Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Vintage Baseball Card Exhibit Brings Back Memories at the Met

Seeing decades’ old high-grade vintage baseball cards “out in the wild,” is the highlight of any baseball card collector. If that’s not possible, head to “The Old Ball Game: New York Baseball 1887-1977” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Met Museum New York City
(Met Museum New York City)
The exhibit includes nearly 400 cards from the Jefferson Burdick baseball card collection. These cards exclusively feature New York baseball clubs dating back to 1887 and many are on display for the very first time.
Burdick, known as the “founding father” of baseball cards, saw the pieces of cardboard as historic artifacts and not for investment purposes.
In 1947, he advised the Museum of Metropolitan Art of his intentions to donate every card and piece of memorabilia in his collection of more than 30,000 cards to the museum. Over the course of 15 years, Burdick frequently visited the museum and painstakingly glued each card into albums and also inventoried his entire collection, which will be digitized by 2020. Burdick pasted the final card from his collection into an album at the Met on Jan. 10, 1963. The next day he checked himself into a hospital and died March of 1963.
I walked the exhibit with the fine curator of this specific exhibit, Allison Rudnick. “The joy in seeing people look at the exhibit organized around a specific theme, New York baseball, is very special,” Rudnick confided in me.

Many card collectors think the idea of bubble gum being inserted into packs of baseball cards originated from Topps in the early 1950s. But it was Goudey Gum Company in Boston was that first paired gum with baseball cards in 1933. There are numerous Goudey gum cards on display. The set is littered with hall of famers, including Babe Ruth. Ruth has four different cards in the set. Card #53 has a yellow background and is the most difficult card to find from the set. Rudnick did a great job of doing research and choosing exactly which cards to display for the maximum impact. It was no accident that Ruth #53 was chosen to be on display.

A few passersby in the exhibit were very familiar with the early 1950s Topps and Bowman card issues. These gentlemen remember going to the five and dime stores in the 1950s and buying the cards on display. One of the men told me, “This collection reminds me of my childhood. It was so great and much more simple back then.”

This high-quality exhibit is just one of the many exhibits at the Met. If you are in the New York area, stop by and see the cards yourself. Seeing the cards in person will leave you with a smile on your face and memories of yesteryear.
The Burdick exhibit, “The Old Ball Game: New York Baseball 1887-1977,” is on display in New York through Nov. 13 2016.
Met Museum- New York City
(Met Museum- New York City)
Met Museum New York City
(Met Museum New York City)
Burdick 202, 43(a-6)
(Burdick 202, 43(a-6))
Met Museum- New York City
(Met Museum- New York City)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Scrapbook Surprise: Vintage Old Judge Baseball Cards

1887 Old Judge Baseball Cards
At the turn of the 20th century, only the wealthy and privileged had access to a safety deposit box at banking institutions. In fact, most did not even have money deposited at a bank. They didn’t trust the banks and felt more secure with their money under the mattress.

The Old Judge Baseball Cards issued between 1887-1890 were some of the first mainstream baseball cards created. These cards depict pictures of hundreds of ballplayers pasted onto thick cardboard. The small black and white cardboard relics are widely collected today, but hard to find. Plastic sleeves and cases didn’t exist in the late 1800s. The most popular way to secure baseball cards was to glue them into a scrapbook so they wouldn’t fall out.

I recently met a lady in the suburbs of Chicago who inherited the scrapbooking gene from her mother. The beautiful scrapbook was filled elegant postcards from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Animals, presidents and cities were just a few of the many decorated subjects in the scrapbook. Additionally, there were 13 Old Judge Baseball Cards that were neatly trimmed and glued into the scrapbook. The owner, Jocelyn Tobias of Defining Moments in Chicago, is still scrapbooking today. This is a second generation business and she sells custom scrapbooks and frames for events.

The idea of baseball cards being found in a scrapbook isn’t all that rare. Cards are found from time to time in old books as well. I have seen books with false bottoms or a hollowed out inside where a baseball card can be stored. Spring and summer are times when many of these cards are unearthed as the weather breaks and garage sale season gets underway.

Being involved with vintage baseball card and sports memorabilia for nearly 20 years, I know there are still old baseball cards buried in attics. If you have any old sports collectibles buried in an attic, please call me. You could be the subject of my next featured column.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Jackie Robinson Still 'Topps' for Baseball Card Collectors in 2016

Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier on April 15, 1947, when he took the field on Opening Day for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Now, 69 years later, Major League Baseball continues to celebrate the Hall of Famer’s historic achievements.

On Friday, April 15, 2016, all players and on-field personnel will wear Number 42, and all MLB clubs will host pre-game ceremonies, including the Los Angeles Dodgers who will host Rachel and Sharon Robinson, the wife and daughter of Jackie Robinson.

The Jackie Robinson 1952 Topps Baseball Card in MINT condition sells for over $50k in the current market. 

1952 topps jackie robinson PSA 9
The rare card is among 407 cards in the widely collected and highly desirable 1952 Topps baseball card set released as part of a plan to draw market share from Bowman Baseball Card Company.
Topps did two things in 1952 in route to putting Bowman out of business.   They designed a set with more cards and larger-sized cards.
Values of near perfect condition baseball cards from the 1952 Topps set continue to increase with many investors seeing cards as an asset class.
Additionally, baby boomers who purchased these cards during their youth are now trying to buy back their childhood memories. These people, who are at retirement age and have disposable income, are targeting key hall of famers such as Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews and Jackie Robinson. 
It’s difficult if not impossible to find a mint version of 1952 Topps Jackie Robinson for several reasons.
  1. Kids played with their cards in the ’50s and ’60s.  No one thought about preserving these cards as investments. In fact, most kids inserted the cards into their bicycle spokes, which then made a noise as they rode down the street.
  1. The technology of the printing press was very different in the 1952. Unlike today, every card was not centered top to bottom and left to right in 1952.
  2. The 407 cards in the 1952 set were printed and distributed at different times throughout baseball season. Card #311 (Mickey Mantle’s rookie card) and Card #407 (Eddie Mathews’ rookie card) were distributed at the end of the season when many kids had already spent their allowances or moved on to football season, which was already underway. As a result, many of the last cards in the series were never sold.
This is a very fun set to collect. Good luck!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Marlins Man Has A Master Plan

In 2014, a man wearing a bright red Miami Marlins baseball jersey was always sitting behind home plate at some of the most watched baseball games throughout the entire year. Baseball fans who watched ESPN Sunday Nite Baseball, Fox Sports Game of the week, MLB Playoffs, and other games kept noticing this bright red jersey. 

This Marlins jersey also showed up at the Preakness, Kentucky Derby, and NFL games. Sports fans’ across the country began to ask several questions. Who is this guy? Why is he always wearing a Marlins jersey? How can he afford to attend all of these games?

In 2015, the Marlins jersey returned to sporting events across the country. But this time it was different. The Marlins jersey was seen with numerous people surrounding him at all times. Were these new fans or new friends? The big question was who are these people?

The man wearing the Marlins jersey at sporting events across the country is Laurence Leavy, an attorney from South Florida. Leavy has been a sports’ fan for several decades. For many years, Leavy would buy season ticket packages for FSU, Miami Dolphins, University of Florida, and of course the Miami Marlins.

Instead of attending these games with friends’ or clients’, Leavy enjoys buying premium tickets for strangers’. As Leavy told me, “I want to pay it forward. In 2015, I went to 301 different sporting events in 48 cities. The people who attend games with me varies. I have gone to games with firefighters, sick kids in children hospitals, seniors, etc. I get enjoyment when I see them smile. For three hours during the baseball game, their stress disappears. I am changing lives.” Leavy sure is changing lives and he has become a “celebrity” because of this. Offers are pouring in for Leavy to throw out a first pitch at MLB games, television commercial opportunities, speaking engagements, and even a baseball card.

In 2016, the story is no longer who is Marlins Man and what is he doing at every major sporting event across the country. Leavy has been embraced by fans’ across the country. They appreciate his generosity. Leavy’s message for 2016 is “to pay it forward.” “If somebody does something nice for you, please do something nice for somebody else. I was at a Yankees game and Alex Rodriguez gave a baseball to a young kid. The young kid immediately turned around and gave this ball to a disabled child. The kid who got the ball from Alex Rodriguez told his parents’ he gave the ball away because ‘Marlins Man would be proud of me’. When I heard that, I knew I was impacting lives. “

The world would sure be better if everybody embraced the “pay it forward” message. To keep track of Marlins Man and see how he is impacting lives, he can be followed on twitter. @Marlins_Man

MLB: World Series-Kansas City Royals at San Francisco Giants

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Is This Babe Ruth’s Final Autograph?

Babe Ruth’s autograph has always been in high demand. But many fans don’t realize that Ruth was a very prolific signer. He grew up in a Maryland orphanage and would always oblige when a child asked for an autograph.

The Sultan of Swat died 67 years ago, but the demand for his signature is still far greater than the supply. As a collector and fan, seeing authentic Ruth signatures never gets old.

I recently met Bob, the proud owner of a unique Babe Ruth signed item. The 4×6 photo is a fairly common item signed by Ruth in the months leading up to his death in August 1948. Anytime a child asked for Ruth’s autograph in 1948, the Bambino would pull out and sign this black-and-white photo from inside his jacket.

The signed photo that Bob wanted me to inspect was a bit different.  The photo originated from Bob’s cousin who’s uncle was a priest in New York City. The priest visited Ruth in Memorial Hospital on August 16, 1948—the day he died. Ruth apparently signed a photo for him. The signed photo is not dated. However, the priest did write a note to Bob’s cousin detailing the circumstances of how the photo was obtained and dated the correspondence August 16, 1948. Bob has had the signed photo in his possession since 1967 when his aunt sent it to his mother. Bob’s mom gave the photo to Bob.

It is always exciting to see signed Babe Ruth memorabilia. I always ask people how they obtained an item.  The story behind how each item was obtained is so interesting. The letter from the priest detailing how and when Ruth signed this photo is truly spectacular and unique. The history is extremely valuable and something that will live on in perpetuity.

Ruth Photo

Ruth Priest Letter

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame Busts
The Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio was “buzzing with excitement” last week: The Class of 2015 was about to be enshrined. Attendance always swells during HOF induction weekend, as fans, family, and former players descend on the football museum.  Some museums across the country are seeing declining attendance, but this is not the case at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, located just off Interstate 77.  “Attendance is increasing,” says Joe Horrigan, Chief Communications Officer & EVP of the HOF. “We have thirteen national events that football fans love.”

Change is coming to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. According to Horrigan, a major expansion is in the works. The plan is to build a sports and entertainment complex that will create a strong fan experience and promote the history and values of the NFL. An amateur football complex with ten football fields will attract national tournaments to Canton. “We are going to be [to football] what Williamsport is to baseball,” Horrigan says. A world class training center, a hotel/convention center, retail space with restaurants, and a renovated/enhanced football museum are also part of the plan. The construction will take place over three years and should be completely finished by fall 2018.

A visit to the Pro Football HOF would not be complete without taking a tour of the museum. As a vintage sports memorabilia certified appraiser, I always enjoy seeing the old game-worn jerseys, programs, and of course helmets. The numerous interactive displays alone are worth the price of admission. The education provided by the videos is top notch. Only 10% of the collection is on display at any given time, but the HOF produces travelling exhibits at different venues including cultural institutions, allowing people who aren’t geographically close to Canton to view the fantastic collection.

As my day at the museum was ending, I asked Horrigan to name one piece of memorabilia he would like to have at the museum. “I wish I had Dwight Clark’s ‘the catch’ football,” says Horrigan. Clark’s catch in the 1982 NFC Championship game (San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys) signified the end of domination for the Cowboys and the start of the 49ers dynasty in the 1980s.

If you have never visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame, you are missing out.