Nobody wants to get a MEARS letter with this printed conclusion on the bottom of their worksheet and we derive no pleasure in rendering such an opinion but it is a much too frequent decision on many of the jerseys and bats (not nearly as problematic as jerseys) that are submitted to us. And while we don’t like to use the word fake in any letter that we do, one must come to the conclusion that when everything on a shirt is off and if the shirt was not intended as a salesman sample, then that word will probably be tossed about by collectors if it appears a piece was made up to resemble a very valuable shirt but is not correctly done. Such is the case with the jersey (jersey’s) I am about to detail within this article. I say jersey’s because within a span of two weeks, two nearly identical 1955 Hank Aaron Home shirts were presented to us, one of them having been in a private collection for the better part of fifteen or more years, each having numerous inconsistencies with regards to an authentic 1955 Braves home jersey and those same inconsistencies were nearly identical on both of the submitted shirts, so close in fact that is my absolute opinion that whoever created the shirts was the very same maker, neither of which appears to be Wilson, the real maker of authenticate 1955 Milwaukee Braves home jersey’s. (note, the Conley shirt has a vintage team number change from 22 to 17 but style of numbers did not change and the 1955 shirts were the same as the 1956 Conley used for this study)
The first inconsistency with the first submitted 1955 jersey was the material itself. It was much coarser and thicker than a Wilson shirt of the same era. For comparison, we have several Braves shirts from this same time frame in our data base but we also had a Frank Torre Home 1956 (MastroWest September 2000 Lot #1418) and a 1955 Gene Conley shirt for an actual physical comparison which proved invaluable when comparing type of material and not just tagging, something that cannot be seen in photographs.
Next comes the piping. The Aaron shirt has the same style of piping as found on the Wilson Conley shirt but the blue was much lighter and thicker while the red center of the piping on the Wilson shirt is straight as an arrow while the Aaron shirt’s red piping was pinched about every inch, a very amateur application not consistent with Wilson quality. You will also notice that the spacing of the piping around the zipper is much wider on the Aaron than on the Wilson (Conley) shirt. The width of the piping measured at 3 1/8” on the authentic 1956 Gene Conley home jersey. The submitted 1955 Braves Aaron home piping width measured at 4 ¾”, a full inch and one half wider spread. The width of the 1956 Conley was compared to the 1955 Tanner Braves home jersey found in the MEARS database, and the piping width was also found to be consistent.
1956 Conley Braves Home piping width 3 1/8”
1955 Hank Aaron Braves Home piping width 4 ¾”
The next examination consisted of the uniform numbers. Clearly visible was the quality of the number cuts. The Aaron appears hand cut, thicker than a Wilson, ragged edges, and a thick black backing not found on any Braves shirts of this era although height of numbers was close.
The Braves script logo found on both Aaron shirts was much like the numbers, thick, ragged and irregular but when compared to a Wilson ‘Braves” script, it was entirely different, not only in construction and material but in trim color, the width of the trim color but the actual letters are not even the same font or style of an original Wilson Braves shirt, if fact, they are entirely different, each letter on the Aaron was almost identical yet not a single letter in the “Braves” script is like a Wilson. The Aaron shirts boasted letters at least 30% taller and wider , the script was off, and the material wrong.
The red embroidered hand wraps around the Tomahawk handle are almost double the size and thickness of a Wilson shirt and could not be any more different if they tried with the only similarity being they both represent a tomahawk. (Another difference in the Aaron and the Wilson is in the construction of the gussets, the Wilson is elastic while the Aaron was made from same material as shirt.)
Both shirts sported Talon zippers yet the Aaron’s did not match the Wilson example we had. The Indian head sleeve patch is different compared with our photo database but the Conley we had sported the laughing Brave, which precluded a direct comparison.
Construction is similar in that it is the common pull thru straight stitch but one huge noticeable difference is where the zipper splits the a “and the” v of Braves. Wilson completely adheres the letters with complete sewing just like the rest of the letters yet the two Aaron’s have the letters either hand tacked with the worst hand sewing ever seen or in the case of the “v”, it seemed to pose to much of a hardship so they did not tack them down at all. It is here where you notice that the “a” and “v” on the Aaron shirts is at least 30% larger and thicker than any Wilson Braves shirt of the era.
Now, the most damning feature, as if the above references were not enough to doom the identical Aaron’s has to be the tagging. In each and every example of any Braves shirt every examined by us from the 1954-56 era, the tagging found on the tail of a true Wilson Braves shirt is almost identical. Alas, the tagging on both of the questionable 1955 Aaron shirts was also almost identical which would have been fine except for the fact that the tagging on the identical Aaron twins did not match any tagging on any 1954-56 Wilson Braves shirt. (1)First, the Wilson tag should be yellow with the slogan “made in USA,” printed under the size. In the case of both Aaron shirts, the tags are white and do not have the “made in USA” printed beneath. (20 Next come the washing instructions. Printed on the Wilson tags, it reads TO CLEAN followed by instructions while both of the Aaron shirts read “WASH” in red letters, not blue, followed by instructions. (3)Lastly, the name strip tag in tail is a pink thread (not faded) and is much larger than a Wilson and exhibits a very thick chain style stitch not like any Wilson Braves shirt from this era. (4)And lastly the shirt is tagged a size 46 but measure a size 52 across the chest.
The fact that both of the Aaron’s did not match any other Braves shirt in any capacity while almost duplicating each other and one having rested in a private collection for years leads me to the conclusion that both shirts were made by the same person with the same materials so therefore, they were probably both created over a decade ago. At that time, no database of uniforms existed in any organized form and the makers of the shirt as well as the purchasers had only limited ability to compare these Aaron’s to any actual Wilson Braves jersey. We have spent the last two years building a data base of information that combined with the numerous examples of jerseys, actually authenticated by MEARS, which in turn, enables us to do comparative studies almost unheard of until the last few years. In addition, the use of the internet to access real game photo’s of players wearing the same style of uniform has further cemented the confidence of collectors.
We have been asked why MEARS charges the same fee for a shirt deemed to be not authenticate or not gradable. As you can see, it is simply not good enough to say that we feel a shirt is incorrect. We must go about to prove every single instance where there is a discrepancy on the shirt in question. We then have plans of posting each and every submitted game used item on our forum to educate collectors to stay away from. From there, we assign a hologram number so the shirt can be permanently recorded and once in our database, we will list it on our site as such. The importance of this is to keep the shirt from resurfacing in another person’s collection and yet another person soaking up a huge financial loss that might drive one from the hobby. If this shirt turns up for sale in any venue, we can alert both the seller and the potentials clients that the shirt has been reviewed and deemed problematic. This is not an opinion but each problem or inconsistency can be listed and explained so that any potential buyer or seller can make an educated decision as to what to do. Recording these problem shirts for all time can greatly reduce the risk of them making their way into the hobby and into a private collection only to be detected once again years down the road. By bringing these problems to the forefront and making them public, we can help reduce the amount of questionable merchandise yet it actually takes more work to disprove a piece than visa versa and as such, MEARS will continue to evaluate and cull out problems but the cost will remain yet the benefits to both the collector and dealer should far out weigh any initial investment.
Until next time.