteed larger crowds whenever he played. Having understandably asked for a pay rise, Ruth was granted his wish and signed a contract which would last until his move to the New York Yankees – a move which brought the 'Curse of the Bambino' down of the Red Sox for 86 years.

Ruth's personal copy of the 1918 contract, bearing his signature along with those of Red Sox officials, was offered for sale by Goldin Auctions in July. It sold for $1,007,250, making it the most expensive item of sports memorabilia auctioned in 2014. - - - - - -

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