The Detroit Lions 2017-18 home opener is this weekend at Ford Field. Fans are hopeful that this will, finally, be a championship year.
It hasn’t happened in a half-century. The last time was in 1957, says DuMouchelle appraiser Jerry Anderson. “Fans have been waiting for another one ever since,” Anderson told Don Vermeulen, who brought in an artifact relating to another championship season just a bit earlier — 1953.
“I have a 1953 autographed white-and-black football,” Vermeulen explained in his original email asking for an appraisal. “This was an NFL champion team. It has 29 signatures on it, including Bobby Layne, Doak Walker, Leon Hart, etc.”
He filled the appraiser in on the ball’s history. “I was a pretty good fan at that time,” he told Anderson about his feelings about the Detroit Lions in the early 1950s, when he was 10 years old and his sister worked at a local drugstore. “The players used to come in and she would get their autographs.” The appraiser took a closer look during a recent Trash or Treasure session held at DuMouchelles downtown auction house.
Anderson said that the ball was technically a souvenir ball, not a game ball, which drops the value a bit. “There are a few players on here that I can’t identify,” he told Vermeulen. “Some of the signatures are difficult to read.”
The ball is also oversized and not of regulation weight, he says. Both features affect the value, although he added that there would definitely be collectors who would be interested in the item if he ever decided to part with it.
Because there have been scandals and forgeries in the sports memorabilia business, the appraiser recommended Vermeulen get the ball appraised before selling. “We recommend PSA/DNA (psacard.com) in California, which will give collectors a laminated official certificate and legitimize sports items.”
Anderson said souvenir balls aren’t doing as well as they once did, but that it could still bring $800-$1,200 if authenticated. “We sold a similar one here for $750 in 2013,” he told him. “It was estimated at $500-$800 and it went right in the middle.”
He said the market for Vermeulen’s ball would mainly be local, but that there are national collectors into specific championship teams or other NFL subgroups. He recommend that Vermeulen store his item in a Plexiglas case and out of the light to preserve the signatures until he decides what to do it.
Anderson said a winning season could help both demand and values of items such as Vermeulen’s. “If the Lions ever win a Super Bowl, value would definitely go up,” he added.
Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to email@example.com. If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.
Item: Detroit Lions souvenir 1953 team ball
Owned by: Don Vermeulen
Estimated value: $800-$1,200 at auction with authentication
Appraised by: Jerry Anderson, DuMouchelles