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Rare Mays Card is Worth the Dough, Even with the Gum Stains

Bill Wagner - Babe Waxpak by Bill Wagner, "Babe Waxpak"
April 4, 2005

Dear Babe: I got this card - Willie Mays 1951 Bowman (No. 305) - from a pack of bubble gum when I was 12-years-old. For some reason, I kept this card.
Don Jean, Nashua, N.H.

There's no doubt it came out of a pack with gum, since it has two stains on the back. It also looks like the front edges and corners show some wear. Beckett's Almanac of Baseball Cards and The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards from the editors of Sports Collectors Digest list Mays' rookie card at $1,900-$3,000 in near mint condition and $950-$1,500 in excellent shape. The Standard Catalog also has a value of $550 for a card in very good condition. Based on my description of the photocopy you enclosed, Leighton Sheldon of in New York put the value at $750-$1,000.

Dear Babe: I have a 1937 Kentucky Derby Program when War Admiral won en route to becoming a Triple Crown winner that year. I have the pari-mutuel tickets from the Derby, but unfortunately not on the winner and not cashable tickets.
Jim Battin, Columbus, Ind.

War Admiral was the odds-on favorite that year and won easily. The program is worth $300-$400, said Dick Hering of Hampstead, N.C., a dealer who specializes in horse racing memorabilia. Meanwhile, all those losing tickets are worth exactly what they were on that day in 1937 when the bets were placed - nothing. Of course, War Admiral, like some other great athletes, is known more for the race he lost than his impressive career in which he won 21 of 26 starts. War Admiral, the talented son of Man o' War, came out on the losing end in the famous 1938 match race with Seabiscuit.

Dear Babe: I have a piece of paper signed by Tom Seaver and Willie Mays when the Mets played an exhibition game against the Yankees in Kinston, N.C., in 1973.
Arthur Jackson, Atlanta, Ga.

In the best of all worlds, you'd have a picture of the two Hall of Famers to matte and frame with the signatures. These are considered "cuts" with Mays worth around $10-$15 and Seaver $5-$10.

Dear Babe: We have an official Spaulding NBA basketball autographed by David J. Stern, Lenny Wilkins, Bob Lanier, Phil Jackson, Wes Unseld, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Willis Reed and John Daly.
Bill Larkin, Menifee, Calif.

You've got a group of basketball Hall of Famers along with Stern and Jackson, who will be there eventually. That's the good news. The bad news is John Daly. What's he doing there? The one thing he does for sure is lower the value some. Still, it's worth about $150-$200, said Mike Breeden, a Sports Collectors Digest columnist and autograph expert. If by chance it's Chuck Daly and not John Daly, the value would go up a little.

Dear Babe: In 1987, I attended the Chicago Bears training camp, which was held at the Plattville campus of the University of Wisconsin. I have a team roster that I had signed by many players after practice including Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton, Jim McMahon, William Perry and many more.
Debbie Lilley, Massillon, Ohio

"I think the program, because of Payton, would sell for $200 to $300," said Brian Marren, vice president of acquisitions for the MastroNet Auctions in Chicago. "All of those players were on the 1985 Bears Super Bowl team. Payton has been gone over five years now and his autograph is increasing in value."

Dear Babe: I have a baseball signed by the L.A. Dodgers. The signatures include Walter Alston, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Duke Snider, Bobby Bragan and many more.
Paul Svetik, Palmerton, Pa.

Brash Bobby Bragan is the key to dating this baseball. He coached for the Dodgers just one year - 1960. A 1960 Dodgers team-signed baseball is worth $400-$600, said Mike Gutierrez, owner of in Arizona.

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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