Do you have $25,000 lying around and an interest in vintage Jewish baseball uniforms? If so, this eBay auction should grab your attention.

YMHA Jersey

YMHA baseball jersey, circa 1870-1890. Photo courtesy of eBay.

Available for Buy It Now price of $25,000.00 or a best offer, is a complete baseball uniform, circa 1870-1890, including wool jersey and pants. The jersey bears a Young Men's Hebrew Association (YMHA) patch on the left breast.

The seller has a 100% satisfaction rating, and lists details of the item as follows:

"This YMHA baseball uniform is in very good to excellent condition!  To find an early period baseball uniform in this condition is a one in a million find. Also, we would like to add, Mr. Tim Wiles, Director of  Research at the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame left a message on my answering machine, requesting color photographs of this uniform. Evidently, from what I understand this uniform is very rare! The label of manufacture is missing, although the hand sewn stitching is still visible, measuring approximately 1.25" x 2". The entire uniform is made from wool. There are no holes, loose threads, or worn spots. There are four buttons on the fly with one missing ivory colored button (3rd button down from the waist button). There is substantial hand stitching on this uniform. There are very light stains from the last time it was worn. Only the pants have these stains. The shirt is spotless. The YMHA patch measures approximately 6" across and is hand stitched. This piece should be placed in an historical institution representing the Jewish and early American baseball foundation. Serious inquiries only."

The seller encourages collectors interested in buying the uniform to call a phone number included with the eBay listing. For the sake of the seller's privacy, I am choosing not to list the number here.

In conducting my reasearch while writing the initial posting of this article on February 18, I emailed the eBay seller, who it turns out is a listing agent for the piece. She, in turn, referred me to the uform's owner, autograph/rare document dealer John Tkachuk, whom I spoke with on February 19. 

Tkachuk tells that he runs JT Productions, a business that privately sells documents associated with the signers of Declaration of Independence and Revolutionary War figures. Tkachuk says he also mainatins an archive of JFK Bay of Pigs memorabilia and documents.

According to Tkachuk, he also occasionally buys and resells vintage sports memorabilia. His previous sales, Tkachuk says, include the five reels of film that comprise Heading Home, a silent film starring Babe Ruth, which Tkachuk says he sold in an early 2000s sale staged by the now disgraced and defunct Mastro Auctions.

Tkachuk says he purchased the YMHA uniform directly from a friend who owns a pawn shop in Utica, New York. At the same time, he says he purchased several PSA graded cards
and Joe DiMaggio autographed baseballs.

The uniform had been in the pawn shop, Tkachuk says, for approximately 20-30 years, having been pawned by a unknown customer.

While he could offer no details of the uniform's provenance, Tkachuk told JSC that the YMHA baseball uniform “may be one of the only one [of its kind] in existence. … It's a rare piece.”

Tkachuk says he has received several inquires since listing the uniform on eBay, and hopes it ends up in an institutional or
museum collection.

To that end, I contacted Tim Wiles, director of research, at the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum. "I think it would be inaccurate to say either that the Hall has an interest in it or that I do," Wiles told JSC in an email. "The owner contacted me in my role as reference librarian and asked me what I could tell him about the uniform. As is par for the course, I requested photographs, as it is difficult to say much about an artifact unless you can see it. That's the extent of our contact." 

None of this information is an indictment of the uniform's authenticity, or the seller's reputation or trustworthiness. It does, however, highlight the fact that collectors should do their own due diligance before making any purchase. And, buyers should always beware … especially with a piece of this nature.
Are any readers interested in purchasing this uniform?

If any JSC reader should, indeed, buy the jersey and pants, we'd love to feature your story in a future posting.


Editor's notes:

Originally posted February 18, 2013.

Updated with information from John Tkachuk on February 19, 2013.

Updated with information from Tim Wiles on February 20, 2013.