Instead of coughing up a dozen trivia nuggets in game-used collecting, as originally planned, The Shirt will cite six myths of game-used collecting that often are just that…myths.

1) PLAYER INSIDERS = IMPECCABLE PROVENANCE. Sometimes, yes. Always…no. One can look at the plethora of 1981-83 Phillies knits of Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt and others foisted on the market by a hobby dealer who had business interests with Rose. The items in question carried embroidery fonts in the tags far different than those used on normal team-issued jerseys ordered from Wilson, and many of the home whites used a two-tone “P” logo on the front (OK for road blues, but should be single-toned on home whites). Given the lack of knowledge and resources the hobby had in the early 1980’s, as well as the seller’s known player connections, and many of these, to this day, are owned by collectors who think they’re game-worn when the only real facet of these items are the autographs on them.

2) TAGS = AUTHENTICITY. One would think that such a tenet would have died a deserved death, given the creativity that forgers have, adding tags, lettering pro-cut blanks, and the like. Yet, were this the case, how would so many NBA Commemorative Collection and Score Board retail jerseys still be showing up in major auctions…with “experts” signing off on them as being game-used?

3) EXCLUSIVE SOURCES: Hobby dealers can buy a bulk lot of everything that’s there from a given team and time frame, and be exclusive in that regard. Yet, what about players who order their own wearables for whatever reasons? Texas Rangers stuff may be best acquired from the dealer who bought directly from the team, but that doesn’t prevent A-Rod, Pudge and Raffy from ordering their own duds, and making them available through their own means. The Chicago Bulls may claim that players only get two of each style per year, and a hobby paper writer may parrot that line in lockstep for his own reasons, but that doesn’t keep MJ, Scottie and the Worm from giving their unies away to equipment managers, ballboys, and other connected people, or, in Rodman’s case, taking his jersey off after most home games and giving it to a courtside fan. When someone with the goods begins making derogatory claims about similar goods that aren’t in their own inventory, it MIGHT be a legitimate calling out of questionable merchandise…OR it might just be a party trying to preserve and promote the value and demand for their own items. Don’t assume the motives either way…take the whole issue and parties involved into account before making a judgment.

4) RUSSELL COLLAR TAGS = RETAIL. Often the case, but, NOT always. In 1993, the Colorado Rockies had a couple of sets of home whites and road greys with the Russell collar tag that were, indeed, game worn, coming with team LOAs and sold in bulk to Ball Park Heroes in the mid-1990s. Russell-issued 1995-96 Philadelphia Eagles gamers also carry this retail-style collar tag, as do many 1990’s BP jerseys from several MLB teams. Again, take all factors into account in judging such a marked jersey, and don’t overemphasize the collar tag if everything else makes sense. While that collar Russell tag would be a deal-breaker on a 1998 Cubs Sammy Sosa, it may well NOT be on some of the examples cited earlier.

5) EXCLUSIVE SOURCES ARE ALWAYS RIGHT IN DESCRIPTIONS: Again, sometimes, but not always. While some bulk buyers know the ins and outs of what they have bought from a team, other sellers seem to have less accuracy in the total analysis of what they have available. Steiner Sports is reliable in terms of purchasing Yankees (and now Mets) game-used garb, but the company doesn’t always seem to have a grasp on whether a specific jersey has a number change, a patch removed, or a memoriam band missing. For example, a Yankees 1990 road knit of Dave Winfield that was sold a while back on eBay and came through them made no mention in the seller paperwork of the jersey having had a number change to 22, likely done to accommodate pitcher Mike Witt, who was traded to the Yanks in mid-1990 for Winfield, meaning that BOTH Witt and Winfield wore the shirt…and that’s not even discussing the removed Billy Martin “1” sleeve memoriam logo. Even when you know the stuff is good, you may have to do some research to pick up on some of the details that the seller, for some reason, does not.

6) NFL BIG MEN ALWAYS TAKE BIG JERSEYS: Again, it can happen, but not always. Linemen and many other football positions will be manned by players who are looking to avoid being restricted, tackled, or otherwise hindered by an opposing player grabbing a fistful of jersey fabric. The tighter the jersey they can wear, the less chance of that happening. Two well-versed gridiron collector/dealers, Mark Hayne and Jim Yackel, often point out the practices of former defensive end Bruce Smith of Buffalo and Washington. At 6-4 and 278, one would expect Smith to take huge uniforms on his massive frame. However, Smith has often worn uniforms in the size 42-44 range, precisely to allow opponents one less means of halting him on the field. Assuredly, he’s not the only NFLer to make this fashion statement. What an NFL “big guy” wears on the field to perform his gridiron duties is far different, in purpose and size, from what he (or you or I) would wear to tailgate, play couch potato, or sit in the stands to watch.

NEXT TIME: Some trends in fakery that MEARS has seen in evaluations of submissions. God bless our troops!