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Gartlan statues underappreciated hobby treasures

I noted the passing of Robert Gartlan the other day, and it got me to remembering about the wonderful statues that his company produced over the last 25 years or so.

Launched in 1985, the Gartlan statues were an instant hit in the hobby, with a Pete Rose version that I think was about $800 from the start (larger version, signed) and a Joe DiMaggio that was in the same ballpark. Those lofty mid-1980s price tags were enough to keep me from pulling the trigger back then on those two, but I did purchase most of the others that originally retailed for about $200-$300, plus my ex-wife got me several for Christmas and birthday presents.

The company stopped producing the sports pieces in the mid-1990s, but continued to make striking statues of popular entertainment figures. I have never understood why the sports pieces aren’t wildly more expensive than at issue price; one theory is that issuing the miniature version of the statues caused some confusion in the marketplace, but that seems iffy.

I do think that there was some drop-off in the quality of the molds later on, certainly enough to make me pass on Luis Aparicio and several of the Negro Leaguers after having collected all the others except for the aforementioned Rose and DiMaggio.

But it says here that the passage of time is going to be more generous with the main body of statues, arguably some of the nicest ever produced of Musial, Bench, Brett, Carlton, Ford, Schmidt, Spahn, Teddy Ballgame and Yaz.

And I’m not plugging it because I am hoping to cash in. I would have bought all these statues even had there been no signatures involved, plus my Ted Williams statue has a hairline break in the ankle that isn’t visible but is there nonetheless. I only mention that in case other collectors found a similar flaw. As near as I can tell, it came from the factory that way, and my half-hearted attempts to get them to replace it never really panned out.

I was a little aggravated at the time, but now I am too old to worry about such things. These are wonderful statues, period. I never met Bob Gartlan, but it would seem his legacy is imposing.


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