Unique Gifts: 5 Spectacular Baseball Autographs On eBay That Make Good Investments – Forbes

Looking for that perfect gift for a friend, a family member, your significant other, or even yourself?  Signed sport memorabilia has traditionally proved a wise investment and none more so than baseball artifacts.  And while there are no guarantees, values may well continue to increase in the years to come; meanwhile, the objects make for a great display!

While items signed by legends like Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Lou Gehrig can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars, many autographs are downright cheap.  Here are five favorites of mine that fit any budget:

Musial signed this 1962 Topps with a Sharpie pen. (Photo courtesy of eBay)

Musial signed this 1962 Topps card with a Sharpie pen. (Photo courtesy of eBay)

1) Stan Musial, $50 to $75:  I am a big fan of St. Louis Cardinals’ “Stan the Man” and have always been bullish on his memorabilia.   Musial is one of the all-time greats, thanks to his seven batting crowns and .331 lifetime batting average.   There’s a good assortment of vintage signed Topps cards and elegantly signed baseballs for very little money, considering he is one of the top ten players in baseball history.

A cut signature from Eddie Cicotte, an infamous Black Sox pitcher. (Photo courtesy of eBay).

A cut signature from Eddie Cicotte, an infamous Black Sox pitcher. (Photo courtesy of eBay).

2) Eddie Cicotte, $250 to $300:  Baseball’s darkest hour occurred when eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with New York gamblers, principally Arnold Rothstein and former MLB pitcher “Sleepy Bill” Burns, to throw the 1919 World Series.  The “fix” by Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other Black Sox is the biggest scandal in sports history.   

The great knuckleballer Eddie Cicotte was a standout pitcher for Chicago and well on his way to the Hall of Fame.  In 1919 his win-loss record was an incredible 29-7 with a 1.82 ERA. His role in the fix eventually led to a lifetime banishment from the game.  Most Black Sox signatures are prohibitively expensive.  For example, Joe Jackson’s signature sells for about $20,000.  Cicotte’s signature is one exception.  During his long life, until his death in 1969, he was a frequent signer.  For such an infamous figure in baseball history, his autograph is a bargain.   

President Gerald Ford autographed this baseball. (Photo courtesy of eBay).

President Gerald Ford autographed this baseball. (Photo courtesy of eBay).

3) U.S. Presidents, $400 to $500: Baseball and the presidency go hand in hand.  There is a long tradition of commander in chiefs tossing out the ceremonial first pitch at World Series games. Balls signed by them are among the most collectible of all sports memorabilia. Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and both Bush 41 and 43 sell within the $400-500 price range; Richard Nixon starts at $1,000; and, due to his popularity, Ronald Reagan commands $2,000 with exceptional specimens selling for as much $5,000.  Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson are rare. commanding at least $10,000. A nicely signed John Kennedy ball goes for more than $30,000.  In 2006 a single signed Herbert Hoover baseball was hammered down at $64,000, though some authorities question its authenticity. I detail presidential baseballs in my latest book Collecting Historical Autographs just released by McFarland & Company. 

Munson signed in bold, blue ball point on this 1972 team-signed Yankees ball. (Photo courtesy of eBay).

Munson used a bold, blue ball-point pen to autograph  this 1972 team-signed Yankees ball. (Photo courtesy of eBay).

4) Thurman Munson, $1,000: The 7-time All Star and one of the greatest catchers in baseball history compiled a .292 lifetime average in his 11 seasons and was destined for Cooperstown.  His life was tragically cut short in a plane crash in 1979 at the young age of 32. 

As his popularity increases over the years, memorabilia signed by Munson such as 8 x 10 photos can sell for thousands of dollars.   Fortunately, the team-signed baseballs he’s on will set you back only about $1,000. With all the Munson forgeries floating about, a Yankees signed team baseball is your best bet to attain a genuine signature of this New York legend. Back in the 1960s and 1970s baseballs were typically signed by the players themselves and clubhouse signatures were typically limited to the superstars of the day such as Mickey Mantle.  Demand will likely continue to push values of Munson material higher.

The M & M Boys posed together at the height of their glory. Be careful of Maris forgeries. (Photo courtesy of eBay).

The M & M Boys posed together at the height of their glory. Be careful of Maris forgeries. (Photo courtesy of eBay)

5) Mickey Mantle & Roger Maris, $2,500:   There have been many memorable duos in baseball history, among them Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain, Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca, and even Abbott and Costello.  The greatest one-two punch is the M&M Boys, the legendary Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.  In 1961 they combined for an incredible 115 home runs and 269 RBIs; leading the Yankees to the World Series championship.

Maris’ mystique and untimely death at the age of 51 in 1985 before the era of mass autograph signings fuels demand for dual signed baseballs and 8×10 photos are the most common and can generally be purchased in the $2,500 price range; though superior baseballs often go for double that amount. One word of caution: the vast majority of M & M signed pieces I have seen are forgeries.  Many times a Maris forgery will be added to a genuine Mantle signed baseball, so keep a sharp eye out.

As with any autograph, make sure you buy from a reputable and knowledgeable dealer who offers a no hassle and unconditional money back guaranty.  These and many other baseball autographs make for great gifts ideas.  The potential monetary upside only adds to the enjoyment and fun of collecting.

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