Collecting autographs from non-baseball personalities is not a new phenomenon. There’s evidence of that in the current Lelands auction: a baseball signed by auto industry pioneer Henry Ford and others in 1933.
The ball surfaced at last summer’s National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City and contains not only Ford’s autograph but signatures from race car driver Ralph DePalma, who died in 1956 and several engineers and inventors who worked for Ford.
It belonged to a New Jersey woman who says a friend gave her the ball many years ago and it was tucked away until 2012 when she moved into a new home and rediscovered it. She and her husband came to the National to try and determine whether it had significant value. It could be worth as much as $15,000 but the auction doesn’t close until later this month. The current high bid is $3,000.
The ball was custom made for the Ford Motor Company, which hosted a safety glass exhibit that year, an event the original owner apparently attended. The ball is stamped with the Ford logo and text stating “Safety Glass Exhibit.” It also carries an art deco style “V8” logo on the opposite side. While it’s not known why Ford chose baseballs as a promotional item at the event, a photograph of Ford signing baseballs at the exhibit was recently uncovered.
Ford’s signature was authenticated by James Spence at the National and then consigned to Lelands for its current Fall Auction. It is believed to be the only known authenticated Henry Ford autographed ball, according to this story on Forbes.com.