Famous photo of Ty Cobb sells for $250K in private sale

A photograph of baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, taken by Charles Conlon, was sold to a collector in a private sale for $250,000.
A photograph of baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, taken by Charles Conlon, was sold to a collector in a private sale for $250,000.

Credit: Professional Sports Authenticator

Credit: Professional Sports Authenticator

It is one of the most famous photographs of baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb -- the Georgia Peach, gritting his teeth as he slides into third with a stolen base, kicking up a cloud of dirt as New York Highlanders infielder Jimmy Austin tries to make the tag. Cobb's Detroit Tigers won the game, 6-2.

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The "Type 1" photograph, taken by renowned photographer Charles Conlon, fetched a record $250,000 in a private sale, according to a news release from Professional Sports Authenticator.

That broke the previous mark of $77,098, when the same photo was sold by RMY Auctions in 2015, according to Sports Collectors Daily.

The sale was brokered by J.P. Cohen, president of Memory Lane Inc., a Tustin, California-based collectibles and memorabilia company.

"It is truly an incredible price for an original photograph," Cohen said in a news release. "Our collector really wanted that photo and we were more than happy to facilitate the sale."

The buyer wished to remain anonymous, Cohen said.

According to the PSA news release, the 8-inch by 10-inch photograph is considered a "Type 1" photograph, which means it was developed from the original negative within two years of the picture being snapped. PSA said this specimen is the only "Type 1" version of this photgraph that exists.

Although the caption attached to the graded photo says it was taken in 1909, The Sporting News reported it was taken by Conlon on July 23, 1910, at New York's Hilltop Park.

Conlon took between 30,000 and 40,000 original photos between 1904 and 1942. Baseball author Neil McCabe told The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, New York, in a June 4, 1995, article that the photograph was Conlon's "biggest money maker."

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"It has been reproduced tens of thousands of times," McCabe told the newspaper. "In 1937, Conlon estimated he was paid more than a thousand times for the right to reproduce it.

"Each time, he'd get anywhere from a dime to 50 cents. So what did he make over the years from that, $250?"

Henry Yee, PSA's lead authenticator, said in the news release that "action photos" of major league baseball games were "very, very rare" before World War I.

"This is a remarkable photo for its time, and its stature as one of the greatest baseball images ever recorded has only grown since then," Yee said.