An extensive baseball card collection of over 1,000 cards from Dr. Thomas Newman that includes a rare 1933 Babe Ruth card will go to auction on June 12 through Memory Lane Inc.
The 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth card has a PSA grade of Mint 9, the only card of that version on record with a grade that high. Given its rarity and the boom in the collecting hobby, Memory Lane CEO J.P. Cohen believes the card could fetch close to $5 million and the entire lot could eclipse $20 million.
"I've been doing this for over 20 years, and we have handled some amazing collections, a lot of Honus Wagner cards and a lot of big dollar collections," Cohen said. "By far, this is one of the bigger ones we've handled. From a single auction standpoint, this will be our biggest auction we've ever put on."
Newman had been collecting for nearly 40 years before he died from COVID-19 in January at age 73. He began collecting as a child, and through loving the sport of baseball, he had built a small collection of 1950s cards that was thrown out by his mother when he went to college.
Once Newman finished medical school and his residency, eventually becoming a neurologist in Tampa, Florida, he picked up the hobby again with his son, Stewart, in the 1980s. He first acquired cards to replace the set that was discarded by his mother. He eventually moved deeper and deeper into collecting, amassing what is today a collection with 1,000 cards and pieces of memorabilia.
"As he started getting more into it, we started annual trips to the national baseball card convention in the mid-to-late '80s and early '90s," Stewart said. "I watched him go through it, and of course knew how much it meant to him. To see it all out there and to see everyone consuming what an incredible collection he eventually got to after 40 years of doing it, it's a lot to take in, but I'm happy for it."
Newman called his cards his "paper babies." His wife, Nancy, didn't know much about the cards or the collection but admired how much her husband cared for them.
"He didn't tell many people about it; he did it to please himself, not to please anybody else," Nancy said. "I always respected it. It was great he had such a fun hobby for himself. He was so intelligent, and he knew so much about sports. He truly loved it."
The collection starts with $200 cards and goes up to million-dollar cards, with memorabilia, autographs and a selection of programs from every World Series going back to the first one in 1903.
"Normally when we do auctions, we get consignments from many people and then put it in a catalog," Cohen said. "But because this is such a special collection and our relationship with Dr. Newman, he was a friend of ours, we're planning on doing a stand-alone auction specifically for his collection. That's how big and vast and amazing this collection is."
The lot will include what the company is calling the magnificent seven: the 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth; another, slightly less rare version of that Ruth card graded at Mint 9; a 1916 Sporting News rookie Babe Ruth card; two rare Mickey Mantle cards, both graded as near Mint 8; a 1948 Bowman George Mikan; and a 1925 Exhibits Lou Gehrig card.
The collection was held in a large antique file safe in Newman's home that was so big, it required removal of a wall just to get it inside. While Newman was a true collector and didn't want to sell his lot while he was living, he had expressed to his family that this was an eventual investment for them. Nancy, Stewart, daughter Elizabeth and his two grandkids would all be the beneficiaries, and they're now hoping his legacy is continued through this sale.
"I just want my dad to get the credit and attention he didn't really seek out for the incredible collection he assembled over 40 years," Stewart said. "It's exciting for his legacy, for that notoriety to come in that didn't really happen before."
Newman's children and wife kept a few mementos and pieces of memorabilia that held sentimental value, but the idea that others will be able to enjoy pieces that haven't seen the light of day for over 20 years in some cases is something everyone in the family is excited about.
"The majority of the most valuable cards he owned, I know he owned them for at least 10 years, some of them 20 years," Stewart said. "Getting people a chance to participate and own these really rare items is cool. I think it's fun for someone to take that ownership and have fun with it."