BABE RUTH IS STILL SIGNING!
There is a long line that forms awkwardly in an impatient bee-line. The person that controls the speed are three ladies and one man behind a table with numerous items of the Babe's to sign. There is a big board behind them. Decisions come hard and slow. Do you really want to get that 1981 Donruss puzzle signed or should you get the Hartland signed? This is the breakdown: $ 150 for flats. Pictures are $ 400. Balls $ 800. There is no price for those wanting their bats signed. Rumor has it that the Bambino will sign bats for $ 1000 though. It's not posted because he doesn't want to seem greedy, even though Killebrew over there is charging $ 20 more then he usually does. The loud speaker awakens the crowd that is sitting on convention carpet, opening up packs on the floor, waiting for stars to pass their way.
"Babe Ruth is now signing in Pavillion B. Tickets 1-50! Please get in line. No pictures or personalizations and please please please please do not ask him to sign it 'To My Pal'!!". One collector took a quick snap shot though. Ruth didn't look too good, he was slow, mumbled a great deal, liked to talk, flurt, smoke and he looked like he wanted to leave.
"Oh, hell, who wants to collect that crap?" - Babe Ruth, on autographs, 1932
Babe Ruth is easily becoming the most forged autograph in the business. Even though experts estimate that he has signed over 600,00 autographs in his time, there is still a great deal of interest in his autograph. It is also estimated that he signed about 9,000 baseballs a year. You have to remember that many of those signatures were lost, destroyed and damaged. Can you imagine what his signature would be worth if it was scarce?
A piece of paper signed by Babe Ruth sold for $ 700 a few years ago. Today, authentic cuts sell for that, but the problem you have is that fraud is such a huge occupation these days that it's difficult for the uneducated consumer to realize that what they are buying is actually a forgery. Anyone without scruples, a heavy need to ruin something like this business and greed can take a piece of paper out, sign the Babe's name and make $ 200. It's as easy as that. Think about it, you forge two cuts, you just worked a 40 hour work week. Isn't this like the french movie Bicycle Thief? People committing crimes to pay for bread (different kind of bread that gets you motor scooters, cigarettes, patio extensions, lap dances, premium movie channels...)
Recently in Sweet Spot magazine, five experts went on eBay in search for authentic Babe Ruth autographs. The judges were Richard Simon, Richard Albersheim, Dave Bushing, Kevin Keating and forensic Drew Max from AAU. They estimated that 75% of all Babe Ruth signatures on eBay were fakes and that this was in fact a good week! They also estimated that every item authenticated by forensic Donald Frangipani was determined fraudulent. Of course dealers/experts and forensics haven't been getting a long at all of late.
So how can you avoid buying a fake autograph of Babe Ruth? If it's too good to be true, then it is. Recently, a single signed baseball authenticated by PSA/DNA sold for $ 50,000 and I have seen much better baseballs on eBay then the one that was sold. In the Halper collection, single signed baseballs commanded between $ 20-30,000. Lelands is offering to buy mint single signed baseballs for $ 12,000. There is one catch. They have to be authentic.
In the future, unautographed bats and pictures may be at a premium the way some dealers on on-line auction sites are ruining them with faux signatures. There are some dealers that can afford to give away the signatures because they have an endless supply somehow. One company has sold over 60 samples in 1999 including bats, balls, jerseys, picture, newspaper clipping, cuts etc. It should be noted that if you cannot afford a Babe Ruth autograph, you shouldn't be looking. Buying a $ 200 cut means you bought a nice copy your five year old daughter could have just as easily produced at a fraction of the price.
Here is a breakdown at the value of Babe Ruth's autograph.
First off, he could not have signed autographs in felt tip which was invented sixteen years after his death. He had four years with the ball point.
Baseballs- Single signed baseballs can command between $ 3,000 and up. $ 3,000 for a poor version of course. It should be known that he could only sign Ford Frick and William Harridge baseballs, as well as AL, NL and American Association Reach balls. Little League balls came out in 1950. It should also be known that the hobby of collecting autographs was not like it is today. They didn't drive to hobby shops looking for Official balls for the Babe to sign, but in most cases they just got old balls signed and forgot about them soon enough. Sometimes getting other players to sign as well. One thing I see a lot is really old baseballs with "new" Babe Ruth signatures. The signatures didn't age as well as the balls who turned all brown and disgusting. These balls usually sell for $ 500 on line and are forgeries. If you really want a baseball signed, buy a ball with Ruth on it and other players. They range depending on who else is on it, but you can pick up mid forty Dodger balls or Brave balls for $ 4,000 and get a nice very good signature. Be very careful and avoid buying on-line unless it comes with COA from a well-known dealer (not just a COA because a guy says it's authentic and offers a COA or a forensic, but from a true gentlemen of the hobby like James Spence and/or Mike Gutierrez). Be very afraid of Gehrig/Ruth balls. They are valued in the $ 18-20,000 range and I have seen some sell as low as $ 2,000---- Run away.
Cuts- Be very afraid here. 99% of all Ruth forgeries are on cuts or pieces of paper. Paper and pens are everywhere. It is just too easy to forge. I hate going on-line and seeing BABE RUTH SIGNED CUT! IT'S REAL. COMES WITH COA and there is no scan sell for $ 200. How can you throw money away like this?
Pictures- 8 by 10's sell for $ 3,500. Smaller pictures, $ 2,000 to $ 2,500. You see a lot of "To My Pal" with a personalization. I see way to many forgeries where the Bambino I guess wanted that person to fill in his own name and not personalize it. Wire photos have suddenly become the new item to forge because IT COULD be signed due to the picture being dated. A lot forgeries here. Expect to pay around $ 3,000 for an authentic one. If you don't want an authentic one, call me.
Bats- 99.9% of bats are fake. Very tough to authenticate. True single signed Babe Ruth bats sell for $ 12,000. On-line auction sites are flooded with these forgeries. Lelands' Josh Evans says, "I won't even sell one because they are so difficult to authenticate. It's a true shame what has happened". It sure is. I love it when dealers say "Why pay $ 10,000 for a signed bat when you can get one hear for less then half!".