Steve Duke: . . . There’s all kinds of different rates and things like that, so if you would like to buy from us – you’ve thought about doing layaway, which is fine with us . . .
Speaker 2: What if you’re doing layaway, and now that you have financing, can you pick it right up?
Steve: You can pick it right up. Exactly.
Steve: So, it’s something that we could possible pursue.
Ken: We could possibly pursue . . .
Steve: . . . A job working on the Tradio Hot Line. Alright. Okay!
Last week, we talked about some sports memorabilia. We talked a little bit about the antique baseball cards, and it’s funny, but I had a lot of people come in with T206 cards from that series.
Some unusual things came in. I had one lady who – I will not name her, but she told me a very interesting story. They were cleaning out her dad’s estate, and they were throwing all kinds of stuff out. She’s brought me some things over time, while they’ve been cleaning the place out that I bought from her. She said, “I have to tell you a funny thing. I’ll tell you, because no one really knows about it yet.” Well now the collecting world knows about it, so I can relate the story to you. This is something that’s a real-life prospecting story. This is no BS.
They were cleaning the stuff out, and they found a box, and it said, “Old handkerchiefs and things.” It was loaded into the car going to the dump. One of the family members said, “Let’s look and see what the heck kind of handkerchiefs they got.” They opened it up, and in there – there’re thirteen kids in the family, and her dad was a collector. When they opened it up, there were thirteen sets of the T-206 series baseball cards that we talked about. They were in gem, uncirculated condition. He’d put them away back in the 30s – had put these things away. She called one of the auction houses that do sports memorabilia – told them what they had, and they said, “Would you be interested in auctioning this stuff?” They said, “Yes.” – “What we will do is, if you want us to come pick that up, we’ll send a Brinks truck for you.” They all looked at each other like, “You’re going to send a Brinks truck?” They said, “Yes.” – “Okay.” So they sent a Brinks truck and picked up these thirteen sets of cards.
They did an entire book on this collection. There’s been books already published on the collection, but they did an entire book that was distributed to the different bidders on this collection to really give it some hype, and this is – we talk about what something’s worth – it’s worth what somebody’s willing to pay for it.
When you’re an auction house, and you’re making – this is the other thing people don’t understand – the auction house is going to charge you 25 percent commission.
Ken: Oh, is that what they get? That’s what I was going to ask you.
Steve: And then they’re going to get 10 percent on the buyer’s end, so if the buyer bid $1,000, they’re really bidding $1,100. So, it’s to their advantage to spend money to really promote something like this. They estimated each set at somewhere between eight hundred to a million dollars.
Ken: Wow, thirteen million bucks worth.
Steve: Thirteen million’s worth laying in a box that was marked “Handkerchiefs”, so this stuff is still out there.
The woman said to me, “Steve, look. There’s thirteen of us. We don’t really need the money. One of our cousins needs the money. What would you suggest? Should we take the money when we auction it, or should we keep it?” I said, “Well, how long a process is this auction going to be for each set? Because you have to understand that when you’re talking about a really, really high-end collectible, there’s so many guys out there that want to own this. Let’s say there’s ten guys that really want to own this entire set in gem, uncirculated condition, and there’s thirteen sets. So the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth set is not going to bring anywhere near what the first ten did, because all those collectors have already bought what they’ve dreamt of owning. Generally each time it’s sold, it’s going to bring a little less money.”
I explained this to her, and I said, “If you guys don’t need the money, and you want to pass it on to your kids at some point in time, that value on that set will probably go back up, but the first set – if she really needs the money, let her sell that set the first time, and see what it brings. Well, the first set brought $850,000. So that was a pretty good find in itself. When you start multiplying those kinds of numbers times thirteen, what would the last set sell for? I would think probably $400,000 to $500,000 by that time, because even in two year periods, that’s a lot of saturation in a specialized market.
But that stuff is out there, and when I tell you about going out there and prospecting – I taught you a little bit about gold and silver and diamonds and gemstones. There’s lots of other stuff out there, and today I’ll tell you just another little bit about sports memorabilia and collectibles. Some stuff that I’m going to go over with you that you might want to look at and you’re going to encounter at auctions. One of the girls in town here who’s got an auction house has brought me some different stuff that I try to help them with from time to time.
There was another ball that came in with autographs on it that a gentleman had. It was signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, but it was on a softball. I looked at it. The signatures looked kind of good, but not exactly right, and I said, “Look, I’d be interested in the ball, but it’s something that we’re going to have to send out and get authenticated.” He had no problem with that. It came back that these were what we call “clubhouse signatures”, which means a lot of the batboys would actually – they didn’t have a whole lot of time on their hands – I mean, they had time on their hands. They hung out in the clubhouse. They rubbed elbows with the different big-name players, and lots of times, the players would get a note from someone saying, “Please send me an autograph,” or they’d send them a ball, “Please sign my ball.” I had never ever really seen a softball signed by baseball players, but this had a great story along with it, so I said, “I’ll take a shot, and we’ll get it authenticated.” It came back that neither one of the signatures were genuine. I informed the gentleman of that, and he was very disappointed, but he thanked me and left.
The funny part was, about a month later, someone comes walking back in my store with the same ball. They’re all excited, and they said, “We got this ball, and we know it’s worth a lot of money.” I’m looking at it, and I said, “Well, where did you get it?” They’d bought it at an auction. You have to remember that at auctions, it’s “caveat emptor” – let the buyer beware. If you think you’re knowledgeable enough to just step up to the plate and buy an autographed collectible type of thing without any kind of certificate of authenticity, then more power to you.
This gentleman bought the ball, and I looked at him, and I said, “It’s a great thing. What do you want me to tell you?” He said, “How much will you give me for it?” I said, “Well, I really wouldn’t pay anything for it.” He looked at me like I was an idiot. – “This is Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig!” I said, “I’m well aware of that,” and I went in my safe, and I pulled out a Lou Gehrig signature and a Babe Ruth signature and showed him. He said, “Well, it looks the same to me.” And then I went and got the letter from the company that we’d sent the baseball to that said these were not authentic signatures. The reason I didn’t bother giving the genuine letter to the gentleman who brought the ball in originally was the fact that it costs money to get these authenticated. In this case, I think it was about $400 for them to tell me that the ball wasn’t genuine. So, I went and got the letter and showed it to him, and he was very disappointed.
I tell people, “If you’re going to go out there and prospect, and you’re going to take what we call ‘the shot’, it might be good. It might be bad. If it’s going to affect your lifestyle in a big way, you don’t really want to take the shot. When you start playing in the big leagues, it gets pretty expensive to make mistakes. If you can afford to make the mistake, that’s one thing. If you can’t – if it means that the kids aren’t going to be eating for a week because you took a shot on something that you really weren’t sure of, then I’m going to tell you, ‘Don’t do it.’”
I give my card to a lot of people who come in the store. They’re at different garage sales, and they’re looking at something, and they’re not sure whether they should buy it. I tell people, “You call me at the shop. You tell me what it is – describe it to me. I’ll give you my opinion on it.” I’ve had a lot of people do really well. They’ve bought the item, brought it to me. I’ve bought it from them. They’ve made good money. I had one person that called me, and I said, “It doesn’t sound right to me.” They said, “Well, I think you’re wrong.” I said, “Okay. Have a nice day.”
Ken: You’re the one who called.
Steve: They bought it, brought it to me, and I said, “Here’s exactly what I told you to look for that you told me wasn’t there, and here it is.”
Ken: You didn’t look for it.
Steve: And they said, “Okay, thank you,” and walked out the door.
Steve: But that’s part of prospecting. This past week I had a gentleman come in with some balls that his dad had collected from the 50s – autographed baseballs. He had some Jimmy Fox and Bill Dickey and some Hall-of-Famers on there.
What I try to do for myself when I’m out there prospecting – a lot of times I’ve got a lot of my reference books with me. Now it’s easy because you can use computers, but I’m still a paper-and-pencil kind of guy. What I’ve done is on a lot of the Hall-of-Famers – the autographs that you’ll encounter in your travels – I’ve actually made a little pamphlet out of them, with a copy of those autographs and signatures that I will look at. A lot of times if I bump into a baseball when I’m out there hunting, and I’ll look at the signature, and I’ve had a lot of these autographs already. If I look at the signature, and it’s just not quite right, then I’m going to pass on it.
This gentleman came in with all these Hall-of-Famers, showed me the baseball. The first thing we looked at on the baseball was the fact that the ink was all the same color. It was a purplish colored ink, which is unusual. Usually when somebody walks up and says, “Would you sign my baseball?”, they give you a pen or a Sharpie, and the player will sign his name. Usually there’re quite a few different colors of ink on the ball. Usually you don’t see a ball with all one color. That sends up a flag right there.
The second thing is you have to look at how the letters are written. If they all seem like all the names seem to be sort of scribbled and it’s not a certain way. Everybody’s going to write differently. Not every player’s going to scribble his name. Sometimes you’ll see big looping letters – big O’s, big P’s, the spacing on the top of the H – big looping things, and if you’ll notice, there’s a lot of looping going on in the way these people form the letters. Again, this is another thing that says to you, “This is probably somebody signing someone else’s signatures to this ball.” It’s pretty hard to disguise your handwriting that many different ways. So anytime you see a lot of the same variety of things on a ball, usually that will tell you that it’s probably not a genuine autographed baseball. This is the one thing that we ran into on this gentleman’s ball.
The other ball had Mickey Mantle on it. It had Hank Aaron on it. It had all the Hall-of-Famers that you really wish you’re going to find on a ball. No certificate of authenticity, Just because one’s got a certificate of authenticity doesn’t really mean anything a lot of times. There’s been a lot of people and companies that have been indicted, gone to jail for faking certificates of authenticity. So you really have to deal with somebody you know a little bit about, and do some research on a company if you’re going to buy from a company.
Anytime I’ve sold autographs, and I’m the first person to admit – I have made mistakes on some of the different autographs. Mickey Mantles’ wife started signing his name. All you guys out there know that your wife could probably sign your name better on that check or that Visa card than we can ourselves, so a lot of times, that autograph is really, really good because the wife did it.
We sent it back in to PSA, which is one of the grading companies. It came out that it wasn’t genuine. The autographed baseballs and autographed stuff like that is stuff that you’re going to encounter. Make sure you’re knowledgeable when it comes to the autographs. It’s really easy to dump a lot of money into some of these baseballs – some of these different things that are signed – and make mistakes in a hurry.
If it’s got a certificate of authenticity, make sure you know the company. Do a little research on the Internet about the company that issued that certificate of authenticity. Lots of these guys have gone to jail because of unreal certificates of authenticity. You’re going to bump into a lot of autographed stuff out there.
Talking about the baseball cards, a lot of them came in this week – people showing them to me. They would get on the Internet, and they’d go, “You know I saw this card, and it was $1,000.” I would pull out one of my magazines, and I’d say, “Yes, it was $1,000 in what they call a Grade 9, which means it looks almost as good as the day it was issued back in the 40s or the 50s. What you have is a Grade 4 or Grade 5.” They’ll go, “Well, what does that mean?” And I’ll show you in my book where it gives a grading. It’s just like a coin book. It describes what kind of features you have to be able to see, or what you shouldn’t see to establish what condition that card is in.
The first things they look at immediately are the corners on a baseball card. Now, why do you look at the corners on a baseball card? It’s kind of stupid, but when you’re talking about people who are spending thousands of dollars for one card, the condition is very, very important, and it starts with the corners. Is there any wear? Is there any bending of those corners? Are they just as sharp as the day it was made? That’s one of the real big conditions.
Centering on the card, which means we look at the margins that go all the way around it. Sometimes they’re gold. Sometimes they’re white. Those margins should all be very even, and back then, it wasn’t a collectible, it was a baseball card. Who cared if the margins were right?
It would go through a big cutting machine. On a sheet of cards, it would cut it like the old-time paper cutters. You’d line it up. You’d cut it, and move onto the next one. This was a kind of machine with a big blade that would come smashing down, and it would cut it very nice and crisp, but sometimes the cards would go through misaligned, and the margins weren’t all really even. One side would be a little bit better than the other. If you looked at a card and the margins weren’t all perfect, then it would never grade 9 or a 10. It wasn’t a perfect card, even if it was never used, if it was kept for years. If those margins weren’t perfect, it would never make a 10, which is a perfect card.
Was there any wear on it? Not only on the corners, but any scuff marks? Was the color bright and shiny and nice? Did some kid carry it in his pocket for a little while, out of the gum wrapper and did it scratch it a little bit? How much wear is on the corner of those cards? If it’s real rounded, it could be a 3 or a 4 grade. If it was a little bit better than that, it could be a 5 or a 6. If they were nice and sharp, but with a little bit of dog-earing, it could be a 7 or an 8, so condition is very, very important on a lot of these cards.
We’ll look at the ’52 TOPPS Mickey Mantle card, which has been faked many, many times. It’s like I tell people, “As soon as a card becomes valuable, or any kind of collectible becomes valuable,” – and when I say valuable, there’s stuff that’s faked in the hundreds of dollars category. There’s stuff that faked in the multi-thousands of dollars. We get into a Mickey Mantle Big Bat 1952 TOPPS card – his rookie card. In a Grade 8 or 9, it’s a $5,000 to $10,000 card. Somebody can sit there and print these babies up and make them look really good, and somebody puts some wear and tear on them – they’ve dog-eared those corners a little bit. They’ve put a couple of rubs on it – it’s still a $2,000 to $4,000 card.
Someone who’s out there garage-saling, and they see this big collection of baseball cards. The people say, “Well, I really don’t know too much about this, but I looked on the Internet, and this cards worth at least $800.” And the collector’s out there going, “Cha-ching. I know this is a $5,000 card.” – “Would you take $600?” They say, “Well, okay.” They buy it for $600, and they come running into the shop, and they go, “Steve, how much will you give me for this Mickey Mantle Big Bat?” I look at it and go, “I really don’t buy fakes.” – “What do you mean?” You sit there and you go through it, and you have to explain to them all of the different features that you have to look at to identify the fakes.
Talking about fakes, and just digressing really quickly off the sports memorabilia, someone came in the other day with a number one Playboy – a 1957 Playboy, with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. They made reprints of that, and this was a fake. He’s telling me how much it’s worth, and I said, “Well, yes, if this little black box on the front of it were square rather than rectangular, then you’d have a genuine one. This is rectangular. It’s a copy.”
If you’re going to deal in this stuff, you have to know what you’re looking at. If you’re going to be buying and selling this stuff on a smaller scale, you’ve got to know what you’re looking at. On baseball cards – condition, condition, condition is very important. Any time you get into paper goods, condition is extremely, extremely important.
Lots of times, I’ve bought cards that I thought were a higher grade. We send them out, just like with coins, to an independent grading company. They encapsulate it in plastic. They put a grade on it, and now it can be traded anywhere in the world by telling somebody on the phone, “Okay, this is a Grade 8. PSA did it. It’s a such-and-such card.” There’re different price guides that come out, and these cards are all going to have a certain percentage of what that card would be worth.
Some of the other sports collectibles you’re going to run into are going to be in pugilism, which would be boxing, and you’ll find, lots of times, autographed posters. You’ll find boxing gloves. In boxing, there wasn’t a whole lot of things as far as uniforms to wear, but any kind of sports-worn uniform, whether it’s a soccer uniform, or it’s boxing gloves, or boxing shorts, baseball jerseys – all these things are collectible, and the fact that they’re sports-worn also adds a plus to it, so if they’re autographed, if they’re sports-worn – an autographed jersey – let’s say it could be unworn. It’s the right number, the name’s on it – it could be a $300 to $400 jersey. Worn, autographed – it could step it up to $1,000 and more, depending on whom and how famous that particular person was.
Another thing is – which is kind of cool – in boxing, they would win different belts. The belts would have buckles on them. People actually collect the belt buckles – the boxing belt buckles, rodeo belt buckles, lots of different sports where they would actually present, as an award, a buckle that a person could wear. These are collectibles. Some are very valuable. Some are run-of-the-mill. I’ve bought and sold some of the boxing buckles from the 50s which, we think of the 50s as a long time ago. It’s 60-something years ago, but those buckles still only bring $50 to $100. They’re not a real big collectible, but it’s kind of neat to make a collection of them. I had a collection of these for a while, but I’ve got collections of all kinds of stuff. It seems like I’m the only one who really wanted to collect them. They’re out there. There’re people that collect them.
You can get into a lot of sports collectibles for not a whole lot of money. All the way back in the early 1900s and 1800s, there was gymnastics. The Turners would give out little bronze and gold and silver awards for different gymnastics events. For sports events, as far as track and field, there was a ton of that stuff done – little souvenir footballs or baseballs if a team would win. There were little watch fobs and different pendants that you could wear, and they would have the name of the school and the year that it was done.
There’re all kinds of really cool, little sports collectibles out there that you can really get into without spending a whole lot of money, and a lot of times, people will come in with boxes of these things. – “I was out garage-saling, and I found all of these, Steve. Are they any good?” Some of them will be made out of gold. They’re going to have gold value to them. Depending on what the event was, whom the athlete was, some of them are going to have over gold content. Lots of them have been melted and destroyed by people who were not knowledgeable. A lot of that stuff has been saved from the fires and the melting pots by people like myself who think they’re cool and keep them and collect them.
I’ve got rowing medals. I got all kinds of different sports medals and things. The old Olympic medals – the earlier ones – were made out of gold and silver. The bronze ones don’t have any real metal value to them to talk about, but the fact that it’s a genuine Olympic medal – it has value.
A lot of the gold stuff from the 50s brings a huge premium over the gold price. Lots of these collectibles in athletics are out there. You’re going to encounter them if you’re out there looking around and doing garage-saling.
Another thing that comes with a caveat is the sports rings. National championship rings, whether it’s football or baseball World Series rings and things like this – these have been counterfeited dramatically for the simple reason that they bring a lot of money if they’re genuine – way over the gold price.
Would do you look for? The quality of the ring, the maker – usually it’s Josten’s – one of the big companies that would make the sports rings. Their logo should be on the inside and in that should also be a little “c” inside of a circle, which means it’s copyrighted. On the Internet, I recently saw one that is guaranteed to be not genuine, with an appraisal of almost $5,000 on it. Well, how can you put an appraisal of $5,000 on a ring that’s guaranteed not to be genuine? It’s a copy of a World Series ring, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I’m sure they sold it to somebody who thought that, “It’s guaranteed not to be genuine.” [laughs] I get it.
Ken: It’s guaranteed – not to be genuine.
Steve: You’d better believe it. And they didn’t just give these to the players. A lot of people get excited when they see this. They were given to the staff. There were given to the medical staff, the physical therapist guys, the guys in the front office. Lots of these rings were given to winning teams. The player rings are going to have a significant amount of value. The staff rings are going to be collectible, but at a fraction of the price, so if you run across these rings, know whose name is on that ring. Know who you’re buying. Know whether it was an actual player, or if it was just some guy in the front office. This is going to make a big difference as far as what the value is.
I’m Steve Duke, the owner of Westchester Gold & Diamonds, and we do a little bit of it all – everything from the sports memorabilia to antique paintings to Tiffany glass to antique wristwatches and pocket watches. We try to know what we’re talking about. If we don’t, I’ll get you answers. If you are interested in selling your items – you’d like to dispose of some collectibles, please stop by and see us at Westchester Gold & Diamonds in the Bear Plaza behind ABC liquors. With that, we’re going to take a quick break, and return to Tradio.
Ken: Yeah, alright.
Steve: You never listen to that slow intro.
Ken: No, not me. I’m sorry.
Steve: [laughs] You’ve asked me a question. There was a sailing regatta out there in Charlotte Harbor. Even yachting stuff – boating things – there’s a lot of collectibles as far as that stuff goes. Some of the big America’s Cup guys would sign caps and things like this. They’re collectible as well. It’s just a matter of – that’s why Baskin-Robbins made 31 flavors of ice cream – there’s something out there for everybody, especially when it comes to collectibles.
Ken: Coconut-Almond Fudge.
Steve: Ooh. So, I tell people, with collectibles, “Yes, you can invest money in them. It all boils down to, at the end of the day, when you pick it up – you hold it, you fondle it, you look at it, and it makes you smile, then by all means collect it. I’m Steve Duke, the owner of Westchester Gold & Diamonds saying, “Goodbye to everyone until next week.”
Have Questions about your antiques, estate jewelry, collectibles or old treasures?
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