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Rare Baseball Memorabilia Stolen From Burlington Home

Burlington Police Department
The Burlington Police Department provided likenesses of player cards of Honus Wagner, Lou Gehrig, and Babe Ruth that were stolen, along with other rare collectibles, from a Burlington h

A Burlington collector is offering a $30,000 reward for information that leads to the return of some very rare baseball memorabilia from the early 1900s, according to people familiar with the theft of the collection.

According to a release from the Burlington Police Department, a number of rare collectibles were reported stolen last week from a home on North Prospect Street in Burlington.

“Among these items is a 1928 ‘Murderer’s Row’ New York Yankees autographed baseball with a signature of Babe Ruth separately dated 1930 as well as player cards of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Honus Wagner and other notable players,” the release said.

Police didn’t release a value estimate for the items, but Jeff Francis, the owner of Main Street Sports Cards in Winooski, said the collection might be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Notably, a Honus Wagner card was sold for $2.1 million in an online auction last year. The card stolen in Burlington was likely not that card – known as the T206 Honus Wagner card – but even the Wagner cards found in Crackerjack boxes in 1914 now sell for more than $10,000.

Credit Burlington Police Department
Burlington Police Department
A baseball signed by legend Babe Ruth has also gone missing. Police have not released the estimated worth of the stolen items, but sales of similar items reach into the tens of thousands of dollars.

The baseball signed by the famous New York Yankees “Murderer’s Row” team of the late 1920s is also valuable. That team included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, among others. Baseballs signed by the team also sell for five figures.

The collector called Francis shortly after he reported the theft to police.

"When he called me, I could tell he was like shaking on the phone," Francis said.

Francis said the value of cards heavily depends on the grade they receive from a select group of ratings agencies.

"For example, if he has a '52 Mickey Mantle card, a grade of three is going to go for $13,000," Francis said. "A graded eight's going to go for $80,000."

This collector told Francis his cards were in top condition, though they hadn't been graded.

"If he's telling me his stuff's in mint shape, near-mint shape, he's definitely got several hundred thousand dollars worth of cards," Francis said.

"If he's telling me his stuff's in mint shape, near-mint shape, he's definitely got several hundred thousand dollars worth of cards." - Jeff Francis, Main Street Sports Cards

Francis said that while the size and rarity of the collection make the theft especially upsetting, those qualities also may help bring the cards back to their rightful owner.

"It's so valuable that his odds are better than if it was something of less value," Francis said. "Because if someone walked into my shop with a collection like that, number one it's way over my head, and number two it would alarm me, like 'Where did this come from?' This stuff doesn't exist ungraded."

The collector, whom Francis and Burlington Police declined to name out of concern for his privacy, is offering a $30,000 reward for information leading to the return of the collection, Francis said.

Police asked anyone with information about the theft to call Det. Michael Hemond at 802-540-2229.

Update 12:55 p.m. This story has been updated with information from an interview with Jeff Francis.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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