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December 8th- 9th 2010






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The Bill Mastro Collection


Carlton Hendricks

Dec. 5, 2010

I guess I've just been too busy to hear Bill Mastro's collection would be auctioned. Shortly before I got the catalog John Gennantonio mentioned it . I speculated if it would really be his whole collection, and that not all of Halper's collection was in the Sotheby's catalog and stuff had been cherry picked....yada yada. But the subject was just in passing and I quickly forgot about it. About a week later I got the catalog in the mail and started looking thru it without even knowing it was the Mastro collection. It was very early A.M. and I was just getting home and completely exhausted. The catalog was so good it slowly got my attention even as tired as I was. Normally at that hour I'd have quickly thumbed thru a catalog and put it aside to go thru more thoroughly the next day. Blurry eyed I kept seeing stronger and stronger pieces. Still unaware it was Mastro's collection I concluded "this is some catalog, this is the best catalog I've seen in years....what is this?" Then I saw it was Mastro's stuff.

I don't usually read the part of catalogs telling about the collector, I just tear off for what's being offered flipping pages a second at a time till I see something that stops me. But it's one of the world's finest collections and I wanted to see what they had to say. The Willy Wonka part was OK I guess, I didn't see the movie, but I got the drift. However, the part I found very interesting was about how Bill moved from cards to memorabilia; naturally, since I've never been a card guy. It was brief but intriguing. The write up briefly covers Bill's collecting chronology starting as a youngster in Bernardsville New Jersey.


In 22+ years collecting, I've not had much dealing with Bill Mastro. I believe I only bid in one or two of his auctions over the years. (19th Century Estes Professional Baseball Bat Story ) The Mastro name has been well known in the hobby many years...but as far as I can tell not the man....I can remember a discussion about him many years ago with a group of collectors. As I recall, no one knew him very well and we were all speculating about him. What kind of name is Mastro; the question came up....I think he's Italian I said...One person was adamant he was Jewish....I don't know, Mastro sounds pretty Italian I said....I think he's Italian....noop Jewish said the collector....he was adamant in his speculation. Somewhere I had heard he was an heir of the Florsheim shoe fortune....No one knew for sure, and to this day I have no idea if that's true. I also heard he had a great political pin collection, and sold it years ago


I can't remember which National, but it was a long time ago. I had looked over the list of dealers who would be set up and saw the name "Mastro and Mastro". I didn't think much of it, I just figured Mastro and Mastro sounded like a father and son enterprise. So I'm there at the show on set up day and ran into Herman Kaufman. So we're walking around the show, and we come up to Mastro's booth and Herman was chatting with Mastro and another guy in the booth who looked real young. 

I guess I knew who Mastro was from photos in SCD, but I had no idea who the other young looking guy was....I just surmised it was probably Mastro's son based on the "Mastro and Mastro" table registration....After we walked away I said to Herman....So that's Mastro's son?...Herman looked at me with most surprised look and said,...WHAT?....why do you say that, he said...Well the "Mastro and Mastro" table registration I explained...I just figured...Herman started to roar....wait till I tell Bill he said....that is too much....No that was Rob Lifson, Herman said. 

In all my time in the hobby I've only sent one item to an auction house to auction.....One day I was going thru the antiques stores in Martinez Calif. ; where Joe DiMaggio was born by the way, and found a huge advertising sign for Vitalis hair dressing featuring Roger Maris. It was a classic, and I thought I'd finally found something great that I could sell since it didn't really fit my collection...too contemporary. So I called Mastro Auctions and spoke to someone about auctioning it. They said to mail them a photo....this was before email. I sent off a photo and the next thing I knew I had a voicemail from Bill Mastro on my answering machine. I am telling you....that was the most convincing voice mail I ever heard....Talk about salesmanship....I remember the part where he goes, to the effect..."This is a great sign, you must be an advanced collector feign speechless, you obviously have great taste"...Somewhere I think I still have that tape, I didn't erase it, it was so remarkable. I'd post an audio link of  it but it would be akin to playing it on the load speaker at the National....I guarantee everyone would get a big kick out it.....probably even Bill himself.

Anyway about the auction....Obviously it's a phenomenal  collection....but after thinking it thru there's some areas I'd like to have seen that are absent....tins for instance....I think Bill was a hard core baseball purist kind of collector...meaning, he collected baseball only and very little generic material. Which would leave out a lot of great looking display pieces. I think If it wasn't connected to a big name player or team, usually he probably wouldn't collect it. Nevertheless, there could have been a Ty Cobb pocket tobacco tin in the sale. Also a Cy Young cigar tin. 


I'm sure Bill and I are basically polar opposite in our collecting approach...In my way of thinking....if an item is antique, athletic related, and great looking....I'm interested. And if the item happens to be connected to a big name team or athlete, all the better.....In Bill's case, I think his view would be....If it's antique, baseball related, and connected to a big name team or player, he'd be interested.....and if the item happened to be great looking....all the better.



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12/5/10 - Note: I wish I had more time to post more than three top picks, but all I could do to hoist up what's here! If I get time to add more I will. -Carlton



12-7-10 2:21 AM PST

I have now added 7 more top picks -Carlton

click here's 



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LOT 533

Click lot number above to go to Legendary listing

c1927 Babe Ruth - Lou Gehrig 

Barnstorming Tour Advertising Poster

21" x 28"

Minimum bid $10,000.00


SOLD FOR $78,000.00


I think I've only seen this incredible poster offered once or twice but can't recall which auction houses. From the first time I saw one of these many years ago, it's been one of my favorite all time sports display pieces! I vaguely recall a conversation about it with someone, and was told a big celebrity had intended to bid on it but forgot....Dustin Hoffman or Billy of the two I think it was. The printing in red and blue really make this poster sing. It's interesting the message of the poster doesn't mention the names of the teams, the Bustin’ Babes and Larrupin’ Lous, or that it was a barnstorming tour. Matter fact,  as advertising messages on posters's a little vague. I guess Ruth and Gerhig's coming was so well known and anticipated in the Fresno area, the poster didn't need to say too much. The Bustin’ Babes and Larrupin’ Lous traveled the country playing exhibition games. They played in 21 cities in 1927, the year of this poster. So you figure BustinBabesHat - Copy.jpg (709259 bytes) there has to be more posters of the tour out there. But I doubt any would look this good. Legendary did a great write up which included details with names of the local players who took's a real good read. Back in 2008 Heritage auctioned an original baseball cap from the Bustin Babes for $131,450.00....I'd rather have this poster any day...I wonder what it'll go for? I was at a National once and a guy was selling reproductions of either this poster or another poster from the tour, for $300.00 each....They weren't the usual edgy quality of the fakes you see on eBay,,,,looked real good, but I couldn't get past having a repro even if it was great.


LOT 489

Click lot number above 

to go to Legendary listing

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14" tall

1910 Bronze Statue of 

Honus Wagner

 Sculpted by

William Clark Noble 1858-1938

Cast by Roman Bronze Works

Minimum bid $5,000.00


SOLD FOR $26,400.00


Antique American sports statues may be the hardest thing to collect, so little was produced. It happens to be, probably my favorite collecting genera, so when I come across a work I've never seen, it's exciting. But when it's by a major American sculptor like this one by William Clark Noble it's really exciting. Up till I opened the HoundStatueNoble.jpg (20154 bytes)Legendary catalog I'd never seen or heard of it. I'm not all that familiar with his work, but Noble is within the circle of major American sculptors from the Beaux-Arts/late 19th century era.


From what I read about him, he started employment as an apprentice to an architectural sculptor in Boston at the age of 12 in 1870. Thereafter he studied in Boston under Richard Saltonstall Greenough, brother of Horatio Greenough, who would be considered one of the patriarchs of American sculpture. Later in 1879 he opened a studio in Newport Rhode Island, before opening a studio in New York City. Newport in 1879 was a haven of the eastern seaboard wealthy with many lavish mansions. I would imagine Noble received commissions and made connections there in Newport that spring boarded his profession as a sculptor.


Based on the photos, this statue of Honus Wagner is, in my opinion, one of the finest examples of American sports sculpture extant. The modeling/art quality is excellent, very well executed. I'm not able to examine it in person but the casting looks very good as well. And it's pedigree...that is, it's provenance ...comes directly from the family of Honus Wagner? Wow...and the size...14 inches tall...That's a very desirable size by bronze collectors...In bronzes, size effects the value, and 14" is big. This is a serious statue. The only thing that is a little puzzling is it only weighs 5 lb. That seems pretty light for 14" inches of bronze. I wouldn't mind seeing a close in  photo of the underside cavity of the base. 


StaggPrattStatue.jpg (21842 bytes)The last time I saw a never before seen  antique sports statue by a major American sculptor was in the 2005 Robert Edward Auction Lot 651. It was  of Amos Alonzo Stagg, sculpted by Bella Pratt, also of Boston by the way. That one was 19 inches tall and cast in plaster. It was a very great exciting work particularly because it was done by Pratt while he was a 20 year old student at Yale. Great piece, but it's kind of in the minors compared to the Wagner. The Wagner is definitely in the's serious art!



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LOT 98

Click lot number above to go to Legendary listing




38 1/2" wide x 9 1/4" tall

Minimum bid $10,000.00


SOLD FOR $57,000.00

Only known example


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As I've said before, I'm not a photo guy...So for me to pick a photo as one of my top three of one of the finest baseball collections ever offered at auction, it has to really be something....TAH-DAH! Now if there we're a few of these extant I'm not sure it would be number 3....But this is the only known example in the world. Here's the Babe when he was just getting going in baseball...second year with the Red Sox!


12/7/10 ADDENDA



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