Extraordinarily Rare 1933 Ed Hanlon Signed Letter

Sold For: $7,638

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1006

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One-page typed letter, dated February 13, 1933, signed by Hall of Fame player/manager Ed Hanlon. Together with its original mailing envelope (postmarked February 13, 1933). Any and all signature examples of Ed Hanlon are exceedingly rare, let alone a signed letter. This is not only the first example of an Ed Hanlon signed letter we ever handled, it is the first and only we have ever seen. Its provenance is equally significant. This letter was written to, and originates from, Dr. John O'Meara, who was an early hobby pioneer in the field of autograph collecting. A resident of Providence, Rhode Island, O'Meara was not simply a fan, but an astute historian of the game and his legendary collection included a vast array of correspondence from ballplayers past and present, including George Wright, Connie Mack, Babe Ruth, and Ty Cobb. O'Meara's knowledge and passion for the game endeared him to many of the older players, most of whom regarded him as a friend rather than an autograph seeker. Ed Hanlon was one "old timer" who obviously enjoyed hearing from O'Meara, as evidenced by this splendid letter, which features significant baseball content. In his missive, written upon his personal stationery, Hanlon reminiscences about his early playing days and also expresses joy in hearing from an old fan. In full:

My Dear Dr. O'Meara: I was very much interested to receive your letter regarding the old "Rhode Islands." Yes, I was a member of that team. At the time I joined the team the press criticised [sic] the management rather severely for bringing a "consumptive kid" to play for Rhode Island, referring to my youth and slightness of build. However, the press and I became great friends not long after! I thoroughly enjoyed your letter, as I am always interested in hearing from "fans" of the old days. With kindest regards, I am Sincerely Edward Hanlon [signed].

Hanlon's signature has been scripted in bold, black fountain pen and grades "10." Further illustrating the close relationship enjoyed by O'Meara and Hanlon, this piece is accompanied by a handwritten letter (also together with its original envelope, postmarked May 25, 1934) to O'Meara from Hanlon's daughter, Lillian Hanlon Baugh. In her letter, Baugh writes that her father has suffered a heart attack and his condition is not good: "...His mind is not at all clear and he is very thin and weak. If you write to him, might I suggest that you send the letter here, and I will try to bring it to his attention in one of his clear moments. He always has enjoyed your letters so much." The Hanlon letter (8.5 x 11 inches) displays normal mailing folds, and is in spectacular Excellent to Mint condition. The mailing envelope is in Excellent condition. The four-page letter from Hanlon's daughter (written on four sides of a single fold-over sheet; 5 x 6.5 inches) is in Excellent to Mint condition, and the mailing envelope grades Vg-Ex.

Given the special provenance of this piece, plus the fact that it is a full letter, written on Hanlon's personal stationery, and features a flawless signature example, this letter may be the finest Ed Hanlon signed item in existence. The only other Ed Hanlon signature example Robert Edward Auctions has ever offered, which, coincidentally, also originated from the O'Meara collection, was that found on an autograph album page. The Hanlon signature page was separated from the balance of O'Meara's autograph album (which was also offered in the same auction). It appeared as Lot 959 in our May 2009 auction, where it realized a final sale price of $15,275. One other example, sold in the famous Barry Halper Collection auction, appeared on a hotel ledger sheet with dozens of other signatures. The rarity of Hanlon's signature cannot be overstated. Hanlon is one of the key rarities in all of Hall of Fame autograph collecting. Almost all of the most advanced baseball autograph collections are without an example. The reason for its great rarity is primarily timing. As a nineteenth-century player and later manager, whose career spanned the years 1880 to 1907, Hanlon was not active in the era in which signature collecting was popular. In addition, Hanlon passed away in 1937 but wasn't elected to the Hall of Fame until 1996; therefore, few collectors had any reason to obtain his signature while he was alive, or save it years after his death. Also, during Hanlon's lifetime, few individuals, such as Dr. John O'Meara, had both access to Hanlon and an interest in collecting baseball autographs. This combination of circumstances has resulted in the extreme rarity of Hanlon's signature today. Hanlon was a very steady but somewhat average player. He was, however, a superb student of the game as a player, and he parlayed that acumen into a highly successful managerial career, which is responsible for his election to the Hall of Fame. Hanlon captured three pennants and two World Championships with the famed Baltimore Orioles during the 1890s before leading Brooklyn to two consecutive pennants and a World Championship in 1899 and 1900. He retired from baseball in 1907. Total: 4 items (two letters, each with its original mailing envelope). LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $7,638

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