1920s Cuban baseball cards hit $57,500 in Hake's auction

A complete set of 1920s Tomas Gutierrez Cuban baseball cards has sold in Hake's Americana & Collectibles auction, which closed on March 20.

Most of the cards in the set are known in numbers of five or less

The cards, featuring players from the 1923-1924 Cuban Professional League, were originally issued in packs of Diaz cigarettes, and are some of the scarcest of all Cuban cards. The complete set of 84 sold for $57,500.

"To give you an idea of how valuable this set is to collectors, we sold eight cards from the same series (from the late Richard Merkin's collection) for $30,000. The cards in this set are in higher grade, and there are 84 of them," said Hake's general manager, Alex Winter.

According to Hake's, the SGC/PSA population reports for this rare issue show that most cards exist in numbers of five or less, while many have less than two known examples.

The set also features Negro League stars, such as the #14 Oscar Charleston, the last numerically graded example of which appeared at auction in 2008.

As mentioned by Alex Winter, Hake's has recently been responsible for the sale of the Cuban baseball collection of Richard Merkin (1938-2009), a renowned painter, illustrator and cultural figure famous for his role as a "professional dandy".

A regular contributor to the New Yorker and Vanity Fair (as well as making a guest appearance on the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover), Merkin was also an avid collector of baseball cards, illustrating the book Leagues Apart: The Men and Times of the Negro Baseball Leagues by Larry Ritter.

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