This is a world that has seriously been taken over by reality shows that concentrate on the ‘good old stuff.’ Everything from Pawn Stars to the Auction Hunters – we are obsessed with ‘junk.’ Of course, this is rich junk; the kind that one would look at and believe not to be worth a plug nickel, let alone the auction estimates that are appearing in the thousands. Heck, even down south people walk into these stores with the ugliest jewelry you could possibly think of to sell – some even look like they’re simply made up of alligator parts that someone caught in the Bayou. Oddly enough, these are things that can buy these people new homes and cars.
The one piece of high-priced item, however, that we all seem to love falls into the sports category. The economy is hideous. People are out of jobs, homes are being foreclosed upon, and more and more people are on television every night and lining up in unemployment lines wondering what the heck is going on. So where, exactly, are the people coming from who have millions of dollars to spend on an old shirt? Nope, not kidding.
Babe Ruth’s jersey was just auctioned off for $4.4 million, making it now the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold. So, you see, there are still people living in this world who have that cold, hard cash and obviously nothing to invest it in. Yes, sports memorabilia is like a Monet – it will never go down in value. (Well, I wouldn’t bet on that seeing as that its already happened). But as long as there are ‘captains of industry’ who believe that the men who stood out on that diamond decades ago are what America and the American Dream is all about, there will never be a lack of buyers when it comes to anything Mr. Ruth may have owned, worn, touched, or been a part of.
It was just yesterday that Lelands (an auction house) bid a record-breaking $4,415,658 in order to attain the earliest jersey every worn by Ruth that’s known to still exist in this wide, wide world. It is a circa 1920 New York Yankees ‘road model’ that Babe wore in his very first season with the Yanks after coming to them from the Red Sox. The jersey’s price surpassed the $4,338,500 paid in 2010 for Dr. James Naismith’s founding rules of basketball (Bible of Basketball) which now makes Babe the IT man when it comes to being the owner of what would one day become the most expensive sports memorabilia in history.
SCP Auctions ran the sale and they estimated that the jersey would fetch around one million dollars. Boy, were they off. Other items were sold that belonged to this ‘master of the game,’ including a 1930s cap that Ruth wore, as well as one of Babe Ruth’s game bats (used). Add to all this the fact that his actual house in Massachusetts is up for sale, and something tells me that the Babe Ruth foundation or Ruth coffers need a bit of help. Want to hear something even funnier? The actual house is only up for $1.65 million – yet an old shirt has already brought in over $4. See how bad the economy and banks are doing when it comes to the real estate sector of things?
Even more hilarious is the fact that Babe Ruth, himself, didn’t even earn one million when he was a player from 1914-35. Nowadays, of course, the money he pulled down would be, with inflation, a little over $15 million.
There are many fans out there who aren’t very happy about the fact that Lelands is simply going to resell the jersey (most likely to a private buyer whose asked for it). For most baseball fans, that jersey should be sent to Cooperstown but, no dice.
I think we all know where this particular historical item is headed – into the vault of someone we have never heard of where they will sit and enjoy it and keep it from the fans for the rest of their lives, and even into their next generation’s lives simply because they have the ability to. Remember when I spoke about how all millionaires should pick one of us hardworking middlemen and throw some our way? Yup, still am saying that.
Of course, where sports memorabilia is concerned this actually becomes a situation of respect. Babe Ruth is everyone’s icon – even the kids of today who are told stories about the man – want to have the chance to see the treasures with Babe Ruth’s name on them. Again…no dice.
What else is Lelands about to auction? I really HAD to tell you guys this one because I just ran across the news myself. A Ku Klux Klan ceremonial bat is also up for bid, although seeing as that the title is KKK, I would be worried what, exactly, it was used for when it came to hitting.
Over the years, there have been some major sports auctions. Until this particular event, it was Mark McGwire’s 70th Home Run Ball that was at the top of the list, scoring $3,005,000. The funny part about this was the fact that this auction didn’t include all that many and the price was WAY over-inflated. The winning bid came from comic book maker, Todd MacFarlane, who was sky high, reportedly, above the price the other bidders thought it was worth. And, because of all the ‘bad press’ and other things regarding this particular gentleman, this exaggerated ball is now estimated to be only worth a third of what the comic book king shelled out for it.
One of the most interesting pieces that always sat among the top five was Honus Wagner’s Baseball Card from 1910. Going for $2.3 million at the time, this card had extra rarity stemming from the fact that Wagner strongly objected to having his likeness appear on a card. Some say it was because he didn’t want to promote tobacco, while others say he was mad that he wouldn’t get paid. Everyone’s favorite hockey player, Wayne Gretzky, owned this at one time and it has now been sold three times since. Unlike McGwire, this card appreciates quite rapidly.
The journal of Joe DiMaggio sold for $1.5 million at one time, and is truly an interesting artifact. Even though the diaries are reportedly very dull, considering that nothing about the great Ms. Monroe is even mentioned, DiMaggio’s thoughts are worth a great deal to a great many.
Babe Ruth certainly does appear in the top five (now at the top with this last sale.) But the bat that he hit his first home run with at Yankee Stadium in 1923 is also on the list. $1.265 million was the price received for this particular Ruth item. It was, after all, Ruth’s unique left-handed swing that created the Yankees’ decision to leave behind the old Polo Grounds and move to their own ‘home’ with a short right field fence. That was actually the real reason that Yankee Stadium became known as “The house that Ruth built,” proving it with his first home run in the new place.
Also another ‘Babe‘ artifact in the top five is the actual Sale Contract made in 1920. This artifact came in just under a cool million and is the actual contract where the Red Sox agreed to sell Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000.
And the last on the top five is yet another Ruth artifact. Babe Ruth’s All-Star Game Home Run Ball hit in 1933 went for $805,000. This was Babe’s first ever home run made in an All-Star Game at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, and as the game became an annual classic, the value of the ball has shot up over the years and will continue to do so.
Yes, there are others for old Babe in the top ten; from his 1934 World Tour Uniform to his jersey from 1933, his items are certainly the most sought after. However, this writer’s one true love as far as sports memorabilia is concerned will always remain with Shoeless Joe Jackson’s “Black Betsy.”
Jackson was one of the games all-time great hitters, but was banned from baseball for his alleged role in the 1919 World Series gambling scandal. Time heals all wounds, they say (and, frankly, considering the really gross stuff players do nowadays this scandal seems like a walk in the park), Joe’s dark bat, nicknamed “Black Betsy,” was instrumental in helping him achieve a .356 lifetime batting average.
As far as I’m concerned, Shoeless Joe had an appeal that will never disappear.
I wonder…? What will be sold after I am nothing but a mound of dirt pushing up a daisy? Can you see those cardboard cutouts of Tebow and Manning sitting side-by-side on an auction block? Now, THAT would be hysterical!
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