All told, it easily fit into an 18 ½ x 11 ½ box and it just sold for $4.4 million dollars. With the thickness of a $100 dollar bill being about .0043 inches, this would represent a stack of “Franklins” about 189 inches high…highlighting the numbers is intentional because they capture the essence of the artifact of a man whose life was defined by them then and today:
- 714 Home Runs
- 60 in 1927
- 1930 Contract for $80,000 (I had a better year than Hoover did)
- A 51 ounce bat
- 6-7 silk shirts a day
- A dozen hot dogs and 8 soda’s between games of a double header
I’m talking about Babe Ruth and the focus for this article is on his 1920 New York Yankees Road jersey that just sold for the mountain of $100 bills just under16 feet in height.
I have been asked my thoughts by any number of individuals on why I thought the jersey commanded the price that it did and if I felt my work in researching the uniform and subsequent opinion had any bearing on the final number. The short answer is yes I do, but there are more factors in play than the body of work I provided for prospective bidders to consider.
Over the past few years, my efforts have centered on changing the standard in the authentication of baseball uniforms from the previously accepted “it’s good because I said so” to one that is grounded in a formal process. A process driven by a combination of empirical data, the ability to leverage some rather unique formal and professional training, a long term formal study of the subject (this means research and writing), investment in technology and exemplar resources, and various lines of logic and reasoning. The end result is a product that bidders can read, digest, question, and then decide for themselves what they believe the artifact/garment to be and why. Over this same period of time, I have taken a contrary view of the value or importance of provenance or “the story” that comes with the item. In my opinion, while having a story, letter, affidavit, chain of ownership, etc… is important, it can never make any item into something it is not. I have looked at any number of high demand-low density jerseys/artifacts that came with documentation from “an impeccable source” or similar disclaimer, only to find out through detailed research and analysis, that the story was without merit, or an overly disingenuous distortion of some small thread of truth into an outright lie that buyers bought. It is this second facet of my work, the identification of problematic uniforms that I feel has had a far greater impact on pricing. Eliminating bad uniforms of Hall of Fame caliber player from what was thought to be the known population of surviving authentic examples (and folks were talking dozens) has provided the market a real correction to the fundamental economic principle of supply and demand. In the short term, these contrary findings have created a whole in someone’s collection that they often desperately look to fill as soon as possible. For others, it brings them to the realization that maybe there won’t be another of these coming along for a while so I need to get on it now. No matter how you look it, the number of non-problematic jerseys has declined in the past decade and these bad uniforms have well out paced the “new discovery’s” or “first time offered publicly” as additions to a finite population.
So here we are today, nestled in a down turn economy, with a hobby/industry that is rife with problems of unethical conduct and contrived product, and yet we see world record pricing across the board on baseball uniforms. Short answer to the numbers…bidder confidence and demand for a process driven by a combination of empirical data, the ability to leverage some rather unique formal and professional training, a long term formal study of the subject, investment in technology and exemplar resources, and various lines of logic and reasoning. Once you combine this with a collector’s knowledge of a real sense of the legitimate market population (that is a direct outgrowth and response to the above process), the economics become fairly simple. I don’t think it is a stretch to consider the value added of the work I have performed through the MEARS Authentication Division as being central to all of this is some significant manner.
In the future, when we talk of the Babe, I guess now there will be 4.4 million new reasons while he remains in a class all his own. As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com