While many are familiar with Gehrig's excellence and durability on the field, very few are familiar with the Iron Horse's autograph. We could go on and on about his iconic signature, but for now, here's a quick background on one of our favorites!
It’s hard to believe that throughout his illustrious career, the great Lou Gehrig was overshadowed by one of his teammates, but the fact of the matter is it’s true.
Before we go any further, we’d like to establish that this is a celebration of Lou Gehrig!
Now, back to our point…
If you look at the numbers, you would think that a 7x all-star with six World Series Championships, two American League MVP awards, and a Triple Crown (1934) would be the #1 guy on any given team. That is, unless Babe Ruth is on that same team.
1932 Yankees Team Signed, WS Champions. Ruth on sweet spot and Gehrig on side panel.
Lou Gehrig always took the backseat to Babe Ruth, and he did so willingly. He knew it was Ruth's team, and was too humble to try and take it from him. Such is made evident by this baseball, signed by the 1932 World Series Champion New York Yankees. Notice how Ruth's signature is on the sweet-spot, while Gehrig's is on the side panel. Lou always reserved the sweet-spot for "The Babe", even though he played better than Ruth in this particular series. It wasn't until Ruth left the Yankees after the 1934 season that Gehrig took over the sweet-spot, from 1935 until his unfortunate early retirement in 1939.
Babe Ruth is considered the greatest baseball player of all time, and the first celebrity-athlete in American popular culture. His ability on the field, along with his larger than life personality, made him a fan favorite. It is no surprise that “The Babe’s” signature is the standard in the collector’s universe; however, because of his popularity, Ruth signed more autographs than the average player.
Then there was Lou Gehrig, whose personality could not be further from Ruth’s… quiet and humble, but still relentless. Gehrig played every game as if it were his last. Even though he was a bona fide superstar, his approach was as blue collared as a minor league player trying to work his way up.
In the 1920’s, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig quickly became the most dominant duo in baseball history. While Ruth was the celebrity and much more popular with the fans, Gehrig was quietly, and consistently, putting up some of the greatest numbers baseball has ever seen.
Long story short – their personalities were polar opposites, but they both absolutely raked!
Back to the autographs…
We’ve already established that there are plenty of Babe Ruth autographs in circulation, but Lou Gehrig autographs are not as frequent - Ruth probably signed 10x as much as Gehrig. Gehrig was less eager to sign than Ruth, and quite frankly, he didn’t receive as many requests. Unfortunately, Gehrig tragically passed away in 1941 at the young age of 37, cutting his career short. Most autographs are signed by players after their retirement as they have much more free time. This means that Lou Gehrig autographs were only signed during his playing days, as opposed to Ruth, who signed most of his autographs after his playing days. And, of course, autographs signed during a player's career are more desirable and valuable.
While Ruth certainly got more fanfare, Gehrig gets more love (money) today from autograph collectors. Simply put, a Gehrig signature is scarcer and worth more than a Ruth signature.
RARITY = VALUE
As a rough guideline, the lowest price for a decent Lou Gehrig cut signature is around $3000. Depending on condition and style, that number could go up to $10,000 plus! (see examples below)
- these particular examples are in the $3,500-$4,500 range because of their variations.
- the first example featuring "L. Gehrig" instead of his full name, is written in graphite pencil, and the page has a crease going through the autograph. This specimen is worth about $3,500.
-the second example is also "L. Gehrig" but is scripted in bold black ink on a clean album page. This is valued around $4,500.
GEM MINT 10!!!
(we apologize for the poor quality - we took this picture with primitive technology when we owned this beauty in the early 2000's)
-notice this particular fountain ink example is bold, large, and features his full name on a clean white background.
-We haven't seen more than a small handful graded Gem Mint 10 in all our years!
-Today, this signature is worth around $10,000+.
- a single signed Gehrig baseball on the sweet-spot… forget about it, nearly impossible!
- the example above sold in auction a while back for $142K, and it was only graded 6.5
Secretarial, Clubhouse, and Eleanor Gehrig
Whenever purchasing rare autographs, always make sure that you are buying from a reputable source with proper authentication. In this particular case, there are a lot of fakes in the already-low Gehrig autograph population. Additionally, Gehrig was also known to have Yankee secretaries and clubhouse attendants sign his name when he didn’t feel like doing so, a common practice prior during the Golden Age of Baseball (and still today).
Sadly, another source of Lou Gehrig autographs came from the hand of his wife, Eleanor. As Gehrig's health declined from ALS, Mrs. Gehrig took on the responsibility of fulfilling autograph requests from fans. Of course, with his humble, kindhearted personality, this was in no way meant to disrespect his fans. Unfortunately, the once-invincible Gehrig simply did not have the strength to sign his own name.
Eleanor and Lou Gehrig.
The picture above was taken at New York's World's Fair in 1939, the same year Gehrig was forced to retire. In the photo, Gehrig is signing a baseball for fans. However, in the lower-right portion of the photo, you see a phantom hand holding a pen, conveniently positioned next to a stack of laurel cards. Many hobby experts believe that is the hand of Eleanor Gehrig; and while Lou was signing his name on baseballs, Mrs. Gehrig was signing these laurel cards. To this day, the leading third-party authentication companies refuse to authenticate Lou Gehrig 1939 World's Fair laurel cards because they believe they were all signed by Eleanor.
The examples above show two laurel cards signed at the 1939 World's Fair, issued to the same fan: one is allegedly signed by Lou Gehrig, the other is signed by Babe Ruth. Notice how the Ruth card is slabbed and authenticated by PSA/DNA, but the Gehrig is not. While there are many subtle differences, a major factor in deciphering a legitimate Gehrig signature from his wife's version is the "o" in "Lou". You will notice that on the laurel card signed by Eleanor, the "o" is essentially a perfect circle - slightly different from an actual Gehrig autograph.
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