Oct 29th 2012 02:00 pm |
A few weeks ago I received an email from a guy in Baltimore who was selling a major piece of racing history. He had on E-Bay a bound set of the Turf and Sport Digest that covered a stretch from 1933 to 1977, forty-four years of racing during the peak of its popularity. I have written about my affection for Turf and Sport in this space before and have used it as a source on a few occasions. In doing a little research, I found only about ten libraries in the country that held all or a portion of the popular racing magazine that folded in the late 1980s.
When I asked the seller what price he hoped to get at auction, the number he quoted was far out of my price range. Even so, I reached out to writer extraordinaire and fellow racing historian Teresa Genaro and told her the story, asking her if she knew anyone who might be interested. We eventually started talking about going 50/50 and making a bid ourselves. After deciding on our maximum bid, we waited it out. I figured we had little shot of winning and I tried to put out of my head the idea of a dealer buying the set, cutting up the bound volumes into single issues, and scattering them to many different buyers. You can’t blame dealers for making a buck but it’s always hard to stomach valuable research collections being broken up and sold.
When Teresa sent me a text on Friday afternoon, I had actually forgotten about it. The auction ended that night and the bid at the time stood far below our price. Teresa starting bidding as I made my way home from work. By the time I made it home, the bids had doubled and approached our maximum bid. We decided to wait it out and, if still in our price range, we would make one more bid at the zero hour and hope to get lucky, Teresa texted me with about a half hour to go in the auction and told me the price stood slightly above our maximum. We both decided to kick in a few more dollars for a final surge in deep stretch.
I watched E-bay as the auction came to an end. When I refreshed the page as the clock neared zero, our final bid, described by Teresa as a Personal Ensign-like surge for the wire, came out on top. Both of us were in shock. I think we both committed a somewhat irrational amount of money for a cause that seemed lost from the start. After getting over the sticker price, I started to realize what we now owned and elation set in.
I drove down to Baltimore to pick up our loot from the seller in Baltimore last week. It turned out, the seller saved the bound magazines from the trash. A few years back he worked for a certain horse racing TV station in California that purchased the magazine with the hopes of creating a library for staff. When the library didn’t pan out, they were going to throw them away…as in toss them in a dumpster! The seller, who asked to remain anonymous, stepped in and said he would take them. He piled them into his car and held them for a nearly a decade. He no longer works in the racing industry but still loves the game. He is giving 20% of the proceeds from the sale to Thoroughbred Charities of America — a wonderful gesture on his part. I was unabashed about my excitement when I went down there to pick them up. He seemed genuinely happy that the racing history he saved from oblivion was going to someone who would put it to good use.
Teresa and I are going to split the loot in five or ten year blocks and make an annual exchange. We haven’t conducted the “draft” yet but Teresa (a big fan of Busher and Twilight Tear) has already staked a claim to the mid-1940s.
Since I have had them home, I have had a hard time not looking at them (much to the chagrin of my new finance — I got engaged the day after the big purchase). I usually take a break from the site after the Breeders’ Cup but am feeling really inspired by what I have found so far. Looks like things will be busy here at Colin’s Ghost during the winter.
Here are a few pages from Turf and Sport that I snapped with my phone…this is just the tip of the iceberg:
I will be back with another post this week with links to a few race previews I am writing about the 2012 Breeders’ Cup. Also, be sure to check out the latest auction at Derby Auctions — the next sale starts on November 2nd.
Thanks for reading and good luck!