By Cami Berardi
The hobby of sports memorabilia collecting is certainly vast, and the best way to build a collection is to be a little versatile. For example, I happen to be a collector of both New England Patriot and New York Yankee memorabilia. I am always interested in ways I can better my collection. To do this I've had to do a lot of research on the historical aspects of the various sports and players, as well as educate myself about the current hobby and the marketplace.
I took some inventory of what I have in my collection at present, and what I could add to make it more interesting. After some thought I decided the answer was game used bats. One problem? I wasn't familiar with how to go about buying a game used bat.
Once again I fell back on my research abilities. I went out to my local library and did some reading, I surfed the net, and I even spoke with a couple of memorabilia dealers that I trusted.
The name of the game in any type of sports collecting is, of course, authenticity. We want to make sure that what we are purchasing has an actual connection with the player or the team. This is true with any piece of memorabilia, but especially true if you are ever considering selling the collection at some point.
What You Want
When looking at a "game used" bat, you need to keep an eye out for certain points of interest, such as its rarity, the natural appeal or appearance of the bat, and of course the ever important provenance. When I use the word provenance, I am referring to specific player characteristics, or attributes of a bat, which can be linked back to a player, which then results in a piece being deemed to be "game used" memorabilia. The reason the player characteristics are so important is because it acts as a personal imprint that the player left on the equipment.
For example there are several different ways in which you can use the visual clues left on the bat to make the connection to the player. The use of pine tar, how a bat handle was taped, the addition of grooves to the handle, and the inscription of a player's initials or jersey number on the knob of the bat. In order to be able to decipher these clues though, one must research a player's history.
Another valuable resource is photographs, especially the action shots where you are able to get a clear view of the bat a player is using. In some pictures you are even able to see the bat knobs and read what is on them. Relying on pictures of players posing with a bat is not good enough, because it could be any bat, not necessarily the one they use in a game situation. In more recent years players have tended to stick with a particular brand of bat, and that may be a useful clue to linking it to a player.
Making Sure It Is Real
So, even going in with all your nifty research in hand, you, and I are still not experts in the field of authentication, so what do we do if we want to buy a bat? We do not rely on the good word of a dealer or their version of a COA. These pieces of paper, no matter how pretty they are and what they say, does NOT mean what you are buying is the real deal.
If you do not feel comfortable with making the decision of "real" or not yourself, then turn to a trusted third party authenticator such as MEARS or PSA/DNA--names that are trusted and recognized within the sports memorabilia community/industry. It is the business of these companies, and the people they employ, to make sure something is what is presented to be.
Always remember you get what you pay for, and nothing rings more true in the advice department then when it comes to memorabilia. If it sounds to good to be true it most likely is. When you wish to add to your collection, you want to invest the best way you can. You want to give your collection that "WOW" factor. So be a smart collector, spend your money wisely, and expand on your passion for the game by gaining some knowledge about your chosen sport or player. But always remember to have fun, which at the end of the day is the name of the game.
Cami Berardi is a sports memorabilia hobbiest, and collector. She enjoys not only collecting but writing and researching the hobby and industry. You can see more of Cami's dealings at: http://www.youtube.com/patriotsfangirl12
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