Hake’s season finale hits $2.4M, with elusive collectibles setting record prices at their auction debuts
Chew on this: Rare non-sports gum cards powered through their estimates, with a 1940 ‘Strange True Stories’ set commanding $64K and dark-horse ‘Hee Haw’ set harvesting $22K
YORK, Pa. – Hake’s wrapped the year with a $2.4 million auction that traversed the pop-culture panorama, from 19th-century political memorabilia to modern-era toys and original comic book art. The November 14-15 sale defied a collectibles market that had leveled after a prolonged upward run, knocking down excellent prices in an increasingly competitive landscape.
Hake’s president, Alex Winter, observed: “With all that is going on in the world, the state of the economy and prices on many collectibles coming down from the dramatic increases of the past two years, none of that had much of an effect on this auction. Countless record prices were paid across the many different categories of collectibles we handle. The sale was a real testament to how strong the hobby can be when collectors are offered the best of the best and the rarest of the rare. We’ve concluded the year at $9.6 million, which nearly matches the corresponding figures for 2021 and 2022, respectively.”
The online-only auction opened with a historically important memento, a Washington Cathedral program book from March 31, 1968, inscribed and signed by the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr in the final days of his life. It was at that service that Dr King delivered his last Sunday sermon, and according to Hake’s research, no other MLK autograph previously seen at public auction was signed at a later point in Dr King’s life. The book made its auction debut at Hake’s, and accompanied by a JSA LOA and a letter from the consignor detailing the circumstances by which he obtained the autograph, it sold for $28,556.
Another fresh-to-the-market find was a 1953 Our Sports magazine subscription-incentive card bearing the image of beloved Hall of Famer and civil rights icon Jackie Robinson in his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform. Collectors would have immediately recognized it as the same photo seen on the colorized 1953 Topps card #1 from a now-classic set. The only known example of its type, the card was part of a small archive of related ephemera and CGC-graded 2.5 Good+. It sold for $14,277 against an estimate of $5,000-$10,000.
If any single category blew the roof off the sale, it was the early superhero gum cards. Anyone who was unaware of the demand for non-sports-themed collector cards got a quick lesson in their value during the November 15 session. A 1936 “Strange True Stories” gum card set produced by Wolverine included 24 cards, each of which has been individually PSA-graded, from NM 7 to PR 1. The most intriguing entry was a “Bat Man” card, which pre-dated the debut of DC Comics’ superhero Batman (Detective Comics #27) by three years. Whether or not there was a connection between the two iterations is not known, but significantly, the gum card set was complete and the only one of its type that Hake’s had presented to bidders in 56 years of operation. With provenance from the John Grossman collection, it sold for $64,906 against an estimate of $10,000-$20,000.
Next to make a five-figure statement was a single 1940 Gum Inc., Superman #1 gum card from the manufacturer’s set of 72 cards. It was PSA-graded 6 EX-MINT. According to the PSA census, 125 #1 cards have been graded and only seven have received a higher grade than the auction example, which realized $23,600.
A big surprise was in store when a 1970 Topps test set of 55 cards based on the country music/comedy TV show Hee Haw crossed the auction block. Each card depicts regulars from the Hee Haw cast along with the types of short, corny jokes that made the show so popular. The card set as a whole was PSA-graded 6.25, making it the #2 complete set in their census. Formerly in the Roxanne Toser collection, it swept past its $5,000-$10,000 estimate to settle at $22,066, an auction world record for such a set.
Explaining the phenomenal results achieved by the non-sports card sets, Alex Winter said: “Our bidders are students of the market. When they identify an opportunity that may never come their way again, they don’t hold back.”
Another major highlight was the only known example of a Captain Marvel silkscreened linen play cape, copyright 1948. Graded Fine/VF, the cape faithfully reproduces the design that Fawcett’s “World’s Mightiest Mortal” wore in comic book appearances. With provenance from the legendary Harry Matetsky collection, it made its auction debut in superhero fashion, reaching $28,556 against an estimate of $5,000-$10,000. The price set an auction world record for any piece of Captain Marvel merchandise.
A fine selection of original comic book cover art was led by John Byrne’s original pen-and-ink cover art for Action Comics’ #588 (DC Comics, May 1987). Depicting Superman in space alongside Hawkman and Hawkwoman, the art measured 11.25 by 17 inches and was signed and inscribed by Byrne. It sold just above high estimate for $35,695.
Those mighty reptiles, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, triumphed over the comic book section with a CGC 9.2 NM issue #1. Not only was it an original first printing of the comic book that introduced the instantly popular Turtles, its cover was also signed with an added Turtle-head sketch by co-creator Kevin Eastman. A key Copper Age comic with an estimated print run of only 3,000, the book sold at the upper end of its estimate range for $31,152.
Hake’s is known internationally as the sweet spot for Star Wars toys and collectible marketing materials. The company holds many auction world records for prototypes, carded action figures, and Star Wars-related memorabilia. The top prize in their November Star Wars selection was a 1978 early bird mailer kit containing Kenner figures of a double-telescoping Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and R2-D2. Additionally, the kit included a Kenner mini catalog, foot pegs for a cardboard display stage, and an offer-paper for mail-ordering an action stand. AFA-graded 85 NM+, the early bird kit landed at $25,571 against an estimate of $5,000-$10,000.
This is the year that Transformers “caught fire” in the marketplace. Previously unheard-of prices have become the norm, thanks to strong five-figure sales achieved at Hake’s earlier 2023 events. On November 15, the trend continued. One noteworthy example was a 1985 Hasbro Series 2 Jetfire display box containing an Autobot Air Guardian Jetfire with the rare “Trademark’” logo. AFA-graded 90 NM+/Mint in an archival case, it sold within estimate for $17,276.
All prices quoted in this report are inclusive of buyer’s premium as stated in Hake’s Terms & Conditions (www.hakes.com).