Yankees and Vintage Bat Collector
Expertise: Yankees and Vintage Bat
State of the GU Market - Some Observations.......
April 27, 2008
As I sat in my “Man Cave” on Saturday and watched the Yankees drop another game to the Cleveland Indians in the bottom of the ninth inning, I was amazed at all the new names on the Yankees roster this year that played in that game - Ensberg, Molina, Gonzalez, Duncan and Ohlendorf who pitched the ninth inning ………….wait a second - the game is tied in the ninth and Ohlendorf who was sporting an ERA above 6.00 comes in to pitch the ninth? What was I missing? I certainly shouldn’t question Joe Girardi’s decision as there is too much of that going on all the time in the game. The only thing I could say was - “Times have Changed”……………
As I looked around at some of my GU equipment hanging on the walls, it occurred to me that the GU market has certainly changed quite a bit in the last couple of years.
This blog has no great revelations - no negative comments - no big surprises - no great tips ( although I will throw a few of those out there ) - just some observations as we enter into the full swing of baseball season in an economy that has had some struggles the last couple of years.
Where Is All The Good Stuff Hiding? - Now follow me a second here, as I explain the “Good Stuff” - to me that primarily speaks to pre - 1980 Vintage material. It seems that each year, the supply available in the market diminishes greatly and that prices are stable to moderately increasing for most of this material. Demand is very high and items that have great provenance, use, player attributes, etc. seem to go for unbelievable prices. These high prices used to be reserved for Ruth, Gehrig, Cobb, Foxx, Williams, Mantle, Dimaggio, Musial, etc. but we are now seeing top of the market prices for past players such as Brett, Munson, Reggie Jackson, Mattingly, Clemente, etc. Seeing Munson and Jackson jerseys from the 70’s sell for over $20,000 is incredible. Mattingly bats at $1,500 - $2000 a pop are the norm. It wasn’t that long ago that I could buy as many as I wanted for $500.………Nice Munson bats are now $5,000! How about Maris? - if you have a nice bat or jersey, you can name your price……….
Steiner Sports / Meigray - they have really changed the current GU market by partnering up with teams like the Angels, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, the NHL, etc. and have made available GU equipment that you could never find in the past. I feel the supply in the market right now for mainly Yankees material exceeds the demand which has caused prices to drop on this current Yankees material a little - but that will change over time and the axis lines will cross again on pricing in the next five years. GU material from Steiner of Arod, Jeter, Mo, etc. ( the stars ) is commanding great prices as the demand outweighs the supply of these items currently. Meigray has really enhanced the hockey collector’s ability to obtain quality GU sweaters, sticks, etc.
Auction Houses - we have more auction houses than ever in the marketplace not including ebay. They are all competing for the best stuff and are making deals with consignors to obtain the very best material. The hammer fees continue to rise. What was once 10% is now up to 25% with some auction houses. I see some consolidation of these houses in the near future - or at worst - these houses will be carving out niches as to what GU equipment they can obtain on a regular basis. They all can’t have Mantle, Foxx, Williams and Gehrig bats as well as Unitas and Namath helmets in every auction. That stuff is being rat holed away. IMHO…..I could be wrong on this……
Photo Matching - what did we do without the internet as collectors years ago! The idea of photo matching a bat, jersey, stick, helmet, etc. wasn’t even on our radar screen as collectors years ago. Now - collectors are trying to photo match every item in their collection and are excited when they do have a match - and I don’t blame them……..they should be excited!
The Deals are Long Gone - the days of finding something rare and valuable for a modest price are almost gone. Occasionally, you can find something at a flea market, or even on ebay that maybe has been mis-labeled - but that is getting harder and harder to do these days. I remember as a kid growing up, my Dad and I would go to numismatic and card shows on Long Island and we always came home with a great find! For me - it was vintage baseball cards - for my Dad it was Mexican Pillar Dollars and 8 Reale Dollars that were just in awesome condition. I just wish I had my eye on the GU equipment market back then…………maybe I would be retired by now!
Bat Repairs - I think the two most popular technicians in the market are Fred Lowman and John Taube’s hidden repair guy who works solely for him. I have had bats repaired by both of these guys and they are excellent. Sometimes, you can not even tell that bat has been cracked or chipped. They are amazing and the days of glue falling out of a repair that have to be chipped off the bat are long gone………..
Authentication and Grading - Enough has been said on this topic the last couple of years and there are some very qualified Authenticators in the market. With that being said - I would challenge everyone one of you to do your own homework. Nothing against any of them - but I don’t even look at a grade when I buy a bat or a jersey. I ask a million questions first. I think John Taube is sick of me asking him if the bat I am looking to buy has “Caravello” use - he knows exactly what I am talking about - and he knows I don‘t like deadwood, or pieces missing, etc. With all the resources available such as GUU to have questions answered, the internet, and other authenticators in the market available to speak with you, there is no reason not to ask. I will tell you that Bushing, Specht, Steinmetz, Taube, Meisel, Grob, Malta, etc. all answer their e-mails and are great resources especially for GU collectors.
What GU Equipment Has the Most Upside Potential Going Forward? - Well, I said earlier that I would throw out a few tips of items to collect. Bottom line - anything pre-80 baseball, hockey, football, basketball, etc., I don’t think you can go wrong with. I see the greatest appreciation for pre-80 Yankees material and I think vintage hockey is some of the most undervalued GU stuff in the market. Items from Hall of Fame Members, 3000 Hit members in baseball, Dynasty Teams ( Yankees, 80’s Islanders, 49ers, Celtics, etc. ) have the greatest appreciation to be seen. You can’t go wrong with this stuff. We have seen a big increase in the value over the last two years for Killebrew GU equipment. Look for Aaron GU equipment to increase - go buy a pre-80 Eddie Murray bat - go get a nicely used Frank Robinson bat - those guys GU equipment will have good upside potential……….
Still to Be Determined? - What about collecting guys like Arod, Griffey, Thome, Sheff, Canseco, McGwire, Bonds, etc.? Did the recent allegation against Arod concern any collectors in the market? There are two issues here that will affect the long term collectibility, demand and pricing of GU equipment from these guys going forward - (1) they all played in the steroid era and (2) they go through so many bats and jersey in one year that their stuff is not rare at all. One last comment - I know Willie Mays and Hank Aaron didn’t take steroids and their GU equipment is relatively scarce…………
Lastly - I believe the State of the Market is very healthy - why?? I have received a ton of e-mails recently from people that have just recently joined GUU or are new to the hobby. It’s refreshing to see the growth in the GU market that I believe will continue for a long time……..
Well - that’s it - as mentioned, just some thoughts and observations for the time being. Times have definitely changed. It’s still a great hobby - enjoy whatever you collect and as always, don’t hesitate to e-mail with any questions as I have enjoyed corresponding with many of you over the years and am always eager to help……..