In the small Yankees Stadium-style auditorium at the Yogi Berra Museum, David Laird, a Verona resident, revealed his 1978 autographed baseball, covered in signatures from former Yankees.
If you happen to be from that era, you may remember that the Yankees team won the 1978 World Series, marking the 22nd World Championship out of the team’s total of 27. Laird brought his famous baseball to the museum to have it appraised by one of the nation’s top sports memorabilia experts, John Brigandi.
On Dec. 3, Brigandi appeared at an event held at the Yogi Berra Museum appropriately titled, “What’s it Worth?” People wondering about the value of their old artifacts or “junk” could bring in their items to be reviewed by Brigandi.
“It’s been in my family since 1978,” Laird said of his signed baseball. “I think—and I’m not positive—I think my dad’s friend who was a pitcher for the Yankees probably gave it to him.”
The ball had signatures ranging from Reggie Jackson, Sparky Lyle and Lou Piniella, to even the museum’s namesake, Yogi Berra, who was a Yankees coach at the time.
Brigandi mentioned it was rare to find a 1978 Yankees team signed ball. He’s seen so many autographed baseballs in his time that he can spot authenticity from fraud. The latter was the case with Laird’s ball—not all the signatures were authentic.
According to Brigandi, there are many baseballs with fake signatures signed by someone who worked at the clubhouse at the time. Many top players didn’t want to waste their time signing baseballs, so someone at the clubhouse would do it for them. Brigandi valued the ball at about $400, but said if all signatures were real, it could definitely be over $1,000. Berra’s signature was real, by the way.
“It’s all about authenticity, whether or not the autograph is real or not,” Brigandi said, “or even if the item is real or not. Through our many years of dealing, we have a pretty good feel for what an autograph is quite a bit, just by sight.”
Brigandi is a sports expert, especially when it comes to baseball. He has frequently been featured on different TV networks as a collectibles expert, including ESPN, History Channel, YES Network, PBS and numerous other national broadcasts and media outlets.
“I trust the appraiser quite a bit,” Laird said. “I think he sounded very credible and it was a good price.”
Brigandi is just one member of the family-owned business, Brigandi Coins and Collectibles, established in 1959. Brigandi joined the family business in 1985. It is recognized as one of the nation’s most distinguished dealers for rare coins, paper currency, gold and silver bullion, vintage sports memorabilia, rare autographs and Americana.
“Baseball is America,” Brigandi said. Football may be more popular in today’s world, but baseball has always been America. What did Ken Burns say? He said to understand America, you need to understand Jazz, the Civil War and Baseball.”