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Baseball Memorabilia: 25 Cool Ways to Collect

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If the whole sports collecting thing has you a little confused, or if you’re a veteran collector feeling bored, we’ve channeled our inner pack rat to come up with a list of twenty-five genres of baseball memorabilia that should get your creative juices flowing.

You’ll notice a theme throughout, though. We’ve tried to keep the cost factor in mind because not everyone is blessed with the disposable income of Bill Gates. Of course, if you do have a sizable credit limit, it’s just that much more fun.

We could do a list of only baseball cards but since most of us like a little display material to go with our cardboard, we’ve concocted a cornucopia of cowhide marvels.

25 cool ways to collect baseball items.

Debate. Discuss. Ridicule. It’s just a list…in no particular order.

1) Hall of Fame member 8×10 autographs The cheapest, most cost-effective way to participate in collecting autographs of Cooperstown enshrinees. eBay and dealers’ monthly auctions are full of authenticated, living HOFers in living color for less than $20 each. Dead guys cost more, but they’re obtainable too.

2) 1919 World Series memorabilia:  It’s the most famous World Series ever–for the most unfortunate reasons. It’s not cheap, but a program (around $2500) or ticket stub will become the centerpiece of your collection. You’ll get chills as you wonder what the person who originally owned it was thinking as the events on the field played out.

3)Wrappers and display boxes I still can’t figure out why so many people saved these even 75 years ago, but they did. Great for display by themselves or with your sets and still not that expensive considering the scarcity of the older items. We love wax wrappers and 1960s and 70s boxes.

4)Old team yearbooks.:Vastly underrated and underappreciated, yearbooks bring those old players and teams to life better than cards do and they’re far less expensive. You can look at them without fear of messing anything up, too.

5) Team-signed baseballs. Check out any sports memorabilia auction–or eBay–and you’ll see fully authenticated team baseballs with 20+ signatures selling for peanuts. It seems like prices have plummeted. Start with an All-Star ball from the 80s and work your way back. Great fun to display.

6) World Series black bats: Limited in quantity, coolness oozes from these gold and black beauties. Not functional, but a nice conversation piece no matter which team is represented.

7) Hartland Statues:  1950s-60s original versions are still easy to find (except for Dick Groat) and haven’t changed much in price since the 1980s. They really do look like the players. Bonus points for having the boxes, but it’s not necessary to enjoy these standing ‘in action’ inside a nice curio cabinet. Artist Frank Fulop did a great job for Hartland in the 1950s, sitting in stadiums and sketching. RIP, Frank.

8) 19th century baseball cards: They’ll cost you plenty if you chase sets. Settle for a player from each known set. Anything over 100 years old is cool indeed.

9) Regional sets. Yup, even those from the 1980s and 90s. They were hot 25 years ago and even though they may never be fully appreciated, the sets given out at ballparks or by local cops are very limited and often contain players who never made it into the mainstream sets. Zillions of different designs and usually available for less than $15 per set–sometimes a lot less.

10) Old programs;  Old baseball scorecards are more pricey, but they’re just a scoresheet and some advertising. World Series programs have been great since the 1910s. Regular season programs started getting good in the 1950s and can be had for a song. Many have original art on the front. A little snapshot of a season inside, especially if they’re scored.

11) Old tickets and stubs from milestone games. One of the hottest forms of collecting. Collect home run ticket stubs from your favorite player. 3,000 hit or 300 win stubs from Hall of Famers. No-hit stubs. Stadium opening stubs. The list is endless and the stubs are great to display without taking up a ton of room.

12) 1950s Redman baseball cards They’re more expensive with the tabs on, but these 1952-55 sets are just as neat without them–and a lot cheaper. The size is a bit odd, but the artwork and write-ups are great. A much easier way to collect 1950s cards and unlike the original purchasers, you won’t risk cancer.

13) Early 1900s Sporting News supplements:  Underrated, underrated, underrated. Did we mention these were incredibly undervalued and underrated? The former “baseball bible” treated customers to giant photos of the stars of the day back in the first part of the 20th century. Rare, awesome and great fun to chase. Many are dated right down to the week they were issued. They will make you remember why you’re a fan..and a collector.

14) Post Cereal cards. 200 card sets. Some hard to find. Lots of variations. Most all distributed only via the back of a cereal box. Cheaper than Topps. No stats on the back. Simple, straightforward and low tech. Not works of art, but the sets are a blast to put together.

15) Vintage Wheaties cards: Wheaties pre-dated Post, of course, and was a prolific issuer of pictures on cereal box backs. Gehrig and other HOFers throughout. Extremely hard to find unless you frequent the major shows but prices really don’t reflect it. Another set where type card collecting is a good idea.

16) 1964 Topps Giants We’ve touted this set before. It’s not rare, but that’s part of the charm. You mean I can easily put together a 45 year-old postcard-sized set jammed with Hall of Famers in brilliant color and fairly high grade for less than $300? I’m in.

17) SPORT magazines: Sort of along the lines of the baseball program idea. The stories are great, but the covers were shot by some of the best sports photographers who ever lived. Great to display and even better to read on a cold winter night. Love the baseball memorabilia ads inside, too.

18) Old board games:  They take up a little bit of space, but if they’re complete, you can actually take them off your display shelf and play them. Some of the early 20th century games are incredible antiques. There are board games for every sport and some are very rare.

19) Perez-Steele postcards:  If you’re not doing the Hall of Fame 8×10 autographs, this is another option. Gorgeous works of art plus a Sharpie autograph, produced when DiMaggio, Williams, Mantle, Spahn and other big names were still living. Even the lesser names are great to look at.

20) Historic baseball cards:  Another variation on type card collecting. Match the card to the accomplishment: Williams hitting .406 and DiMaggio’s streak (1941 Play Ball); Yaz and the Triple Crown (1967 Topps); a 1951 Bowman Bobby Thomson; a team set of the 1959 Go-Go White Sox or the 1969 Mets. Roger Maris breaks the home run record (1961 Topps). The themes and possibilities are endless.

21) Game used bats:  Sure, you can’t touch a Ruth or Mantle gamer for less than five figures but post-1960s bats for average players are dirt cheap. They take up a lot of space but they look great and you can even take them out and have some batting practice if you’re not that concerned about your investment. Bats teach plenty about the game’s history and reveal much about the players who use them.

22) Uncut sheets: If you’ve got the room, there’s nothing better for your memorabilia room wall that a big ol’ uncut sheet of some long-ago set. You’ll stare at it–mesmerized–until your wife snaps you out of it and tells you to take out the garbage.

23) 1911 T-3 Turkey Red Cabinet cards: No, not the modern issue, although they have their fans, too. The original 1911 version is an absolute classic. Hard to find, but not impossible. Incredibly attractive pieces of baseball history. You should own at least a couple cabinet cards in your collection.

24) Baseball advertising. Maybe you can’t afford the six-figure Cracker Jack or Goodwins posters that sold this year. Old magazines are full of cigarette ads featuring guys like Musial and DiMaggio with butts hanging out of their mouths. Crazy as it sounds, no one thought anything of it at the time. Great conversation pieces you can often frame for an investment of less than $25.

25) Vintage photographs. It’s the most photographed sport in American history and there are all kinds of great photos, many one-of-a-kind, in dealer boxes and binders all over the country. Wire photos, fan photos, team-issues, etc. Even in black-and-white, they stand out. Many can be had for under $5.

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