Big League Collecting

As with the sport that has inspired them, baseball collectors come in various leagues. There are the sandlot collectors who will clip a newspaper story here and there and keep programs and ticket stubs from the games they've attended.

Fogel collection
A treasure trove of baseball related items make up Marshall Fogel's major league collection.

There are the Little Leaguers, who in a more organized fashion, collect cards, photos, Bobble Heads, autographs and anything else they can afford.

Then there are the minor league collectors. These folks have a fundamentally good understanding of the hobby. They are fairly aware of what is valuable and the importance of condition, and some of them even have a few major league pieces.

Fogel collection
Walls, curio cabinets and glass cases house the thousands of items that make up Fogel's collection.

It is the breakout collector from the minors who becomes the major leaguer. In the majors, you find the collectors who have world renowned amassments of memorabilia, the rarest cards in the most exceptional of condition, autographed items, game-used uniforms and equipment, and all types of items that were personally owned by players.

Finally, you have the major league superstar standouts. The Ruths. The Gehrigs. The DiMaggios. The Mantles. These are the collectors that stand at the pinnacle of the hobby, housing items that rival and surpass those within the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.

This is where you'll find Marshall Fogel.

Fogel collection
Only Cooperstown rivals the Fogel collection, and he even has the "Hall" beat on a few things.

As is the case with other "Major League" collectors, Fogel began collecting sportscards when he was a kid back in the 1950s. Those cards were tucked away during the time that Fogel went to college and law school. They stayed safely packed in their boxes while he began his career as a prosecutor and deputy district attorney. And then... when Fogel decided to go into private practice... the cards came back out.

The return of those childhood cards sparked a renewed passion in Fogel who was by then in a financial position to take a dream and make it a reality. And what a reality that dream has become. Today, Fogel's collection is recognized throughout the hobby as the greatest private baseball collection in existence. Collectors, baseball enthusiasts and players come from every part of the globe to see this amazing amassment, and while horses, boxing and hockey collectibles are also ranked amongst Fogel's loves, he will quickly tell you... "My passion is baseball!"

Fogel collection
A small sample of what SMR editor Joe Orlando calls "one of the most phenomenal private collections in existence."

"The beginning of this collection really began back in 1989 when I first went to the national Sports Convention in Chicago," Fogel recently told SMR. "I loved it! It was amazing being there. It was just around the time that people were becoming aware that cards and memorabilia were extremely interesting, desirable and valuable. Stamp and coin collecting had been around for 100 years, but this was when sports memorabilia was just breaking out. It was when the hobby was really beginning to take off and it was very exciting to be involved. It was when people started to realize that cards had great value, and then when PSA came along it changed everything."

From that time on, Fogel became hooked and in a fairly short period of time he has amassed an absolutely amazing collection. It was shortly after PSA came on the scene that he purchased a Gem-Mint 10 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle that was once a part of David Hall's private collection. "It's absolutely perfect in every way," said Fogel. "And I believe it is the second most valuable card in existence after the Honus Wagner card. I loved it! It was amazing being there. It was just around the time that people were becoming aware that cards and memorabilia were extremely interesting, desirable and valuable. Stamp and coin collecting had been around for 100 years, but this was when sports memorabilia was just breaking out. It was when people started to realize that cards had great value and then when PSA came along it changed everything. It was when the hobby was really beginning to take off and it was very exciting to be involved."

Bats swung by the biggest names in the game are all a part of Fogel's lumber collection.

Attributing PSA to making card collecting what it is today, Fogel, who himself has always been obsessive about the quality and condition of the things he collects, says that he feels PSA in many ways saved the hobby at a time it needed to be saved.

"When people started to become educated to the fact that vintage cards were extremely valuable the whole thing started getting bad. There was a lot of fraud and misinformation. But then PSA came along and their grading is what really made the growth happen, what made the interest and demand happen, what brought integrity to the hobby and what made cards worth a whole lot of money!"

Mantle bat
"The Mick's" bat is part of what makes Fogel's bat display a wooden wonderland.

Married with three children, Fogel's wife, a television personality in Colorado, has also gotten swept up in the hobby. "She loves it," laughs Fogel. "She realizes how neat it is and she has joined me in meeting people and talking with collectors from all over the world. The kids also think it's pretty neat, but it's not their passion."

Still, despite the fact that Fogel's collection is filled to overflowing with some of the world's greatest baseball artifacts, one would never know of his love by visiting him in his office which is completely barren of any trace of memorabilia. He says he does that out of philanthropy and concern for those who visit him at his office. "I know better than anyone how addictive this hobby can be," he says. "People see my collection and they get caught up in it and want to start collecting themselves. Collecting on the level that I do is serious business and I don't want to tempt anyone to get into it unless it is truly their passion."

The single largest collection of luminous lumber ever amassed.

So, just what does a collection contain that is so powerful that it could make men lose all control? What items are included in a collection that would inspire SMR editor Joe Orlando to call it "The most phenomenal collection in existence"? Well, first off, if you are looking for a specific number of items or overall value, you won't find it anywhere in this piece. Neither has been determined as of yet, and it will probably take years of work to do so. So instead, let's just consider a sampling of Fogel's thousands of precious items – the ones he rattles off the top of his head as some of his favorites.

The first item Fogel proudly shows off is the bat that Lou Gehrig used to hit four home runs in a single game. "That is a very important piece," says Fogel. "Gehrig did that in June of 1922 to become the first ballplayer to hit four homers in one game in the Twentieth Century."

Fogel collection
Vintage buttons, pins, trophies and postcards are all a part of this unparalleled collection.

A pretty impressive piece to be sure, but when it comes to the Fogel collection, well, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Professing to have the largest private collection of game-used bats, Fogel next displays a legendary piece of lumber – the bat, or more accurately THE bat, that Roger Maris used to hit his 50th home run to break Babe Ruth's record.

So, are you kind of getting an idea of the caliber of items we're talking about in this collection?

Mantle card
"I consider this to be the second most valuable card in existence behind the Honus Wagner T-206," Fogel says of his 1952 Mint Mick.

From there on, in rapid succession, Fogel takes visitors past thousands of items to highlight the things that would make the Cooperstown curators salivate. "I have the uniform that Joe DiMaggio wore in the 1951 World Series. And I also have the uniform that Ted Williams wore during the 1957 season when he hit .388 and was named MVP."

Every time Fogel goes onto another genre of his collection, he prefaces his comments about individual items by divulging the fact that he owns the largest collection of whatever it is he is showing. And when it comes to original vintage baseball photographs, one can easily tell that his amassment is both unparalleled and jaw-dropping.

Is seeing an original photograph of the 1869 Cincinnati Reds enough to throw you off kilter? You bet. Especially when Fogel reminds you that they were the very first professional baseball team ever assembled and that this original photograph is the only one in existence. "That's a true museum piece," he says with pride.

And, while a museum would crawl 100 miles for that piece, they would do so over broken glass and hot coals for the next photo Fogel reveals – the original photo of Honus Wagner that was used to create the T-206 card. Fogel also has the largest collection of original panoramic photographs known to exist. "Panoramics are in great demand," he relates. "I have three panoramics that are exceptionally rare – three photographs from the first All-Star game ever played back in 1911. Now there are team panoramics known to exist from that game. But I have three panoramics that were actually taken during the game. You won't find them anywhere!"

McGuire glove Ripken, Jr glove Clemens glove
The game-used gloves of Mark McGuire, Cal Ripken Jr. and Roger Clemens can be found in the Fogel collection.

With one's head swimming, Fogel continues on, almost not knowing what to show next but rather, just honing in on whatever he focuses on next – an invitation to Mickey Mantle's high school graduation, vintage pins, buttons, postcards, trophies, cards, photos and bats. Everywhere there are bats – bats that were actually swung in a game by Ruth, by Gehrig, by Koufax, by Paige and by just about every other big league name you can come up with.

"I love this," he says as he produces a pen and cigarette case. "This was presented to Joe Dimaggio in 1939 when he was named the MVP at the All-Star game." Joltin' Joe's politically incorrect memento is just one of hundreds of items that rest in Fogel's magnificently maintained display cases. As Fogel carefully returns the inscribed case back to it's resting place he makes mention of the fact that the item next to it is a watch and chain that was once owned by Lou Gehrig. "It was given to him by the Emperor of Japan in 1934," he casually points out.

Ruth ball
Quality and condition are paramount to Fogel who claims to have one of the highest quality Ruth signed balls in existence.

"Let's see," says Fogel as he thinks about what to show next. "I have a real Don Larson no-hitter ball from the 1956 World Series. I have signed photos of Ruth and Gehrig, and the finest quality signed Ruth and Gehrig balls in existence."

Quality and condition are very important to Fogel. Correction – quality and condition are everything to him. "Everything in my collection is in the very best condition available," he explains. "That is the most important thing to me. I mean, what's the good of having a very important piece if it's all deteriorated and when someone looks at it they wonder what the heck is so special about it. The items in my collection are things that people are very impressed by when they see them. To me, that's what it's about."

Fogel collection
Original vintage photos are a major focus for Fogel.

And, giving people the opportunity to see his collection is also what it's about for Fogel. Usually hidden away in an undisclosed location in Colorado for only close friends, professional athletes and the top people in the hobby to see, Fogel has at times put certain items on public display.

"I've had parts of the collection on display at the National," he said. "And I'm always open to showing it to people who really understand the value of what it is that they are seeing. I've had collectors come from as far away as China and I can tell by looking into a person's eyes and seeing the expressions on their face when they really understand what it is that they are looking at or holding. That is very gratifying – to be able to share these things with people who love and respect them the way that I do."

In 1998, when the All-Star game was played in Denver, the mayor of the city contacted Fogel and asked him if he would be willing to put the collection on display during All-Star week. Fogel agreed. "There was an extremely important Egyptian exhibit touring the world at that time and in 1998 it had been in Denver for six months," Fogel recalled. "Over the six month period that the Egyptian exhibit was on display it drew 70,000 people. My collection was on display for only six days surrounding the All-Star game. It drew 60,000. I really loved that. What good is it if it's a big secret."

Fogel collection
Original photos and panoramics are in great demand and Fogel's photo collection is considered to be the best in the hobby.

While Fogel does not know the exact value of his collection, he is in the process of having it appraised – a task that he figures could take a couple years to complete. "Aside from the monetary value, I see the value of this collection in that it would be almost impossible to ever duplicate it," Fogel says. "If this collection were to ever be broken up, which it most likely will be someday, it would be extremely difficult for anyone to put something like it together again."

Citing his photo collection alone, Fogel explains that the top people in the hobby have all agreed that his amassment of original baseball photos is far and away THE world champ. "Original baseball photography has become extremely hot with collectors," says Fogel. "Look at recent auctions. Photographs are seeing huge demand and bringing in big dollars. But collectors have to be extremely careful when they purchase photographs. There are a lot of copies and reproductions out there that are completely worthless. Now copies and reproductions are fine as long as you want a particular photo, and you know that you are not buying an original, and that you are paying a small price because it really has no value. But if you are looking to buy an original, and you are making a big monetary investment, you had better know what you are doing."

Marshall Fogel
Collecting, meeting collectors, sharing his collection and mentoring collectors are all a part of the enjoyment for Marshall Fogel.

Knowing what you are doing, is in fact the strongest advice that Fogel gives to collectors.

"I always tell people to get help before they make significant purchases," says Fogel. "I strongly recommend that they get someone who has been in the hobby for a long time and really knows what they are doing to assist – especially when it comes to memorabilia. It takes a long time to understand what's out there and what something is really worth. Everyone has heard that you should collect what you like, but, I believe that, in the long run, you should collect for value as well as for what is interesting to you.

Most collectors who have been in the hobby for an extended period of time have made mistakes along the way. I would recommend that if someone is looking to begin a specific collection that they contact someone like me, or someone who is a specific expert in whatever they are looking to purchase. That way, you can avoid the mistakes that have been made in the past.

That is one of the most enjoyable parts of the hobby for me. I have met so many great people and have made so many great friends that I never would have made if I were not in the hobby. I've had the opportunity to be a mentor. I get a lot of calls from people asking advise, and as much as I love the things that I own, I also love the chance to work with others who also love these same things."

If you would like to contact Marshall Fogel, you may do so by writing to him at:

Marshall Fogel, c/o Sports Market Report, 510-A South Corona Mall, Corona, CA 92879