When moving some boxes, I came across an old yellowed box that was still sealed. Not having a clue what was in it (yes, you can have so many things stacked up that something could still be sealed years after delivery), I cut it open and what I uncovered was the first ever book that I co-wrote with my friend and glove mentor Joe Phillips. Not just one book but a brand new sealed case of 50, never seen the light of day Vintage Baseball Glove Price Guides with a publication date of 1992 making this the 15th anniversary of the first ever publication dealing with the collector field of vintage baseball gloves.
Lest you think 1992 wasn’t all that long ago, think again. First off, you are showing your age if fifteen years just doesn’t seem that far back. Seems like just yesterday to me but I was still in college, there was no internet, no U-Tube, no I pod, no CD or DVD’s, NO EBAY (Can you imagine), no hand size cell phones, basically it was the re-incarnation of the dark ages. If you don’t believe me, ask your kids. It’s amazing to me that we even had such things as electricity and indoor plumbing.
So what has happened to the hobby, both in terms of collectors, trends, and values in the ensuing fifteen years? A lot. When Joe and I put the first guide together, we had several years of dealing in vintage gloves behind us and we established a rarity scale. How did we know what was rare? If it was rare to us and our few collecting friends, it was rare. If one of the dozen or so glove collectors had one, must be fairly easy or common. We didn’t have any previous sales information, no major auction house recorded sales (who would auction off items of such little perceived value with such a small market place), no print outs of eBay sales or tracking, just a few recorded SCD small ads from a few die hard collectors and the sharing of each others inventory/collection. We then came up with a pricing system that was based on what we would willing pay or sell an item for. We came up with some standard pricing structure based on scarcity and like items. If you take the very first player listed glove (under the post war star players list), it reads as follows. “Abrams, Cal Very Good $35, Excellent $55, Near Mint $75 Rare (less than 10 examples found) If mint, add 60% to listed near mint price. So that means that the value of a gem mint Abrams glove in 1992 would have been $100. Today, a gem mint Abrams glove is still considered a condition rarity but no longer a used glove rarity and in gem mint, sans any box or tags would probably be in the $3-400 range. Most near mint-mint prices that would seem like give away bargains at the prices listed in that 1992 guide. Time has proven that if you paid what we felt was absolute high end retail on just about any near mint/mint glove, you will have done very well for yourself as your collection has made a major jump in pricing, sometimes as much as ten times or more. But what about the lesser quality gloves? The common vg or exc glove generally has made little to no price moves and in many cases, they are actually selling today for less than they did all those years ago. For a quick comparison, it took just a few moments to go to EBay and look up some completed auctions for vintage gloves. Let’s track a couple and compare. Our first example was a Vg Don Kessinger that did not get an opening bid of $.99 (a bit more if you add the $6 shipping) It is listed in our 1992 guide at $30 and listed as RARE USA. There was a Vg Don Drysdale that did not get an opening bid of $3.99 and yet, we listed it at $40. A 1950’s Wayne Causey sold for a whopping $5.50 and we didn’t even have it listed, didn’t have a clue one existed. Another Vg. Johnny Temple failed to get the opening bid of $6 yet was listed at $35. So what happened? Actually several things. First off, the mass influx of material through EBAY as opposed to the old fashioned way of garage sales, flea markets and early baseball card shows proved once and for all, over the last decade, what truly was rare and desirable. This has been huge in that we have such a large recorded data base for actual sales nation or world wide versus the local presence that was once so important.
Secondly, back in 1992, you could go to an autograph or card show and for a few bucks, often less than $10-15, a player would sign his glove for the same price as any other item. Yes, there was an actual time when players would sign any item, one price.
Can you believe that, a time when you didn’t need an item chart and a computer to figure out the autographs cost if you had a bat, ball , picture, and jersey all of the same player. Once these players starting charging more than the value of the glove and once many of the old time players moved on, the charm of getting a nice old used glove autographed no longer seemed appealing to the pocketbook in that you more often than not had more into the thing then it would ever be worth. So it was really over supply and escalating autograph prices that doomed these gloves to remain forever in garage sale status. On the other hand, anything from the 1970’s and before in like new / new condition remains in strong demand and low supply and as such, the prices continue to climb as the ever growing demand dictates ever higher prices.
Speaking of condition rarity, one of the items we covered in that first ever guide was some pricing and information as it pertained to original boxes, both picture models and plain along with hangtags. Last week, a rather beat Dizzy Dean glove box, one with a drawing and not an actual photograph and the entire right corner of the cover missing, sold for $1403.00. A nice near mint (not mint) Bob O’Farrell Rawlings catcher’s mitt in a clean but plain box sold for $659. We listed the O”Farrel glove at $225 (rare) with an additional 30% for a nice box (1992 Total list price would be $292) we didn’t even have a price for just the Dean box but the glove listed at $1200 in near mint and $1900 if gem mint. Recently, a vg Dean Glove sold for $433 while we listed it back in 1992 at $500. What would the glove box in this poor condition have brought back then? Can’t say but we listed near mint picture boxes would add 4-6 times the cost of the glove. An illustrated picture box would be less than one with an actual photograph Therefore, in 1992; a Vg Dean glove in an illustrated box that was rather beat would not have even approached the price of the recently sold box. Can you image what a mint box with an actual photograph and a mint glove might have brought?
This first guide included Joe’s first glove catalog along with prose on the merits of glove collecting along with tips with do’s and don’ts, much of which still holds true today. So much for the past, fast forward to the future.
Today, there are several types of glove collectors. There are team collectors that usually collect many different items pertaining to their favorite team, not just gloves. There are also condition and box collectors that will buy just about anything that is minty or boxed. Then there are the Hall of Fame collectors who try and get one example of every Hall of Famer. This last group is the least populated as the stakes today are usually too high and the success rate of a complete collection anytime during this lifetime are all but impossible. The first two categories are alive and well and their investment, if they buy the very best, seems covered well into the future. Yes, a lot has changed in the past fifteen years but the basic ingredient, collectors, have not. And for those of you who may not even have been out of grammar school when this book was released, well we have them and for the first five people who email us at MEARSONLINE.COM, we would be happy to personalize a copy and ship it to you free of charge. Sort of a Back to the Future present from us. David Bushing