Sports collecting always in season

By Terry Maurer, What's It Worth?November 2, 2013 

Baseball's 109th World Series ended last week and players have packed their gear for the winter.

In and around the Tri-Cities, the onset of cooler weather slows, but does not stop, golf at local courses.

In today's What's It Worth?, we answer readers questions about their Major League Baseball and golf items.

Q. These two photos were passed down from an uncle's estate. He was born in 1930 and diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as a child. He loved baseball but could not play because of his condition, so he started writing away and collecting players pictures and autographs.

Here are two of his signed photos. One of Dom DiMaggio and the second of his brother, Joe. We are comfortable with the provenance, but not sure whether the athletes themselves signed them or a bat boy or someone in the front office might have.

Can you authenticate them or direct me to someone who might be able to do so? Any idea of a value? -- Dan in Kennewick

A. These are a little out of the ordinary for signatures of the famous DiMaggio brothers, as they come from the years when each player was a member of the Pacific Coast League team, the San Francisco Seals.

Older brother Joe was the better-known of the pair. A star with the Yankees -- where he spent his entire major league career -- he still holds the big league record for consecutive games with at least one hit: 56.

Joe DiMaggio also was famous after his baseball years ended. He married Marilyn Monroe in 1954. It was Joltin' Joe's second marriage and lasted less than a year.

Dom DiMaggio was two years younger and took over as the Seals' center fielder when Joe went to the Yankees in 1936. Four years later, he would join the Boston Red Sox.

To get a feel for values on these pieces, we talked with longtime sports memorabilia collector, broker and appraiser Jim Price of Spokane. Known regionally as "Mr. Baseball," Price is an award-winning writer on baseball subjects and a member of the Society of American Baseball Research.

He told us both pictures appear to be team-issued publicity photos and may very well have been signed by the DiMaggios.

Price noted, however, that "Neither is likely to be so valuable to be worth using an authentication service or sending to a consequential auction. Therefore, if the owner likes them, they are nice items to enjoy."

In this case, having them independently authenticated by one of the major national firms doing such work might cost almost as much as their value.

The Dom signature would top out at $75 in a good market. Joe's autograph values vary widely. We have seen photos such as this sell for as little as $75 and as much as $200.

Interestingly, Dom and Joe were two of the three DiMaggios to play baseball at the major league level. Oldest brother Vince was with a number of teams, including the Reds, Pirates and then-New York Giants.

There have been several hundred pair of brothers to play in the big leagues. But only one group of three brothers who have each been named an All-Star. Those we're the DiMaggios.

Q. I've had no luck at all tracing any history or value of this golf bag. I got it about a year ago on one of my many thrift shop treasure hunts. After a bit of research and finding nothing, it maybe an unauthorized knock-off, but it is old (early '60s?) and in pretty good shape. Any help is greatly appreciated. -- Rich in Kennewick

A. This bag is made of a fabric with the famous Playboy "Rabbit" logo plastered all over. It certainly looks like the kind of item Hugh Hefner's Playboy empire would have approved.

After all, the logo appeared (and still does) on everything from the magazine masthead to lingerie, highball glasses, handbags and hundreds of other items. We've seen Playboy golf shirts and golf balls.

What we didn't find in our research was one single example of a Playboy golf bag. Nothing like this one or even similar to this one.

Which leads us to suspect, along with Rich, that this may be an unauthorized use of the image. Not a copy, because we didn't find a real one.

As such, it would be what collectors call a "fantasy item" -- something that "could" have been made, but never was. Can't copy a thing that doesn't exist. Thus, "fantasy item."

Even so, it is likely worth more than the thrift store price. Maybe $50 to $75.

-- Terry Maurer, a Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions about your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com.

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