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Don’t use shellac to preserve autographed baseballs

Dear Babe: I have a signed baseball. About 10-15 years ago I placed it in a plastic baseball case, but it kept fading. Was that a mistake? How do I keep this baseball from fading any further?

– Mike Reilly, Nashua

For starters, every expert Da Babe checked with said the plastic cases and ball holders should have no affect on the signatures.

“I prefer the cubes, since the ball only touches the plastic at four small spots on the baseball,” said Mike Heffner, president of www.Lelands.com auction house in New York.

The best advice is to keep it in a cool, dry spot out of direct light, especially sunlight.

There’s a reason the National Archives has subdued lighting.

They want folks to be able to see the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, but protecting the documents is paramount.

One person said that spraying a ball with a light mist of clear spray paint might be OK. That idea was resoundingly rejected.

“I’ve never heard of anyone advocating spraying anything on a baseball for protection,” said Mike Breeden, a Sports Collectors Digest columnist and autograph expert. “Back in the old days, a lot of people thought it was a good idea to use shellac to protect them. While those balls are still collectible, the shellac coating is viewed as a negative on the ball’s condition and such balls consequently sell for less than their non-shellacked counterparts.

“I just don’t think this practice is a good idea if one’s long-term goal is to sell the items. To me, it’s one of those situations where you don’t know the long-term effects.”

Said David Kohler, president of www.scpautions.com, said: “As far as spraying anything, that is a no no. Nothing foreign should be applied to a baseball or other autographs.”

Robert Lifson, president of www.RobertEdwards
Auctions, said: I don’t know anything about sprays, but I would be hesitant to use any product that puts a layer of foreign material on the ball. In the “old days” collectors used a variety of coatings such as shellac or clear nail polish, and the balls looked great and well protected at first, but over the years the shellac in particular would darken.”

Heffner said: “Do not apply any type of sealer or acrylic spray. This could very easily distort the color of the baseball or harm the signature(s).”

Dear Babe: I have a few cards signed by Rod Beck and Matt Williams.

– Carol R.,
Palo Cedro, Calif.

The cards with signature aren’t worth a lot. While Beck is deceased (he died in 2007), he is not big among collectors. I’d say $5-$10 for Beck and the same for Williams – if you can find buyers. There’s not a big market for autographed cards, because they do not display well.

Babe note

Pitchers and catchers are about to report for spring training, which means it’s time for 2013 Topps Baseball Series 1, which is on hobby store shelves.

As usual the 330-card base set is just the start for collectors.

Packs are loaded with inserts, parallels, relic and autographed cards.

There’s a Silver Slate parallel set available through a wrapper redemption program, million dollar chase cards with special codes and Spring Fever cards, which can be redeemed for an exclusive 5-card pack of Topps Spring Fever at a hobby store during the first week of Spring Training (Feb. 20-Feb. 27). For details visit Da Babe’s blog at www.scrippsnews.com/blogs/waxpak.

Babe Waxpak is written by Bill Wagner. If you have a question for Babe Waxpak, include your full name and hometown, the card number, year and manufacturer or send a photocopy. Please do not send cards. The address is: Babe Waxpak, Box 492397, Redding CA 96049-2397 or email babewaxpak@charter.net.