Every year around this time, I take you on a trip through the baseball-related merchandise on the world’s leading on-line auction site. Oh, the fun we’ve had! This year will be no different, I promise.
Movie poster for Babe Comes Home, starring Babe Ruth
Minimum bid: $40,000 plus buyer’s premium
If you have the money to pay something called a “buyer’s premium,” then you probably have the money to pay somebody to read this for you. One thing about movie artwork that has certainly changed: Babe Ruth is shown here with both chins on display. On a modern poster they would not only airbrush those to hell, they would place his head on somebody else’s body, (probably Juan Gonzalez‘s) for the full-length pose. Babe appeared in 10 movies in his career, but was hardly ever given a chance to break out of the casting prejudice that only allowed him to play a character named “Babe Ruth.” (You may remember him from such films as Pride of the Yankees.) The only exception was in this, his second film, in which his character was named “Babe Dugan.” That, people, is what those in the business call “range.”
1934 World Series Autographed Baseball
Minimum bid: $500,000
This is a cryptic posting. There is no picture of the item, for one thing. For another, the shipping cost is listed as $3.59. For that money, they basically can write your name and address on your half-million-dollar baseball and toss it into the nearest mail box. It doesn’t say which team signed it, or list the players whose autographs appear thereon. It does claim to have the “entire” team, though, including “N.L. President Ford Frich” (sic). Good old Ford! Scrappy second baseman with the Gashouse Gang… wait, Ford Frick was a sportswriter who worked his way up to Commissioner (are you listening Peter Gammons?). In 1934 he was director of public relations for the National League. I suppose it’s possible he snuck his John Hancock onto the ball, but it’s more likely the seller means Frankie Frisch. As I have said many times, in my informative “How to Sell On-Line” DVD series ($39.95 through infomercials only), it’s all about presentation-especially on high dollar items that have overly ambitious minimum bid requirements.
Lucky Strike Cigarettes Window Display
Minimum bid: $6,000
Smoke ’em if you got ’em, and get ’em if you don’t! Old cigarettes ads are such a wonderful source of amusement in these enlightened times of ours where nobody ever does anything to harm themselves. “No throat irritation” and “No cough” it says-to which they should have added, “Damage done unseen to naked eye, only registers at cellular level.” It’s a beautiful piece, though. The illustrations of Mickey Cochrane and Jim Bottomley are sublime. Madison Avenue blew it big time when they transitioned from illustrations to photography in the ’50s. I’ll bet Black Mike and Sunny Jim were paid for endorsing Lucky’s “toasting” method in product back there in 1928. I wonder what percentage of ballplayers smoked then as opposed to now.
Ken Hubbs autographed baseball
Minimum bid: $25,000
Not many people talk about the late Ken Hubbs anymore. His name hardly even came up last month when the Yankees’ Cory Lidle met a fate similar to Hubbs’ at the controls of his own small plane. The Cubs second baseman was only 22 when his plane went down, but he already had two full big league seasons under his belt by then. Whether or not he would ever have become a decent hitter is open to conjecture but he certainly had the fielding thing down already as his FRAR/FRAA of 48/11 in 1963 attests. (Bill Mazeroski, a second baseman in the Hall of Fame strictly for his glove, was 62/28 that year.) To put the asking price on this item in perspective, another seller has 254 autographed balls up for auction, asking for a minimum bid of $6,999.00.
Pirates Fantasy Camp Berth
Minimum bid: $2,000 (reserve not met)
Speaking of Mazeroski, the high bidder on this item will get to spend a week with him in Florida come January. According to the posting, the seller bought the package but can’t make it. My friend Jack Moulds (the co-creator of an Expos-related website) has been to this Pirates camp twice and thinks it’s great. Mazeroski is especially fun to be around, he says. Plus, you get a baseball card with your picture on it. If you’re ballplayer age and if you’re in shape-as Jack is-you’d be surprised how real those cards can look. I’ve got one of Jack’s on my refrigerator and everyone who sees it assumes he’s a real Pirate-albeit one they’ve never heard of.
St. Louis Browns 1909 Stock Certificate
Minimum bid: $249
Man, they don’t make stock certificates like this anymore. In fact, they hardly make stock certificates at all anymore. If you do buy this, you can show up at Camden Yards and start waving it around, demanding to be seated in the owner’s box. I wouldn’t recommend it, though.
Florida Marlins Inaugural Season Baseballs (10 dozen)
Current bid: $0.99
When I was a kid, there weren’t a lot of baseballs floating around my neighborhood. It’s not like I grew up in the Dominican Republic, where they use rolled up socks wrapped in electrical tape, but we did use the few balls we had until they were completely shot, and yes, that did include wrapping them in electrical tape once the cover came off. When I see this bountiful crate of baseballs it makes me think two things. First, I wish we had a bunch of these in my neighborhood when I was a kid, and second, beware of new items that are created with the sole intent of having them be collector’s items. You can see how well they hold their value. There is no reason whatsoever not to buy these and use them for practice balls. They clearly have no worth as keepsakes. After all, they’re currently bidding at less than a penny a piece, a price even my friends and I could have swung years ago, although we would have been tripped up by the shipping cost.
Wood Rail Baseball Arcade Game
Minimum Bid: $699
Man, if I only had a rumpus room! I’m a sucker for great graphics, and this game has them in spades. I like that it only goes up to seven innings. Either the research department at the Chicago Coin company was a little lax, or they thought nine innings was too much of a payoff for 20 cents. If you buy this, please invite me over to play it, or at least look at it.
1972 Strat-O-Matic Game
Current bid: $355.72
For those who like their baseball games with a little more depth, there’s this. It looks like they got Pablo Picasso to do the cover art for this one. It’s nice to see a higher dollar item with some bidding action on it. Oh, and since this is pre-free agency, so you can do whatever the hell you want with the players.
Pete Rose Apology Baseball
Minimum bid: $1,250
You can bid on this if you like. Me, I’m saving my money for the Saddam Hussein “I’m sorry I gassed your village” signed baseball.