The Project       


50th Ann Book Cover
I went shopping awhile ago for an item to build on when I went to the 2009 Hall of Fame Induction Weekend. I wanted the project to have several autographs of Hall of Fame members already on it. I enjoy what's called "multi-signed items."        Anyway, I looked on line for several months and finally found an opportunity on Ebay. It was a copy of The Baseball Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary Book by Gerald Astor, published January 1, 1988. Nice book, and I recommend it, but I wasn't so much interested in the book as I was what was on the first three pages.
       Scattered over the first three pages, in blue sharpie, were the autographs of 57 Baseball Hall of Famers. Of these, 25 of the autographs were applied by players who are since deceased. I had never quite seen anything like it before. To me, if everything checked out, this was a fantastic, one-of-a-kind opportunity.
       Unknown to the seller, but a sizable research project was launched after I decided to check the item out. I made a few phone calls. I knew some people who had gotten in-person autographs from some of the same players in the book, I had an extensive library of autograph examples of many of the players, I started an email correspondence with the seller in order to check the provenance, and started to develop an estimated value of the item. After much consultation and perhaps 20 hours of research, I came to the conclusion that the item was authentic. It's difficult to fake one or two autographs of famous people, but it can be done well enough to stump expert authenticators. It is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to accurately duplicate 57 autographs (including little known Hall of Famers) over three pages. Just think, if you’re a counterfeiter and you scuff one autograph up you need a whole new book and you've rendered all the other autographs you've done useless. For the most part, counterfeit autographs are one, two, maybe three autographs on a photo or ball. Never 57 autographs that match known authentic examples (bank checks, letters, legal documents, contract signatures for baseball cards, etc.).
       The seller, Bob Rothschild, had gotten all of the autographs in-person at baseball card shows during the period 1988 - 1993.
Among other things, he collected baseball player (especially Yankee) autographs on Perez Steele cards, baseballs, photos, and HOF players on the subject 50th Anniversary book. Living in central New Jersey at the time, he could easily drive to the signing events in New York and Baltimore. He obtained Mickey Mantle's autograph for $15 (the most he spent on an autograph) and Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams for a bit less than that. He quit collecting HOF player autographs on the book in order to concentrate his time and money on Yankee items. He wound up with a notable Yankee collection. The book stayed dormant for 16 years before he decided to sell it.
       A long list of acceptance criteria were met and I put in a bid. The bid I put in was a fair value bid. I didn't try to win with a stealth bid. The opening asking bid was $550. My winning bid was much more than that and, although I raised my leading bid twice during the bidding process (to send a message to my opponent that I was engaged and serious), my initial bid alone was enough to win (barely). The entire bidding was between just two people; myself and one other person who had a long history of bidding on sports items.

       Here is a list of the player autographs on the book and what page they appear (Note: (d. 1999) = deceased 1999):


Book I, Page 1 (26 players)

Willie Mays; Mickey Mantle (d. 1995); Joe DImaggio (d. 1999); Frank Robinson; Enos Slaughter (d. 2002); Duke Snider (d. 2011); Lefty Gomez (d. 1989); George Kell (d. 2009); Ray Dandridge (d. 1994); Al Kaline; Gaylord Perry; Willie Stargell (d. 2001); Monte Irvin; Johnny Mize (d. 1993); Hank Aaron; Eddie Mathews (d. 2001); Bob Lemon (d. 2000); Early Wynn (d. 1999); Brooks Robinson; Richie Ashburn (d. 1997); Don Drysdale (d. 1993); Sandy Koufax; Billy Williams; Johnny Bench; Bob Feller (d. 2010); Lou Boudreau (d. 2001).

Book I, Page 2 (27 players)

Pee Wee Reese (d. 1999); Carl Yastrzemski; Phil RIzzuto (d. 2007); Ernie Banks; Lou Brock; Jim Palmer; Bob Gibson; Billy Herman (d. 1992); Warren Spahn (d. 2003); Ralph Kiner; Luis Aparicio; Harmon Killebrew (d. 2011); Don Sutton; Ted Williams (d. 2002); Hoyt Wilhelm (d. 2002); Yogi Berra; Al Barlick (d. 1995); Robin Roberts (d. 2010); Jim "Catfish" Hunter (d. 1999); Luke Appling (d. 1991); Red Schoendienst; Juan Marichal; Whitey Ford; Rick Ferrell (d. 1995); Willie McCovey; Buck Leonard (d. 1997); Steve Carlton.

Book I, Page 3 (25 players)

Stan Musial (d. 2013); Fergie Jenkins; Rod Carew; Hal Newhouser (d. 1998) - these were the original four autographs on page 3 as purchased.

Here is the list of player autographs that I have added.

I added: Robin Yount; Tom Seaver; Tony Perez; Gary Carter (d. 2012); Jim Bunning; Carlton Fisk; Joe Morgan; Dennis Eckersley; Wade Boggs; Orlando Cepeda; Dick Williams (d. 2011); Rollie Fingers; Pete Rose (not in HOF); Goose Gossage; Ozzie Smith; Eddie Murray; Earl Weaver (d. 2013); Reggie Jackson; Sparky Anderson (d. 2010); Bruce Sutter; Mike Schmidt.

       I've decided to start two new copies of the 50th Anniversary for baseball HOF autographs. By having two books they can be sent to different locations to get autographs, as players appear all over the place.

Book II, Page 1 (17 players)

Dave Winfield; Paul Molitor; Rickey Henderson; Jim Rice; Nolan Ryan; Whitey Herzog; Phil Niekro; Andre Dawson; Cal Ripken, Jr.; Joe Torre (future HOF); Randy Johnson (future HOF), Bill Mazeroski, Chipper Jones (future HOF), Tom Lasorda, Pedro Martinez (future HOF), Barry Larkin and Tony LaRussa (future HOF).

Book III, Page 1 (18 players)

Randy Johnson (appears again, long story - future HOF); Ryne Sandberg; Tony Gwynn; Ron Santo (d. 2010); Bob Doerr; Lee Mac Phail (d. 2012); George Brett; Doug Harvey; Frank Thomas (future HOF); Craig Biggio (future HOF), Jeff Bagwell (future HOF), Bert Blyleven, Roberto Alomar, Marvin Miller (d. 2012) (future HOF), Pat Gillick, Greg Maddux (future HOF), John Smoltz (future HOF), Mariano Rivera (future HOF) .

Future HOF persons of interest: Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Derek Jeter, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Albert Pujols, Curt Schilling, Ichiro, Jim Thome.

Potential HOFers that I'll wait and see on: Jack Morris, Tim Raines, Jeff Kent, Trevor Hoffman, Roy Halladay, C. C. Sabathia, Vladimir Guerrero

For your baseball autograph needs (based on my experience and personal opinion) (in no particular order):

              MAB Celebrity k2146164              Chris Potter Sports k2146164

             MLBPAA k2146164        J Paul Sports k2146164       Tri-Stark2146164

Update on MLBPAA. Wow! What a turnaround at MLBPAA. This outfit has gone from worst to first. They have hired a dedicated employee for mail order and now have moved to a 4-5 business day turnaround on your item. Whereas they used to have a negative rating they now get my “thumbs up” rating. They delivered my Chipper Jones nicely and on time. Good job MLBPAA!

Check out fellow baseball HOF hobbyist Ben Wideman and his hunt for baseball HOF autographs here.