Super collector Barry Halper helped make it famous, professional baseball players still consider it the most elite offensive fraternity in the game and now, ticket collectors are going gaga over baseball’s most prestigious milestone group – the 500 Home Run Club.
Whether it’s the most recent ticket from the elite group, which is Jim Thome’s 500th round-tripper hit in Sept. 2007, or an example from the first 500th home run hit by none other than Babe Ruth, demand for these vouchers have hit an all-time high. According to Chris Corso, the bearer of the highest PSA-graded 500 Home Run Club collection, the excitement for tickets from this group is reaching nearly as much hype as the home runs themselves.
“I think it’s a milestone that clearly distinguishes hitting players from the home run players,” said Corso. “While you’ll have those consistent solid hitters like the Rod Carews, the Tony Gwynns and the Pete Roses, none of them reached 500 home runs. Just the thought of how special a home run is, and it being an elite club, really grabbed my interest. My interest in collecting started with autographs from members in the club, and it branched off into the milestone tickets.”
Corso, who has been collecting tickets for about 15 years, has also expanded into collecting tickets from the 3,000th hit games, but admits his focus remains on the 500 Home Run Club.
Currently, Corso is missing only three tickets of the possible 23 in the set. He has been in a constant struggle to find tickets from Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Jimmie Foxx, a tough task considering PSA has never even graded any from these events.
His inability to find these three has been on his mind for quite some time, but Corso doesn’t seem to know exactly why the Mays and Aaron have been so tough to come by.
Mays hit his 500th home run in the Astrodome in front of nearly 20,000 people. Corso resides on the East Coast, so he thinks the fact that the home run took place in Houston might have something to do with his inability to find the ticket.
“It’s a regional problem for me,” said Corso. “But I’ve reached out to some of the bigger collectors in the Houston area and probably just haven’t gotten a hold of the right person.”
There were more than 34,000 people in attendance at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium the day Aaron hit his milestone dinger. That’s also a pretty solid number of people, yet Corso still remains in search of a ticket from the former career home run leader.
“You would think that the Hank Aaron would be in existence, as well, but for whatever reason, I have yet to find one,” said Corso. “They probably are locked up in personal collections, and some of the people who may have them might not even know what they have. What’s exciting about what I have seen in the last few years, I think due to the recent notoriety that ticket collecting has been getting, that it is going to help start to uncover some of these treasures or at least put people in the position to start revisiting their scrapbooks or take a look at an old yearbook that may have some tickets in there.”
That might have been what happened in the case of a Harmon Killebrew ticket that popped up on eBay about a year ago. For the longest time, nobody has ever seen one, but when it showed up on the auction website, collectors took notice and took out their wallets, too.
“The Killebrew probably should be about a $900-$1,200 ticket,” said Corso. “But what ended up happening was, it hit eBay and a lot of people realized, ‘Wow, we haven’t seen one,’ and then it became a frenzy and the ticket ended up selling for $2,300.”
Corso acknowledged that the Aaron piece should only be a $1,200 ticket, but the fact that the hobby’s biggest collectors are all currently in search of it, it will probably sell for more than $2,000.
The toughest 500 home run ticket that Corso owns is the Ruth. His 500 home run stub is the only example PSA has ever slabbed, making it quite a pricey treasure if one ever hits the auction block.
“Ruth is probably the rarest, and without question, the most valuable,” said Corso. “I haven’t ever seen another Ruth, and I would argue that it is the Holy Grail of 500 Home Run Club tickets. How do you put a price on something like that? Some of the bigger-name ticket collectors have told me that it could go for at least $10,000.”
Corso said that there are four or five “bigger name” 500 Home Run Club ticket collectors in the hobby, but he expects that number to increase dramatically in the near future, and despite the large number of people in attendance for some of these games, 500 home run tickets are still very rare. That fact will translate into a huge fluctuation in value in the near future.
“These attendance numbers may seem large, but how many stubs actually made it back to that yearbook, got tucked away in a wallet or actually got pasted into a book somewhere? Eventually, people are going to realize how small the quantity of these tickets remains and the demand will increase,” said Corso.
Speaking of attendance, the actual number of fans in attendance to see Foxx hit his 500th home run is unavailable, but according to Corso, that unknown number isn’t the only fact about the event that is sketchy for collectors.
Corso noted that, in most cases, tickets from Athletics home games in the 1940s weren’t dated. Not only has Corso not had any luck tracking down a Foxx ticket, he isn’t even sure PSA would be able to authenticate one if one turned up.
“I’m here in Pennsylvania, and for the life of me, I haven’t been able to find anyone who owns one,” said Corso. “Foxx did it in Shibe Park, and the tickets in 1940, while they would have been signed by Connie Mack, a lot of their tickets weren’t dated, and it’s very difficult to determine one that was used at his 500th home run game.
“A lot of it may come down to provenance in order to determine the Foxx ticket. It would take several different things to really get it to a position where it could be authenticated.”
According to Corso, if somebody had a scorecard, which was dated, from the Foxx home run game and attached by a stub, then that may be enough provenance to determine that it was from the 500th home run game.
Corso said that a Ted Williams ticket can also be a doozy. And, similar to other milestones that were achieved at visiting parks, a decent amount of the fans wouldn’t have saved the stubs.
“A Ted Williams ticket isn’t that easy to come by,” said Corso. “Williams hit it in 1960 at Cleveland Stadium. There were only 9,700 people at that game, and that really isn’t that much. How many people kept them? How many people cared that Ted Williams hit his 500th home run if they were an Indians fan?”
Like any diehard collector, Corso said if he sees a ticket on eBay or in a major auction, he has a rough time sleeping that week. He said that’s what makes it fun, and it shows he is passionate about what he collects.
His ultimate goal is to complete his 500 home run ticket set by obtaining the final three he’s in search of. And if that happens, he hopes Cooperstown would be willing to put it on display for baseball fans everywhere to see.