Auction Report: LeRoy Neiman Art-on-Baseballs Collection for Sale

A collection of 129 baseballs in which LeRoy Neiman draw various athletes and entertainers, including this one of Mickey Mantle, are up for sale at Heritage Auctions.

Hockey great Bobby Orr has a baseball, too.

In 1978, LeRoy Neiman—known for his boldly colored, expressionist artwork of athletes, musicians and sporting events—tried his hand at working on small, spherical canvases … baseballs, to be specific. Now, the Charlie McCabe collection of 129 Neiman art-baseball featuring all-time greats from the world of sports and entertainment are currently up for bid at Heritage Auctions in an auction that will close on May 16.

One of the highlights in the auction is an autographed baseball of Mickey Mantle in mid-swing and signed “Mickey — There’ll never be another.” Another sure to draw interest is a ball featuring Babe Ruth and signed “To Charley, another collaboration, LeRoy Neiman ’95.”

Officials at Heritage estimate each ball will sell for around a $4,000 average, while some individual balls will go for more.

Neiman, who sported an epic mustache and was partial to big cigars, died in 2012, 12 days short of 91. He was the official painter for five Olympiads, but his bright, multicolored work covered all types of sports and other entertainment occasions, sometimes working on the sidelines while the event was in progress. He also did illustrations for Playboy magazine.

One of the most interesting of the Neiman baseballs is one of Marilyn Monroe.

It was done a baseball previously autographed by Joe DiMaggio, who was briefly married to Monroe and who famously refused to sign anything related to her.

It includes the phrase: “Marilyn on the ball LeRoy Neiman”

One of the most interesting of the Neiman baseball is a ball depicting Marilyn Monroe that is signed “To Charlie, Best Wishes, Joe DiMaggio.” The ball had to have been signed by DiMaggio at some point earlier, because Joltin’ Joe—who was briefly married to Monroe—would never sign anything related to her. As of this writing, the bidding on the Monroe ball is up to $5,100. The presale estimate was $6,000.

These baseballs, done in colored Magic Markers, also feature non-baseball athletes from Wilt Chamberlain to Bobby Hull to Billy Jean King and Al Unser. Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope make appearances on baseballs, and there are even a couple self-portraits of Neiman that are really nothing more than a hat, a mustache and a cigar.

The collection also includes a baker’s dozen balls featuring the Playboy “Femlin” characters. Neiman created the Femlins—mischievous, black-and-white female sprites wearing only stockings, high heels and opera gloves—in 1955 when Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner asked him to create some visuals for the magazine’s Party Jokes page. The Femlin name comes from a combination of “female” and “gremlin.”


Edward VIII Gold Proof Sovereign Sells for Record-Breaking £516,000

This 1937 Edward VIII gold proof sovereign sold for £516,000 ($825,600) on Thursday, May 8, setting a world record price for any Royal Mint coin ever produced in the United Kingdom.

A 1937 Edward VIII gold proof sovereign sold for £516,000 ($825,600) on Thursday, May 8, setting a world record price for any Royal Mint coin ever produced in the United Kingdom. It was sold as part of The Hemisphere Collection of Gold Sovereigns at A.H. Baldwin & Sons in London, the first complete monarchical collection of gold sovereigns ever to be offered at auction.

A day earlier, an 1876 George I Greece, gold 100-drachmai broke the world record for any modern Greek coin, selling for £216,000 in Baldwin sale of European Coins from the Åke Lindén Collection. This exceptional rarity was from the collection of Swedish numismatist Åke Lindén, one of the world’s most prolific coin collectors. It sold in the latest of a calendar of worldwide auctions hosted by Baldwin’s presenting Lindén’s vast and esteemed collection.

When Edward decided to abdicate the throne after 326 days after his accession to propose to almost-twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson, he threw a wrench in the works at the Royal mint. Gold proof sovereigns were in the process of being produced in advance of his coronation as king of England in 1937, when the coin would be minted and put into circulation, but the abduction scotched those plans. It wasn’t just officials at the mint who were put off; Edward’s annoyance with the traditions and protocols connected to the court and his indifference for constitutional conventions had many miffed.

So, with Edward stepping down, the coin was never to be minted, making the proof a very valuable, indeed. This was only the third time this specific proof has appeared at public auction, and it was the first time it has been up for sale in the U.K. since it was first auctioned in 1984 when it sold for a mere £40,000. It was reported that there was a tense bidding war between to determined numismatics before the hammer fell.

Following the death of King George V—Edward’s father—in January 1936, Edward ascended the throne and proposals for his coinage were produced. Bucking British coinage tradition, Edward refused to allow his profile to face in the opposite direction to his predecessor, insisting on using his preferred left-facing profile. The tradition was started when King Charles II stated that his profile was to face the in opposite direction of Oliver Cromwell on his coinage. The tradition had been followed ever since until Edward.


Christie’s Say it has no Plans to Open Auction House in Iran

As Iranian art—such as artist Shahla Moghaddam’s “Susan”—is in fashion in the Middle East, Iran claimed that Christie’s was considering opening up a branch of its international auction house in the Islamic republic, but a Christie’s spokesman denied the rumor.

After a statement by Iran’s Culture Minister Ali Janati in the official IRNA news agency stating that his office was negotiating with international auction house Christie’s to organize auctions in Iran, a Christie’s spokesman denied the report.

Christie’s does have a presence in the Middle East, hosting a pair of auctions a year in Dubai, but the rumor of a Christie’s event to be held on the Islamic Republic’s resort Kish Island is untrue, says Alexandra Kindermann, senior public relations director for Christie’s.

“Christie’s are happy to hold bi-annual sales in Dubai where we happily offer Iranian art, but we have no plans to open salerooms in Iran,” Kindermann told the Associated Press on Wednesday. “We have not been approached by Iran.”

Iranian contemporary art has become popular with the well-to-do in Iran, who have been buying it up in great numbers lately, but much of the time, the art and buyers have to meet up in Dubai to come together. An auction house with the cache of Christie’s would be a definite cultural victory for Iran.


Gregory Watkins is the editor of WorthPoint.com You can e-mail him at greg.watkins@worthpoint.com

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