Treasure: Autographed baseballs have right name cachet

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

The current baseball season may be disappointing, but baseball collectibles never let fans down. Ralph Pedersen recently proved that when items he brought in drew oohs and aahs from the crowd gathered at a recent Trash or Treasure appraisal at the Michigan Design Center in Troy.

“I have a collection of over 50 autographed baseballs,” he wrote to the column in an email. “The most interesting is this one that was signed by Ted Williams, Eddie Mathews, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks. All of these players hit more than 500 home runs. I also have a certificate of authenticity. I purchased this from Seventh Inning Stretch in Cooperstown, N.Y. Is this of interest?”

You bet it is, appraiser Brian Thomczek told him recently when he looked at a few Pedersen’s sports collectibles.

“Harmon Killebrew was the Babe Ruth of the Midwest,” he mused as he turned the ball over in his hands and peered at it with interest. “But all these guys were sluggers.”

Even without the certificate, the appraiser said the ball looked “100-percent legit,” adding that “you do see a lot of fakes.”

Pedersen said he purchased the ball he brought in about 50 years ago, and that he also has a baseball signed by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in honor of their moon visit’s 25th anniversary. Thomczek told him that there would be a demand for that item as well should he decide to sell it.

“There’s a huge market for space-related items,” he told him. “Heritage Auctions in Dallas just had a very successful space-related auction.” Pedersen added that he became interested in space exploration in the army, when he worked in satellite tracking.

Thomczek said Pedersen is doing at least one thing right by displaying the balls in lucite cubes. “You definitely need to keep them out of sunlight or the signatures will fade and that will adversely affect the value.”

The pair and audience enjoyed talking baseball, reminiscing about colorful players from the past, many of whom are represented in Pedersen’s collection. “I also have a Mark Fidrych ball that he signed when he was Rookie of the Year,” Pederson told the appraiser. “He was quite a character. I saw him pitch.”

Pedersen said he thinks he paid about $500 for the 500-club ball, which Thomczek said would bring $2,000 or more if he sold it through a reputable dealer. He said the space ball would bring about the same, or more, at auction.

Pedersen was happy to find out current values, but plans to hang on to them. “I’m not looking to sell,” he told Thomczek.

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 If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item: Autographed baseballs

Owned by: Ralph Pedersen

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $2,000 and up