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Sports Then and Now

The Most Sought After Baseball Collectibles

Posted on May 21, 2021 by Mark Geddes

Memorabilia has become a cornerstone of modern sports. It takes but a minute of entering a stadium to be inundated with concession stands and vendors hawking the latest merchandise. Fans collect, display, and sell these in an ever-growing marketplace. But things were not always this way.

Sports collectibles were an afterthought in the past. These throwaway items were given out in a box of cereal or a pack of cigarettes. As people discarded these items that ended up stored in attics with other junk, their scarcity created higher prices. Below are some of the rarest and most sought-after collectibles in sports.

Honus Wagner Baseball Card

Ask any baseball card collector what the industry’s crown jewel is, and they’ll immediately zero in on the infamous T206 Honus Wagner. This card was produced by the American Tobacco Company back in 1909 and had a limited release. A recent sale of this card in 2016 went for over $3 million.

What makes this card so unique is its rarity. While the company produced thousands of cards, very few Honus Wagner ones went into circulation due to a rumored financial dispute. Even fewer are in existence today.

For fans of the card, Topps did reissue it in 2002 and 2020. But don’t expect to fetch the same price.

1911 Philadelphia Athletics Pin

While baseball trading pins have become standard fare in the Little League and beyond, pins were used as an old-fashioned press pass. And for the 1911 World Series between the Philadelphia Athletics and New York Giants, the press was given this now valuable item.

The pin resembles a medal more than the enamel gems we see today. The gold-plated metal features the words “American Baseball Club of Philadelphia” around two bats, a baseball, and the infamous elephant that still stands as a symbol for the Oakland A’s today. A cloth ribbon attached above mentions Shibe Park and the words Press emblazoned on top. It sure beats the cheap lanyards of today.

1927 World Series Ticket Stub

With advances in technology, physical tickets have become a thing of the past. Now you swipe your phone or print off your ticket on paper. But at one time, ticket stubs were a great keepsake and reminder of a special event you attended.

Nothing is more valuable in the collector’s world than ticket stubs from the Yankees’ historic World Series runs of the 1920’ and ’30s. An untorn ticket from the 1927 World Series sold for nearly $42,000 at auction. Another from the infamous 1932 World Series where Babe Ruth called his shot sold for over $20,000. Not bad for a 100-year-old piece of paper.

The value of a ticket stub is primarily attached to a special moment that took place at that game. Jackie Robinson’s debut or Mark McGwire breaking the home run record are some examples.

1961 New York Yankees Bobblehead

Bobblehead giveaways at the ballpark have become a tradition in today’s game. But that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 1960s, teams began distributing bobbleheads (or nodders as they were called) to fans. These items were handpainted in Japan and look less life-like than the ones we commonly see today.

So what makes the 1961 Yankees bobblehead so valuable? A few things. First, it is much larger than the standard bobblehead. That’s because it was used to promote the smaller bobbleheads. Only a handful were made, and with a ceramic build, it wasn’t easy to keep them all in one piece 60 years later.

While this particular bobblehead didn’t feature a specific player, it did sell for a whopping $60,000 at auction in 2014.

Babe Ruth Hat

Game-worn gear has been a popular collectible in recent times, with teams auctioning off the goods and authenticating them. But the real value is in old gear, particularly jerseys and hats. That’s where the story of Babe Ruth’s hat comes into play.

In 1997, Yankees pitcher David Wells wore the same hat Babe Ruth wore in the 1930s. The cap cost Wells $35,000, which seems pricey. But he later went on to sell that hat in 2012 for half a million dollars. Talk about an excellent investment.

1920 Babe Ruth Jersey

As you can see from this list, the Yankees and Babe Ruth have a special place in collectors’ hearts. And perhaps the pinnacle of this genre of collecting is his 1920 game-worn jersey. This was the first known jersey in the Yankee pinstripes.

The actual jersey has a long history, having gone from the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum to being sold for over $4 million to a private collector. To put that in perspective, the uniform Lou Gehrig wore the day he gave his infamous “Luckiest men on the face of the Earth” speech went for $450,000.

Ken Griffey Jr Funko Pop!

Funko Pops are new to the collectible scene but have a large and loyal following. These vinyl figures come in every team and dozens of famous players. And most can be had for around $20 or less.

But there is one Funko that stands out from the rest. The Ken Griffey Jr gold edition. This bobblehead was limited to just 24 made and was exclusively sold at Safeco Park in Seattle. Pricing guides have it listed around $2500 at the moment.

The Mariners are no stranger to expensive Funko Pops either. A silver Ichiro Suzuki and Bronze Edgar Martinez both sell for over $1000 on auction sites.

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