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How to Use This Guide
This guide should be used for professional game-used bats. The term "game-used" has
been defined in many different ways over the years by different hobbyists. In my
opinion, the best definition of the term game-used bat, as it relates to this guide is:
A professional player bat that was used by a roster player, during their major
league career. The pricing in this guide refers to bats of this nature and
this nature only.
Before you read the prices in this guide, it is very important that you first
familiarize yourself with all of the valuation factors listed below because each of
these factors play a significant role in determining the ultimate value of a bat.
Please refer to the game-used bat guide below entitled "A Note about Game-Used Bat
Pricing" for further explanation about the valuation and appeal of different bats.
A Note about Game-Used Bat Pricing
There are many factors that affect the value of game-used bats. Rarity, eye-appeal,
age, provenance and historical importance are just some of the key factors that can
help determine the value of a particular bat. In many cases, it eventually comes
down to personal taste. For instance, one collector might prefer the look of a Mizuno
model bat to the look of a Cooper model bat. It becomes very subjective. There are,
however, some basic elements that need to be addressed. Below is a breakdown of some
important aspects to game-used bat collecting.
Autographs - Many game-used bat collectors like to acquire autographs
on their prized gamers. The effect an autograph can have on the valuation of a bat can
really vary depending on the player. Some players rarely sign game-used equipment while
others sign routinely. For instance, the cost of having your Ted Williams gamer signed
might cost you around $5,000 while the cost to have Hank Aaron sign your bat is
approximately $150. Placement, content and strength of the autograph can also be
Cracked versus Uncracked - There is no rule stating that an uncracked bat is more
valuable than a cracked bat or vice versa, it simply is a matter of taste. Some collectors
prefer cracked bats because they believe it adds authenticity to the bat while others like
uncracked bats for aesthetic reasons. As long as the crack does not affect the overall
eye-appeal of the bat, it should not detract from the value. Severe cracks that affect the
labeling or bats that exhibit missing pieces can lower the value of the lumber significantly
if the eye appeal if dramatically affected.
Deadwood - This term refers to the flaking or raising of the wood grain due to repeated
contact of a ball on the hitting surface. Most collectors feel the same about deadwood as
they do cracks. As long as the deadwood is not too severe and thus damaging the visual appeal
of the bat, it is not seen as a detractor.
Missing Piece or Pieces
- A missing piece or pieces to a bat may detract from the
visual appeal significantly depending on the size of the piece in question. As a result,
these bats are valued less than bats that are fully intact. On the other hand, bats with
missing pieces that do not detract from the overall displayability will not detract
significantly. For instance, if the missing piece is extremely small or on the back of
the barrel where it is not highly noticeable.
Repairs - Many cracked bats or bats with missing pieces are, at some point, repaired
in one of two ways. There is professional repair and non-professional repair. When a crack
is repaired professionally, most collectors cannot detect it. Unlike the sportscard market,
professional repair is not frowned upon in the bat market because condition is not viewed in
the same light. In fact, professional repair can really improve the eye-appeal of a gamer.
Non-professional repair such as batboy repair or collector repair may also be a factor.
Batboys, in days past, were routinely instructed to repair player bats in the dugout by using
nails. Many collectors feel that the presence of batboy repairs adds a vintage feel to the
piece while others may not like the look. Collector repairs are, for the most part, accepted
as long as the repair was not done in a reckless manner.
Ernie Banks game-used H&B bat from the 1960s
- The topic of bat usage inevitably comes down to personal taste. Collectors who
prefer bats with heavy game use value the fact that the bat was in the player's hands for a
long period of time. These collectors look for strong evidence of ball, seam, bat rack, and
cleat marks along with unique player characteristics such as shaved or taped handles and grooving.
Other collectors, who prefer light use, enjoy the eye-appeal that a virtually untouched bat offers.
One important thing to keep in mind is that vintage bats do not show use as clearly as the modern
bats do. This is due to the difference in wood type and qualtiy. For example, the old hickory
bats simply do not reveal wear like the modern white ash does. Again, it really comes down to
personal taste but a clear showing of some use is essential. Remember that these are not baseball
cards, they are supposed to have wear from game use. More use means that the bat was in the
player's hands for a longer period of time and that is where a lot of the value comes from.
Game-issued bats - Some professional model bats never make it into the game. These bats
are simply called game-issued bats. They were made for game use but were left in the locker room
or the bat bag. These bats do have value but the value is somewhat lower than that of game-used bats.
Much of the value turns on the fact that the bat saw game action.
Postseason and All-Star bats
Yogi Berra game-used H&B 1960 All Star bat
- Due to extreme limited production, bats that were made for
postseason or All-Star play command a significant premium over regular issue bats. These bats
will exhibit distinctive labeling such as the city the All-Star Game was played in or the year
and series the bat was made for. Every bat manufacturer has a different way of labeling these
special bats so it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with each company's label design.
Special bats - Some players will mark bats with special notations such as home run
bats or significant hit bats. This can be true for vintage as well as modern player bats.
These bats usually sell for a significant premium depending on the importance of the notation
or rarity of such an occurrence.
- In the older days of the game, there were very few bat manufacturers. H&B
(now Louisville Slugger) and Adirondack were among the handful. Today, there are several bat
companies and each company has its own distinct style. Some companies have come and gone such
as Worth while others have recently started like Sam and Young. The importance of bat brand is
Mickey Mantle game-used white letter Adirondack bat
from the 1950s
First, some players are commonly associated with particular bat companies like Mark McGwire and
some are not. McGwire has used Rawlings model bats for the great majority of his at-bats. As a
result, many collectors prefer Rawlings gamers over any other brand McGwire may have tried during
his career. A great way to check what bat players are using is by looking at baseball cards, photos
and television broadcasts. Usually, by doing this, you can get a good idea of what bats the player
uses the most. Other collectors like the rarity of a bat not commonly associated with a player but
beware, just because a bat was made for a player does not mean the player used it.
Second, and just as important, is the difference in visual appeal between the brands. Some
collectors prefer the classic look of a Louisville Slugger while others are drawn to the
unique designs attributed to modern KC Slammers or vintage beauties like the white lettered,
caramel colored Adirondacks of the 1950's and 60's. In addition, some bats include the team
name on the barrel while others do not. Some collectors prefer bats that include the team
name in the labeling for display purposes. Keep in mind that most vintage bats never included
the team name as part of the labeling. The bottom line is visual appeal. Each brand offers
a different look but some bats are clearly better looking than others.
- Like most collectibles, bats are judged by rarity. For example, a 1950's
Mickey Mantle game-used bat is far more rare than a Mantle bat from the 1960s. The same can
be said for other players such as Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Rarity can have a major affect
on pricing. For example, Monte Irvin bats are virtually impossible to find, therefore, the
rarity is reflected in the price. Even though Frank Robinson was a superior player to Irvin,
his bats are more common so the difference in price is apparent.
In addition, modern bats are manufactured at a much higher rate than they were in the past.
For example, Ken Griffey Jr. has had more bats made in two years than Mantle received in his
entire career. On the other hand, some modern players are very protective of their equipment.
Finding a true gamer from these players can be very tough because their bats rarely escape
from the clubhouse. A significant premium is usually applied to those bats that exhibit unique
qualities or true rarity.
Side Written or Vault Marked Bats - Some vintage bats, primarily during the pre-war era,
may exhibit what is referred to as side writing or vault marks. When players would crack their
bats and needed to order more of the same model, they would return the bat to the factory.
After arrival, bats were labeled with grease pencil to confirm the order. The player's name,
city, and date were usually placed on the barrel in fairly large letters. The side writing
pinpoints the time when the bat was returned and what player was returning the bats. In some
rare instances, players would return another player's bat in hopes of getting the same model
made for them. Vault marks can also be identified on some vintage bats. These marks were made
as a result of the handling process at the factory. Bats that exhibit either of these distinctive
marks are valued significantly higher than bats without the marks.
- Professional player bats, due to the distinct labeling and unique usage
characteristics, can be clearly identified by bat experts but provenance may add a significant
premium to a particular bat. Provenance is probably best described as evidence of
; however, the strength of evidence is what matters. For instance, strong
provenance might be shown by the existence of a letter from a former teammate, batboy, umpire,
family member or baseball organization. These are just some examples. The fact that a bat once
resided in a particular collection should not, in itself, play a significant part in the valuation
of the piece. The bat is what it is regardless of who owned it but, if the collection the bat
came from can help show a chain of custody or an important relationship that can help explain the
acquisition of the bat, it may be a factor.
Teams - Many collectors focus on particular teams or prefer a bat that links a player to a
certain team. For example, a Reggie Jackson game-used bat that was used during his stint with the
Yankees would sell for a slight premium over a bat used during his time with the Angels. Whether
a player accomplished more from an individual standpoint or from a team standpoint, the bat price
will be affected. Another example would be Mark McGwire. His Cardinals bats sell for more than
his Athletics bats do, even though he won a World Series with Oakland, because of the fact that he
emerged as a star as a member of the St. Louis team. In Oakland, he was slightly overshadowed by
other star players.
The affect a team might have on values can be dramatic in some instances. Game-used bats from
legendary or World Championship teams can be highly desirable even if the bats are from common
players. The team factor can turn a common player bat into a highly valuable one depending on the
year. For example, any bat from the 1927 New York Yankees is highly desirable due to the historical
importance of that squad. Significant premiums for star or common player bats should be added when
Pitcher Bats - Bats that were used by pitchers are highly desirable and very rare in many cases.
Key Hall of Fame pitcher bats such as Sandy Koufax and Walter Johnson examples are amongst the most
valuable in the market. Pitchers have very few bats made for them and only occasionally make plate
appearances. These factors really limit the available number of game-used pitcher bats, especially from
the vintage era. Due to the extreme rarity of many of these pitcher bats, much like the special bats
listed above, the price guide does not include price listings for these examples.
Willie Mays game-used H&B bat from the 1960s
- Like for most important pieces of memorabilia, authentication is key. It is
important, before you purchase a game-used bat, that you consult a bat expert that is nationally
recognized by advanced sports memorabilia hobbyists. I would recommend that collectors ask around the
hobby, at its highest levels, to find the bat expert that is best qualified to authenticate your bat.
The reality is that there are very few individuals qualified to render an expert opinion regarding the
authenticity of game-used bats but, the experts who are qualified, provide a highly valuable service for
collectors. Having your game-used bat properly authenticated will ensure that other potential buyers
will accept the bat as being legitimate in case you ever have to sell and it can prevent a collector from
losing money on a bat that fails industry standards.
As stated above, there are many factors that help determine the value of a game-use bat. As a result,
pricing can be difficult at times. SMR does its absolute best to keep up to date on the game-used bat market
and we will add players as demand dictates. Remember that this price list should be used as a guide because
each bat is unique in its own way. We hope this information proves to be useful in determining values on
professional game-used bats. Finally, and most importantly, this price guide refers to the approximate
values of standard game-used bats only and should not be used for any of the rarities or special bats mentioned
in the aforementioned guide. Premiums should apply when applicable.