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Original Issue

Going, Going, Gone! The Halper collection auction was a grand slam

Chris Schutte never saw them coming. The manager of an antique
sporting goods shop in Hilton Head, S.C., Schutte had arrived at
last Thursday's opening session of the weeklong auction of The
Barry Halper Collection of Baseball Memorabilia giddy as a
schoolgirl, his wish list in hand and visions of owning the
Babe's wallet in his eye. Sure, he had come to Sotheby's in New
York City to do the same thing as most everyone else--buy as
much as he could afford and then turn the items around as
quickly and as profitably as possible--but he also wanted a
little something for himself.

Of course, no one--not Sotheby's representatives or the
collectors and dealers in attendance or Halper himself--could
have predicted the rabid comportment of the deep-pocketed
bidders who, at times, acted like vultures fighting over a
carcass. Barely an hour into the sale Schutte slumped in his
chair and stared at the floor, empty-handed and defeated, the
wallet he'd hoped to buy having gone for $7,500, though
Sotheby's had estimated its value at $1,200 and Schutte at
$2,500. By its raucous conclusion, the night far exceeded
expectations, not just in dollars spent (more than $2 million
paid for 133 items that Sotheby's figured would go for a maximum
of $1.3 million) but also in chests thumped.

"Most of these people here didn't have a chance," Dave Bushing,
a sports memorabilia dealer from Chicago, said with a chuckle.
"If they thought they'd walk out of here with anything
worthwhile, then they were idiots." Bushing and partner Dan
Knoll had won the night's main event, a tussle for the bat Babe
Ruth used as a cane in his last Yankee Stadium appearance, on
June 13, 1948, for which they paid $107,000. "No one else was
taking that bat home," he said breathlessly. "I would've gone to
150 grand for it."

Consider the final moments in Thursday night's bidding for Lot
No. 101, the 1942 Oscar for film editing that went to The Pride
of the Yankees. Scott Goodman, a pugnacious New York dealer,
eschewed his paddle while making his last few bids. Instead he
stood and pointed dramatically at the tote board, daring anyone
to beat his final--and successful--bid of $57,500, a figure
nearly three times the estimated price. The ovation that
followed, easily the night's biggest, was met only by Goodman's
defiant stare.

At the next morning's session one onlooker seemed out of place
in his drab khakis, worn tennis shoes and garish jacket
emblazoned with his company's Internet address. Alexander
Cartwright IV--the great-great-grandson of Alexander Cartwright
Jr., whom many baseball historians credit with the invention of
the game--had come from Bonney Lake, Wash., to witness the sale
of Lots No. 134 through 149, items that had decorated his
childhood home until his mother sold them to Halper. As each was
auctioned, he shook his head and sighed. "I'd try to buy some of
this stuff back, but I'm not a wealthy man," he said. "To these
guys I'm probably just another schlepp."

COLOR PHOTO: NOLA LOPEZ Solid-gold leather Joe DiMaggio's 1936 rookie glove sold for $40,250 on Sunday.