Sotheby's calls it the finest and largest collection of baseball memorabilia in the world. Barry Halper, the owner of what long has been considered the world's greatest baseball memorabilia collection, has decided to part with his life's passion.

Beginning in September, Sotheby's will offer thousands of lots from Halper's collection. It's a collection that has been 50 years in the making. The approximate breakdown is mindboggling: 1,000 uniforms, 1,800 baseballs, 400 bats, 4,000 photographs, 30,000 baseball cards and an assortment of contracts, rings, pins and gloves.

"Barry Halper has literally devoted his life to preserving the legacy of our national pastime, in what is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary collecting achievements of the 20th century," Sotheby's executive vice president David Redden said in a statement.

Halper's collection goes back to baseball's beginnings. The auction includes an 1861 trophy baseball from the Elysian Field Championship Game, which is expected to fetch more than $50,000. A ticket from the first World Series in 1903 is estimated to sell for more than $8,000. A life-size wax figure of Babe Ruth from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, London, even is up for auction. Anticipated selling price? More than $3,000.

Previously, Halper sold about 20 percent of his collection to Major League Baseball for use by the Baseball Hall of Fame, reportedly for more than $5 million. The rest of the collection is being auctioned off by Sotheby's. The New York-based company will offer nearly 2,500 lots live over seven days beginning Sept. 23, with about 6,000 lots being offered on the Internet over the course of several months.

Not just any catalogue could be used to display such a massive collection. Sotheby's produced a three-volume set. The two main volumes include 2,000 photographs and 2,500 lots. The third volume contains information on the history of baseball. A spokesman for Sotheby's said he expects the catalogue itself to become a collector's item.

A portion of the proceeds from sales of the catalogue will be donated to several charities. Most of the big-price items, such as those mentioned above, will be auctioned off live. Among the thousands of items to be auctioned on the Internet are a 1912 World Series program signed by Smokey Joe Wood and President Woodrow Wilson, a ticket stub from the Lou Gehrig Memorial Game and a program from the last game Ruth pitched.

Eric Breier is a staff writer for the North County Times in Escondido, Calif. He covers a variety of topics, including a monthly sports collectibles feature.