Barry Bonds’ record breaking home run has been one of the biggest news items in the sports world this summer, at least in America. The controversy surrounding Bonds and the home run record will probably live on longer than he will. And that’s fine. Records are made to be broken, and they are also made to be debated.
The ball Barry Bonds hit for his record breaking 756th home run was recently put up for auction at Sotheby’s, and the auction will end September 14th. I was not able to get a current price, as one must register with Sotheby’s to do so. However, the selling price is expected to reach at least $500,000.
While this ball is certainly valuable from an historic perspective, it is only the record breaking ball, and will not be the final record. Each ball that Barry Bonds hits over the fence for a home run becomes the record home run ball until he hits another. With each additional home run, Bonds is literally making history.
Wednesday night, Barry Bonds hit another home run, the 762nd of his career. How much is it worth? Well, nobody knows for sure, but it may be worth even less now that there is no official way to authenticate the ball via MLB. In anticipation of Bonds breaking the home run record, Major League Baseball began using specially marked baseballs every time Barry Bonds stepped in the batter’s box. These markings ensured MLB’s ability to authenticate each baseball. However, MLB recently stopped using specially marked baseballs every time Bonds comes to bat. Now when Bonds hits a home run, there is no way to accurately authenticate the ball as a new record.
Major League Baseball marks the baseballs to ensure authenticity because if the ball is to be resold or donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame, people want a guarantee it is real. When people are willing to pay upwards of a couple hundred thousand or even more than a million dollars for a historic baseball, you better believe they want a guarantee that they are getting an actual piece of history and not a batting practice foul ball.
While MLB has currently stopped using marked baseballs, it is likely that they will resume using the officially marked balls for each Barry Bonds plate appearance as the season nears its end. This is because there is no guarantee Bonds will play another season, and MLB would prefer to be able to guarantee the final record ball is authentic.
But what happens if Bonds has a career ending injury between now and the time MLB resumes using authenticated baseballs? Then the official home run ball could be sitting on someone’s mantle and there would be no way to authenticate it. What could have been worth half a million dollars or more could be turned relatively worthless if there is no way to verify its authenticity. Hopefully, MLB begins marking the baseballs again soon, because catching the final home run ball could literally change the life of the fan who catches it.
How much will the final home run ball be worth? No one knows for sure, but my wise Grandmother once told me, “Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.“