• 66°

Sports appraiser coming to town

A certified sports appraiser will be in town in the coming week and is eager to hear from people who may have items they want him to look at.

Michael Osacky will be in Suffolk Dec. 2-3 to visit two families in the area who have asked him to come appraise their collections. One family has football, baseball and basketball cards dating back to 1954 that were collected by someone in the family who is now deceased, Osacky said. Another family has quite a collection of autographs, mostly from baseball and basketball players.

“Both of them are interested in understanding what the values are, because their collections are quite extensive,” Osacky said.

Of the many side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that nobody could have anticipated, one is that the market for sports collectibles has exploded, Osacky said.

“It’s a really good time to sell,” he said. “Because of the stay-at-home orders, people are not spending money on restaurants or travel. They’re going to eBay and spending money on autographs.”

Many items have fetched world-record prices in the last few months, Osacky said.

He first became interested in sports memorabilia in 1997 when his grandfather gave him a shoebox of old sports cards. Up until that time, he was purchasing new trading cards at local pharmacies and drugstores but was blown away by the older cards he had not seen before.

“It got me on the hunt,” Osacky said. He also started paying more attention to the condition of cards — how sharp were the corners? Was everything centered properly? Were there any print defects?

When he started attending card shows, he felt there was a conflict of interest without independent appraisers in the game. “I thought there was a gap in the marketplace to fill that void for someone to see what the true value is,” he said.

Osacky’s work first begins with determining if something is authentic.

“I assume everything I see is not authentic,” he said. “It’s almost like everything I see is bad until proven otherwise.”

He uses a variety of different methods for determining authenticity. Does the baseball card look right under the microscope for the year it is? Does it feel right? Does a signature compare well to known examples in his database?

Even the placement of a signature on an item can make the difference. “Lou Gehrig very rarely signed his name on the sweet spot of a baseball,” Osacky said. “He did that out of deference to Babe Ruth. He thought the Yankees teams were Babe Ruth teams and he was second fiddle, even though he was a very good player.”

Once something is determined authentic, the condition and many other factors go into the appraisal. Some of the most highly desired items, Osacky said, can include a World Series team-signed baseball, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig signatures, rings or trophies from players or front-office executives, autographs of Hall-of-Famers from all sports, and complete sets of any vintage item from all sports.

Osacky said people seek appraisals for three main reasons — they’re either hoping to insure their collection, looking to donate it or curious about how much they should expect if they sell it.

Osacky’s company is Baseball in the Attic and he also recently was named by PSA Authentication and Grading Services as its head appraiser for all sports collectibles.

He charges by the hour and stresses that if he appraises a collection, he cannot buy it. That would be an inherent conflict of interest.

Contact him at michael@baseballintheattic.com or 312-379-9090.