Extraordinary find: silver service presented to Christy Mathewson in 1917 with direct descent through family to be auctioned May 3rd in Austin
AUSTIN, Texas – In 1936, the National Baseball Hall of Fame welcomed its first class of inductees – each member an immortal in his own right: Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, and the pitching ace who played 17 seasons with the New York Giants: Christy Mathewson. Memorabilia associated with any of the “First Five” is in great demand, but Mathewson items are especially rare. It has been estimated that fewer than 100 signed photos and even fewer single-signed baseballs attributable to Mathewson are known to exist, in part because he only lived to age 45. As for mementos personally owned by the legendary right-hander, they can be found on the same shelf as hens’ teeth. Hence the excitement over a discovery with direct descent through the Mathewson family that is headed to auction on May 3rd in Austin, Texas.
Austin Auction Gallery will be offering to the highest bidder a sterling silver tea and coffee service whose tray is inscribed: “Presented To Christy Matthewson By His New York Friends, May 12th, 1917.” (Note: In what was a common error at the time, the engraver misspelled Mathewson’s surname in the inscription.)
After his 17-year tenure with the New York Giants, Mathewson was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, where he was a player, then manager. On May 12, 1917, the date engraved on the silver tray, Mathewson’s Reds played his former teammates at the Polo Grounds in New York City. On that occasion, a group of Mathewson’s friends and fans presented him with the silver service as a token of their esteem.
The day after the presentation, in the May 13, 1917 edition of The New York Sun newspaper, a sports reporter wrote about “Chris Mathewson Day” at the ballpark: “Many admirers of Big Six had chipped in and bought [Mathewson] a box of silver to decorate his sideboard. Dudley Field Malone, Collector of the Port and partriot, was the orator. Dudley said many things about Matty. He termed him the world’s greatest athlete, a man loved and revered by thousands of New Yorkers, a man who had set an ideal to the youth of America, which makes him so anxious to pummel Germans in the interest of democracy. Such was the drift of Mr. Malone’s utterances, and Matty blushed…”
The reporter’s comments referred to a previous announcement stating that Mathewson planned to enlist in the wartime military, which he did the following year. He served in France as a captain in the newly formed Chemical Service, alongside Ty Cobb. In a chemical training exercise that went wrong, Mathewson was accidentally gassed. His lungs severely compromised, the hero athlete returned home, where he subsequently caught tuberculosis. His health steadily declined, and in 1925, Mathewson died at his lakefront residence in upstate New York.
The superb Reed and Barton silver service presented to Mathewson on May 13, 1917 remained in the Mathewson/Frary family for nearly 97 years. It was recently discovered within a collection of silver in the estate of the former Lola Marguerite “Peggy” Mathewson (1920-2014), widow of Christy Mathewson Jr. Mrs. Mathewson later married renowned American painter and art educator Michael Frary (1918-2005). After Mrs. Frary passed away in January, Austin Auction Gallery was called in to assess the estate’s contents.
“In particular, there was a tremendous amount of fine art to evaluate, since Michael Frary was an astute collector throughout his lifetime,” said Ross Featherston, president and principal auctioneer at Austin Auction Gallery. “But when we saw the silver service, we realized we had something of great historical importance to the sports world.”
As it turned out, the silver service was a rare survivor of a tragedy that took the life of Christy Mathewson’s son.
“Christy Mathewson Jr died on Aug. 17, 1950, when a hot water heater exploded in his home in San Antonio, Texas. The fire destroyed nearly everything in the home, but miraculously the silver service was spared,” said Featherston.
The service remained in Peggy Mathewson Frary’s possession until her death earlier this year.
“Apparently there had been discreet attempts over the years to purchase the set, but Mrs. Frary did not want to part with it,” said Featherston.
The set weighs in at 188.24 troy ounces and is modestly estimated at $12,000-$18,000, based on its silver content. But in terms of historical significance and its inextricable connection to one of baseball’s original legends, it may well be priceless.
To contact Austin Auction Gallery, call 512-258-5479 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit AAG online at www.austinauction.com.
View the fully illustrated catalog and sign up to bid absentee or live via the Internet at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.
Christy Mathewson Box Score:
In addition to being a charter inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Christy Mathewson was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. His win-loss record was 373-188 with an ERA of 2.13 and 2,507 career strikeouts.
Check out how the home-town of Christy Mathewson celebrates his legacy.
Estate Fresh Items From Cousy, Mathewson and Wagner Soar In SportsCards Plus? Record Setting November Auction
The Bob Cousy Collection, billed as the largest personal player collection ever offered, headlined one of the most successful auctions ever conducted by SportsCards Plus. Celtic fans and basketball collectors clamored over an incredible array of awards, game used items, and personal effects gathered throughout Cousy's prolific career. The final numbers clearly prove that the "The Houdini of the Hardwood" still has plenty of magic left. The Cousy Collection accounted for $455,641 of the auction's total gross of $1,431,938 and amounted to nearly twice as much as the 10-time All-Star earned during his entire NBA playing career. Cousy, whose playing days with the Celtics ended 40 years ago, long before athletes were millionaires, stated, "If someone had said 40 years ago, 'Save that stuff because someday you'll get half a million dollars for it,' I would have said, "Take this guy away, he's looney tunes.' I'm just pleased for our daughters." Cousy, 75, and his wife, Missy, decided to auction his memorabilia kept in their basement to raise money for their two school-teacher daughters and two grandchildren. Among the 150 plus Cousy lots, were some of the most important basketball artifacts ever to be offered publicly. Some of the highlights included Cousy's 1952 NBA All-Star Uniform ($11,205), 1957 League MVP Trophy ($51,673), 1957 Celtics Championship Ring ($27,179) , the Game Ball Used to Garner His 5000th Career Assist ($11,132), a John F. Kennedy Signed Photo "to Bob Cousy" ($25,300), his Last Game Ball used versus the Lakers in the 1963 Championship Game ($6,326), and his Hall of Fame Induction Ring ($19,134). Other items that drew lots of attention included a selection of items related to his 1996 selection as one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, including his personal (#Cousy 1/1) 50 Greatest Signed Lithograph ($86,940), custom Hamilton Leather Jacket ($5,553), and 50 Greatest Players Ring ($13,558) . Numerous momentos from his memorable 1963 "Bob Cousy Day" retirement ceremony included his Engraved Cigar Humidor from Celtics Teammates ($5,415) , 1963 Boston Celtics Team Signed 'Court' Table ($3,732), and a Set of 15 Custom Presentation Plaques Received from The Celtics ($10,830). Dan Imler, SportsCards Plus Auction Director, described the Cousy results as "very strong overall". Imler states, "We had high expectations from the start, but some of the individual items still really surprised us." According to Imler, the final price of $51,673 for Cousy's 1957 MVP Trophy is the highest price ever paid for any basketball trophy. Additionally, the Hall of Fame Ring ($19,133), and 50 Greatest Lithograph ($86,940) are also said to be auction records.
SCP's November 20th Auction also featured significant memorabilia collections directly from the estates of other Hall of Fame legends such as Tony Lazzeri, and a follow-up offering of items from the Honus Wagner Collection that was part of their previous August '03 auction. New York Yankees legendary Hall of Fame second baseman, "Poosh 'em Up" Tony Lazzeri, was represented by over 40 items, including his personal collection of team signed baseballs, signed photos, and game used equipment. Among the top performing items were high-grade Yankees team balls from 1932 (World Champs!) - $23,463, 1936 (World Champs!) - $7,337, 1937 (World Champs!) - $7,395, and 1955 (NL Champs!) - $3,827 . The incredible selection of signed photos were well received, including examples personalized to Lazzeri from Babe Ruth ($3,795), Lou Gehrig ($13,215), Ty Cobb ($1,530) , and Jimmie Foxx ($2,709). A Large 1936 Yankees Photo Signed by Seven incl. DiMaggio, Gehrig & Lazzeri brought $6,958. Game used equipment from the famed member of the Yankees revered "Murderer's Row" lineup includes his Cap ($6,164), Fielder's Glove ($13,899), Flannel Pants ($5,000), and Cleats ($1,530).
The second offering of items from the estate of Honus Wagner included his 1909 World Series Pin. The pin, described by Imler as, "One of the most historic pieces of baseball jewelry ever offered" realized $53,538. Another marquis Wagner item was a magnificent 10 1/2" tall sterling silver "Honus Wagner Day" Loving Cup that brought $31,050.
The balance of the memorabilia portion of the auction featured several other Hall of Fame caliber items including a Christy Mathewson Game Used Glove from the Mathewson Estate ($32,764), a supremely rare 1902 (First) Rose Bowl Program ($35,520), a 1922-25 Babe Ruth Game Used Bat ($34,687), a Spectacular Babe Ruth Single Signed Baseball w/Original Box ($21,836), and a Jim Brown 1957 Rookie of The Year Trophy ($10,572).
As usual, SportsCards Plus' November Auction included a vast array of quality cards that generated vigorous bidding competition. Topping the list of high-end cards was a remarkable 1909-11 T206 Eddie Plank graded PSA 7 NM that realized a record price of $93,661. Other notable offerings include a 1914 Cracker Jack #30 Ty Cobb PSA 8 NM-MT ($30,938), 1933 Goudey #170 Harry McCurdy PSA 8 NM-MT ($4,807) , 1933 Sport Kings #15 Reggie McNamara PSA 8 NM-MT ($7,449), 1933 Goudey #119 Rogers Hornsby PSA 8 NM-MT ($4,592), and a spectacular 1951 Bowman Baseball Complete PSA Graded Set ($39,140) .
SportsCards Plus will follow up this highly successful auction event with another major auction scheduled for April, 2004. The company is actively seeking consignments for this sale. For more information on SportsCards Plus and their auctions please visit www.sportscardsplus.com or call 1-800-350-2273.