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MLB Who's Who is a Major League Find

Bill Wagner - Babe Waxpak by Bill Wagner, "Babe Waxpak"
March 7, 2005

Dear Babe: I have a hardback edition of the 1933 "Who's Who in Major League Baseball." The book was compiled by Harold "Speed" Johnson and was published by Buxton Publishing of Chicago. The book is in very good condition for its age - better shape than I am in, even though it is two years younger than I am.
Charles George, Hemet, Calif.

Here's hoping you are in pretty good shape, because condition is the key to having a book that could be worth more than $1,000 or just a couple of hundred dollars. You have a copy of the first edition of "Who's Who." The book has a page for each player with a sepia tone photo showing him in civilian attire. Non-playing personnel, umpires and executives are also included. It's a one-of-a-kind, because it proved too costly to continue publishing in this manner.

The key to everything is whether you have the dust jacket and its condition. A copy of this inaugural book with a mint dust cover sold for $1,130 in a recent eBay auction. By contrast, three others, including one with a ripped dust cover and two others without the jacket, sold for $163-$390. Like anything else, collectors are willing to pay a big premium for a vintage item that is in top condition. The values plummet by 50 percent to 70 percent for items that are more average.

Dear Babe: I have an ESPN banner that's 5 feet by 2 feet that is autographed by Fred Carter, Sean Elliot, Tim Legler, Tim Hardaway, David Justice, "Digger" Phelps that says "Digger" Phelps, Go Irish, Dick Vitale "Awesome Baby" and others who work at ESPN. I worked at a hotel in Bristol, Conn., where they stayed and where ESPN had meetings.
Rick Johnson, Redding, Calif.

This certainly qualifies as a one-of-a-kind item, but that doesn't necessarily translate into great value. "I'd say $50-$100," said Mike Breeden, a Sports Collectors Digest columnist and autograph expert. What hurts the item is its limited appeal to a very specialized audience. Of course, there are plenty of big names from the ESPN stable that could be added, which would probably increase value and might expand the field of potential buyers.

Dear Babe: I have some old pro football programs. I have one from 1941 that has Tom Harmon and John Kimbrough on the cover and a couple of others from 1949. I also have a program from the 1959 pro football All-Star game.
Paul Svetik, Palmerton, Pa.

The older programs are worth around $75 each with the Pro Bowl one valued at $100-$150, said Mike Heffner, president of auction house in New York.

Dear Babe: I have N.Y. Mets yearbooks from 1978 and 1979. I also have two 1978 Mets photo albums. One autographed by Joe Torre.
William Packman, Dallas, Ga.

Neither yearbook features a star on the cover, which translates into little value, if any. They're probably in the $5-$15 range. If the photo albums are actually Dairylea photo packs that were handed out at the stadium along with albums, Beckett's Almanac of Baseball Cards lists the ones from 1977 and 1978 at $25 each. However, Torre is only listed in the 1977 set. His 8x8 inch photo lists for $2. I'd say the autograph is going to push it into the $15-$25 range.

Dear Babe: I have a signed 1950 N.Y. Yankees baseball signed by the entire team including manager Casey Stengel.
Jack Leader, Rock Hill, S.C.

Mike Gutierrez, owner of in Arizona, sold a 1950 Yankees baseball for $4,594 last May. That's definitely on the high end for a real nice baseball. The value is going to drop by half for just about anything else, which means an average ball is probably worth $1,000-$2,000.

Want more? Check out another Babe Waxpak column every Thursday exclusively on

About the author
Bill Wagner is a veteran journalist with 37 years in the newspaper business as well as being a former Army combat correspondent in Vietnam. He developed the Babe Waxpak sports card column in the 1980s and took over authorship in 1993, expanding into sports memorabilia and autographs as well as answering questions on cards.

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