Game-used: You may never know that it’s real


By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary

A few years ago, I picked up a somewhat obscure  game-used jersey of my favorite player, Nick Swisher, and I can’t prove without a shadow of a doubt that it was used.

I repeat … can’t.

I’ve done some research but I still can’t prove without a shadow of a doubt that it’s real. And you know what? I’m OK with that.

It’s a white 2001 USA Baseball jersey, and it’s not got a single statement of authentication to go with it — but I do know, to a degree, its path into my hands. I picked it up on eBay through someone who bought it in a bulk lot from an auction house where it was consigned as part of an even bigger lot back in 2009.

So, naturally, what did I do back in June when its buddy, a matching blue jersey, popped up on eBay from the same collector/seller?

I bought it, of course, even though my efforts to confirm the identity of my first jersey came up short of what might be wanted by most collectors.

Why am I fine? The details and the situations of its arrival onto the market would simply be just too complicated to make up — and, well, Swisher didn’t play a whole lot for Team USA, anyway.

At worst, I have a pair of game-issued jerseys or jerseys he wore while not playing which, in reality, were used during a game. Or, I might have two jerseys he wore while playing — but there are no glaring examples of use besides some small stains on the white jersey. (Could be from use, could be from bench time, could be from storage. I’ll never know.)

In a collecting world where people often demand that the details of an item are documented heavily — and that their own personal definitions of game-used must be met or an item is still seen as questionable– my two jerseys are probably lackluster. And yet I am satisfied.

When I learned of the first jersey a few years ago on a post via the Game Used Universe website, a place where collectors and dealers wheel and deal and show off their game-used stuff,  I tried to research the jersey before buying but came up short.

First stop? Baseball cards for strike one. Swisher appears on just one USA Baseball card, a 2004 Upper Deck card that used an image from his Oakland A’s days. Interestingly, Upper Deck, which made USA Baseball cards at the time, had made memorabilia cards the year before and the year after Swisher’s class but not in 2001 — so it made sense that these jerseys could still exist. (So maybe it wasn’t a total strike, after all.)

All the seller could tell me was that the jersey came from a lot of USA gamers sold by Hunt Auctions — lot No. 1,051 in its Feb. 25, 2009, auction. So, I tracked down the auction and it noted the Swisher jerseys along with others in the lot — a few of which were up for auction at the time via the owner’s eBay account. (Swisher wasn’t.) The owner said he had two Swishers, both with minimal obvious use, so I picked one and made my purchase, knowing that at least it came from a bulk lot — which was one of 72 separate USA lots sold by Hunt during that event.

So, realistically, given that volume of items sold through Hunt — which included other big-league stars — either USA Baseball or Upper Deck had a massive inventory of jerseys and other game-used items it had no choice to get rid of all at once. (Hunt did not issue any kind of paperwork with the auction or note where the items came from.)

When I received my jersey, it was the No. 11 shown in the photo above but with no nameplate (USA jerseys don’t have them) or any markings on tagging noting the player. Still curious, I contacted USA Baseball to see whether it had any photos of Swisher in his USA uniform. They did, and all the details matched —  the styles, brands and patching — but he was wearing No. 7 for the photo shoot. I asked about that, too, and I’m told he wore No. 11 when in uniform for the team, though he only played two games  and went hitless in six at-bats. Fortunately, they were able to find a second photo of him, this time in his blue jersey, and it appears to be a No. 11. So I have a bit more proof that my items are legit — but it’s not much. I have no idea whether it’s my jersey in the photo.

Short of trying to track down newspaper photographs from more than a decade ago —  hoping Swisher was somehow seen in uniform while mostly on the bench during a traveling caravan of a USA Baseball tour and that a single photo might show the small stains on one of my jerseys  — I have about all of the proof I can. Sure, there are questions of potentially how many jerseys could have been issued to players — and there are red jerseys in the mix, too — but there’s also not a lot of time for me to obsess about it. Meanwhile, additional information that we are more used to for the pro levels and pro leagues just isn’t necessarily available in this case. My USA Baseball contact indicated that records from even back then are a bit spotty for details about when Swisher might have played — or even what color uniforms were used for which games back then.

And, just think, that was roughly a decade ago.

Stories like this one are commonplace in the game-used memorabilia world but they are also examples of the challenges we face as collectors. Look for tips, resources and more about collecting game-used in the next issue of Beckett Sports Card Monthly coming soon.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.



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  1. joe 16 October, 2012 at 17:38

    Chris I agree with what you wrote to a degree. I have a Griffey jersey (COA states that it is game worn and several game-used baseballs (which are dated). My problem is the card industry. The COA should at the least say that the item was personally worn by that player. I am mean really. You are going to tell me that they don’t at least know that. Game sating the memorabilia piece would be awesome butmaybe unrealistic. Some of the COA’s state that you recieved a memorabilia piece of that player. Panini’s COA reads that you a have a memorabiia piece. It doesn’t even tell who it is from. The card companies have gotten lazy and complacent. It is partialy the collectors fault because we kept on demanding more per box. The boxes that gave on one hit most collectors stayed away from them, going for the boxes that gave multiple hits. So the card companies had to feed the greed. Is there a solution, yes. Better quality control which would mean less hits per box and less of these so called high end products like EXQUISITE, TRIPLE THREADS, NATIONAL TREASURES just to name a few. Our demand formore is what brought the stick-autograph into play. The companies had to find a cheaper way to give us more. So there you have a solution. The card companies have to start doing their homework on the memorabilia that they purchase making sure that it is authentic. This would mean less memorabilia piece so that would mean less in the products that they put out. So weare going back to the early to mid 2000 where it was every other box had a hit.

  2. Jamie 16 October, 2012 at 18:00

    Nick Swisher being an absolute playoff dog can’t be good for the value of his cards…seems like a great guy though.

  3. charles 16 October, 2012 at 18:41

    guys i think this is on a more personal collecting than card companys resent problems, i have maybe 7 or 8 game used items batting gloves, shoes, jersey, i have pudge stuff when he was with Detroit Tigers. in my apinion the best catcher in the last 20 years.

  4. Richard 17 October, 2012 at 12:18

    Truthfully, the only way one can “know” that an item is game used is to actually be at the game,
    witness the item in use, and then get the item before it can be “switched”.

    After that, you have to look at getting the item from a trusted source.
    Direct from the player likely being the best way for most items.

    Certainly modern material that is anticipated of having significance is now marked by the various
    leagues. Superbowl used balls, baseballs that “could” be the one that breaks a record, and so on.

    The further away you go, and the more expensive the item, the more likely it is to be faked.
    A “common” game used item is usually just not worth the effort to fake when the opportunity exists
    to do so with someone that might yield more money.

    Before demand, and prices, exploded I had a reasonable faith that game used cards were real.
    I mean you had the Griffey Jr Jersey card that came out at 1/case or so. The costs to the card maker
    was relatively low. Once you got to the 1/box stuff it got a bit more pricey and likely to be faked.

  5. Justin 18 October, 2012 at 07:54

    I have had a hard time myself trying to photomatch jerseys i own. I have 6 jerseys and i love them so much more than cards. I feel the same with some of mine you know its real but cant quite find the real proof to prove it.
    Photomatching has become one of the hardest things to do in this part of the hobby. In a way its part of the fun of you jsut got this jersey now find a pic of the player wearing said jersey.
    Good luck if you continue your seach for a photo match.

    On another note i am a member of Gameused universe as well and it is a great site that is very informative for the game used area of the hobby.

  6. Doug 19 October, 2012 at 00:24

    This reminds me of a couple years ago when M.Ingram drafted by the Saints had like 60 jerseys on with the #88 and posted pic online showing how used/personally worn the jerseys were. Its also like cards that give u manufactured patches and jerseys instead of even a real patch or jersey. I agree with about posters about for $300-$500 box think the pieces would be well documented and really game worn. I’d support dropping the oversaturated auto and game used boxes for medium priced boxes with rarer jerseys and autos that the card companiies actually do research and proper COA of the items so I know my money isn’t wasted on a box of cards that the card company just bought bunch of crappy patches and cut them up yet marketed them and jerseys as game used so they can justify cost of boxes. The card companies have all these contracts now with player associations where its not hard to say get 10-20 verified used jerseys over a year or two to cut up and package in thier products.

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