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Sports Antiques 101

with Carlton Hendricks on

Vintage Athletic Display


found at shows, auctions and elsewhere


© Copyright 2003 Carlton Hendricks All rights reserved



Today's Feature

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19th Century

Estes Professional Baseball Bat


OFFERED BY: MastroNet Sports and Americana Auctions, Oak Brook, IL.
AUCTION DATE: December 13th 2002
MINIMUM BID: $250.00
SOLD FOR: $334.00 + 15% Buyers Premium 



Carlton Hendricks


Collecting is a learning experience, you make mistakes when you’re new; it’s part of collecting, and you learn from those mistakes. It must have been around 1990, when I was offered this very rare and exceptional looking baseball bat, but put it off, and someone else ended up buying it. From then on, every time I remembered that bat, or saw the guy that offered it to me, or thought about how rare it was I felt a kind of sick gnawing feeling in my stomach. This was one of the mistakes I was talking about; the ones you learn from. Thereafter I spent about the next twelve years attending countless antique shows, sports memorabilia shows, and flea markets, and scanning the sports auctions, and collecting journals but never saw or heard of another. 

It all started one day when I attended a P.M.A. show, also known as the Antique Collectors Revival, held three times a year at the San Mateo County Expo Center in Calif. As I walked up one of the aisles in the back building I came upon my good friend John Buonaguidi (bone-uh-gweedy), who was set up selling. John asked me if I’d mind watching his booth while he took a little break, I said sure. I was a real eager beaver back then, always shaking the bushes for stuff. So naturally, everybody that came by, I’d casually ask what they collected, and gradually work into the question of; did they have anything for sale. At that time I was hot after a 19th century squared barrel ring bat. 

So this guy comes up, and I eventually ask him if he has any early bats. And he tells me about this bat that has an old time baseball player with a handlebar moustache, pictured on the barrel. I say well…does it have a flat-ended barrel or rings….no he says, but it’s very early. Well I said, are you interested in selling it? He says yeah he might, so I get his phone number, and eventually call him and go over to his house in Concord California. It was a most interesting visit. I thought I knew who most of the serious collectors were in the San Francisco bay area, so I was surprised when I saw his great collection. 

He showed me the now famous Estes bat, and I was very impressed. The image of the player with a handle bar moustache wearing a pillbox cap was so striking, so 1880’s. I think it was like $250-$300 he wanted for it. Not a lot of money, but as usual I always had several other deals working at the same time and money was always tight. He said it wasn’t going anywhere and that there was no rush, and that I could buy it whenever I got the money, and I remember watching him put it back in his closet. That was the last time I would see the infamous Estes Bat for many years. 

A month went by, and I was always bidding on something or heading to a show and needed a cash, and so on. Another month went by, and I was still stretched, reeling stuff in; but felt it was securely on ice and just a little longer and I’d go get it. Finally the next P.M.A. show was coming up and I thought, if I didn’t find anything at the show I had to have, and I ran into the guy there I’d just pay him the dough and sew it up. Mistake ! I saw him alright….I said great, I’m glad to see you, I’m ready to buy that bat now…...Oh I’m sorry he said, I sold it to someone else, I didn’t think you were going to buy it.

So I began to ask around about a bat with an old time baseball player engraved on the barrel called an Estes bat. No one had heard of it. But then when I talked to Dave Bushing…and he said he’d never heard of it….I began to feel a little sick. Dave Bushing is probably the world’s leading authority on vintage bats. So I began to get the picture that was one rare bat. Over the years I’d ask around at the yearly National Sports Collectors Conventions and so on…no one had heard of the bat. And that just drove it home further, I messed up. I coulda shoulda.

Finally came the day in December 2002, about twelve years after loosing it, I was looking at the MastroNet web page….I think I punched in “19th century” in the search, and was reviewing the list; wasn’t even thinking about the mostly forgotten Estes….”19th Century Estes Professional Model Bat”, said the title….it took some seconds to sink in…..I clicked it on…...there it was! Lot # 879….The Estes !!!! It had finally surfaced like a submarine.

The minimum bid was $250.00. There was about two weeks before it closed and no one had bid yet. I waited and watched…..It wasn’t with the other bats in the catalog, but with the antique sports things, and it was scheduled to be auctioned as the 16th lot on the second day of the auction on December 13th 2002, among a total of 1774 items for the whole auction. 

I bid, I waited, I watched, I waited some more…then the night of the auction I placed the top bid of $334.00 about 1:30am California time, 3:30am MastroNet Central time, and requested a callback if anyone topped me….I woke up the next morning and checked for messages in case I slept thru the phone ringing….no messages…..good….. I got it for about the same price I was offered it for twelve years earlier. Only four bids were placed on it. 

I sense it’s the same bat. I asked who had it but they don’t divulge consigners. The only thing the guy told me was that it was from a high-end collector. That plus I know there are fifty states, helped narrow it down. I received the bat January 9th 2003, and it looks great in my display case with my other antique baseball things. 


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