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Greatest signed baseball ever sells for record amount

Liz Roscher
Yahoo Sports
A baseball featuring 11 signatures from honorees at the first Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1939 sold at auction for a record amount. Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb and other legends of early baseball signed the ball. (SCP Auctions)

The record for the most expensive signed baseball in history has been absolutely obliterated. On Sunday, a baseball with the signatures of 11 of the first Baseball Hall of Fame inductees sold at auction for over $600,000.

An incredible price for an incredible baseball

It’s hard to imagine a baseball with more value and significance to the history of the game. It was signed by 11 of baseball’s first Hall of Fame inductees, who were all present at the very first induction ceremony in June 1939.


The ball contains the signatures of Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Tris Speaker, George Sisler, Walter Johnson, Connie Mack, Nap Lajoie, Eddie Collins and Grover Cleveland Alexander. In other words, it’s the ultimate historical baseball jackpot.

Those 11 baseball figures were all elected throughout the first four years of the existence of the Hall of Fame (1936-1939), but as the only living members of the original 25 inductees (not including Lou Gehrig, who wasn’t inducted until December 1939), they were invited to an official induction ceremony to celebrate the opening of the physical Hall of Fame building. The signatures were all gathered during that first induction weekend.

The ball sold for $632,369, which is a record for a signed, non-game used ball. It almost doubles the previous record, held by a Babe Ruth signed ball, which was sold for $388,375 in 2014. What’s even more amazing is how the worth of this baseball has increased in such a short time. According to Sports Collectors Daily, Christie’s auction house sold the ball for $55,000 in 1997. In 21 years, the value of the ball increased more than tenfold.

How the greatest signed baseball came to exist

The story behind this ball is one that many autograph seekers can relate to. According to SCP Auctions, the ball was originally owned by former Chicago White Sox player Marv Owen. He and his former Detroit Tigers teammate Hank Greenberg (who himself would become a Hall of Famer) were both chosen to play in an exhibition game at Cooperstown during induction weekend.

Greenberg brought two baseballs with him so he could get the signatures of the 11 living legends being honored that weekend. But in a biography of Owen written by his sister, Owen said that Greenberg was too nervous to ask any of them for their autographs. So Owen volunteered to do it, and Greenberg let him keep one of the balls as a thank you.

Owen stored the ball in a fur lined glove in a safe deposit box for years, which accounts for its excellent condition. (The signatures are all clear and bold and at or near the top of the grading scale.) It wasn’t removed from the safe deposit box until Marv Owen’s death in 1991.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter at @lizroscher.

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