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Vintage Signed Baseballs

Updated on March 12, 2012

Sir, Please Sign My Sphere?

Autographed baseballs are a piece of Americana. No other type of sports memorabilia has as much history behind it as the ball signed by a player or team.

From the famous to the infamous, vintage signed baseballs can be very valuable, especially when well preserved. New finds and long-forgotten treasures are coming into the sports memorabilia hobby every day. But is your autographed baseball authentic and how much is it worth?

We'll help answer those questions or give you the resources to do so.

Single Signed Baseballs

The single signed baseball is just that--a ball signed by one subject--preferably on the 'sweet spot', the narrow area between the seams on every baseball.

Fans collect autographed baseballs in a variety of ways. Some prefer Hall of Famers, others go after themes or milestones like 300-game winners, 500-home run club members, MVPs, batting champions, pitchers who've thrown no-hitters, etc.

Vintage signed baseballs with Hall of Fame signatures are considered rare sports memorabilia, because not that many exist. A ball signed by pitcher Christy Mathewson, who played in the early 20th century, sold at auction in 2007 for over $161,000!. Another sold for $91,000 just a few months later.

Babe Ruth signed a ton of autographs in his day and a lot of Ruth balls exist, but the demand still outweighs the supply by a ton! When the rare Ruth ball that has little wear on it comes to market, a feeding frenzy ensues among well-heeled collectors. A single-signed Ruth ball in near perfect condition sold in 2005 for $150,000.

Thanks to the rise of baseball card shows with autograph guests, you can still find famous baseball players signing in public (as long as you're willing to pay the going price) on a fairly regular basis. If you can get past the 'pay for an autograph' stigma, it's a good way to get an authentic sports autograph. Expect to pay $50-200 for most living Hall of Famers who attend card shows.

Single signed baseballs are really the most preferred way of collecting autographs for the baseball fan and if you have a chance to see a large collection, it really can be quite impressive.

Collecting Team Signed Baseballs

Baseballs do lend themselves to a very tidy display of members of a certain team and team signed balls are very popular, especially when they represent certain great teams of the past.

Balls from the 1920s-1940s can sell for tens of thousands of dollars in nice shape if they include a vast majority of team members including authentic signatures of the stars or Hall of Famers on that team. A 1921 New York Giants team signed baseball sold for $15,535 in a recent auction by Heritage Galleries.

New York Yankees memorabilia is always popular and Yankee team signed balls from the club's many world championship teams can be exceptionally valuable. A 1932 Yankees team-signed ball brought $14,340 recently and included the autographs of Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Beware, though! It was common practice for many years for clubhouse attendants to pass those balls around and forge the players names on them, especially the stars who didn't relish the hundreds of requests sent their way each week.

It's best to seek out a qualified, respected autograph authenticator before pulling the trigger on a buy or sale. Search Google, do research and read, read, read before spending a lot of money in an auction or even in a large store that might seem to carry unquestionably 'good' autographs.

Most old autographed baseballs have flaws thanks to the ravages of time and the fact that some of them were actually played with. Remember, sports memorabilia wasn't considered anything of real monetary value until the last 35 or 40 years. Of course, that affects the value as well. Team signed baseballs are one of the most interesting areas of the sports memorabilia hobby and don't take up much room either!

Beware the Clubhouse Signature

Not all autographed baseballs are pure as snow

Unfortunately you have to be aware that many well-known players have used "ghost signers" over the years.

A clubhouse attendant, bat boy or another player would sign for the beseiged player, duplicating his signature as close to the real thing as possible so as not to arouse suspicion.

A number of players, including Babe Ruth, have used ghost signers. For many players who received autograph requests at home, a wife or other family member would sign, especially late in the player's life.

How can you tell if it's real? Do LOTS of homework online, or submit it to an authenticator for a 'quick opinion'. A good authenticator has seen enough clubhouse or ghost signatures that they will know quickly whether it's real or not. It'll cost you a few dollars, but it's vital if you ever decide to sell your vintage autographed baseball.

New Baseball Autographs Website Launches

Authentic signed sports collectibles site offers knowledge and shopping.

A new website focused on baseball and other sports autographs has launched, offering novice and veteran collectors the opportunity learn about autograph authenticity and shop for signed sports memorabilia.

Diamond Autographs features several informative articles including Guides to What Makes Sports Autographs Original, Types of Signed Collectables, Sports Autograph Collecting Themes and even why collecting sports memorabilia is, contrary to some recent news stories, growing by leaps and bounds despite recent economic challenges. Sports fans have always sought a tangible connection to their favorite teams, players and moments through sports memorabilia. Statistics indicate the number of sports fans tuning in to watch games has never been higher.

In addition to some collecting tips, visitors to Diamond Autographs have the opportunity to purchase authentic signed collectables from eBay and without having to navigate through thousands of other listings. Shop through the store or bid on signed items authenticated like signed balls from PSA/DNA, 8x10 autographs from James Spence Authentication, autographed baseballs from Steiner Sports and Mounted Memories and much more.

You can even shop through a list sorted by authenticator.

Authentic sports memorabilia continues to grow in popularity, with beautiful pieces multiplying each year and companies and collectors become more and more creative. Advances in photography, authentication and even the markers and pens used to sign items have made many items virtual works of one-of-a-kind sports art.

While sports card shows often charge significant amounts of money for mid-level stars to sign items-and premiums for larger items like bats-shopping online remains the best way to buy sports memorabilia.

There is enough competition in the market to keep prices at a reasonable level and there is, literally, something for every budget thanks to eBay's fair market auctions that take place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Diamond Autographs provides the links that make it easy to spot those bargains and add them to your collection or purchase that special holiday gift.

Autographed Baseballs for Sale

Shop for modern stars and vintage signed baseballs via Click one of the links below and once into the site, you can search for anything!

Didn't know Amazon sold autographed balls, did you? Fact is, the top sellers know it's a way to reach thousands of customers and put their inventory online here.

Sports Autographs for Sale - Get a little peace of mind by purchasing professionally authenticated sports autographs

Shop for authentic sports autographs. Signed collectibles given a stamp of approval through the top authentication companies are your best bet!

Babe Ruth Autographed Ball in a Desk Drawer

You never know where those baseballs will turn up either:

From Louisa Peartree in the Baltimore Messenger:

You know how somewhere in your home there is an old desk or dresser that isn't used much? Maybe it was the desk used by a child who has long since grown up. Maybe it is an inherited piece you can't part with (or if you do, your mother will kill you), but you keep it in an out-of-the-way place. Perhaps old pictures, sweaters or outdated documents fill its drawers.

Patricia Laidlow, a neighbor on Wingate Road in Keswick, MD, has just such a desk, one that's been in her family for years. In her case the desk was used by her daughter through high school. It was emptied out when her daughter left for college some 20 years ago.

Since then, it has been a resting place for an odd document or, as Pat admitted, pieces of broken china. One day recently, as she was looking through the desk, she discovered a baseball wrapped in tissue. Upon inspection, the ball had several signatures scribbled on it.

Shortly after Pat's discovery, she noticed that Seth Gray was playing catch outside. Seth is a knowledgeable young man who likes baseball. Pat shared the ball with Seth, who quickly advised her not to touch the leather, only the stitches.

After a quick inspection (and after picking his jaw off the ground) he told her one signature was that of none other than the Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth.

Pat has since had the signatures authenticated by a baseball memorabilia dealer. There are six in all -- all players from the 1931 Yankees. Pat said, "I have no idea where the ball came from; neither I nor anyone in my family remembers ever seeing it before."

She thinks perhaps it came from her maternal grandfather, a barber in Schenectady, N.Y., and a big sports fan.

Autograph Authenticators

Whether you have a signed vintage sports memorabilia, an autographed photo or a signed bat sitting in your office, these grading and authentication companies have years of experience and piles of exemplars to help them determine the authenticity of an item or give it their stamp of approval so you'll have an easier time selling. They're not foolproof, but using reputable autograph authenticators is better than the alternative. Generally, you'll feel better about buying or selling.

There are fees associated with the service, but if you have a potentially valuable piece, it's wise to have an opinion rendered before attempting to sell.

Bear in mind, there are other individuals who are well qualified to render opinions on whether a signature is genuine. The best piece of advice we can provide is to do your homework when it comes to the subject of authentication.

Autograph authentication fees ees generally range from $20 to $150, depending on the player, the era and what's being authenticated. Team signed baseballs usually fall at the top end based on the number of signatures which must be authenticated. A simple authentication for a single-signed ball can generally be done for much less. The price also depends on whether you want a simple certificate or a full letter of opinion. A full letter is probably not warranted unless you have a very valuable piece or one with a signature that is commonly forged.

If you don't want to ship your items, the major autograph authenticators usually set up booths at major sports card and collectible shows throughout the year. Contacting them for a schedule would be the way to go. Chances are they'll be within a couple hours drive of where you live at some point.

Read More About Baseball Collectibles

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Sports Photos
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So What's My Autographed Baseball Really Worth?

You'll be at least a little less than clueless after reading this

You dug it out of storage. Took it off the mantle. And you want to know. What's this old autographed baseball worth anyway?

Like anything else, it's not cut and dried. Not most of the time anyway.

The value of an autographed baseball depends on a few factors.

1) Who signed it

2) Is it a team-signed ball, a multi-signed ball or a single-signed ball?

3) Are the autographs REALLY genuine?

4) What condition is it in?

5) If it's a team ball, is it from a club that won a pennant or World Series?

Ideally, your signed ball contains genuine Hall of Famer autographs or is a complete team signed ball and has been well preserved.

The first step is knowing what you have. Is it a 1955 Milwaukee Braves ball? Make a note of the signatures and match them to a team roster at sites like Baseball Reference. You can narrow down your ball to a couple of specific years by doing this.

Single-signed balls autographed on the 'sweet spot' are best. The sweet spot is the narrow area between the stitches. It's where the manager or most prominent player often signs--and that's sort of an accepted rule among teams, although never an absolute.

If your ball is smudged, that's a bad sign. If your ball is REALLY old, wear is normal and expected, but the autographs should still be somewhat readable. If your ball is incredibly pristine--stored in a dark, safe environment and never really handled, autograph grading might be a good idea. Authenticators do this as an extra service.

Fake signatures on baseballs are somewhat common, unfortunately. It was once common practice in clubhouses that well known players often had clubhouse attendants or batboys sign for them because they were so overloaded with demand. It's maddening to find a real team signed ball that has 23 authentic signatures and yet the biggest star like Mickey Mantle is actually a "clubhouse signature".

Sending your team signed ball to an authenticator is really the only way to get any peace of mind on the authenticity of the ball. Just because your uncle knew someone on the '61 Yankees or had a friend in the front office isn't enough.

Follow those steps and do a little research and you'll know what your autographed baseball is really worth.

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