They go through dozens of them a year. Some are destroyed by inside fastballs, some by the wall of a dugout, some even over a knee after a frustrating strikeout. Yet owning one isn’t as easy as it sounds. I’m talking of course about game used bats of major (and minor) league baseball players. Even though they are covered in marks, scratches, and dents, or are chipped, cracked, or even in multiple pieces, they are a highly sought after collectibles among fans. The question that I have gotten from both fans and players, is, “Which is more valuable, a game used bat, or a game issued bat?” First lets define the 2 types of bats we’re talking about here.
A game used bat is pretty simple: it’s any bat that was used during at least one official at-bat by a player during any major, minor, spring training, or fall/winter league game. A game issued bat, is any bat that was specifically made for a player, but he never actually used it during a game. The biggest difference between the two, is obviously the look. The game used bat will be covered in pine tar, possibly have tape around it, covered in marks from baseballs, and most noticeably, broken in some way. The game issued bat is considerably different in that it will have no blemishes at all. No pine tar, no marks, and probably not even any tape on it, as the player didn’t even prep the bat for use.
While a game used un-broken bat is by far the most valuable (as few players will get rid of a bat they like that is still usable), for this argument we’re only going to debate broken used bats, versus game issued bats. Fans are always looking for a “piece of the game”. That’s why things such as game used dirt, seatbacks, bricks, and even freeze dried sod are considered collectibles these days. Game used memorabilia is still a newer market compared to autographs, and it’s basically still the “wild west” out there as far as prices, and authenticity are concerned. Most prices are extremely high for major league players, with B-Level players commanding $200-plus for game used bats, while A-Listers are going for $500-plus. You can thank companies like Steiner Sports for setting those prices. Since they are one of the most trusted names in the memorabilia game, they can basically set the market to anything they want, and everyone else will follow suit. But the prices of these and other items will be discussed in a future blog post.
The most obvious reason for choosing a game issued vs game used bat, is personal preference. Some people just prefer the shiny unmarked bat to the one covered in pine tar and dirt. It’s more “displayable”, and the autograph will always stand out nicely against the clean surface. However for my collection, game used bats are are just flat out betterr. The fact that a player actually used this during a game, and this bat had an impact on his, and his team’s, performance is what sets them apart. Did he hit a homerun with it? Hit a walk off? Did he strike out in a clutch situation and break the bat over the water cooler? Those unknowns are what make a game used bat more valuable to me than a game issued one. I could easily go to the company who makes that player’s bat, have the exact model they use made up with their name engraved on it, and get it signed by the player. Yes it would probably cost me $200, but it can be done. There is no way for someone to get a game used bat except if it comes straight from the player.
But enough about me, what do you think? Do you like game used or game issued bats better for your collection? Do you own any game used bats? Any good stories about getting one from a player? Leave your comments below!