Description1871-2008 The Jack Smalling Baseball Autograph Collection (13,000+).
"If you build it, they will come."
That disembodied voice emanating from the cornfields of Iowa officially put the state upon the baseball map, but when the film "Field of Dreams" first began to charm moviegoers in 1989, thousands of veterans of our national pastime had already made a pilgrimage to the Hawkeye State, their journeys terminating in the mailbox of a devout baseball disciple by the name of Jack Smalling. He's the man who literally wrote the book on collecting autographs through the mail--The Baseball Autograph Collector's Handbook--now in its nineteenth edition.
Many, if not most, of Smalling's greatest successes came from trails long since gone cold, but when Smalling first took up his hobby in 1962, quite a few Dead Ball Era legends still walked the Earth, and if not the players themselves, then their children or grandchildren, pleased in that pre-Internet age that somewhere, someone still remembered the man. They were all too happy to drop a cancelled check or a clipping from an old lease into the supplied self-addressed, stamped envelope in fulfillment of Smalling's request. More than a half century later, Smalling's collection of autographs numbers in the six figures.
While this offering represents just a small fraction thereof-just over 13,800 individual items-it contains the absolute best of the best, with no fewer than 230 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame represented, several of the autographs so spectacularly rare that known examples number in the single digits. Smalling's preferred media has always been the simple purity of the unlined 3x5" index card, and the vast majority of signers still alive when he made contact appear in this format. Babe Ruth appears on an index card, a very rare format for the legendary slugger.
Smalling organizes the assembly by debut year, the collection on offer ranging from 1871 to 2008, with the earlier entries far more wide-ranging in format than the later specimens, for obvious reasons. If a century's mortality was not the primary complication, participation in the woefully under-documented Negro Leagues might be another. The remarkable comprehensiveness of the collection may be even more remarkable than its breadth. There are Mickey Welch and Vic Willis. There are Pop Lloyd and Martin Dihigo. There is a letter from Hughie Jennings, and a signed photograph of Eddie Gaedel. Each of these autographs might surface once a year in the entirety of the collecting marketplace.
All are part of this remarkable collection, available for a single winning bid.
With ink on paper as the constant theme, the quality of the autographs is spectacular throughout, and we've updated Smalling's Excel spreadsheet with the PSA/DNA grades they were recently assigned where applicable. You will find a link to that document at our online listing, as well as photographs of the highlight entries. Certainly a collection of this enormity defies any attempt at a comprehensive assessment in cataloging format, so we strongly advise that interested bidders dedicate an hour or more to a deep dive into this carefully organized data.
Please note that, due to the huge volume, only Hall of Famers and autographs individually valued in excess of $100 have been authenticated by PSA/DNA. Heritage will not accept returns on this lot due to authentication issues on that unvetted balance. Please ask any and all questions prior to bidding and/or accept our invitation to view the collection in person at our Dallas offices.
Click Here for a comprehensive list of the Smalling Collection.
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