An autographed Ty Cobb bat, gifted by the Georgia Peach himself to a minor league baseball team owner 108 years ago, sold for $1.6 million at Heritage Auctions over the weekend, four years after it was purchased by a collector who subsequently matched it to a Cobb photo in his collection.
The J.F. Hillerich & Son game-used and signed bat dates to the 1910-1914 seasons, during which Cobb had a 40-game hitting streak, hit .420 and was named the American League MVP (1911).
The bat measures 34.5 inches long, has cleat and ball marks as well as some nail repairs. The handle is taped in Cobb’s familiar spiral pattern.
The bat was purchased at auction by collector Justin Cornett for $187,000 just five years ago–before the photo matching that placed the bat in Cobb’s hands and fueled the inherent value.
It actually bears two photo matches. In one image, taken circa 1912-1913, Cobb is at Comiskey Park in Chicago with the bat by his side; PSA/DNA’s letter of authenticity notes that “the grain pattern on the front of the bat from the handle to the center brand is a perfect match.” The second image comes from Sept. 6, 1913, when news photographer Louis Van Oeyen caught Cobb and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson each carrying three bats, this one among them.
“It’s reeking in Cobb characteristics,” John Taube, bat authenticator for PSA/DNA, told us in 2018.
The bat originated in the collection of Eddie Maier, owner of the Vernon Tigers of the Pacific Coast League and one of the earliest collectors of game-used bats. Cobb signed it: “To Mr. Maier From Ty Cobb, Sept. 18th, 14.”
Five years later Maier sold the club to silent film star and director Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.
The sale came during the second of a three-session sale conducted by Heritage and a day after the $1.47 million sale of a PSA 8 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card.
“I’ve been part of countless momentous auctions since founding Heritage’s Sports category in 2004, and it’s always a thrill to find new homes for incredible material from landmark moments and legendary players,” says Chris Ivy, Director of Sports. “This has obviously been an extraordinary year for us, one that saw us redefine the hobby and set hundreds of records, and we’re just delighted to end the year doing what we’ve always done: making history with history.”
- 1966 Willie Mays Giants road jersey $456,000 (record price)
- 1996-97 autographed Michael Jordan Bulls home jersey $372,000
- Fuzzy Thurston’s Green Bay Packers Super Bowl I ring $216,000 (record for SB I ring)
- Original 1909 Charles Conlon photo of Ty Cobb stealing third base $204,000
- Wayne Gretzky’s signed 1979 WHA rookie contract $192,000
- Tiger Woods signed hole-in-one ball from first pro tournament in 1996 $186,000
- 1938-41 Ted Williams glove $150,000
- 1953 Mickey Mantle signed Yankees contract $117,000.
In all, the auction generated over $22.1 million in sales.