Just a couple of weeks after two Babe Ruth bats set back to back records for the highest price ever paid for a game-used baseball bat, Joe Jackson's famous "Black Betsy" bat annihilated the price record with an unprecedented bid of $577,610.
The first Ruth example, an autographed bat used to hit Ruth's first home run during the 1924 season, sold for $225,000 just weeks ago, establishing a new price record for a game-used bat. Then, a few weeks later, a 1929 sidewritten home run notch bat used by Babe Ruth sold for $320,000. The Jackson bat has now set a new standard by selling for almost double the previous record. The Black Betsy bat, which was authenticated by the world's leading sports authentication service, PSA/DNA, was offered via the Internet through eBay as part of the historic sale.
"Black Betsy," which was consigned by Lester Erwin, cousin of Joe's wife Kate Jackson, was used by "Shoeless" Joe throughout his career, both at the major league level and, even after his banishment from baseball, during his barnstorming years. The buyer, Rob Mitchell, is an advanced sports memorabilia collector from Pennsylvania.
Kevin Hammond, Chief Operating Officer of Real Legends, was very happy with the success of the sale. "Whenever you set a record the first time an item is offered to the public, it's pretty incredible," explained an elated Hammond. "I think that this bat was clearly one of the most unique sports memorabilia items to ever be brought to public auction."
Vince Malta, one of the two bat experts responsible for verifying the bat, wasn't surprised at the public interest in such a historical piece. "First, I think people are starting to realize just how unique game-used bats truly are," explained Malta. "They are also willing to pay a premium for provenance and historical importance. The same spark that occurred during baseball card collecting nearly a dozen years ago is starting to happen in game-used bat collecting. This bat just had so many things going for it. The combination of Joe Jackson, the fact that this was his "Black Betsy" and that he kept this bat with him for his whole life was just incredible. How many players do that? It was a bat of very special significance."
Joe Orlando comments: "This sale clearly raises the bar to the next level." Just a few weeks ago, a Babe Ruth game-used and autographed bat sold for more than double the previous price record for any game-used bat and then a sidewritten 1929 Babe Ruth home run notch bat sold for $320,000. Now, in such a short period of time, another bat comes along and sells for almost double that record. This sale serves as indisputable evidence that there is increasing interest in quality sports memorabilia."
"PSA can now claim to be the prime authentication service for the most expensive ball, game-used bat, autographed photo, and sportscard of all-time. Real Legends, the company handling the Jackson bat sale, chose to use PSA/DNA for a reason. When you talk about items of major historical significance and high-dollar value, credible authentication is of the utmost importance. PSA's services are ultimately a topic of conversation when it comes to any major piece sports memorabilia."
Below is a list of items authenticated by PSA and the record prices brought in each instance:
|Mark McGwire's 70th game-used baseball from 1998||$3,000,000 (1998 auction)|
|PSA NM-MT 8 T206 Honus Wagner||$1,265,000 (2000 auction)|
|Joe Jackson's Black Betsy game-used bat||$ 577,610 (2001 auction)|
|Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig signed wire photo from 1927||$ 101,948 (2000 auction)|
Steve Rocchi comments: "Even though PSA has handled many historically significant items, we were honored to be chosen as the official authenticator for such a unique piece of Americana. Very rarely does an item come with such tremendous provenance and player testimony. Now, after authenticating this legendary bat, we have taken part in the authentication of the "Holy Grail" in four major areas.
"This sale serves as proof, once again, that people want PSA's name attached to pieces of great importance. The dealer wants to protect the consumer and the consumer wants to feel the protection that PSA's authentication provides. PSA can take pride in serving the protective needs of both the dealer and collector as we have assisted in preserving some monumental pieces for future generations of sports fans to enjoy."
David Hall comments: "The interesting thing about the Black Betsy sale is that even though the economy is slow, we've had 3 new price records for game-used bats in just a few months. Obviously, great collectibles transcend all economic conditions."
The Top 5 Game-Used Bat Prices of All-Time
|"Shoeless" Joe Jackson's "Black Besty" bat||$577,610 (2001 Auction)|
|1929 Babe Ruth Sidewritten/Home Run Notch bat||$320,000 (2001 Private Sale)|
|1924 Babe Ruth Autographed "1st Home Run" bat||$225,000 (2001 Private Sale)|
|1916-1920 Babe Ruth Autographed bat (earliest known)||$150,000 (2001 Private Sale)|
|1923 Lou Gehrig Sidewritten Rookie Bat||$125,000 (2001 Private Sale)|