My Recent Find: The One that Got Away

“My Recent Buy” will be a regular feature in The Insider. What did you buy recently that brings a smile to your face? Share the object and your story with our readers. Send the story of your buy and two to four images to Your recent buy might appear in a future issue.  

A lot of mid-1930s Detroit Tigers paper memorabilia–an interesting group, 1934 and 35 in great condition.

            Collectors love to share stories about their treasures, especially those involving a great acquisition story that details an exhaustive hunt, the spotting of the object, and the bargain price, often the result of intense negotiations.  Unlike hunters and fishing enthusiasts, collectors never talk about the “one that got away.”  This is one of those stories.

            In the final days of preparing for an estate sale in Burnt Lake, Michigan, my friend Barb Jersey called and told me she had set aside a box of paper that she was taking home to sort.  Knowing my strong interest in paper ephemera, she indicated she would send me an email and a photograph if she found anything of interest.

            At noon the next day, I received a photograph of a lot of mid-1930s Detroit Tigers paper memorabilia.  The lot included “Iffy’s Book of Tiger Tales,” an “Official [Tigers] SCORE CARD” for a Tigers vs. St. Louis Cardinals World Series game, “WORLD SERIES OFFICIAL PROGRAM, / DETROIT TIGERS VS. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS,” “DETROIT IN BASEBALL: BASEBALL CENTENNIAL SOUVENIR, 1839-1939,” a collection of newspaper clippings some of which were headlines “Learn the Tigers from A to Z,” and a black and white photograph of one of the players.

            Barb’s email read: “Here is an interesting group.  Oh 1934 and 35 in great condition.  Now I realize the little figure I found at the sale is really Iffy, which I will add to this group.  I’m thinking about $150….”  The figure seemed high to me.  I am a Yankees fan.  Although I live in Tigers territory, once a Yankees fan always a Yankees fan.

            Thanks to WorthPoint, doing value research is easy.  Starting with “Iffy’s Book of Tiger Tales,” I found 2017 closing prices for $29.15, $50.00, $33.52, and $19.99.  I assigned a mental value of $25.00.  2017 values of the “WORLD SERIES OFFICIAL PROGRAM” ranged from a low of 179.00 to a high of $295.00.  Taking a conservative approach, especially since reprint copies of the program are available, my mental value was $175.00.  The Detroit Centennial souvenir book had sell through prices ranging from $33.00 to $85.00.  I assigned $40.00 as my mental price. 

            WorthPoint  did not have any listings for the 1934 Detroit Tigers World Series score card or the Iffy figure.  I tried other search engines without success.  Again, taking a conservative approach, I assigned a mental value of $100.00 to the scorecard and $50.00 to the Iffy figure.   My mental total added up to $390.00, more than double the amount Barb was asking.  My difficulty is that I am not a dealer.   The chance to buy something and double the money retailing it is tempting.  Unfortunately, sellers usually never take into consideration the time and cost involved in making the sale.   In the business practice seminar at my Institute for the Study of Antiques and Collectibles, I teach the principle – double your money pay your expenses, triple your money pay yourself.  Because my values were conservative, tripling the $150.00 was within the realm of possibility.

            I had a night to think about agreeing to the $150.00 purchase price.  The price was within reason for an estate sale – a challenge to a dealer and a bargain to a collector.  Since Barb found the material late in the preparation of the Burnt Lake sale, she was not able to post the image on her website until Thursday afternoon.  The sale began first thing Friday morning.  Hence, the chance of an avid Tiger’s fan discovering the listing and making the trip to Burnt Lake was minimal.  This factor weighed heavily on my mind as I made a final decision of what I wanted to do.

            The Burnt Lake estate sale was a two-day sale.  Barb charges full price on day one.  At different points during the second day, she discounts her prices 35 percent and then 50 percent.  I decided to take a chance the lot would not sell, call Barb Friday evening to see if it still was available.  If it was, I would offer to pay the $100.00.

            [Author’s Aside:  Although I do not believe any collector has to rationalize a purchase, I did in this instance.  As a Yankees fan, I could care less about Detroit Tigers memorabilia.  At $100.00, perhaps even $150.00, for a collection of 1930s World Series material, no matter what teams are involved, the price was a bargain.  The bragging rights from owning the collection would gain valuable points with my friends who are Tigers fans.  If I chose not to sell the pieces, I could have them matted and framed and present them as gifts – worth far more than $100.00 worth of Brownie points.]

            When I called Barb on Friday night, she threw me a curve ball.  Earlier in the day, a dealer made Barb a counteroffer of $125.00.  She took it, afraid that if she did not, the lot would linger until the end of day two and not sell even at the $75.00 half price.  The curve ball came out of nowhere.  I did not see it cross the plate.  I am not certain I would have made a similar pitch if I knew Barb was open to it.

            Win some, lose some.  This time I struck out and so did the Damn Yankees in the 2017 divisional playoffs with the Indians.  Oh well, wait until next year.

Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site.  You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.  “Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

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