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The 20 Most Valuable Balls on myGameBalls.com

If there's one thing I've learned for sure from being involved in the world of ballhawking, it's that ballhawks aren't in it for the money. Sure, there's a few ballhawks here and there whose sole motivation is trying to secure a piece of memorabilia that will result in a huge payoff, but 99 percent of the ballhawks I've read about couldn't care less about turning a profit. I may be guilty of overusing a catch phrase here, but overall, ballhawks are just in it for the love of the game.

That being said, if they happen to get their hands on a big milestone ball, many wouldn't hesitate to sell it to the highest bidder. As I think about it, I'm not really sure what percentage of ballhawks on this website would sell a big-money ball given the chance. There are definitely those that would sell it in a heartbeat, and those that wouldn't sell a home run ball for a million dollars. Regardless, from both points of view it's interesting to speculate about how much certain balls are worth, and it's often fascinating to watch the drama play out when a lucky fan snags a big homer and puts it on the market.

I've been wondering, which baseballs on this website are worth the most? As I thought about this subject, I decided that it would be cool to try to contact an expert in the field of appraising game-used baseballs. My research led me to Mike Gutierrez from Heritage Auctions, who appraised Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball from his historic 1998 season. I exchanged a few emails with him, and based on his answers to my questions, I came up with a list of 8 general principles in determining the value of a ball:

  1. Without official MLB authentication, video evidence, or some other way to prove the ball is legit, it is essentially worthless.
  2. Milestone home run balls are the most significant, and their value varies based on the significance of the milestone and the player involved.
  3. Balls hit by Hall-of-Famers, including active players who are considered locks for the HOF, are worth considerably more than non-Hall-of-Famers.
  4. Balls hit by steroid-tainted would-be Hall-of-Famers are considered to be pretty much just as valuable as they would have been had the player not been caught using steroids.
  5. The peak value of a non-milestone ball occurs just after the player who hit it has reached his most significant milestone. After that, its value diminishes with time.
  6. Any event linked to the ball that adds significance to it will increase its value. The amount of increase varies depending upon the particular event.
  7. Overall, a general ballpark figure for the value of non-milestone home run balls is about $500-$1000 for Hall-of-Famers, and $100-$300 for upper-tier players who are not Hall-of-Famers.
  8. Having the autograph of the guy who hit it on the ball will increase the value by a couple hundred dollars.

Some of this was common sense, but the thing that surprised me was that the value of a non-milestone ball diminishes with time. Before corresponding with Gutierrez, I assumed that the older a ball was, the more valuable it would be. According to Gutierrez, the emotion and excitement surrounding a milestone homer will cause the value of all the balls hit by that player to spike at that moment. Since that level of excitement won't be repeated in the future, the value of the ball will gradually decline.

Taking the items on this list into consideration (and assuming that each one passes the test in #1, and not taking into account #8), I developed a list of the 20 most valuable balls on myGameBalls.com. To offer an official disclaimer, let me say that this is just for fun and obviously the values that I have attached to each are just estimates, even wild guesses you might say, so if you're on this list please don't use this article as proof that somebody should cough up big bucks for your ball.

So here's the list:

20. Joe Carter home run ball (one of 396 lifetime homers), snagged by Rick Gold on July 7, 1995. Estimated worth: $125

19. Luis Gonzalez home run ball (one of 354 lifetime homers), snagged by Leigh Barratt on September 17, 2002. Estimated worth: $175

18. Ricky Henderson home run ball (one of 297 lifetime homers), snagged by John Witt on July 28, 1993. Estimated worth: $500

17. Ricky Henderson home run ball (one of 297 lifetime homers), snagged by Rick Gold on September 1, 1993. Estimated worth: $500

16. Andre Dawson home run ball (one of 438 lifetime homers), snagged by John Witt on August 21, 1987. Estimated worth: $550

15. Gary Carter home run ball (one of 324 lifetime homers), snagged by John Witt on September 19, 1989. Estimated worth: $575

14. Carlton Fisk home run ball (one of 376 lifetime homers), snagged by John Witt on September 1, 1990. Estimated worth: $600

13. Mike Schmidt home run ball (one of 548 lifetime homers), snagged by John Witt on August 31, 1987. Estimated worth: $675

12. Dave Winfield home run ball (one of 465 lifetime homers), snagged by John Witt on August 1, 1993. Estimated worth: $675

11. Mark McGwire home run ball (one of 583 lifetime homers), snagged by Rick Gold on July 24, 1992. Estimated worth: $700

10. Rafael Palmeiro home run ball (one of 569 lifetime homers), snagged by Rick Gold on August 1, 1993. Estimated worth: $715

9. Mark McGwire home run ball (one of 583 lifetime homers), snagged by Rick Gold on July 7, 1995. Estimated worth: $725

8. Manny Ramirez home run ball (one of 550 lifetime homers), snagged by John Witt on September 17, 2002. Estimated worth: $740

7. Manny Ramirez home run ball (one of 550 lifetime homers), snagged by John Witt on September 15, 2003. Estimated worth: $750

6. Alex Rodriguez home run ball (one of 591 lifetime homers), snagged by Robert Clinton on May 22, 2009. Estimated worth: $800

5. Barry Bonds home run ball (one of 762 lifetime homers), snagged by Zack Hample on August 16, 2006. Estimated worth: $1,000

4. Final Mets home run at Shea Stadium (Hit by Carlos Beltran), snagged by Zack Hample on September 28, 2008. Estimated worth: $3,000 (Gutierrez came up with this estimate, and actually said it could sell for as much as $5,000 in auction)

3 and 2. Eddie Murray home runs (two of 504 lifetime homers, hit from both sides of the plate in the same game and the 2nd consecutive game doing so), snagged by John Witt on May 9, 1987. Estimated worth: $3,200 each

1. Sammy Sosa home run ball (61st of the 1998 season, one of 609 lifetime homers), snagged by John Witt on September 13, 1998. Estimated worth: $4,000 (that's if it were sold today. When Witt snagged it in 1998, he sold it for $7,500))

I'd love to hear back from people on this. If you're on the list, do you agree with my estimate? Have you ever gotten it officially appraised, or attempted to sell it? If you're not on the list, do you have a ball that you think deserves to be on it? For everyone, would you ever sell a home run ball, and if so, how much cash would it take to part with it?

Alan Schuster is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.

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