The lucky fan that hung Yankees Star Aaron Judge’s 62nd home run ball might be able to sell it and never work again. Or, at least, they might be able to pay off the rest of their student loans.
“Someone is going to make a lot of money,” said Brian Kathenes, managing partner of National Appraisal Consultants.
In the first inning of the Yankees’ second-to-last regular season game Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Judge hit home run No. 62 to pass Roger Maris for the franchise and single from the American League. home run record for the season. The 30-year-old Yankees slugger drove a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesús Tinoco into the front two rows of seats in left field in the start of Game 2 of a day-night doubleheader.
The ball traveled 391 feet and landed in a fan’s glove in the left field stands. The fan who caught him was standing in section 31. He was then taken away with security to have the ball authenticated.
He will likely have the option of returning the ball to the batter or trading it to him for merchandise. Think autographs, jerseys, bats, or even season tickets in the Judges’ Room at Yankee Stadium. Heck, maybe Judge would even throw in a foam hammer. But there’s no way for that person to make a deal if they want to recoup the full value of their good fortune, experts say.
“They’d be crazy if they didn’t,” said Pop Culture Appraisals owner Mike Gutierrez.
NJ Advance Media interviewed a handful of certified appraisers with over 100 years of combined experience appraising the value and pricing of celebrity and historical memorabilia.
While the numbers were mixed, there was no doubt that the baseball judge’s 62nd ball would mean big payday – especially since the judge hit No. 61 in the Blue Jays’ bullpen and the Team security picked it up Wednesday, taking another valuable item from its house hunt off the market.
Les Wolf, who has appraised items for Mickey Mantle and Muhammad Ali, said he believes the ball could be worth up to $5 million. Brandon Steiner, who ran Steiner Sports and now owns CollectibleXchange, said he expected it to sell for around $2.5 million.
Kathenes estimated the ball was worth in the six figures.
In 1998, Gutierrez performed an insurance appraisal on Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball for Butterfield, Butterfield & Dunning Auctions, expecting the ball to sell for $2.4 million. “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane bought it for a record $2.6 million. Gutierrez said he thinks the judge’s bullet could be worth between $700,000 and $800,000.
And Leila Dunbar, who headed the collectibles department at Sotheby’s for a decade, estimates it could be worth between $200,000 and $300,000.
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JP Cohen, president of auction house Memory Lane, said he would pay $2 million for it.
“This market for sports cards and memorabilia is the strongest I’ve ever seen,” Dunbar said, “with at least 100 items selling for $1 million or more since the rise of COVID-19.”
The hot market, however, isn’t all that could drive Judge’s historic long ball up. Several of the reviewers interviewed pointed to variables outside of No. 62 itself that could affect the value of the ball:
It’s a part of Yankees history
In early September, Forbes declared the Yankees the fourth most valuable sports franchise in the world at $6 billion, behind the top-ranked Dallas Cowboys at $8 billion, the New England Patriots at 6.4 billion and the Los Angeles Rams with $6.2 billion. The Los Angeles Dodgers were the second most valuable baseball franchise at No. 26, valued at $4.08 billion. The Yankees have the richest history, widest reach, and largest fanbase.
“If (the judge) was a Milwaukee brewer or a Seattle Mariners guy or whatever, it would still go for decent money,” Gutierrez said. “But it wouldn’t be anything close to what it would be with that New York Yankees name on it.”
A 1920 Babe Ruth jersey – his first season with the Yankees – sold for $4.4 million, making it the most expensive sports memorabilia ever sold. A Ruth bat cost $1.3 million. Even a Derek Jeter sock used in the game cost $409.99.
The image of the judge
Although McGwire’s 70th home run ball cost a million, allegations of steroid use have dented its market, with some pundits valuing the ball at just $200,000 these days. Barry Bonds, one of the faces of baseball’s steroid problem, saw the 73rd home run he hit in 2002 for the MLB single-season record sell for just $450,000. To date, there has not been a single report or allegation linking Judge to performance-enhancing drugs of any kind. “There’s nothing bad to say about him,” Gutierrez said. On September 16, an Ebay user auctioned off a Judge rookie card for $325,000.
An MVP season?
The judge does not just crush the circuits. He’s having one of the best offensive seasons of all time, and he looks like he’s a lock on being voted his first American League MVP award and could win the Triple Crown. Breaking Maris’ record is the icing on the cake of a season for the history books.
Location, location, location
If Judge had hit the home run at Yankee Stadium, it could have driven the price up, according to Wolf. It won’t be worth as much for coming to Texas, he thinks, but it will still be worth a lot.
The final tally
No. 62 will be Judge’s most valuable home run of the season, evaluators agreed. Even if Judge finishes with more, none would be as big in impact as when he passed Maris. If the judge had hit 71 to pass McGwire or 74 to skip Bonds, those balls could fetch even more and devalue No. 62, experts said.
What if Judge leaves New York?
It is likely that the ball will not be auctioned for around three months, experts have estimated. Auction houses need time to prepare their catalogs and decide how they would like to sell the ball. By then Judge might have already left the Yankees in free agency, and the home run could end up among the last – or even the last – the one he hits with pinstripes.
Who wants it?
Kathenes said it might not even be a baseball fan with the highest bid. “They could be investors,” he said. A wealthy group of people might see Judge’s 62nd home run as a commodity that would increase in value over time and set them up for an even bigger payday. Or it could go to a billionaire looking to donate it to the Baseball Hall of Fame for a tax deduction. “The market for something like this will likely be someone with unlimited resources,” Kathenes said.
And it’s going to be a grand slam on someone’s bank account.
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Brendan Kuty can be reached at [email protected].