Mementos from 2010 World Series may be worth big money someday

Posted 12:03am on Monday, Nov. 01, 2010

Hold on to those World Series ticket stubs.

Years from now the pricey mementos could far exceed their face value, especially if the remaining games between the Rangers and Giants produce the kind of price-inflating heroics that have defined baseball's Fall Classic.

Imagine the markup if someone throws a no-hitter.

Or belts a ninth-inning, game-winning home run.

"Any milestone is going to carry a premium," said Rich Mueller, managing editor of SportsCollectorsDaily.com, a website that provides news about the sports memorabilia industry.

On Oct. 8, 1956, Don Larsen of the New York Yankees hurled his way into baseball immortality when he pitched the only perfect game in World Series history, a 2-0 victory in Game 5 over the Brooklyn Dodgers.

"Is that the best game Larsen has pitched?" a reporter asked Yankees manager Casey Stengel.

"So far," Stengel replied.

Two years ago a collector paid $6,000 for a Game 5 ticket signed by Larsen.

According to one price guide -- based on what collectors are paying -- a ticket from any of the other six games in the '56 Series is valued at only $150 to $750.

A ticket from the first World Series, in 1903?

It is worth up to $6,750.

Collecting sports memorabilia is a big and growing business.

To record baseball history and protect the public from purchasing counterfeit merchandise, Major League Baseball keeps a tight watch on all items used in every game, including the World Series.

Balls, bats, bases, lineup cards, pitchers' rosin bags -- everything deemed important enough to save -- are tagged by a team of MLB authenticators with sequentially numbered holograms to identify their authenticity.

"We tag any ball that comes out of the game, unless it goes into the stands," said Michael Posner who oversees the MLB program. "Once a ball leaves the field it is out of the chain of custody, and there's nothing we can do to authenticate it."

Posner said four Arlington police officers are serving as authenticators during World Series games played at Rangers Ballpark.

The league office does not appraise or attach value to any item.

Many items are later sold to fans. Some are auctioned off for charity.

More than 3 million items have been certified since the authentication program began in 2001.

"After the game you'll see one of us [authenticators] on the field carrying a bucket," Posner said. Even dirt around home plate and the mound is collected.

The Highland Mint already offers a Texas Rangers commemorative coin set. One coin has MLB-authenticated dirt from Rangers Ballpark embedded in the center.

Last week, Kirk Gibson announced that he is auctioning off the bat he used to hit his dramatic walk-off home run for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the 1988 Series. He also plans to sell the helmet and jersey he wore (and hasn't washed since) while doing it. "You can see the spot where I made contact with the ball," Gibson said of the bat. "It's preserved very well."

Meanwhile, Heritage Auction Galleries, based in Dallas, is accepting bids on a program from the 1924 World Series.

The item was signed by Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb, who met at the Polo Grounds in New York City for a promotion and to view the Series that year between the Giants and the Washington Senators.

Estimated value: $4,000 to $6,000.

Chris Ivy, Heritage's director of sports auctions, said a 1908 World Series program, described in the auction book as a "magnificent rarity," sold last year for $41,825.

Why so much?

"It was the last year the [Chicago] Cubs won the Series," Ivy said.

Back then the Cubs' pitching ace was Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, so named because he lost part of the index finger on his pitching hand in a farm-machinery accident. No doubt some collector would pay top dollar for it.

Today everything, it seems, has a price.

In 1999 a Pennsylvania woman, Karen Shemonsky, paid $8,021 at a Sotheby's auction for the dentures of Ty Cobb, who played in three World Series and died in 1961. The collector, assuming the public would find viewing Cobb's uppers and lowers a meaningful experience, loaned the one-of-a-kind artifact to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Cobb's choppers were displayed under glass, like roast pheasant.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

David Casstevens, 817-390-7436

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