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Above are images of just a few of the many highlights of what for us is a particularly exciting collection that will be presented in the April auction:
The Jerry Smolin Collection of Historic 19th and Early 20th Century Baseball Programs.
Since the 1970s, as a collector, as a dealer, and as an auctioneer (one-half of the highly respected Sloate & Smolin Auctions and the sole owner of About Time Auctions), Jerry Smolin has been well known as a baseball historian and as a true connoisseur of baseball memorabilia. He is one of the few collectors or dealers whose experience spans from the earliest days of the organized hobby as we know it to the present day, and he is universally respected and recognized as a true scholar in the field. Some of the greatest treasures of baseball memorabilia of all types, especially nineteenth-century items, including cards, photography, documents, and display pieces, have passed through his hands in private sales and at auction over the past thirty years. One special area of personal collecting interest that has been a constant for all these many years has been early baseball programs. This collection of thirty-five programs (which will be presented in twenty-eight lots) was assembled with great care and patience, and with an eye for quality, rarity, historical significance, and display value. This is by far the best collection of early baseball programs we have ever offered or even seen in one place. Only the best examples of their type were added to the collection, one program at a time, armed with a great appreciation and an unmatched knowledge of what is special in the field of program collecting.
Assembling a significant collection of great early programs is a lot different, and we think a lot more difficult, than assembling a collection of most other printed early baseball-related items. For one thing, very early programs tend to be extremely rare. For many great early programs, there is literally only one example known. On top of that, even though programs have a lot in common with cards, they tend to be far more modest in value compared to cards from the same era (which are usually not as rare or as elaborate in design). This fact has always made getting collectors to sell all the more difficult. Collecting great programs has always been a little like collecting paintings. A general rule of thumb for an experienced program collector is: if you see one you like, you should really go out of your way to get it, because you might never see it again! Great program sightings have always been few and far between. That’s one of the reasons they don’t get all that much attention compared to some other areas of collecting. They are rare. That’s why there are no definitive books picturing them, and no comprehensive guides valuing them. Collectors are pretty much on their own. That’s part of their charm!
We have often wondered what happened to some of the most noteworthy nineteenth-century programs to ever be sold at auction from long ago sales, such as the 1889 Chicago White Sox/World Tour cover program with Anson’s portrait (pictured above, the only one known) from the 1991 Sotheby’s Copeland auction. That program, and many others of similar significance, are included in the Jerry Smolin Collection. As a special note, we should point out that Jerry is still very active, but between not being able to easily add to the collection, and having a particularly good use in the near future for the proceeds (his daughter’s wedding!), he felt the time was right to offer these gems. Congratulations, Jerry, and thank you for choosing REA to present your collection. It is an honor. We hope we do it justice!