08 February 2023
Star Wars fans and diehard sports buffs called the shots at Morphy Auctions’ February sale
Star Wars fans and diehard sports buffs called the shots at Morphy Auctions’ February 1-3, 2023 auction, which attracted head-spinning prices and closed the books at nearly $3.1 million. The sale featured both a phenomenal single-owner collection of early Star Wars action figures and a vintage sports card selection that included one of the most sought-after treasures of the “unopened” realm: an intact 1952 Topps baseball wax-pack “brick” that ended up selling for a staggering $873,300.
The heavy hitters from both these categories were offered during the Feb. 1 opening session, with every expectation that bidding would be aggressive. The in-gallery preview prior to the event had been “very active,” said Morphy Auctions founder and president Dan Morphy, who also captained the podium as principal auctioneer.
“Prospective bidders came from all over the East Coast – Boston, Buffalo, North Carolina – and many spent a half-day or more examining the goods. It was an enjoyable experience for collectors at every buying level because they were able to inspect so many rare and incredible items up close. It was great to see the enthusiasm,” Morphy said.
A throng of followers had faithfully kept tabs on absentee bidding online, with many hundreds of would-be buyers tracking the daily momentum of the 1952 Topps brick, which had been the subject of worldwide media attention. Bidders hoping to own the brick knew they would face formidable competition because, in terms of sports card rarities, it resides in the very top echelon. The brick contains eight factory-sealed 5-cent wax packs. In turn, each of the packs contains five baseball cards, which some experts believe could be from Topps’ first series. The sealed brick’s ownership could be traced most recently to a 1991 transaction in Seattle. It was subsequently inspected and deemed authentic by Steve Hart, owner of Baseball Card Exchange (BBCE) and the preeminent authority on unopened product authentication.
The brick’s heart-stopping upward run, which drew 51 bids, finally concluded at $873,300, inclusive of 23% buyer’s premium. It sold to a private collector who wishes to remain anonymous. “That price represents quite an astonishing return on investment,” Morphy remarked. “The brick would have cost 40 cents when it was originally marketed in 1952.”
Another top lot that landed in six-figure territory was an unopened 1970/’71 Topps Basketball first series wax box containing 24 packs, with each pack containing 10 cards and a Topps action poster, for a total of 240 cards and 24 posters. The series is known to be loaded with hardcourt superstars, e.g., Chamberlain, Alcindor, Robertson, Havlicek, West, etc. With BBCE authentication, it soared to a within-estimate price of $116,850.
Hockey fans rose to the occasion, with one of them paying $45,510 for a 1973 OPC second series wax box containing 36 wax packs. Found in Canada last year and one of the oldest (BBCE) authenticated OPC hockey boxes known to exist, it boasts numerous HOF and rookie cards, including multiple Stanley Cup hoisters such as Billy Smith and Larry Robinson. Another BBCE-authenticated treasure, an unopened 1971/’72 Topps NHL Hockey wax box with 24 factory-sealed packs includes cards for Hall of Famer Ken Dryden and numerous other rink legends, e.g., Hull, Howe, Orr, Esposito and Clarke. It scored $22,140.
Other sports-card highlights included an unopened 1954 Topps cello pack, PSA 7, containing a discovery selection of 12 baseball cards, each showing both a closeup and action shot of the player, $15,990; and a 1933 Goudey Gum Co., No. 149 Babe Ruth baseball card, which realised $5,781, nearly three times the high estimate.
For months, chatter about the previously unknown collection that anchored the Star Wars portion of the sale had spread like wildfire throughout the Internet. Known as ‘The Morphy Find,’ the trove of rare, high-condition Star Wars toys had sat undisturbed in original Kenner shipping cartons, largely forgotten in a closet, since the 1970s/’80s. Each of the coveted action figures – most from the lines manufactured from 1977 through 1985 – was original and still encased on its original card. Many were in mint condition.
It was no surprise that the top seller from the blue-chip collection turned out to be a 12C Luke Skywalker action figure with double-telescoping lightsaber. Originally, figures of its type were available only in Kenner’s Early Bird packs. When the toy went into general production, the double-telescoping lightsaber was replaced by a design that was single-telescoping, making figures of the former design extremely rare. At Morphy’s sale, the double-telescoping Luke Skywalker commanded $41,820, more than twice the high estimate.
A firm favourite with Star Wars collectors, an unpunched Star Wars 21A Boba Fett action figure, near-mint on its card, also came from The Morphy Find. The near-mint characterisation of the feared and mysterious bounty hunter sold for $22,140, more than twice the high estimate.
Tin toys did not disappoint, with many selling well above estimate. A rare Linemar (Japan) battery-operated tin-litho Popeye And Olive Oyl Tank in excellent condition with a high-quality reproduction box sold for $22,140; while an always-popular but seldom-seen Hoge tin-litho and pressed-steel Popeye the Sailor in Rowboat dropped anchor at $7,995, twice its high estimate.
Disney collectors recognised the rarity of an Ohio Art Walt Disney sand pail marked “Atlantic City.” Decorated with charming images of Mickey Mouse fixing girlfriend Minnie’s car as Donald Duck looks on, the colourful beach toy changed hands for $10,455, more than nine times the high estimate.
Armchair pilots competed in earnest for a scarce pre-war Japanese seaplane marked “Douglas” and “TWA” on the fuselage and “NC233Y” on its wings. Clean and impressive, even retaining its original propellers, it landed at $31,980, more than 17 times the high estimate.
Also noteworthy, a stunning, near-mint J & E Stevens Two Frogs cast-iron mechanical bank with 98% bright paint sold well above estimate for $12,300; and a large black opaque Lutz marble confidently rolled to $3,198; while a CGC 9.6 copy of Amazing Spider-Man No. 129 snared an above-estimate bid of $6,765.
Dan Morphy confirmed that the three-day auction’s overall sell-through rate was a very strong 93%, adding that The Morphy Find was 100% sold and exceeded its high estimate by 22.88%.
“We couldn’t have been more pleased with the global interest and bidder turnout for this sale,” Morphy said. “Those who attended had nothing but positive comments about the design of our hardbound catalog and the way we displayed the collections.”