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.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Four Winds Field: Indiana’s Baseball “Diamond”

The summer is in full swing, and many parents are looking for fun and exciting experiences to keep their kids engaged and entertained!  Rollercoasters, amusement parks, water slides, and local festivals are the tried-and-true summer entertainment venues. And of course, let’s not forget there’s no shortage of Major League Baseball games to attend in the Midwest! Let me introduce you to the shining diamond of South Bend Indiana: Four Winds Field. The South Bend Cubs are the Single A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Admission prices for minor league baseball games are more affordable than the major league counterpart, and the rejuvenated park includes attractions which are specifically designed for families with children.

The South Bend Cubs underwent a variety of changes during the off-season. The franchise used to be the part of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, but being so close to Chicago and having the strong brand affinity (Cubs), the organization became part of the Chicago Cubs. The genius of the field’s rejuvenation includes:
  • The synthetic grass has been removed. The players are now playing on natural turf.
    • Roger Bossard, head groundskeeper for the White Sox, was brought on as a consultant to make sure the look, feel, and overall aesthetic simulates big league fields!
  • The Performance Center was deliberately placed in right field. You would be hard-pressed to find a better facility in major or minor league baseball…and you certainly won’t find better batting cages. The batting cages were built for players and fans alike; fans are able to feel what it’s like to play in a state-of-the-art facility!
Andrew Berlin, owner of the team, is a true living visionary, and invited me to take a tour his absolute gem of a park. It became immediately obvious that Mr. Berlin has dedicated his life to making sure the customer and employees are always happy. Mr. Berlin congratulated everybody from the bathroom attendants to the food service provider to the manager of the batting cages, as this day was very special; July 3rd 2015 set an attendance record of 8,000 attendees. He wanted to share the good fortune with everyone who helped make his vision possible.

As we continued around the park, fans approached the affable Berlin and thanked him. As I quickly found out, the renovations at the ballpark extend far outside the outfield foul poles; when Berlin purchased the team in 2011, the entire economy in South Bend was on a downturn. The city didn’t have much to look forward to in the evenings and weekends, until Four Winds Fields underwent its big change. One fan told me that Mr. Berlin is “Superman,” because the resulting job creation got the local economy booming and uplifted the entire community.

As my tour came to a close, fireworks were blasting off into the moonlit sky. It was almost as if Indiana was paying homage to Mr. Andrew Berlin, baseball visionary, and the incredible park he’s created.
batting cages

Friday, July 17, 2015

Cleveland Baseball Has Never Looked So Good

 Opening Day this past April, I paid a visit to Cleveland, where the Indians are hoping to improve their on-field performance and attract more fans in the 2015 season. Like many other ballparks across the country, Progressive Field has renovated and made significant updates to their space to enhance the fan experience.

Heritage Park – which is a tribute to former Cleveland baseball players that have graced the baseball diamond – is now more readily accessible for fans and passers-by. The statues of former Cleveland Indian greats (Bob Feller, Larry Doby, and Jim Thome) are located in center field and are free for viewing.

Another major addition to Progressive Field is the Bob Feller Terrace. Feller was an 8-time All-Star, pitched 3 no-hitters, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962, and was winner of the 1948 World Series against the Boston Braves. He was born and raised on his family farm in Van Meter, Iowa, where he pitched with his father on a daily basis. Van Meter had its own Bob Feller Museum, which housed many of Feller’s baseball and Navy artifacts for many years. The museum hosted many autograph signings and attracted many fans who wanted to learn more about the Iowan native and Hall of Famer. Feller died in 2010 and the Museum saw a declining interest in subsequent years, finally closing its doors in 2014. All of Feller’s collectibles were then moved to their new permanent home at Progressive Field.
bob feller 2
The Bob Feller Terrace is free to every visitor to the ballpark, according to Curtis Danberg, VP of Communications for the Cleveland Indians. It’s a wonderful place to watch the game, have a drink, and view some of the rare Feller collectibles, which are divided into 6 categories: Pop Culture, Post-Career, Feller Accomplishments, Military, Baseball Career, and Van Meter. Feller’s father’s original catcher’s mitt and items from Feller’s Naval service aboard the USS Alabama are included, as well as the famous bat that Babe Ruth used as a cane in 1948 when he was dying of cancer. These collectibles are true gems of baseball history and are certainly a highlight of a trip to Cleveland.
New in 2015, there is a two-story bar in right field nicknamed, “The Corner.”  For a $13 District Ticket, you get a standing room ticket, one beer, and a very good view of the field…this is by far the best deal in all of baseball! Additionally, there are a number of lively attractions in right field to entertain fans between innings. A favorite is the “Fast Pitch” machine, where fans can determine just how fast their fastball really is. Each fan eager to show off their skills can have 3 pitches for just $1. I watched Kyle Mrdinna, 13 years old, throw a lightning fast pitch that clocked in at 76 MPH, significantly faster than anybody else, including many adults!
There are many more exciting changes coming to Progressive Field in 2015, and I highly recommend that you make a trip to Cleveland to experience them on your own. Don’t miss the Bob Feller Terrace and all the wonderful history it holds…and good luck showing off your fastball!