MEARS Auction #36, Ends March 31st, 2012, 9:00 CST w/ 15-Minute Rule
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 3/31/2012

Honus Wagner was the first endorsee of Louisville Slugger game used bats. He did not have a facsimile stamped barrel bat during the majority of his career. The exact wording of the early Louisville Slugger marketing materials stated, “The players autograph will appear on the barrel”.

It is the opinion of this authenticator that this quote has a literal interpretation. As a careful part of the decal design, each player, Cobb, Lajoie, Wagner, have their autograph designed as part of the decal. This fulfills the statement of the players autograph appearing on the barrel. Honus Wagner used a decal bat earlier in his career!

Many high end bat collectors have a large void in their game used bat collections. They have superb examples of Ruth, Cobb, Gehrig, Speaker, etc. Many want a Wagner, but are waiting for that perfect signature model barrel stamped example to arrive. With over 30 years as an organized bat hobby, none have ever surface, and with good reason. THEY DON”T EXIST prior to 1917.

I have personally handled over 6 1917-30 Honus Wagner signature model coach/barnstorming bats, none earlier. As I have stated, by 1917 Louisville Slugger had adopted the practice of adding a facsimile branded signature to the barrel. I am theorizing this practice may have been made popular due to the market demand for Babe Ruth, who signed his contract in 1918. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that signature models begin appearing with regularity at the same time Ruth became popular.

During 1905, Honus Wagner signed the first professional bat endorsement contract. Shortly after, he was supplied with professional model decal bats for is personal use. This is the exact model bat he was sent to use for the better part of his career.

Examination of known Wagner bats in the hobby support this claim. For the label period of 1900-1910, there are no known Honus Wagner signature model Louisville Slugger game used bats. An additional professional model decal bat from the 1905 era has been examined by MEARS, but no signature model bat is known. For the era of 1910-15, there are no known Wagner signature model bats. One documented blank barrel bat with provenance has entered the hobby. For the era of 1916-17, only the Marshall Fogel side written signature model bat is known to exist. Again, this is from the very end of Wagner’s playing career. This era is important to note, because advanced bat collectors will know that only during the 1917-21 Louisville Slugger label period do signature model bats appear of any player. From 1917-21, the hobby first sees the introduction of Ruth, Cobb, Jackson, Speaker, etc of bats bearing the facsimile signature of players. Previous to 1916, I have only personally seen less than 12 bats bearing a player’s name, and they were all block lettered examples, zero signature models. So the question is, “What did H&B contract player’s use from 1905 to 1916?” The answer: Pro model decal bats.

Pro Model vs. Store Model Decal bats: Store model decal bats do exist during the 1910-15 for Honus Wagner. They were produced with a very distinct branding difference. The examples I have seen were either supplied as a 40W or 40HW. This numeric/alpha identification was found incorporated into the centerbrand design. Pro models from the era, such as this example, were simply labeled as “JF Hillerich & Son Co.”.

Model W107: This bat is consistent with the documented W107 bat on file at Louisville Slugger with respect to shape. This bat is described as having a large knob and round barrel, two visible featured supported by available images of Wagner during the era.

Length: Measuring 35”, this bat is consistent with the 34.5” single model recorded on Honus Wagner’s personal bat card on file at Louisville Slugger.

Weight: Currently weighing 38 ounces, this bat is an exact match to the recorded weight on the recorded Honus Wagner personal bat card on file at Louisville Slugger.

Wood: High grade professional ash.

Decal Examination: Remnants of a Honus Wagner decal stating that he uses Louisville Slugger bats exclusively.

Decal Bats in the Major Leagues: Photographic documentation proves professional model decal bats were used in the big leagues. MEARS has archived the following references are used to support this fact:

1. 1902-15 circa undated photo of Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan using a decal bat from an unknown supplier.

2. 1914 Hank Gowdy was mentioned in the 1939 H&B catalog as using a decal bat during the World Series.

3. 1908 circa Ty Cobb photo using a decal bat.

4. 1905-11 Honus Wagner Professional Model decal bat examined by MEARS.

Both photographic and an additional bat supports the fact decal bats were used in the major leagues during the 1905-15 era.

Therefore both actual examples and documented photographs are archived to support the fact decal bats were used during the 1905-15 circa in the major leagues.

Game Use: Bat exhibits heavy signs of use with ball marks, stitch marks, cleat marks and a handle crack which has been repaired with 7 period nails and 2 period screws.

Final Grade (MEARS A7.5): Bat receives 5 points for matching recorded player specifications, 3 points for use and loses 1/2 point for the repaired handle resulting in a final grade of A7.5.

LOA Troy Kinunen / MEARS Auctions

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $3,500
Final prices include buyers premium.: $25,711
Number Bids: 19
Auction closed on Sunday, April 1, 2012.
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