A legendary line-up of sports rarities fills Heritage Auctions' massive fall catalog event

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A legendary line-up of sports rarities fills Heritage Auctions' massive fall catalog event
An incredibly scarce 1958 Alifabolaget Pele rookie card. Estimate: $50,000 - up.

DALLAS, TX.- More than a dozen items from the personal collection of baseball great Jimmie Foxx, including the Hall of Famer's game-used bat and his 500th home-run ball. Keepsakes from the Chicago police detective assigned to keep Michael Jordan safe, among them a charity-game-worn jersey. A never-before-sold — or even seen — Babe Ruth rookie card found in a plastic bag, and other sports cards valued close to $1 million. New England Patriots Super Bowl rings. A championship-season jersey worn by Bobby Orr, one of hockey's greatest legends.

In short, our Stanley Cup — and everything else — runneth over.

From Dec. 10-13, Dallas-based Heritage Auctions will hold its latest Sports Collectibles event — and the largest in the auction house's formidable history as the world's leading auctioneer of sports memorabilia. The fall auction, now open for bidding, brims with more than 3,700 cherished and coveted keepsakes, and there is something for everyone — from everyone, just about, who carved out a legend on a field, a diamond, a court, a sheet of ice or a patch of grass.

"We are enormously proud of the size, breadth and depth of this auction," says Chris Ivy, Heritage's Director of Sports Auctions. "With each successive auction we push ourselves to surprise our clients, and ourselves, and this event has some of our biggest wonders yet. To be honest, this is the best part of the job — sharing these extraordinary finds with an audience that will appreciate and adore them for decades."

And for the fall auction, that includes hundreds of coveted cards, vintage and modern alike, many capable of realizing six figures — and higher — at auction.

Among the valued roster you will find a 1997 Michael Jordan — this one, the green-shaded Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems, of which there were but 10 made. There is also the 2013-14 Panini Prizm Giannis Antetokounmpo, the one-of-one black card signed by the back-to-back NBA MVP. And for the vintage crowd, there's also this breathtaking rarity: a 1916 M101-4 Sporting News Babe Ruth rookie card.

More than a century after it rolled off the printing presses, this newly discovered Ruth card makes its hobby debut. It was among other century-old Sporting News cards discovered in a plastic baggie, along with some toys, by a Miami artist who wishes to remain anonymous. She had no idea of their value, if any — only to discover that the entire collection is estimated at well more than $250,000. Bidding for the Ruth card alone exceeds $150,000 with almost three weeks left before extended bidding begins.

The list of cards in this auction goes on. Because it's long. And impressive. It ranges from an incredibly scarce 1958 Alifabolaget Pele rookie card (PSA NM-MT+ 8.5) to a 2003 Bowman Chrome Rookies & Stars LeBron James (Chrome Gold Refractor, PSA Gem Mint 10, 50/50) already well beyond its $60,000 pre-auction estimate.

And, it includes the 365-lot Midwest Masterpiece Collection, which represents one of the hobby's finest personal assemblies of high-grade rookies and other notable trading cards, with a distinct focus on the greatest figures of 20th century sports including the 1961 Fleer Wilt Chamberlain No. 8 PSA Mint 9; an autographed 2003 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Lebron James (PSA Gem Mint 10, 208/250); and dozens more best-of-the-bests. The collection also contains a 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Hockey Wax Box with 48 unopened packs.

This remarkable assemblage is the labor of love of Wisconsin resident Chris Ladd, who entered the hobby four decades ago, when hobby pioneer Larry Fritsch ruled the trading card universe from the Dairy State. The Midwest Masterpiece Collection is so significant it garners its own session in the four-day event, on Dec. 11.

But among these venerable offerings, one card stands tallest of all: a rookie card featuring Wayne Gretzky long before he became a legend, much less The Great One. His 1979 O-Pee-Chee debut, graded PSA Gem Mint 10, is likely to become the highest-priced hockey card in existence following this event.

According to its census, Professional Sports Authenticator has evaluated 5,711 Wayne Gretzky rookie cards issues in 1979 by the Canadian card-maker O-Pee-Chee. Of that sizable lot, only two have been deemed worthy of the Gem Mint 10 grade. This is one of the pair.

And in this Dec. 10-13 event, it joins its equally sought-after — and treasured — American counterpart, the 1979 Topps Wayne Gretzky No. 18 likewise graded PSA Gem Mint 10. The Topps twin, too, is only one of two known Gretzkys awarded such sought-after status, making this event a singular occasion.

Until only a few years ago, there was just one known O-Pee-Chee Gretzky graded Gem Mint 10. That card sold in 2016, and realized the highest known price ever paid for a hockey card — no surprise, given its status and significance (and the fact O-Pee-Chee made but a fraction of the cards Topps did). At the time no one yet knew of the existence of the second card bearing The Great One's debut in an Edmonton Oilers uniform, at the very beginning of a 20-year career that ended with Gretzky holding the record as the National Hockey League's leading scorer.

The Topps Gretzky, which looks almost identical to the O-Pee-Chee, is even more scarce in Gem Mint 10 — because, after all, the American card-maker's run of cards was far larger than that of its small Canadian partner. Again, PSA has graded 6,048 Gretzky No. 18s from 1979, and, again, has deemed only two worthy of such a grade.

Never before have both Gretzky rookies in this superior — The Great Twos! — ever been offered in a single sale.

And never before have these extraordinary offerings from Jimmie Foxx's personal collection gone to market. These remarkable lots include everything from a 1934 Tour of Japan Team-Signed Menu — featuring the signatures of Foxx, Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Connie Mack, Charlie Gehringer, Lefty Gomez and even the founder of famed bat-makers Hillerich & Bradsby — to his 1930s charm bracelet.

But there are two obvious highlights from the Foxx collection, including his 1936-37 Game-Used & Signed Bat — a piece of lumber the Hall of Famer used during an era of prodigious power that saw Foxx launch 77 home runs. It's an extraordinary club that bears all the tell-tale scars of battle — ball marks and cleat divots. Here, too, is Foxx's 500th home-run ball, signed and dated by the ballplayer after the Sept. 24, 1940, dinger at Shibe Park in Philadelphia — against his former club, the Athletics, no less.

Foxx was only the second ballplayer to reach the 500-homer mark. Ruth got there first, 11 years earlier.

The fall event also features 16 items from The Robert Scarpetti Collection, named for the Chicago Police Department detective who served as the personal security guard for Jordan. Scarpetti is making available material he kept from throughout Jordan's career, including Game-Worn & Signed Air Jordan VIII Playoffs Sneakers from the 1993 NBA Finals and a photo-matched uniform from the last game ever played at Chicago stadium, when, in 1995, Jordan suited up for the Scottie Pippen All-Star Classic charity game.

From a former Boston Garden employee comes another championship-season jersey from one of hockey's Greatest of All Time: a sweater worn by Bobby Orr during the Boston Bruins' 1971-72 Stanley Cup season. This sweater comes from the same worker who collected several items during his tenure at the Garden; indeed, another Orr jersey, from the previous season, sold for $150,000 in Heritage Auctions' most recent sports collectibles event.

But it's not clothes that make the player — or the auction.

In this event, Ruth's 1933 New York Yankees contract is expected to command much attention — and a very high price, as its pre-auction estimate is $400,000-plus. There are also extrabodily rare autographs here, among them a Christy Mathewson single signed baseball and one of two known surviving examples of Hall of Fame Negro League ace "Smokey Joe" Williams' autograph.

But as one might imagine, there are thousands of untold tales left to uncover in an auction containing more than 3,700 items. The online catalog offers a museum's-worth of history yours for the bidding.

The Dec. 10-13 Fall Sports Collectibles event is divided into four sessions, each of which will go into extended bidding at 10 p.m. CT. To participate, bidders must place their initial bids before extended bidding begins.

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