Baseball Reflections

Demand for Unique Baseball Memorabilia Still High

A fixture of America’s pastime is the memorabilia and collectibles that are cherished by so many. From the bobblehead giveaway to a foul ball caught off the bat of Mike Trout, each piece tells a story and creates a unique connection between fans and the game they love. And with nearly 170 years of history behind it, there are many ways to connect.

But the world of memorabilia and collectibles does not just hold sentimental value; there’s often a price tag attached. Scouring auction sites like eBay will give you everything from a rare Hall of Fame player autograph to a ticket stub from last week’s doubleheader. But sometimes, we see special items show up on the market with enormous price tags.

With the help of All-Star Trading Pins, a company that makes baseball trading pins and other keepsakes for sports teams, we’ve compiled a list below of a few recent memorabilia sales that have shocked the collectible world.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card

For baseball card collectors, there is no more valuable card on the market. Sold in August of 2022 for $12.6 million, this iconic Mickey Mantle card sold for almost $5 million more than the 2nd most expensive baseball card.

Beyond Mantle’s statue as a legend of the game, what made this card so valuable was its condition. It was mint. Out of the estimated 1800 Mantle cards Topps produced that year, it is a rarity. Most are lost to time or have been damaged heavily.

The story of how a mint condition card of the Commerce Comet was found dates back to the 80’s. A former delivery driver had saved a case of Topps cards from a botched distribution in his basement for decades. Unbeknownst to him was the value of what he was holding.

T206 Honus Wagner card

While “The Mick” may hold the record for the most valuable card, the T206 Honus Wagner card might be the most iconic. Known as one of the first baseball cards, it kicked off a hobby that is now a billion-dollar industry. But this card wasn’t sold in packs with a stick of bubble gum, it was included with the purchase of cigarettes. And the size was considerably smaller than modern baseball cards.

In August of 2022, a Wagner card sold for $7.25 million at auction. While other player cards existed at the time, the rarity makes this one so valuable. There are numerous rumors about why so few cards were made of the Flying Dutchman. One account says that Wagner did not like the idea of kids buying cigarettes to obtain his card. Others say he wanted more money. And there’s even a rumor that a printing plate broke which caused reduced numbers to be made.

Whatever the case, there is no denying how valuable this piece of baseball history is. Prices continue to soar at auctions, and even talented forgeries have entered the market and caused chaos.

Jackie Robinson Debut Ticket Stub

April 15, 1947, remains one of the most important days in baseball history. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by playing his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The ticket stub is for the upper stands at historic Ebbets Field and cost $1.75 at the time (quite a bargain compared to today’s prices).

This relatively small and unremarkable ticket stub sold for $480,000 in 2022. This is the most money ever spent on a ticket stub in any sport.

Laws of Baseball

As we finish up the first season with the pitch clock and larger bases, it’s nice to remember that baseball has undergone many changes in its 170 years of existence. And that can be found in an infamous document dubbed “Laws of Base Ball,” written by Doc Adams in the 1850s.

At the time, rules were fluid, including innings, players on the field, and even the length of the bases. His rules solidified the 90-feet base length and 9 players on each team. He’s even credited with creating the shortstop position and the flyball out (at the time, an out was recorded if a ball was picked up on one bounce).

This historic document didn’t surface until 1999, when it was sold at auction in a general document lot. When the new owners did some digging and brought in some historians, they found out they were sitting on one of the most important pieces in baseball history.

In 2016, the Laws of Baseball went up for sale and sold for a whopping $3.2 million dollars.

Aaron Judge’s 62nd Home Run Ball

2022 was a historic season for Major League Baseball and Yankee Outfielder Aaron Judge. On October 4th at Globe Life Field, Judge launched his 62nd homer into the left field bleachers. The homer broke the American League record held by Roger Maris and vaulted Judge into the record books.

Later that year, the ball went up for auction and sold for $1.5 million. The second highest sum for a game ball behind the $3 million paid for Mark McGwire’s 70th. With the specter of steroids looming over that previous era, many consider Judge to be the true homerun king. And the price paid for this ball shows it.

Babe Ruth Road Jersey

Perhaps the most recognizable player in baseball history, Babe Ruth, saw his road jersey sold for $5.64 million in 2019. The auction, which featured a collection of items from the Ruth family, drew immense attention and some wild bids.

A few things increased the value of this jersey. It had been worn by the Bambino for multiple years in New York. And the fact the family put it up for auction ensured the public that this was unlikely to be a fake. With only a few of these existing worldwide, it was an opportunity for the most diehard (and wealthy) collectors to add something truly unique to their collection.

Enjoying the History Yourself

Most of us don’t have the finances to get involved in the bidding for these special items (heck, most of us wouldn’t be allowed in the doors of the auction house). But you can enjoy some baseball history in several ways without taking out another mortgage.

Most modern ballparks feature team museums with statues, trophies, game balls, and other valuable memorabilia from the team’s history. Sean Turner from All-Star Trading Pins, who make pins for Cooperstown tournaments, suggests a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame. “This museum is the greatest collection of baseball memorabilia you’ll ever find. You’ll appreciate the sport and its history more with every visit”.

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