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Lots of Options When it Comes to Authentication

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

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Dear Babe: I have a baseball that I got autographed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953. It has the autographs of Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and others. I know the signatures are authentic. I got them myself, but I would like to know how to obtain written verification that they are genuine. Also, I would like tips on how to preserve the ball. Right now it's in a safe deposit box. My cousin, who had an identical ball, said the signatures have all faded from her ball since she kept it in an attic for years.
Sharron Smith, Frederick, Md.

For starters, Mike Heffner, president of Lelands.com auction house in New York, said the ball signed by the Boys of Summer was probably worth $1,000-$2,000. This assumes you have a team-signed ball, which means at least 18-20 signatures, including all the key ones such as Robinson, Campanella, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider among others. As for preserving it, the best bet is to keep it in a cool, dry spot out of direct light. Major auction houses such as Leland's would authenticate an item if it were consigned to them before they would put it up for sale. A number of folks who do auctions are used as sources in the column. They include Heffner at Lelands.com in New York; Brian Marren, MastroNet.com in Chicago; David Kohler, president of SCPAuctions.com in Laguna Niguel; Mike Gutierrez, owner of MGAuction.net in Arizona and Robert Lifson, RobertEdwardsAuctions.com in New Jersey. In addition, others who offer expert opinions for Da Babe who authenticate items include PSA/DNA in Newport Beach (www.collectorsuniverse.com); Global Authentication, Inc. in Irvine (www.gai.com); MEARS in Milwaukee (www.mearsonline.com); and Jim Spence in Pennsylvania (www.spenceloa.com).

Dear Babe: I have a few baseballs that were mass-produced and sold at ballparks with stamped signatures. I've got a few from my youth including a 1962 Mets ball that I purchased as a kid from Manny's (across from Yankee Stadium). I've got some genuine autographed - '88 Dodgers and '89 Mariners (Griffey Jr.) as well as one signed by Sadaharu Oh, but the old stamped ones hold as much - or more - meaning to me.
Joe Smith, Temecula, Calif.

It looks like sentimental value is the order of the day for stamped baseballs. The official word from Mike Heffner, president of Lelands.com auction house in New York, is that baseballs with stamped signatures really have no value - even one from the Mets first year. The ball might be worth $50, Heffner said. Mets fans covet items from that inaugural season, so you might stretch that value to $100 if you found the right collector.

As for the ball signed by the World Champion 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers and their Series hero Kirk Gibson, a really nice one sold for $2,132 in a MastroNet.com auction last December. That's pretty much the high end. The value for a ball in average condition is going to be more like $1,000. A Mariners ball from '89 with Junior's rookie signature might be worth $200-$300. Oh baseballs have been selling for around $250-$300, said Bobby Mintz, vice president of operations for Houston-based TristarProductions.com.

Dear Babe: I have a Hoyt Wilhelm autographed baseball that I keep in a Plexiglas cube.
Dave Curry, Thomasville, Ga.

Wilhelm was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985. Aside from the big name hurlers, pitchers, especially the couple of relievers who have made it to Cooperstown, don't excite a lot of collectors other than those who covet signed baseballs from Hall of Famers. Tuff Stuff lists a single-signed Wilhelm ball at $50.

BABE NOTE: Topps is climbing through the ropes back into the squared circle with its planned release of WWE Heritage cards in November. The 90-card set will include wrestling stars - past and present - including Hulk Hogan, Gorilla Monsoon, The Undertaker and Rick Flair. There are also plenty of autographed and memorabilia cards. One can only imagine what kind of items might be found on memorabilia cards. Who knows, there might be slivers of metal from a caged contest. Or perhaps, slivers of wooden chairs splintered over an opponent's head. However, with wrestling still drawing huge crowds and good ratings on cable, there's little doubt as to its popularity - hence the latest edition of cards. Two-dollar packs will have five cards and a stick of gum with 24 packs to a box.

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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