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Ali's Photograph Loses Big Value If It's Unauthorized

Bill Wagner - Babe Waxpak by Bill Wagner, "Babe Waxpak"
April 25, 2005

Dear Babe: I have a 16x20 picture signed by Cassius Clay when he was fighting Sonny Liston. It's the famous show where Clay is standing over Liston. I bought it at a silent auction. It is matted and framed. The brass plate attached to the frame says "Cassius Clay AKA Muhammad Ali."
Brenda Cocozziello, Tyngsboro, Mass.

Top value would go to an original of Neil Leifer's classic photo with a vintage Clay signature. A 16x20 would be worth at least $5,000, said Mike Heffner, president of auction house in New York. Leland's sold a 24x30 color print signed "Muhammad Ali" with Leifer's signature as well for $4,348 in its December auction. At that price point, framing doesn't affect the value. Assuming we're still talking about an original Leifer photo with that vintage Clay signature, but one that is 8x10 in size, the value drops to around $3,000. On the other end of the spectrum, you have an unauthorized copy of the photo (of which there are plenty) signed by the champ. The value drops to $500-$1,000 depending on the size of the photo and quality of the Clay signature.

Dear Babe: I have an autographed Harlem Globetrotters basketball that I won when I was in high school in 1973. It is in excellent condition. Each time that I move I think about selling it. Well, I am moving again. Some of the signatures include "Geese" Ausbie, Marques Haynes and eight others.
Cheryl Justice, Ridgeland, Miss.

It seems to me, and Mike Breeden, a Tuff Stuff columnist and autograph expert, agrees that a ball from that era should also be signed by Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal. I suspect that back then, Ausbie and Haynes might have made an appearance with a "B" squad that the Globetrotters often sent to second-tier sites. Even with Neal and Lemon, demand for the ball is limited. Without those two signatures, it's probably worth $100-$200, Breeden said.

Dear Babe: I went to an exhibition game between the Harlem Globetrotters and New Jersey Devils in 1979 in Wolfenbuttel, Germany. I still have the tickets and also several autographs that include Curly Neal, Meadowlark Lemon, Dallas ?, and a picture of Sweet Lou Dunbar that he autographed.
Pam Denny, Nashua, N.H.

It looks like it's a Globetrotters kind of day. The Globetrotters are great entertainers, but they're not really hot commodities when it comes to collectibles. Signatures on pieces of paper, napkins, etc. are considered "cuts" that I would say are worth $5-$15 each. The photo is pretty small. I'd think it would be in the same range. For the record, I assume the other signature is that of Dallas Thornton.

Dear Babe: In 1950, my son was given a baseball signed by the entire Yankees team including Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, etc. He was 2 at the time. He passed away shortly thereafter. The names are beginning to fade, though it has never been played with and has been under glass for years. Is there anything I can do to preserve the writing?
Jean Durden, Roswell, Ga.

OK. Two for the price of one. The 1950 Yankees were champions, having won their second straight World Series by sweeping the Phillies in four games. The team would go on to win five straight Series titles. A really nice 1950 Yankees baseball sold for $4,594 in a Mike Gutierrez auction in May. I'd say that's on the upper end. An average ball is probably more in the $1,500-$2,000 range. There's nothing to be done about fading signatures except to keep the ball in a cool, dry spot out of direct light.

Dear Babe: I have a baseball signed by the L.A. Dodgers. The signatures include Walter Alston, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Duke Snider, Junior Gilliam, Stan Williams, 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.

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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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