1929 Billy Hamilton Single-Signed Ball
Starting Bid - $2,500.00, Sold For - $7,110.00
Official American League ball (blue and red stitched) signed by Hall of Fame outfielder Billy Hamilton. Hamilton has signed the ball "Sliding Billy Hamilton" in black fountain pen across the sweet spot, directly below which he has added the date: "Sept 2 1929." Both the signature and date grade "8" overall; however, each has been professionally enhanced. That fact was revealed when James Spence Authentication examined the ball under a video spectral comparator, which allows for the observation of latent writing and/or markings. It is important to note that James Spence Authentication has deemed the Hamilton signature authentic, but it must be properly qualified with regard to the enhancement. Normally, such enhancements are vintage in nature, done by an early owner to help preserve a fading signature. Not so with this example! This ball was professionally enhanced during the late 1990s and we did not need a video spectral comparator to come to that conclusion. We know this because Robert Edward Auctions originally sold this very ball in our September 8, 1994, auction. At that time we duly noted the condition of the signature in our catalog description: "Signature grades only a "4" or a "5" due to general wear but is clearly and entirely legible." In particular, the central "Billy" portion of the signature was badly worn and faded, much more so than any other part of the writing. The next time we saw this ball was a few years later, when it was offered by another auction house, only now the signature had miraculously improved. After a few inquires, we later learned that the original purchaser of the ball from our auction had the signature professionally enhanced for aesthetic reasons. Our consignor purchased the ball at that auction and it has remained in his collection ever since.
While collectors will forever debate the pros and cons of cosmetically altering a signed ball in such a manner, the fact remains that this is, to the best of our knowledge, the only known Billy Hamilton single-signed ball extant. Hamilton's signature, in any form, is exceedingly rare. With the exception of a signed page from Dr. John O'Meara's autograph album assembled in the 1930s, which was sold at REA in 2009, we cannot even recall the last time we saw an authentic Billy Hamilton signature at public auction, let alone by itself on a baseball. One of the greatest players of the nineteenth century, Hamilton retired in 1901 with a career average of .344. Though small in stature (he stood five feet, six inches), Hamilton was swift of foot, and his daring on the bases helped earn him his famous sobriquet, "Sliding Billy." Hamilton was a two-time National League batting champion who also led the league numerous times in runs, on base percentage, bases on balls, and steals. One of the main reasons for the scarcity of his signature today, besides the fact that he was a nineteenth-century player and largely forgotten by many early autograph collectors, is that he died in 1940, which was long before his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1961. Single-signed baseballs did not become the ideal for autograph collectors until decades after Hamilton's death. While it is impossible to know how many balls he signed during his lifetime, given the fact that the offered example is the only survivor we are aware of, we would speculate that the number was quite low. It should be noted that when this ball was originally sold at auction by REA, it was accompanied by a letter from legendary handwriting expert Charles Hamilton attesting to the authenticity of the signature. That letter still accompanies the ball. The majority of the ball's manufacturer's stampings have faded; however, enough remain to identify it as an official American League ball dating from the 1926 to 1933 manufacturing period. The American League president's facsimile signature is no longer visible. The ball displays moderate wear throughout, including a few minor abrasions, and is in Very Good condition overall. This is truly one of the rarest Hall of Fame single-signed balls imaginable and one that would serve as the centerpiece to even the most advanced collection. Full LOA from James Spence/JSA and full LOA from Charles Hamilton. Reserve $2,500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $7,110.00