© by Margaret Olsen, ASA

I received a call from a woman who said "My Mother has a pair of Lou Gehrig’s New York Yankee uniform pants and we want to know how much they’re worth."  I, kidingly, responded "And how did your mother (who was not Mrs. Gehrig) happen to get a pair of Lou Gehrig's pants?"

The owner of the Lou Gehrig pants wanted to find out what she could sell Lou Gehrig’s pants for, so it was vital for her to hire an unbiased, accredited appraiser from one of the major appraisal societies such as the American Society of Appraisers, the oldest and only national multi-disciplinary appraisal society (  

It was also important for her to hire an appraiser who specialized in the type of objects that she needed to have appraised, in this case, sports memorabilia.  An appraiser who is accredited in fine art is an excellent appraiser for fine art, but is likely unknowledgeable and unqualified regarding the appraisal of sports memorabilia and collectibles, and vice versa.  

Clients need to select an appraiser who has no possible conflicts of interest or “vested interest” in the property.  For example, many dealers buy and sell sports memorabilia and are very willing to offer “free appraisals” so that they may place a low value on the object and thus buy it cheaply.  Clients must be wary of such tactics.  

Since there are different types of value to consider in appraising an object, the appraiser must also have the knowledge and ability to determine which type of value is appropriate for the appraisal assignment in order to provide the client with a valid appraisal.   

As an example, if the client needs to obtain insurance coverage, then the appraiser will use replacement value.  However, if the client chooses to make a charitable contribution of the property to a qualified charitable organization, or needs to distribute the objects in an estate, then the appraiser must use fair market value or the appraisal will not be acceptable to the IRS.

When an object is involved in a bankruptcy, the type of value used will be liquidation value, either orderly or forced, depending on the time limitations.  
And, as in our story here, when the client wishes to sell the object, the appraiser may choose marketable cash value.  In this case, the client wanted to sell the pants, so marketable cash value was used.   According to the American Society of Appraisers, marketable cash value is defined as “the anticipated net proceeds (or cash in hand) that would be yielded from the orderly sale of a property once all the costs of the sale were subtracted.”  

In addition to the type of value chosen, a qualified appraiser also needs to consider which approach to value to use. Lou Gehrig’s pants could not be reproduced, so the cost approach did not apply.  Neither were the pants going to be used to rent or lease as income producing property.  Therefore, the market comparison approach to value would be chosen since this estimates value by comparison with similar Gehrig pants, sold in the most relevant marketplace, considering all the characteristics that affect value.

Lastly, it is important that the appraiser understand the research and analysis process involved in arriving at a final value.  The process of appraisal does NOT involve pulling a number out of the air, it involves finding comparable sales of comparable properties in the most relevant market.

And as to how the client acquired Mr. Gehrig’s pants, the client proceeded to tell me that her Father had played for a barnstorming baseball team called “The House of David.” The House of David was a bearded, Jewish baseball team that used to "barnstorm" around the country playing baseball against other teams, including "Negro" league teams.  

It was a common practice for the Major League Teams to give their "hand-me-down” uniforms to barnstorming teams. Evidently the client's father wore the same size pants as Lou Gehrig, and thus was given a pair of Lou Gehrig’s pants. Now his wife and daughter are the lucky owners of a very valuable pair of pants.

Uniforms, which typically consist of a jersey and a pair of pants, came in two styles and when the appraiser appraises baseball uniforms, it is important to know which style one is dealing with.   New York Yankees pin stripe pants were worn while the team played baseball at home and generally have more value than NY Yankee “road” pants, which were worn when they played away from home, or on the road.  Generally “home” uniforms have more value than “road” uniforms. The pair of flannel pants in this story was a pair of road style pants.

An important value characteristic that an appraiser must be aware of when appraising baseball uniforms is the label on the uniform.  The label must be original, intact, include the name of the appropriate manufacturing company, be the appropriate color, and the player’s name be stitched into the uniform with the age appropriate thread, color and style. All of the above must agree with the period from which the uniform was produced. The labels on this pair of pants were age appropriate and in keeping with those of other Lou Gehrig's New York Yankees, game-worn, flannel pants.

A third element of value that the appraiser must consider is the condition of the pants, are they torn, repaired, thread bare, or stained, and how does this pair of pants compare with the comparables?

Provenance (the history of the object back to its maker) is another element of value that the appraiser must document. The provenance of this pair of pants was excellent, as the client’s story regarding the history of these pants was complete and corroborated by the pants themselves.

Next on the agenda was to determine the best approach to value to use and to identify the most appropriate market in which pants like these would change hands. In this case, as I mentioned, I chose the market comparison approach. The highest and best use (or relevant market) for these pants was the major sports auction market where collectors would go to buy this kind of sports memorabilia. The best buyer for this pair of Lou Gehrig NY Yankee flannel road pants would be a collector who owned a matching Lou Gehrig New York Yankees flannel road jersey.

Auction prices realized at major auction companies, for similar Lou Gehrig NY Yankee uniform road pants, ranged from $19,500.00 to $24,500.00. Jerseys commanded much higher values. In fact they brought auction prices realized in the neighborhood of $100,000.00.   It is important to understand that the value of a complete NY Yankees uniform, let alone a Lou Gehrig complete uniform, is worth far more than the sum of its parts. At the time that I was researching the pants, I discovered that the range of prices realized for complete Lou Gehrig NY Yankee uniforms ranged from $305,000.00 to $450,000.00!

Variances in the uniform prices were based on value characteristics such as the player; the condition, significance, and provenance of the uniform; the year and the events related to when the uniform was worn; and whether the uniform was a home or road uniform. Without a doubt the Yankee uniform that Lou Gehrig wore on July 4, 1939 when he bid farewell to 70,000 assembled fans is one of the most memorable uniforms of all and brought a hammer price of $450,000.00 when it was sold.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with baseball, Lou Gehrig, also known as the “Iron Man of Baseball,” developed what has since been called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” and was forced for health reasons to stop playing baseball, (he subsequently died within two years of his retirement).  Knowing that he was terminally ill, he gave a farewell speech in which he said, "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."  The uniform that he wore for the farewell speech is obviously a one of a kind uniform and is in a league all its own.

The morals of this story are:

1.  You never know what is on the other end of a phone call.
2.  The history, (provenance) of an item can include fascinating stories.
3.  Never underestimate the value of celebrity items.
4.  The total value of an object may exceed the sum of its parts.
5.  Your pants may be worth their weight in gold.

The Five (5) Tips for hiring an Appraiser:

1.  Hire an accredited appraiser from a leading appraisal society such as the   American Society of Appraisers, (
2.  Hire an appraiser who is unbiased and does not have a vested interest in the object to be appraised.  (The appraiser, or someone he knows, does not want to buy or sell the item).
3.  Hire an appraiser who understands that there are different types of value when appraising personal property.
4. Hire an appraiser who understands the need to consider all three approaches to value.
5.  Hire an appraiser who adheres to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice and has passed the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice course.

Margaret Olsen, ASA

President, Westminster Appraisal & Consultation, Ms. Olsen has been an appraiser for more than 35 years. Her American Society of Appraisers designations are Personal Property-Sports Collectibles and Memorabilia and Numismatics (coins and currency). Ms. Olsen is a frequent guest speaker and lecturer. A recognized authority on Personal Property, she is often called upon for expert witness consultation, testimony and appraisal related corporate, estate, charitable contribution and tax consultation She has been seen on PBS, heard on radio stations, quoted in USA Today, The Washington Post, Associated Press, Smart Money, The Chicago Tribune and numerous other publications. She has published articles about the appraisal profession, professional development, sports memorabilia, and co-authored "The Gold Book, A Guide to Commonly Traded Gold Bullion Coins and Bars" and "The Platinum and Palladium Buyer's Guide."

Ms. Olsen has taught Personal Property Principles of Valuation, Connoisseurship and Professional Development Courses at The University of California at Irvine (UCI), Northwestern University (NWU), George Washington University (GWU), The University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC), Pratt Institute, The University of Missouri at Columbia (UMC), University of Georgia (UGA), University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK), and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). She is an Education Consultant to Pratt Institute, and a member of the UCI Advisory Committee and is the recipient of the Distinguished Instructor Award from UCI.