Reading this guide before bidding, buying or selling any 1940's or later described bat could prevent you from being mislead. Major problem areas are ACCURATE DATING OF BATS, show or reproduction bats being MISTAKEN for VINTAGE ORIGINALS or STORE BATS thought to be GAME USED !
Any bat with the center brand label 125 or 302 underlined is NOT vintage, they are REPROS ! But may be described as mint or nrmt/mt examples of very collectible vintage bats.However these bats were actually made for the collectible or autograph market never intended for use. Now unfortunately these bats are coming into the market place without MOST BUYERS OR SELLERS being able to distinguish a TRULY VINTAGE BAT from a PENNIES ON THE $ REPRODUCTION ! If you use these specific tests you should be able to tell !
CHECK THE BAT KNOB & CENTER BRAND LABEL! Top of the line STORE MODEL BATS such as the ADIRONDACK STORE MODEL 302 or HILLERICH & BRADSBY STORE MODEL 125 which are truly vintage, NEVER HAVE 125 or 302 UNDERLINED & ALWAYS HAVE SIZE NUMBERS BRANDED INTO THE BAT KNOB ! That was how MEANT TO BE USED BATS were manufactured & displayed on store bat racks by size for the public to differentiate on which to buy.Reproduction or meant to be autographed bats didn't need a size number branded into them because they weren't ever distinguished by size since they were never intended to be used ! These REPRODUCTION BATS ARE NOT worthless BUT to a serious bat collector they are worth pennies on the $ compared to their vintage counterpart !
DON'T EVER BUY A BAT CLAIMING TO BE VINTAGE WITHOUT FIRST SEEING OR BEING TOLD EXACTLY WHAT IS BRANDED INTO THE TOP OF THE BAT KNOB or IF THE 125 or 302 IS UNDERLINED WITHIN THE CENTER BRAND LABEL ! Commit to memory what legitimate vintage known examples of manufactured branded in bat knobs look like.Then, when inspecting any bat knob, memory plus common sense should prevail, in case someone tries to add branded numbers afterwards.Another valuable tool to differentiate a truly vintage bat from a much more recent one is the PATINA of the wood.As wood ages, it will usually dull & darken.These changes are very subtle but over time especially 40 plus years they can become obvious.Pay special attention to the handle area.Very bright and light wood from the knob to just above the trademark is cause for concern.A previously taped handle could be a reason. However, even in a truly vintage previously taped handle bat there should be a multitone darkened area just above the trademark to the area where grip taping usually ended. USE COMMON SENSE BEFORE BIDDING ON OR BUYING ANY BAT CLAIMING TO BE 40 PLUS YEARS OLD.CAREFULLY INSPECT THE ENTIRE BAT & EXPECT TO SEE AT LEAST SLIGHT STORAGE WEAR ESPECIALLY TO THE STANDING OR BARREL END.REMEMBER THE OLD ADAGE: IF IT LOOKS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT PROBABLY IS ! If you carefully use the information gathered from these tests you will prevent yourself from BUYING or SELLING a reproduduction / autograph show bat as a truly vintage bat.
THE BAT KNOB IS KEY IN DETERMINING A STORE BAT FROM A POTENTIALLY GAME USED BAT AS WELL. BAT KNOBS with any of the following branded into them are CONSIDERED STORE BATS BY ALL KNOWLEDGEABLE BAT COLLECTORS ! MM6,RM5,HA4,CY3,JB2,PR1 etc.,36 ,35 , 34 ,33 , 32 ,or 6,5,4,3,2. on a bat knob DOES NOT SIGNIFY A GAME USED BAT ! Just a store bought bat with the endorsed players initials while the # signifies the length in inches.Thus,MM6 means Mickey Mantle 36 inch bat,RM5 means Roger Maris 35 inch bat,HA4 means Henry Aaron 34 inch bat,PR1 means Pete Rose 31 inch bat etc.Also 36 or 6 signifies a 36 inch bat,35 or 5 signifies a 35 inch bat,34 or 4 signifies a 34 inch bat ,33 or 3 a 33inch bat, & 32 or 2 a 32 inch bat.
Another tip collectors place the greatest value on the earliest timeframe full sized, facsimile signature model 125 Powerized bats WITHOUT the word SPECIAL which actually meant INFERIOR QUALITY WOOD BAT SOLD AT A CHEAPER PRICE.Bats marked special were unable to meet the manufactures std. grade & were marked special at the factory because they were to be sold at a discounted price & not returned for full price! Also when valueing bats POWERIZED MODEL BATS ARE PRIZED MORE than Flame Tempered model bats.Bats with initials that signify or have completely spelled out names of colleges,high / trade schools, branches of the armed services, P.A.L. etc. are LESS DESIRABLE to collectors.
34-36 inch models are considered full size by ALL KNOWLEDGEABLE STORE BAT COLLECTORS. While MOST include 33-36 inch models, however NONE CONSIDER ANY SIZE UNDER 33.So don't be mislead when bidding on any store bat as a full size bat if it isn't labeled at least 33 inches.THE MOST ADVANCED STORE BAT COLLECTORS PUT A PREMIUM ON 36 INCH MODELS SINCE THEY WERE MADE IN SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER QUANTIIES THAN 33,34,OR 35 INCH MODELS.This premium however DOES NOT MAKE A MUCH LATER 36 MODEL MORE DESIRABLE THAN A VERY EARLY 33 in. MODEL.The premium comes into play only when valueing bats of the same player,similar condition & similar timeframe.
For example a 33,34,or 35 in1950-1960 Mickey Mantle bat would still be more prized than a much later 1970's,36 model.But a 36 of the 1950's timeframe with condition being similar would be by far the most prized of all his store bats! In general the first labeling timeframe 36 model of any player's regular store bat would be their most difficult to obtain & most prized store bat.Vintage full sized decal bats & or bi-centennial logo bats are currently an exception for some players, but ONCE ALL STORE BAT COLLECTORS BECOME AWARE OF THE ACTUAL DIFFICULTY IN FINDING 36 MODELS that may change.Check out the scarcity of 36's for yourself. Just start to keep track of all the 36 inch store bats you come across in all forums during your bat quests.Compare how often you find a 36 to all other model sizes. I'm confident you too will come to the conclusion that finding a 36 inch store bat is much more challenging.Collecting spending & space is limited & most collectors want harder to find items in their collection.Once you check it out for yourself maybe you too will be on the lookout for your favorite players 36 model ? Especially early timeframe 36 models which are the most difficult of all !
Another tip on TRULY VINTAGE BATS while UNCRACKED BATS are best & most desirable, CRACKED & REPAIRED (skillfully done solid tightly fitted smooth crack or cracks only, not touching up any lettering) is very acceptable and still retains much value as long as the FACSIMILE SIGNATURE & ALL LABELING is easily read & all original not touched up.For most collectors a skillfully repaired previously cracked bat otherwise in great displayable condition is more desirable than any uncracked worn bat. Don't be mislead the ease of reading the bat signature & labeling is another very important component to a bats desirability.Also pay special attention to the condition to the knob ANY defects/wear such as chips,dings,writing,missing & or flattened areas reduce a STORE BATS VALUE ! Also look over the ENTIRE BAT including the barrel standing end for wear,cracks, barrel discoloration etc. Usually a tell tale sign of water damage & or a cleaned up waxed & polished bat.Although this should prevent further bat damage, DON'T BE FOOLED BY THOSE WHO SAY IT ADDS CHARACTER. IT JUST SHOWS A BAT WITH SIGNIFICANT WEAR NOW DISPLAYED AT IT'S BEST ! There is nothing wrong with cleaning up & preserving a bat like this & before it was cleaned up etc. it may have been just about worthless.But as a prospective buyer just realize it's value/desirability is still significantly reduced to a non-discolored waxed or unwaxed example without loss of gloss,water stain, dents, dings, significant raised grain separation,etc. because for store bats the closer to MINT the better.Of course all bats may exhibit some wear & for older bats it may be impossible to find a TRULY MINT example.Just don't be mislead by a wishful seller that states MINT or close to MINT for it's age.MINT IS MINT REGARDLESS OF AGE !
Another tip is FACSIMILE AUTOGRAPHED BATS ARE PRIZED MUCH MORE HIGHLY THAN BLOCK LETTER VERSIONS OF THE SAME PLAYER.THEREFORE TAKE THAT INTO ACCOUNT WHEN DECIDING ON HOW MUCH TO SPEND IF BUYING OR BIDDING ON BLOCK LETTER STORE BATS.There is an exception for VINTAGE milestone event bats.For example bats manufactured for a short period right after a 400th/500th HR.etc. depicting 400/500 HR's & the players name in block print on the bat by lesser bat companies these bats are still highly desired by collectors if they are truly vintage milestone bats not recent REPRO bats.
Also many bats are claimed to be much older than they actually are & in store bought bats age usually does affect value so do your homework & use common sense before you bid in any auction.For example STORE BATS MADE DURING A PLAYERS ACTIVE CAREER ARE MUCH MORE PRIZED BY ADVANCED COLLECTORS THAN BATS MADE AFTER THE PLAYER RETIRED. THE EARLIEST BATS LIKE ROOKIE CARDS ARE MOST PRIZED & HARDEST TO FIND. For example a Mickey Mantle store bat collector would always value a truly VINTAGE MANTLE BAT over any REPRO or Louisville Slugger oval label bat (1980 or later) at a small fraction of a 1950 - 1960 version of similar condition & size. Some wouldn't even consider having a REPRO or any 1980 or later Mantle bat in their collection.
Therefore it is very important to learn labeling time frames. The following dating time frames are general guidelines used by most bat collectors.
A Hillerich & Bradsby center brand label with the 125 underlined is circa 1990's or later
A bat without branding into the knob is circa 1980's or later
A Louisville Slugger bat without Hillerich & Bradsby claiming to be made before 1980 is IMPOSSIBLE SINCE THEY DIDN'T USE THAT LOGO UNTIL 1980! Plus if the LOUISVILLE oval measures 4 1/2 inches it dates the bat to 1980 -1983 but if it's only about 3 1/2 inches 1983-1985.Note the 1983 overlap when both styles were in use.Plus if the LOUISVILLE oval is about 3 1/ 2 inches & there is a (R) in a circle after the louisville slugger (R) under the players name on the barrel the bat is from 1986-1989.
Those claiming a bat with genuine K55 , P72 , R43 , S2 etc. on the barrel end WAS MADE BEFORE 1976 IS EQUALLY IMPOSSIBLE!
Also any Hillerich & Bradsby bat WITH A (R) INSIDE A CIRCLE AFTER THE LOUISVILLE SLUGGER(R) in the center brand oval is from 1965-1968 if bottom loop of P in Powerized is flush or even with the straight line part of the P(this P is flush or even to the straight line & would signify 1965-1968.It would be from1969-1972 only if bottom loop of P goes past the straight line part of the P in powerized.
BUT IF THERE IS A (R) IN A CIRCLE AFTER THE LOUISVILLE SLUGGER R, PLUS A (R) IN A CIRCLE ABOVE THE D IN POWERIZED TOO,THIS SIGNIFIES 1973 -1975.WHEN YOU ADD THE PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED MODEL ON THE BARREL END,K55..P72..R43..S2 etc. YOUR NOW 1976-1979.
FOR ANY BAT TO BE BEFORE 1965 THERE CANNOT BE ANY (R) INSIDE A CIRCLE AFTER THE R IN SLUGGER FOR 125 MODELS OR ANYWHERE ELSE INSIDE THE CENTER BRAND OVAL FOR MODELS 14, 60, 77, 88, 150,180 etc. & THERE MUST BE REG.U.S. PAT. OFF. UNDER THE CENTER BRAND LABEL OVAL.Plus in ALL 1961-1964, 125 bats the & SIGN LINES UP DIRECTLY UNDER THE 2 OF 125 models.But for 125S bats the & SIGN IS TO THE RIGHT OF THE 2 and USUALLY indicates 1961-1964.
If the & SIGN IS TO THE LEFT OF THE 2 OF 125 THIS SIGNIFIES A 1950-1960 bat. A 1940's BAT HAS TRADE MARK REG. UNDER THE OVAL , NOT REG. U.S. PAT. OFF. of the 1950's OR LATER LABELING PERIOD.
If followed closely this will help most people tell the difference between 1940's,1950-1960,1961-1964,1965-1968,1969-1972,1973-1975,1976 usually has a bi-centennial logo, BI-CENTENNIAL LOGO BATS ARE HIGHLY PRIZED,1977-1979, early to mid to late1980's & 1990's or later bats.Thus preventing someone from bidding on an actual 1980's bat that is mistakenly claimed to be from the 1950's !
Generally considered Adirondack labeling timeframes:
Any Adirondack with the center brand 302 underlined is circa 1990's or later
A bat without branding into the knob is circa 1980's or later
1946-1950 reads McLaughlin-Millard,inc. NORTHERN ADIRONDACK(VERY THICK LETTERS) WHITE ASH DOLGEVILLE NEW YORK & has model # under the word New York.
1951-1957 REG.U.S.PAT.OFF. over MCLAUGHLIN-MILLARD, MADE IN U.S.A. UNDER DOLGEVILLE-NEW YORK,Flexible Whip Action to the right of center label,ADIRONDACK (MUCH THINNER LETTERS THAN 1946-1950)model # moved into center labeling.
1958-1960 same as 1951-1957 but with triangle type lines put above label & smaller lines below label.1961-1963 lettering in white,flexible omitted from label only whip action remains,& Adirondack is now in script & no longer in all CAPS.1961-1967 same as 1961-1963 except black lettering.
1968-1970 whip action removed from label & tee pee added over the script Adirondack.1971-1979 the same as 1968-1970 w/ tee pee omitted.
1980-1982 PRO RING now under block letter Adirondack.1983-1986 script Rawlings now also on label with block letter ADIRONDACK. Any with the center brand label 302 underlined circa 1990's or later.
One last tip NEVER ASSUME A TAPED BAT ISN'T CRACKED.BECAUSE ON AVERAGE 90% OF TAPED BATS ARE CRACKED.WHILE THE OTHER 10% WERE JUST TAPED FOR A BETTER GRIP.WHICH EVEN IF UNCRACKED STILL CAN REDUCE THE VALUE OF A BAT IF IT LEAVES A STAIN AFTER YOU REMOVE THE TAPE! A SLIGHTLY LIGHTER HANDLE COLOR DUE TO BEING PROTECTED FROM THE ELEMENTS BY THE TAPE WOULD NOT IN ANY WAY REDUCE A BAT'S VALUE. IF SOMEONE TRIES TO SELL OR AUCTION YOU A STILL TAPED BAT AS UNCRACKED MAKE THEM GUARANTEE IT OR REMOVE THE TAPE.OTHERWISE ALWAYS BID OR BUY IT AS CRACKED.THEN YOU CAN"T FEEL CHEATED IF YOU GET IT & REMOVE THE TAPE TO FIND A STAIN OR NOT ONLY A CRACK BUT NAILS OR WORSE, SCREWS! HAPPY BAT COLLECTING !