By Barry Blair
Baseball tickets and stubs have long been out there as collectibles. World Series tickets? How about Babe Ruth’s called shot at Wrigley Field, or one from Don Larson’s perfect game in Yankee Stadium?
Any collection would like to have an All-Star stub from Reggie Jackson’s towering light pole blast in Detroit or Ted Williams’ game-winning homer in the 1941 Classic.
When Roger Maris took Tracy Stallard deep for No. 61 to break Ruth’s single season record, despite all the drama of the home run chase, the official attendance for that game in Yankee Stadium was only a little over 23,000 fans that day. This left more than half of the stadium empty. Like the early Mantle cards taken out by Topps and dumped at sea, there were probably a lot of unsold tickets to that game destroyed when it was over.
What about one from Cal Ripkin breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak?
Monumental moments, monumental men, and oh yeah, monumental prices now being demanded for tickets/stubs from those games. Buying and selling them is big business.
But think about this for a moment. If you read Sports Collectors Digest, there is a pretty good chance that you collect baseball cards. There are only so many of each one made, and the availability and condition of them dictate the price, right? Simple economics, supply and demand. In recent years, teams have taken to printing pictures of their players on individual tickets, mostly in their season ticket packages. Only so many players, only so many games, and only so many tickets are printed for each game. Most fans keep them, but there are many that don’t. If you walk the stadium when the game is over, you will invariably see some lying around on the ground. So one thing I have noticed at card shows, is that more and more tickets of this kind are turning up for sale as collectibles. The stars of today and also from the past, some who are Hall of Famers, and some who may become part of that elite group, are out there on these tickets, along with other players and managers. So if you collect things of say, Greg Maddux, you can find him on tickets of the Braves and the Cubs. I know they are out there. There are probably some out there from his stints with the Dodgers and Padres at the end of his career as well.
The ticket business is well established, and has been as long as fans have been collecting.
When my father passed away several years back, one of the things he left behind was a ticket stub from the 1947 Rose Bowl. He was not a collector, but for some reason he had put this back.
At a recent show in Raleigh, North Carolina, a dealer told me that tickets are the hottest thing going for him.
“People are always looking for tickets from big events such as All-Star games, the playoffs, Super Bowls, and World Series games,” said the man who would only identify himself as Jim, from somewhere near the Raleigh-Durham area. “Of course there are those who want tickets from games where something significant has happened, such as a no-hitter, or a batter reaching a certain milestone.”
“How about the ones with players on them?” I asked.
“You are starting to see that more and more,” he said. “A couple of years ago, people were wanting anything with Derek Jeter on it. The Yankees had some tickets with him on them, so of course they sold well, but the pricing on them is nowhere near what the really old tickets bring,” he told me, all the while showing another man a box full he had on display. It contained baseball tickets of various ages and styles, from several teams, going back into the 1950s.
“I have some in here with players on them,” he told me. “You get them with Mike Trout, or Rizzo or Bryant from the Cubs, and they sell pretty quickly, maybe five to six dollars. Minor stars, you can get for a dollar or two a piece. The Jeters were selling in the ten to twenty dollar range.”
“Where do you get them?” I asked.
“Mostly I pick them up off the internet, plus I have people out there I buy from. They know I deal in tickets, so they call and say I got such and such, do you want them?” He leaned over the table and said, “If I think I can move them, and the price is right, I’ll take them.”
“Do you sell on the internet?” I responded.
“Oh, no,” he said. “I just sell at shows.”
“You got a business card?” I asked.
“Don’t need ’em,” he replied.
A very interesting fellow, seeming to operate somewhat under the radar. I thanked him for his time and moved on.
Next, I reached out to Tony Swann, who I met a few years back at The National in Chicago. He has one of the most interesting collections of anyone I know. He is trying to collect a ticket or stub from every major league game that Carlton Fisk ever played in (you can see them at carltonfisk.com). This is a daunting task, to say the least. He is down to needing just a little over 100 tickets to complete this amazing collection from 2,499 games. (If you think you can help him, reach out to him at email@example.com). He does have tickets from the Red Sox and the White Sox with pictures of Fisk on them in his collection.
“The pictures on tickets all started after he retired,” he said, “So they are not part of the games played collection. The White Sox were one of the first teams to put players’ pictures on their tickets,” he added.
Over the last few years I have been picking up and collecting tickets with the pictures of various baseball players, both active and retired. It is something a little different to collect. While I have concentrated today on baseball, they are out there as well for other sports. It seems the bigger the show you attend, the better your chances are of finding dealers who sell them. The internet is another valuable resource and a place to find buyers and sellers.
One of the things that has drawn me to collecting these type tickets, is the photography and artwork on some of them, which makes them an even more collectible item in my eye.
Here are some that I have picked up over the last few years: Yadier Molina of the Cardinals (they have great-looking tickets), Chipper Jones of the Braves, Adam Jones of the Orioles, Madison Bumgarner of the Giants, Brian McCann with the Yankees, Dansby Swanson of the Braves (an inaugural year ticket from Sun Trust Park), Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox (really nice art work), Frank Robinson with the Reds, Alex Gordon of the Royals, Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs, Joe Maddon with the Rays, Justin Verlander with the Tigers, Yu Darvish with the Rangers, Joey Votto of the Reds, Yoenis Cespedes with the A’s, American League MVP Jose Altuve of the Astros, Prince Fielder with the Tigers, and Cardinals great Stan Musial (a close-up picture from his statue outside Busch Stadium).
This is just a start, but it is some of the bigger name players I have acquired. A lot of them can make a very nice item to be autographed, if you get the chance.
The Cubs did a promotion with Topps in 2012 and 2013 that featured their players with baseball cards depicted on the tickets. I have Greg Maddux, Ron Santo, and Bill Buckner, along with some others. Topps also did promotions at Wrigley Field where they gave out sets of the cards that were on the tickets. You can find these sets for sale on the internet.
The Yankees have featured many of their prominent stars and managers from over the years on various tickets over the past few seasons. The list of teams and players goes on and on.
If you are looking for something a little different to collect, then start here. You have to look a little harder, and at this point they are not expensive. I believe you will enjoy it.
Barry Blair is an author/writer who lives in Jonesborough, Tennessee, and is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website rightfieldpress.com.