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Traced Babe Ruth Autograph Worth Much Less

Bill Wagner - Babe Waxpak by Bill Wagner, "Babe Waxpak"
April 11, 2005

Dear Babe: I have two autographs of Babe Ruth. In 1930 when I was 6, I ran out onto the field and went up to Babe Ruth. I have a picture from the old Boston Post, a couple of cartoons from the papers about the incident and an article about it. I also had my picture taken with Ruth and my mother after it happened. Ruth also gave me his autograph. I met Ruth again in 1935 and he again signed my autograph. This time, he signed in ink right over the original signature that was in pencil. I am matting all of these items together in a frame.
John Belton, Nashua, N.H.

Whew, that's quite a story. Unfortunately, when it comes to autographs, too much of a good thing can be bad. That's the case for you. It sounds to me as if Ruth signed for you in pencil after the on-field incident. Five years later, he signed again in pen - but this time, he traced over the pencil signature. Instead of having a couple of signatures worth several thousand dollars, you now have one "questionable" signature because it will look like someone tried to enhance or save a pencil signature by tracing over it in pen. With your documentation, you might be able to convince someone of the authenticity, but the value will only be a small percentage of what a clean signature would bring.

"I think it would be fairly easy to figure out if Ruth did it or not (trace it)," said Mike Breeden, a Sports Collectors Digest columnist and autograph expert. "If Ruth did it, he'd make little effort to trace it exactly. If someone were copying, they'd take great measures to duplicate it exactly." A traced signature on paper is probably worth $100. If you have two separate Ruth signatures - one in pencil and one in ink - they're probably worth $1,000.

Dear Babe: I have a 1962 Los Angeles Angels yearbook with the centerfold being the 1961 team photo. It also has two signatures on it - Bob Botz and Dan Osinski.
Betty Guillory, 29 Palms, Calif.

The Angels were part of baseball's expansion in 1961, but their first yearbook is the one you have for the 1962 season. That makes it special. The Standard Catalog of Sports Memorabilia from the editors of Sports Collectors Digest lists it for $125 and one recently sold on eBay for $110. Botz and Osinski were both pitchers for that team. Botz had a 2-1 record in his only big league season, while Osinski was 6-4 after being traded to the Angels midway through the year. I don't think their autographs are going to affect the value one way or the other.

Dear Babe: I recently acquired a football at a garage sale that is dated 1971 and signed to "Flying Goose from S.F. 49ers." It is signed all over, and I noticed that several are Hall Of Famers. In 1971, Candlestick Park opened and the team played its first game there. That year, the 49ers were NFC Western Division champions. Do you know who the "Flying Goose" was? There must be at least 40 signatures. The ball is leather and still in nice shape.
Patricia Crowl, Cottonwood, Calif.

I couldn't find a mention of a "Flying Goose" in relation to the 49ers, but I was told it was a sporting goods store that may have provided the team with uniforms. The 1971 San Francisco team won the NFC's Western Division with a 9-5 record. The 49ers opened the playoffs with a 24-20 win over the Washington Redskins before losing 14-3 to Dallas in the NFC title game. A ball signed by that title team, depending on how complete it is, is worth $250-$500, said Bobby Mintz, vice president of operations for Houston-based Tristar Productions.

Dear Babe: I have a program from the 1987 Heisman Trophy award ceremony. That's the year Tim Brown from Notre Dame won it. Brown signed the program in the center by his photo.
Paul Svetik, Palmerton, Pa.

Brown is a frequent signer at shows across the country in the off-season, so his signature is not hard to come by. It's probably worth $50-$75, said Mike Breeden, a Sports Collectors Digest columnist and autograph expert.

Dear Babe: I worked for the Braves for 23 years. I have a number of baseballs signed by many famous people. I think my best item is a copy of the paperwork, which was passed out the night Henry Aaron hit the record-setting home run. I have many of these and had Aaron sign some.
Willis Le Mon, Fayetteville, Ga.

I wouldn't be too quick to write off those baseballs. I have a feeling many of them may be far more valuable than the Aaron certificates - even the ones that are signed. Signed copies of the certificates are worth around $100 with unsigned ones worth around $50. Unfortunately, the photo you enclosed shows one that is worn and even torn. That's going to lower the value.

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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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