You’ll need a big box to cart around 100+ years of World Series programs.
They were once designed for practicality. With no real public address system and no fancy scoreboard, the World Series program was a way for fans to figure out which player was playing where.
Technology has turned the annual publication into more of a souvenir over the last fifty years or so. This year’s program is already for sale online as the Yankees and Phillies begin the process of deciding a champion. Packed with stories, photos and yes, plenty of advertising, the program is now as thick as a small town phone book. It’s another way for Major League Baseball to pad its coffers, but it also still serves as a convenient link to the game’s past.
The first program appeared at the first World Series in 1903. When the next one was played in 1905, the cover had color. By the mid-1970s, separate programs from each city were a thing of the past. Baseball took over production and one generic program simplified things for collectors, while making it a less interesting hobby at the same time.
World Series programs might be one of the more underrated segments of the baseball memorabilia hobby. Virtually any program from the late 1950s on can be had for $100 or less. One can easily snare the last 25 for less than $250 through careful shopping. Demand is nowhere near supply in the collector market. Programs featuring the Yankees are usually more valuable.
Series that involved famous teams or moments can also go for a premium. Only a very small number of 1903 World Series programs have survived. The scorecard from Comiskey Park and the 1919 "Black Sox Scandal" series is also pricey–much higher than the significantly more interesting publication that was sold in Cincinnati. The program from the Cubs’ last World Series victory in 1908 always draws a crowd at auction and sells for well into the thousands of dollars in good condition. The 1918 program sold at Fenway Park commemorates the Red Sox first championship and is also highly sought after. The same goes for the 1927 World Series issue when the Yankees were baseball’s most dominant team thanks to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The program from the only perfect game ever pitched in World Series play, Don Larsen’s Yankee gem in 1956, is another hot commodity, especially now.
While most collectors prefer their programs unscored, there are exceptions. Notable games, with the center scoresheet completely filled in, can actually enhance the value for a Larsen program, the Pirates’ 1960 win on Bill Mazeroski’s homer or the program from Babe Ruth’s ‘called shot’ in 1932.
Outside of sports card shows and eBay, most collectors hunt antique shows, flea markets and other venues to try and find a bargain. At last year’s Antiques Road Show taping in San Antonio, video show one woman who walked in with quite a stash.
The online library at the Baseball Hall of Fame has pictures of the covers of several historic program covers.
Check out World Series programs for sale