Bonds controversy hurts baseball's value says expert

Aug 8, 2007 - 8:57 PM By Ian Parker Special to PA SportsTicker

MISSION VIEJO, California (Ticker) - Matt Murphy can expect to get up to $500,000 for Barry Bonds' home run record breaking ball after catching it Tuesday night. Had the record been broken by anyone but Bonds, he might have got a lot more.

That's the view of sports memorabilia expert Dave Kohler, president and CEO of the Sports Cards Plus auction house in California.

Murphy, a 22-year-old New Yorker, was passing through San Francisco en route to a in Australia when he went to Tuesday's San Francisco Giants game on a whim. He ended up leaving the game surrounded by security guards after getting his hands on Bonds' 756th home run ball.

Kohler estimates the ball is worth "somewhere between $400,000 to 500,000" but added that the controversy surrounding Bonds has put a cap on that number.

"It's obviously a historic baseball but its not worth the top dollar prices of other balls partly because of the controversy surrounding Bonds, and partly because the market has changed it's not over-inflated like it was," Kohler told PA SportsTicker in a telephone interview.

Kohler added that it was hard to determine exactly how much more the ball would have been worth had another player broken Hank Aaron's record.

"It's difficult to put a figure on it, but if Barry was a well-loved baseball player it would be different," he said. "That's been factored into this baseball and what fans will be willing to pay for it. But let be right, this is a still a lot of money."

Other factors mean the ball will not reach a number comparable to the $3 million that comic creator Todd McFarlane paid for Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball from 1998 when he set a new single-season record at the time.

Changes in the market, and the possible chance of Bonds being caught in the not-too-distant future for his involement in baseball's steroids scanda will weigh on the minds of potential bidders.

"How much do you want to pay for it when there's a chance that A-Rod is going to break this record in 10 years or so?" Kohler asked. "That's what people will think about.

"There's definitely been a big change in the market. The $3 million for McGwire's ball, the ball isn't worth that now. It's probably worth a few hundred thousand. McGwire's record was broken soon after by Bonds. And McFarlane had his own agenda he got a lot of publicity for his company when he bought it and that was a factor in his decision."

Kohler said the market has changed.

"Today's market is more focused on historic memorabilia rather than newer items," Kohler added. "Fans are more interested in items relating to the great players of the past rather than the latest item on the market. Despite the importance of Bonds' record, that still applies here.

"Babe Ruth's uniform or Ty Cobb's bat the value keeps increasing because with those players, what they've done is not going to change and [the price] is not about hype."

Players like Ruth and Cobb also come without the allegations of steroid abuse which have surrounded Bonds, McGwire and other players of their generation. However, Kohler does not believe the 'Steroid Era' has had a major effect on the overall market.

"People still love baseball, they still go out and watch their teams," he said.

Assuming Murphy chooses to cash in on the Bonds ball, he needs to do it fast.

"He wants to put it up for sale within about a month (to maximize value)," Kohler said. "Barry Bonds may go out there tonight and hit 757, you don't know. As time goes by, are people going to be talking about 756 as much? No. It's obviously a historic ball because its the one with which he passed Hank Aaron, but it still changes."

The Bonds home run ball that could crack seven figures will be his last, in Kohler's view.

"We feel the baseball that is his last home run when he hits that whether it be 814 or 798 or whatever - we feel that ball will be a $1 million-plus baseball," he said. "That will be the record ball."

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