It’s a supply and demand world but Alan Getz thinks the equation is heavily weighted on the latter.
“90 percent of that is demand. You can have something that might be from 1908 and maybe the only one like it in the world, but if no one wants it, it’s not worth much.”
It’s a formula that dominates the collecting world including sports programs, a Getz specialty since he was a 13 year-old walking the Los Angeles Coliseum stands an hour after the 1955 NFL Championship game had ended to pick up leftover programs. He stockpiled Series programs four years later when baseball had come to his hometown and the 1959 Dodgers were playing the White Sox. “There were 94,000 people there–still the largest crowds ever–but only about 30,000 could actually see anything in that place,” he joked. “I think I had about 100 programs from that Series. They were less than a dollar each and a lot of people just left them at their seats after the game.”
etz has been dealing in programs for many years, a familiar name in hobby publications and at major shows. His own collection includes some of the most rare and valuable World Series programs ever issued.
Determining the scarcity of programs requires a little research. “Much of it depends on the number of games played in that particular series,” Getz said. “If it’s a sweep, there just aren’t that many out there for obvious reasons.”
Prior to the construction of concrete and steel stadiums beginning in the 1920s, ballparks often held less than 25,000 fans. Only some bought programs. Fewer saved them. Those who did may have passed them down, but others simply were discarded by family members because some of the earliest programs were actually simple scorecards that made no mention of the magnitude of what was taking place. They weren’t exactly considered keepsakes.
“The 1919 Reds World Series program is beautiful. It’s about 40 pages and people who went to the games kept them. The 1919 White Sox version is just a scorecard, same as the 1917. Charlie Comiskey, the team owner, was known as kind of a cheapskate. Instead of creating a program the White Sox just used their regular scorecard.” Unattractive, only a handful have survived today.
The ’19 Reds program, while much more visual, sells for $2000-3000. Getz says the White Sox simple scorecard can bring four or five times that amount. “People call me when they purchase the White Sox version and say ‘what exactly did you just sell me for $12,000?’.
Prior to the days of large scoreboards and radio, keeping score was often the only way fans knew what had transpired. Many of the pre-World War II era programs are scored, often neatly in ink pen or pencil. “With radio, portable TVs and electronic scoreboards ou don’t need a program today,” Getz said. “At the ballpark, there are fewer bought.”
“Each team produced it’s own program through the 1974 season. Beginning in ’75, Major League Baseball took over the production process, making just one version for both clubs.
Combine a popular team with a limited number of programs and you have a formula for value. The 1927 and ’28 Yankees swept their opponents. The programs were available in each city for only two days. Getz gets numerous requests for the ’27 and is always on the prowl for them as Yankee collectors and baseball historians seek momentos from that famous lineup.
The Brooklyn Dodgers opposed the Yankees several times in the 1940s and 50s but the ’55 carries much more value since it was the only time the Bums managed to defeat the Bombers.
“Ebbets Field didn’t hold nearly as many people as Yankee Stadium could and so the programs should be double the value of Yankee editions,” Getz said. “And generally they are, although the number of Yankee collectors is quite large.”
“I have a 1956 Yankees Series program that was clearly from Don Larsen’s perfect game,” Getz stated. “The owner jotted down notes including the attendance and other things that make it really interesting to look at.”
The first World Series took place in 1903 between Boston and Pittsburgh. Getz believes there are about ten of the Boston version in existence. It’s value is approximately $50,000 in reasonably good shape. To date, however, a Pittsburgh version has still not been found. “Eventually, it’ll show up,” Getz says.
“There are three programs in particular that are exceedingly rare and I don’t understand why they seem to be worth less than half as much as the 1903 Boston World Series program,” Getz said, while acknowledging the historical significance of the ’03. He lists the 1909 Tigers, 1910 Philadelphia A’s and 1918 Cubs as runners-up to the ’03 Pittsburgh version in the Series program collector’s holy grail.
“About ten years ago I found the first 1918 Cubs Series program,” Getz recalled. “Some young person called me up and asked what it was. He told me it was a Cubs program for a game against the Boston Red Sox and their lineup included Babe Ruth. He said one of the printed price guides had pegged the value at $3000.”
Getz bought the program for that price and re-sold it for $20,000 shortly thereafter to a serious Series collector who understood it’s scarcity. “There have been a couple that have turned up since then. They’re worth about $10,000-15,000 now.”
Both 1908 programs from the Cubs and Tigers are difficult to find as well as the 1918 Red Sox program. Getz has one of those along with a letter than was included with the program when he purchased it several years ago. The letter’s content is from the person who supplied the original owner with two tickets to the games at Fenway Park. “That’s one I wouldn’t sell,” he promised. “It makes it unique.”
Getz said the 1932 Yankees , 1934 and ’35 Tigers, 1946 Red Sox and 1968 Tigers Series programs seem to be his most popular requests from collectors looking for something a little more affordable.
Playoff programs, even some from more modern eras are sometimes difficult to find. The 1969 Mets took the first two games of the first-ever National League Championship Series from the Atlanta Braves, then returned home to Shea Stadium where they completed the sweep in Game Three of the best-of-five. “Since there was only one game in New York and the Mets are so popular it’s hard to find,” Getz said. The 1971 Giants NLCS program is virtually unchanged from the regular season issue and simply wasn’t saved that often by fans. Getz indicated the Candlestick Park program, also from a Series that resulted in a sweep, can sell for hundreds of dollars.
“For me it’s part of the game,” Getz says of his preference for programs rather than vintage cards. “It tells a story about the person who was actually at the game and a little about the game at that time in history.”