Last year I wrote an article about investing in sports memorabilia. I was asked recently about collecting and investing in vintage New York Yankees game used jerseys and bats from the 1930s through the 1960s. The focus was for any advice or how to go about educating yourself before beginning to make any purchases. The source of this referral if you would was the December 2006 edition of Worth Magazine detailing my work on the 1961 Roger Maris jersey. I for one was thrilled that a new collector was asking first before he spent any money. For vintage and high end items, I am finding that newer collectors are considering these items much in the same way they view all of their other investments. I suggested that he do a few things right from the start. Those being:
1. If possible, narrow down exactly what you are looking for and develop a disciplined buying approach. This is a tough thing to do and something I know I have struggled with over the years. No matter how much money you have, you will never be able to find or own everything.
2. Build a data base you can use and reference. This data base can be used for both bats and jerseys. This can be done very easily using Excel or any other spreadsheet program. For jerseys, I would recommend creating fields for:
Source (This refers to where they item was offered and or how you find it again)
You may also want to consider adding a column for sale price or price realized.
This information can be gathered from old auction catalogs or on-line offerings. Much the same could be done for caps, pants and jackets. The idea is decide what all the pertinent information is and try to capture this the first time around. The advantage to doing this in a spreadsheet as opposed to a Word document is that the spreadsheet can be sorted. If after some time you have hundreds of entries, you can begin to sort them by say player, then year to begin to track trends in jersey size. You can then go back and track these through period publications such as team yearbooks to see what makes sense.
3. Build a reference library. This library should include a wide range of references that include:
The digital collection is the one I would like to spend some time on up front. I would recommend creating either player specific or year specific folders. For vintage offerings I would suggest that Corbis may be a better source than Getty, but that is just my personal preference. In addition to player and year folders, I would suggest photos for special events such as All Star Games and the World Series. Although this may seem obvious, if you are saving images as JPEG files, be sure to rename them something that you will recognize later on. I would also recommend breaking the effort down into various subfolders. There is nothing wrong with placing a photo in more than one folder. The advantage to this is you can then create a CD that you take with you and your lap top when traveling. The other thing to remember is that by creating your own CD, you have backed up your data should something happen to your computer.
When searching for digital vintage Yankee images, be sure to try a variety of searches. Remember the search is a function of the information in the caption and not what is shown in the photograph. Since I have always thought locker room shots are invaluable sources of information on tagging and supplemental player identification, be sure to include phrases such as locker room, club house, post game etc… in your search language.
When building the rest of the library, you will have to decide on its real purpose. By this I mean deciding if it is for reference or as a collectable as well. If it only for reference, you can save a lot of money and build it quicker by purchasing reprints of team yearbooks and photographs. Although at times the quality of the images may not be as good with reprints, I have found them to be by and large sufficient for my use.
If you are looking to jump start your NY Yankees print reference library for the 1930s-1960, I would recommend beginning with these titles:
-The New York Yankees: An Illustrated History by Donald Honig
-Yankee Stadium: 50Years of Drama by Joseph Durso
-New York Yankees-One Hundred Years: The Official Retrospective by Ballantine Books
-The Babe: The Game that Ruth Built by Ritter and Rucker
-Baseball’s Great Dynasties: The Yankees by Mark & Neil Gallagher
-The American League: A History by Zoss and Bowman
-The American League: An Illustrated History by Donald Honig
-Baseball in the 30s: An Illustrated History by Donald Honig
-Baseball in the 50s: An Illustrated History by Donald Honig
-The Bronx Bombers: Memories and Memorabilia by Chadwick & Spindel
-The DiMaggio Albums
– Summer in the City: New York Baseball 1947-1957 by Vic Ziegel
As far as film/DVD references, I would look to pick up the HBO three volume set titled “When It Was a Game.” For the World Series, there is currently a 5 DVD set covering the Yankees in the post season from 1943-2000. These can be found on E-Bay for as little as less than $30.00. If you still have a VCR, I would recommend looking for these videos:
-Joe DiMaggio: 1990 from the Sports Legends Series
-Mickey Mantle: The American Dream Comes to Life. 1988 by Baseball Legend Videos
-Mickey Mantle, “The Mick.” Greatest Sports Legends Series. 1985
-10 Greatest Moments in Yankees History. c. 1987 by the Yankees
-50 Years of Yankees All-Stars. Produced by Major League BB productions. ( c 1970s)
-Pinstripe Power, The Story of the 1961 Yankees. Produced by MLB. (c late 70-ealry 80s)
Another valuable source of information that would also serve as a collectable display would be vintage sporting/baseball magazine from the period. If you decide not to go for these, consider searching E-Bay for things like this or variations of:
Vintage Baseball Scrapbook
Old Baseball Scrapbook
Yankees News Clippings
Scrapbooking was very popular during the period of the 1930s-1960s and given the following of the Yankees and number of papers covering them, these are often available. The best ones I have picked up have included terrific color photographs from Sport Magazine in the 1950s.
Things you will want to take notice of when looking at New York Yankees uniforms in the images you find include:
– Button style and location
– Sleeve Style (Raglan or Set-In)
– Font styles for lettering and NY Crest
– Numeric Font Styles
All of these change over time and within any given year depending up uniform manufacturer.
A final thing I would recommend doing is trying to establish a network of other collectors who might be willing to let you see their collections. This will probably be the hardest thing to do depending on who has the item(s) and where they are located. Keep in mind, that as your collection grows, you need to be willing to reciprocate.
Once you have done all of these or at least some of it in stages, you will want to begin to look for the actual sources of the items you want. It is very doubtful, but it does happen, that the things fitting this collecting/investment theme might show up on E-Bay. If and when they do, don’t expect to throw in a last minute bid and get them at a steal. Often these types of items don’t last the posted auction period as they are sold off site. What this leaves you with are other auction venues or dealers. As far as dealers, the Bushing and Kinunen MEARS for Sales Site has featured and sold a number New Yankees Game Used Bats and Jersey this past year. Some of them include:
-1920s Bob Meusel Spalding Hand Turned Professional Model Game Bat
-1921 George Babe Ruth H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game Used Bat
-1921-31 Lou Gehrig H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game Bat
-1926-31 Tony Lazzeri H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game Bat
-1932-37 Tommy Henrich H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Rookie Era Bat
-1933-34 Charlie Keller H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Bat
-1934-35 Frank Crosetti H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game Bat
-1939 Joe Gordon Home New York Yankees Jersey
1949 Charlie Keller H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game Used Bat
-1950-53 Johnny Mize H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Bat
-1950-60 Tony Kubek H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Bat
-1960 Ed Whitey Ford World Series Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game Used Bat
-1960 Mickey Mantle H&B Louisville Slugger World Series Game Bat
-1961-63 Bob Richardson H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game Bat
-1961-63 Clete Boyer New York Yankees Adirondack Professional Model Game Bat
-1963-64 Elston Howard H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game Used Bat
These and all other New York Yankees Game Used Bats and Jerseys can be seen as permanent archives on the Bushing and Kinunen MEARS For Sales Site.
You also may want to look at these items which will be featured in the Spring Robert Edwards Auction offerings:
-1950 Charlie Silvera World Series H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game Bat
-1950-57 Yogi Berra H&B Professional Model Game Bat
-1951 Ralph Houk H&B Louisville Slugger World Series Game Used Bat
-1955-59 Enos Slaughter H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game Used Bat
-1958 Elston Howard New York Yankees H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model All Star Game Bat
The things I have talked about here have been specific for New York Yankees Game Used Bats and Jerseys, but the process could really be replicated for any team or collecting focus. If your looking to begin collecting vintage game used bats and jerseys for a specific player or team or expand upon what you have already started, please feel drop me a line and I’d be happy to help shape and scope your research efforts.
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 contact me at DaveGrob1@aol.com