Oh, to go back in time and be Bill Jacobellis, snapping pictures of baseball's leading lights as they palled around at Yankee spring training in St. Petersburg. This endearing shot of the Ol' Perfesser with his arms around Mickey and Whitey features a handwritten filing notation on the reverse, "Negative in Mantle Envelope."
THE "GOLDEN AGE OF BASEBALL CARDS" PHOTO ARCHIVE: Featuring the Master Photography Collections of Jacobellis, Olen, Barr, Greene and More
With the recent record sale of a 1952 Topps Mantle photo for $375,000, our hobby's "card-used photo" sector has officially reached a new stratosphere. It's only a matter of time now before we see a barrier-breaking photo—whether Mantle's or a T206 Wagner photo by Carl Horner—hit the million-dollar echelon. And as they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.
Thus, it's our great pleasure to present another selection of offerings from the esteemed "Golden Age" archive, which has played a fundamental role in expanding the popularity, value and knowledge around card-used photos. When the Type I originals of Topps/Bowman photographers Bill Jacobellis and Bob Olen first surfaced at auction in 2014, the terminology of "contact proof" was still relatively unknown. Now, any advanced photo collector immediately recognizes the extraordinary quality of Jacobellis contact proofs, as evidenced by the $21,500 paid for a non-card-used 1951 Mickey Mantle rookie photo in our May 2018 auction. Meanwhile, in an earlier sale, Olen's 1965 Topps rookie photo of Joe Namath—described at that time by expert Henry Yee as "the single most important football photograph ever offered"—hit the whopping record total of $66,000.
Each unique piece in the Bill Jacobellis Collection carries the Jacobellis copyright stamp, measures 4x5, and averages EX to EX-MT condition. These contact proofs represent the ultimate in crystal-clear image quality and are essentially the closest thing to the negative itself. Simply put, the contact-proof development process was not employed for everyday news-service photos printed on a tight publication deadline, but rather was reserved for specialized, studio-caliber purposes such as card production by Topps, Bowman and other leading companies.