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Harvard College Library News: News from around the libraries

Hofer Prize winners announced

Lee hits a homerun with 1933 Goudey baseball card set


Philip Hofer Prize winners Alex Ioffreda, Benjamin Lee and Manuel Lopez Segura.

By Beth Giudicessi, HCL Communications

March 26, 2014 – Harvard College freshman Benjamin Lee is the winner of the 2014 Hofer Prize for Collecting Books or Art for his assembly of the history, artwork and copyright registration of the 1933 Goudey baseball card set.

Thankfully, he didn't keep the chewing gum that originally came with it.

The Goudey Gum Company started in Boston in 1919. In 1933, it introduced its first set of collectible baseball cards and became the first company to issue the cards with a stick of bubble gum in each pack. The 1933 set is one of the "Big Three" most valuable classic baseball card collections, along with the 1909-1911 tobacco card set known as "T206" and the 1952 Topps set containing what many consider to be Mickey Mantle's rookie card.

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Lee has been collecting baseball cards since age four. He has 232 of the 240 cards that make up the 1933 set, some of which will be on display in Lamont Library starting this May.

"I love baseball. I'm an Orioles fan. So I liked collecting baseball cards, naturally," Lee said. He first came across the Goudey cards at a shop in his hometown of Baltimore, which led to his focus on vintage items. "I really liked the artwork on the cards," he said.

Lee and two runners up were acknowledged at a ceremony on March 25 at Houghton Library prior to the delivery of the Philip Hofer Lecture, "The Qianlong Emperor's Copper-Plate Engravings" by Getty Research Institute Chief Curator Marcia Reed.

At the event, Philip Hofer Curator of Printing and Graphic Arts Hope Mayo introduced the winners and presented each one with a certificate and cash prize. She quoted one of the award's judges, saying that what distinguishes Lee's collection is the original, disciplined research he undertook to understand how the cards are produced and to bring to light the careers of illustrators who worked on the vivid Goudey graphics and iconic images now associated with America's national pastime.

"This year's Hofer Prize competition attracted a strong field, with three particularly outstanding submissions," Mayo said.

The other prize winners, economics concentrator Alexander Ioffreda '15 and PhD student in Architecture and Urban Planning Manuel Lopez Segura, shared second place honors. Ioffreda's collection showcases 20th-century Soviet military and civilian medals and documents. Lopez Segura's includes a variety of architecture, urban planning, modern art and related books that played a role in building democracy in Valencia, Spain in the 1980s.

The Philip Hofer prize is open to Harvard undergraduate and graduate students and was established to encourage students interested in collecting art or books. It is awarded yearly to the student or students whose collection of is deemed of exceptional quality, consistency and purpose. Cost, rarity and size of collection are not considered. The prize was established by Melvin R. Seiden, A.B. '52, L.L.B. '55, in honor of Philip Hofer, A.B. '21, L.H.D. '67, founder and first curator of the department of printing and graphic arts in Houghton Library and secretary of the Fogg Art Museum. Hofer was a recognized book collector for his 18th-century German, Iberian and Italian publications.

Recent past winners include art showcasing design at the 1972 Munich Olympics, traveling art of the British Empire and antique maps of Paris and books about Cape Verdean Creole and displacement in post-war Germany.