The following article appeared in the September 1979 issue of The Trader Speaks and was written by Rich Binder, who typically wrote autograph columns.
Getting away from autographs a bit this month I feel something should be said about the number of “phony” baseball uniforms floating around that are being advertised as “authentic” and “actually used by players”. It amazes me that six or seven of Hank Aaron’s jerseys are floating around as well as half a dozen of Pete Rose’s, Rod Carew’s, and the like. While I am not an avid uniform collector I have been able to obtain various material through the ballclubs and have been in contact with several legitimate collectors, thereby being able to distinguish “authentic” equipment from “phonies”.
There is no clear way to guarantee authenticity of a uniform in every instance unless you yourself obtain the material right from the ballclub or the player himself. But there are some guidelines one might follow before being duped into believing that every jersey floating around in the hobby was actually worn by the indicated ballplayers.
I have noticed several ads stating “authentic jerseys for sale”. This may be true, but check with the person selling the material on what this actual meaning is. Does he mean these are authentic uniforms to the ones worn by the players or does he mean those actually worn by the player? A jersey which was actually worn by Pete Rose might sell for $200-$250 but you probably can pick up the same style uniform with Pete’s name and number on the back from the company who makes the uniforms (for a quarter of the cost). Secondly, know the person you are dealing with. Occasionally a letter of authenticity might accompany the shirt. In other instances you may find out through another collector that this dealer has a contact with one or more of the ballteams and this might support the legitimacy of the uniform. Ask questions of other collectors before jumping into a’ large purchase.
By examining the jersey itself one might be able to authenticate the uniform. Flannel jerseys, which were worn during the 1960’s and early 1970’s usually have a tag somewhere on the shirt listing the year of the jersey, the size and the set number. Ballclubs usually had several home and road uniforms for each player and the set number indicates exactly what it says: the set the uniform came from. These should be found in most flannel jerseys. If they are not there, ask questions and find out what the circumstances were for the removal of the tags. Was this done for a reason or is the uniform actually a factory model? Doubleknit jerseys, worn during recent years back to 1972, are in great abundance in today’s hobby. I would guess the majority of “fake” material deals with the doubleknit version. From my experiences with doubleknit uniform tops, the uniform size, set number, and year are sewn into the jersey, either on the collar or down on the bottom of the shirt. I am sure there are several legitimate jerseys around without these markings, however my experience and the experience of those I talk to indicates that some indication of year and set number should be on most uniforms. Again, if this is not evident on the jerseys you are offered or have purchased, I would strongly recommend asking questions.
I was able to attend the Indianapolis Baseball Show and noticed a few San Francisco Giants tops from recent times floating around. These were the orange type which were only used for a short period of time.
From information I gathered from a collector who had talked to the equipment manager from the Giants, nonn of these uniforms were missing, nor were they given away! How then, could these be legitimate uniforms worn by the players?
Baseball player caps are more difficult to authenticate. It is my feelings that there are fewer fake caps going around as there is not as great a profit to be made from these. Normally, a player’s cap has his number or making inside the bill of the cap and shows some signs of wear. The most common cap manufacturers are New Era Cap Company and Wilson. Again, it is probably important to know who you are dealing with before making a trade or purchase.
The more fake material we can weed out of the hobby, the better it will be for all collectors.