PSA/DNA Set Registry
A Look Inside Jim Doyle's Hall of Fame Baseball (Any Medium) Autographs Set
Conquering the Ultimate Cooperstown Collection
by Kevin Glew
A high school diploma, a stern letter to a son-in-law, and a poem written by Henry Chadwick are three of the more interesting items in Jim Doyle's No. 1 Hall of Fame Baseball (Any Medium) autographs set.
The determined hobbyist recently became the first to complete this challenging PSA/DNA Set Registry set that not only requires collectors to track down an autograph of every player honored in the Cooperstown shrine, but also any executive, umpire, or pioneer that has been inducted. From 19th century trailblazers to 2018 honorees, the autographs in Doyle's remarkable set span more than 150 years.
For his efforts, Doyle's set - as well as his Hall of Fame Players Baseball (Any Medium) autographs set - were inducted into the PSA Set Registry Hall of Fame this past summer.
"The Hall of Fame Baseball (Any Medium) set gives me the most pride because of its uniqueness and variety, as well as the interesting material that has been written about the documents," said Doyle, who owns many of the top Baseball Hall of Fame related autograph sets on the PSA/DNA Set Registry.
"At the end of the day, there's nothing distinctive about a [yellow HOF] plaque postcard [which is another set he actively collects]; they all look the same other than the autograph. Whereas with the items in this set, there is more of a story behind them, especially with those handwritten letters."
Doyle, who was inducted into the PSA Set Registry Hall of Fame as a collector in 2017, says it was, in large part, his appreciation for baseball history that inspired him to tackle the daunting Hall of Fame Baseball (Any Medium) set.
"One of the things that drove me [to collect this set] was the unique stories," explained Doyle. "It was somewhat like picking up and reading a novel, because as I went about the acquisitions, I also studied who each inductee was and what they did."
But to undertake an endeavor like this, you require more than a keen interest in baseball history. You need dedication, financial resources, business savvy, and help from other collectors and dealers.
Fortunately, Doyle, a Louisiana resident, had all of the above. He has enjoyed a 45-year business career and will retire from his role as executive vice president at Brenntag North America Inc. at the end of 2018. Brenntag is the world's largest chemical distributor.
It also doesn't hurt that Doyle has a competitive streak in him that dates back to his college days when he suited up as an offensive tackle for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from 1967 to 1970.
"I have to admit that I became financially focused on it," said Doyle of his mission to complete the Hall of Fame Baseball (Any Medium) autographs set. "It's one thing to say, 'I'm going to try to get an item at an auction.' It's quite another to say, 'I will get it at an auction.' The outcome is significantly different."
It also helped that he had already completed several other Hall of Fame autographs sets on the PSA/DNA Set Registry.
"When you consider my other sets, which consist of Perez-Steele cards, yellow [HOF] plaque postcards, and some black-and-white [HOF] plaque postcards, I had a pretty good head start on this set," explained Doyle. "So, when I saw where I was and what I still needed [to complete this set], I thought 'this is probably doable.'"
Not surprisingly, the toughest signatures to acquire for this 269-autograph Hall of Fame Baseball (Any Medium) set were those of long deceased Cooperstowners. And to add to his challenge, on top of just finding these autographs, Doyle also coveted them in high grade.
The devoted hobbyist acquired his autographs in several ways, including off eBay, through auction houses, private purchases, and trades with other collectors.
"It was rare that I bought anything that had already been authenticated and graded," he explained. "In almost every case I bought them uncertified."
With many of the autographed items being so scarce and costly, Doyle informed sellers up front that he was only interested in the item if it passed PSA/DNA authentication.
"I made it known to people that the only reason I was buying the autograph was to put it on the PSA/DNA Set Registry. Therefore, I didn't care if another company authenticated it; it had to pass PSA/DNA authentication," explained Doyle. "So I told them, 'If you don't want to sell it to me on that basis, then I'm out.'"
In the year-and-a-half it took him to complete his set, only two autographs that he purchased were rejected by PSA/DNA, and in both cases, the sellers were cooperative when he returned the item.
Doyle also made some creative trades to complete his set.
"I had some duplicates," he explained. "So, let's say you're a collector and you've got two [PSA/DNA GEM-MT] 10s in your set, but you're missing 70 autographs. I would come to you and say, 'Here's the deal: Trade me your two 10s and I'll give you my [MINT] 9 and [NM-MT] 8 plus five other autographs.' I've done that type of deal with several people."
Doyle focused on autographs on paper products such as postcards, index cards, letters, and contracts rather than baseballs for his set.
"I don't like [to collect signed] baseballs because they're awkward. And if you had 269 balls, where in the world would you display them?" he said.
Doyle also notes that it would be impossible to complete this set with just baseballs because many of the executives likely never signed one.
In order to complete his mission, the determined collector had to track down autographs of all of baseball's biggest legends. High-quality signatures of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron are all part of his set, but it was the thrill of locating signatures of some of the more obscure Hall of Famers that really motivated Doyle.
Two of the last autographs he tracked down were Cumberland Posey and Cap Anson. Posey was a pioneering player, manager, and owner of the Homestead Grays, one of the most dominant teams in Negro leagues history. He guided the Grays to nine consecutive Negro National League pennants from 1937 to 1945.
Posey also served as one of the directors of Homestead High School, and Doyle discovered that one of the only ways to obtain Posey's signature was on the high school diplomas he signed.
"There are actually nine signatures on the high school diplomas, none of which are important except for his," noted Doyle. "So, if you look up Posey on my Registry set, I have Mr. Raymond Klotz's high school diploma."
Cap Anson's signature was also one of the most elusive. Doyle managed to secure a stern letter that the controversial 19th century star penned to his son-in-law, who had married his daughter without his permission. In the letter, Anson asks his new son-in-law to come and meet him and his wife so that they could see if they were going to like him.
"The Cap Anson letter is hilarious," said Doyle. "He's trying to be stern, but he signs it 'Your loving parents Mr. and Mrs. Al Anson.'"
Another cherished item in his set is his Grover Cleveland Alexander autograph.
"I have a Grover Cleveland Alexander signature on the outside of an envelope, and the signature turned out to be a [PSA/DNA] GEM-MT 10. It's a beautiful autograph and it was part of the Sigurd Berg collection," noted Doyle.
One of the earliest to collect autographs through the mail, Berg would often send a notecard or envelope with a printed line and the athlete's name underneath it, asking the athlete to sign on the line. In the case of Doyle's Alexander autograph, it's remarkable that it achieved such a lofty grade when you consider that it was sent back on an envelope unprotected through the mail.
As noted earlier, tracking down these rare signatures like Alexander, Anson, and Posey was one of the most rewarding parts of putting this set together for Doyle, as was learning about the Hall of Famers he was collecting.
"I'm retiring at the end of 2018, and one of the projects that I intend to work on is adding comments [to my Registry set] about every Hall of Famer because there are some great stories behind them," said Doyle. "Some of these comments would include information like Cal Hubbard being the only inductee in both the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's the only person to achieve that distinction."
And though his set boasts a remarkable 9.39 GPA and is in the PSA Set Registry Hall of Fame, Doyle is still looking to upgrade it.
"I'm especially keen on trying to improve the few [PSA/DNA NM] 7s and 8s," he said.
The veteran collector cherishes the friendships he has developed through the PSA/DNA Set Registry. He credits fellow hobbyists John Blattner, Ken Harrington, Kyle Jorgenson, and Ron Miller for helping him complete his set.
"What becomes of this set eventually is one of the great questions in life that every collector faces. There isn't a strong interest within my family. I have two daughters and a son. My son looks at the items sometimes, but there's no passion in it for any them," said Doyle. So ultimately, he says, that realization will lead a collector such as himself to liquidate at some point.
For now, however, Doyle can bask in being the first to complete this extensive Hall of Fame autographs set on the PSA Set Registry, one that he can leaf through and marvel at several one-of-a-kind documents and, perhaps, even feel a little sorry for Cap Anson's son-in-law.
For more information on the autographers of Hall of Fame baseball players, please visit https://www.psacard.com/AutographFacts#4baseball.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Thank you to Jim Doyle for providing the items featured in this article. Please note the PSA Population Report statistics and Set Registry rankings quoted are as of November 2018.
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