If you couldn’t get to the Baseball Hall of Fame in the mid-1960s, a New York company figured out a way to bring the Hall to you. Today, the 1963 Sports Hall of Fame Busts still have a following among baseball memorabilia collectors.
Sculptured statuettes of 20 members of the Hall were produced by Sports Hall of Fame, Inc., of New York. The statuettes stood 6 inches high, with a white bust of a player atop a wood-like pedestal. A plaque attached to the statue gave the player’s career highlights.
The busts were sold in a box wrapped in cellophane. The box was decorated with drawn columns down the left and right side and sported a red, white and gold color scheme.
The back of the box displayed photos of players, and while the company promised “Many More” statuettes, only 20 players were produced because there did not seem to be much enthusiasm for it. Apparently, the busts were a bust and their shelf life was limited.
The man behind the project, according to an old article in The Sporting News cited by the late hobbyist Bob Lemke, was Harry Lodmor, who created the automatic squirt gun and sold millions of them. Lodmor worked with the Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball to obtain the proper licensing. Lodmor had to ensure the busts were exactly the same as the players’ plaques at the Hall of Fame, where the busts were also offered for sale.
A 1963 advertisement from a company in Brooklyn, New York, exhorted collectors that they had a chance to bring the Hall of Fame right into their homes. The cost? A dollar apiece plus shipping.
The 20 statuettes include the original five players inducted into the Hall of Fame: Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner. Also included was a 1962 Hall of Fame inductee, Jackie Robinson.
The first eight statuettes in the set are considered commons, while the last 12 are scarcer. In The Sporting News article, Lodmor indicated the big names in the set sold better, and he had to balance the desire to sell with not overproducing the best sellers.
Today, the busts that command the most value belong to Jimmie Foxx and Hank Greenberg, with Robinson and Mickey Cochrane also being tough-to-find statuettes. They are a lot more expensive than a dollar now.
In 2015, Robert Edward Auctions sold a complete set — all 20 of them in their original boxes — for $1,800.
The busts do have a presence on eBay, with more than 50 for sale, generally at lower prices than you’ll find in price guides. Players in their original boxes will command higher prices, while sealed, mint-in-the box products will fetch even more cash.