Frequently Asked Questions & Answers From the Experts

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QUESTION: How much are my Nolan Ryan collectibles worth?

ANSWER: There are many price guides for baseball collectibles. Beckett, Tuff Stuff, Sports Collector's Digest (SCD), and others list trading card values. There are many other sources for current trading prices on cards and other collectibles. Up-to date fair market values are best determined by averaging current sales prices of publicized sales
events such as card shows and auction houses. For a list of various collectibles relating to Nolan Ryan only, a good source is the "Nolan News". Remember, condition is very important in determining value.   -Webmaster


QUESTION:  "What are the most popular types of Ryan collectibles."

ANSWER:  The most popular type of Ryan collectibles is of course cards. Many collectors start with the regular issue cards, Topps, Fleer, Upper Deck ,etc. and then move on to the oddball cards like food issues, promo cards and other more unusual cards. As collectors obtain most of the cards that are available many of them start looking for other Ryan items to collect. Of the non-card items the most popular seem to be plastic cups and glasses with Ryan on them, pins and buttons, Ryan photo balls and programs and magazines with Ryan on the cover. There are many tough to find items in these categories that give even the most advanced Ryan collectors a challenge. Most of these have been checklisted but there are always new things turning up that no one has seen before. That is what makes collecting these categories so much fun.
              -Jay Kasper, Victoria, Texas


QUESTION: I've always been a fan of Nolan Ryan and felt a twinge when he tore up his right arm in the final game for the Texas Rangers in 1993.   Recently, I saw him in a TV commercial with his fastball blazing again.  Did he have reconstructive surgery on his pitching arm?  What keeps him busy since retiring?

ANSWER: Nolan Ryan never had surgery for the torn ligament in his pitching elbow.  "I just took a few Advil," he says, plugging the painkiller he endorses in ads.   Now in his 50's, Ryan keeps busy as a special assistant to Tom Schieffer, the Ranger's president.  An avid sportsman, he has served on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission since 1995.  And Ryan is busy raising funds for a building to house his memorabilia at Alvin Community College, near his cattle ranch in Alvin, Texas.  Nolan and his wife, Ruth, also have raised three children:  Reid, a former minor league pitcher now in broadcasting, Reece, and Wendy, both at Texas Christian University.      -TV magazine

QUESTION: I want to collect Nolan Ryan sports memorabilia. What should I collect?

ANSWER: 1999 is just around the corner and it will be an exciting time for all of us as collectors, but can also be a very trying time because of all the new items that will come out. I have been very fortunate to amass a large collection over the years with the help of many collector friends and a little luck in finding obscure items.
   Unfortunately the days of finding the inexpensive Nolan Ryan item is over as everyone has jumped on the bandwagon with something new to sell. When, not if Nolan is elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999, the market will be saturated with new items to buy concerning Nolan and his career. I am sure the card companies will jump on the bandwagon and produce many new cards with chase cards to find. Keep in mind that these are a lot of fun to collect but they are not always as interesting a collectible as say a program from the Hall of Fame. There will be many items that will be produced by the Hall of Fame that will be of much interest to most collectors. It will be almost impossible to get it all but there will be items such as T-Shirts, Photoballs, Coffee Cups, Induction Pins, and cachets to be had. These items will probably be as desirable as the cards and possibly even less expensive than the some of the cards.
   I have been collecting for many years and even though I would like to have everything that is available also realize it is not possible. Many items are truly very difficult, and for the collectors who need the really rare items, if you are patient it is possible that some of the old items that have been held for years will come out for sale in 1999 because the market will be best for those items in his induction year. Items such as the Deckle Edge, Test Comic, Test Puzzle, MSA Coke lid and others could possibly be available at the right price. I am not telling anyone not to buy the new cards for 1999 but be cautious. Remember that all new cards start high and eventually find a fair range to trade in. I remember that the 1993 Topps refractor came out at $900 but eventually traded at $675 which is the price I eventually paid for this card. I had to wait a year to get this price but it was worth it as the card now has climbed to $1500+ and will go higher next year when Nolan goes into the Hall of Fame.
   Through my many years of collecting I have found it best to search for the items you are really interested in and let the others go. We all as collectors have had to specialize in our collection as there are just to many things to collect them all. At any rate please have fun in your collection over the next 18 months and enjoy the items you add.
                -John Hudman, Houston, Texas

QUESTION: Should I invest in Nolan Ryan game used equipment?

ANSWER:    There is little question that Nolan Ryan is one of, if not the, greatest pitchers of all time. In 1999, he will surely be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with one of the highest percentage of votes in history. Many collectors, and investors, are now considering investing in Nolan Ryan game used equipment with the idea that his memorabilia will increase with his induction to the HOF. The real questions are what is the potential profit and what is the potential risk? Both are tough questions that I will attempt to answer.
    While Nolan was on the Angels, the team used Goodman & Sons to make their home jerseys one year and road jerseys the next. During this time, Nolan developed a strong preference for the 'feel' of G&S uniforms. From that time forward, he always purchased G&S jerseys for himself regardless of what his team issued to him. This is similar to what Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio do today with the Astros. The Astros issue them each two home and two road uniforms made by Russell but Jeff and Craig both purchase their uniforms from Victory. This is why you never see the "R" on the sleeve for these two Astros. The only time they use Russell is for the Sunday jersey. Ironically enough, Victory is a spin-off company from G&S. G&S went out of business after 1993 and spun off Victory and Keystone Sporting Goods.
    The accepted belief is that Nolan only wore G&S uniforms when he was scheduled to pitch. On all other game days as well as for PR photos, he wore the team issued jersey. There has been some debate as to whether or not Nolan ever pitched in a non-G&S jersey. Although it would be rare, it is very possible that it occurred from time to time. For example, let's assume that Nolan was not scheduled to pitch until the next game so he wore his team issued jersey for today's game. Then, at the last minute, the scheduled pitcher was scratched and Nolan was called on to pitch. Under these conditions, he probably wore the team issued jersey as opposed to going and changing his entire uniform. Since this is the exception and not the rule, most non-G&S Nolan Ryan uniforms are considered game issued but not game used. Therefore, their value is usually substantially less that Nolan's G&S jerseys.
    The real problem about considering investing in Nolan Ryan game used equipment is the fact that G&S did not put set tags in their jerseys until 1993. This single fact makes any G&S jersey, from any player, relatively easy to counterfeit. The set tag is what truly 'authenticates' most jerseys more than almost any other feature. Most manufacturers sew set tags in jerseys that say something like "SET 1 1991" for set #1 and "SET 2 1991" for set #2. Obviously finding a tag saying "SET 3 1991" would be suspicious unless you could verify that the player in question was actually issued three home (or road) jerseys that year. Nolan actually did have 34 jerseys made for his final year with the Rangers. The story is that he planned to start approximately 34 games during the year and he would use each jersey only once and then use them to raise money for charities (including the Nolan Ryan Foundation). For 1993, Nolan had 18 home and 16 road jerseys made. The home jerseys were tagged SET 1/18, SET 2/18, etc. The road jerseys were tagged SET A/16, B/16, etc.
    Most players, including Nolan, were usually issued no more than four uniforms per year. Since Nolan played from 1968-1993 (26 years) there were approximately 134 (25 x 4 +34) jerseys issued to him over his career. Many of these have dissappeared over the years for various reasons. Some were sent down to the minor leagues for use until they were eventually thrown away. Many are now in the hands of collectors, investors, Ryan's friends and Ryan's family members. I actually own a pair of Nolan Ryan Astro Sand-Knit pants from 1983 with Ryan's name, size, etc sewn on a tag in the waist. These pants also have faded marker on them, inside on the pockets, with the name Hampton. It appears that Mike Hampton wore these same pants for a while in the minor leagues before making it to the majors. This is not uncommon as it saves the minor league teams lots of money by reusing uniforms from the major league teams.
    Now, getting back to the set tag issue. Since Ryan's G&S jerseys (except for 1993) contain no set tags it is very difficult, and impossible in some cases, to determine the actual year of the jersey. Therefore, there is no way to track, for example, how many 1992 Ryan jerseys there are currently on the market. Without set tags, team personnel, and others with connections, could make easy money by getting blank G&S jerseys and have '34' and 'RYAN' sewn on them. Did this actually happen? There's no real way to tell. That's why it is extremely important to know the source and history of the jersey that you are considering purchasing. This is also why Nolan Ryan G&S jerseys from the Texas Rangers (except for 1993) are generally valued less than his jerseys from other years. Since Ryan's real fame didn't come until his Ranger years, it is more likely that someone would counterfeit those jerseys as opposed to Astros, Angels or Met jerseys.
    So, to try to answer the original questions. Are Ryan game used jerseys a good investment? My opinion is a qualified 'yes'. If you are comfortable with the source, have done some research to verify the information as best you can and have obtained opinions from two or more objective uniform experts, I think the value of those items will appreciate greatly over the next five years and beyond. Are Ryan game used jerseys risky? My opinion is again 'yes' but this risk shouldn't deter the serious collector/investor from pursuing such opportunities if they just take the necessary precautions.
                -Randall Swearingen, Houston, Texas

QUESTION: What are the hardest to find collectibles?

ANSWER: I have been collecting Nolan Ryan items for many years and there are still a number of items that I consider truly hard to find. The Topps test issues from the 1970's are truly hard to come by. Included in this list is the 1973 Candy Lid, 1973 Pinup, 1973 Comic, 1974 Puzzle, 1974 Deckle Edge (both variations) and the 1985 Topps Mini out of Canada.  Other items that are extremely difficult to come by include the 1970 Transogram statue, 1973 Angels 2nd no hitter ball point pen (stadium giveaway), 1977 Angels ruler (stadium giveaway), 1976 Quaker Ice Cream Transfer, 1978 RC Cola iron on, and of course the 1979 Signature Statue. I have been fortunate to obtain all of these articles in my collection with the exception of the Signature Statue. I have the card that went with the statue but the toy statue itself has never been found by me. I found a dealer selling a number of the statues a few weeks ago but there was no Ryan to be had. I am in contact with many of the major collectors of Nolan and I do not know of one who actually has the statue. This apparently was an item that was in very short supply like the Ryan Cloth Patch which I know of only
one to surface over the last 5 years.
   If you find any of these items be assured that they will probably be in an auction to the highest bidder. Most of these items will go in excess of $1500 so you must not be of the faint of heart. There could possibly be several of these items come out before next year as some advance collectors possibly sell their collections. Nolan Ryan collectibles will have a tremendous interest next year and this will be a good time for those who have invested in his memorabilia to cash in (yes this is a business).
   Other less expensive items I consider very difficult to find but less expensive are as follows:
1. 1985 Turkey Hill Cup
2. 1986 Frozen Coke Cup
3. 1991 Hong Kong Cup
4. 1992 Advil Water Bottle
5. Various photo balls with errors
   There are many other rare items that I have not mentioned here such as the porcelains and coins but these were made in small quantity to begin with. These items can still be found if you are willing to pay the price where the other items listed above can't be found at any price.
                -John Hudman, Houston, Texas


QUESTION:  I am a Nolan Ryan fan and plan to visit Texas.  Can you tell me what Nolan Ryan sites to see based on your experiences?                                               

ANSWER:   Just this past June, I finally went to Texas to see what I could see involving Nolan Ryan.  I stayed for a week with some relatives in Lake Jackson, about 50 miles south of Houston, and about 30 miles southwest of Alvin.  State Highway 288, which was the main road between Lake Jackson and Houston, is also known as "Nolan Ryan Expressway" and a few signs of the like can be seen there.

    While in Texas, I went to an Astros game, a Rangers game, and visited Nolan's hometown of Alvin twice.  I also visited a number of sports stores, card shows and card shops in both the Dallas/Arlington and Houston areas.

    I thoroughly enjoyed both ball games because I am a lover of baseball as well as a fanatic about visiting new stadiums.  The Ballpark in Arlington is much more Nolan-friendly than the Astrodome.  In the center field area at the Ballpark in Arlington is Nolan's bronze statue, which I got right up next to for a nice photo.  Off to Nolan's right is the main gift shop which has everything Rangers and a few things Nolan.  I found two videos, several cards, a few plaques and autographed items, along with an old-fashioned Cooperstown Collection jersey.  Also, if you just want to see some neat older Nolan posters, stop by the first aid center on the third base side towards the outfield as best as I can recall.  Nolan's 34 is on the bottom part of the upper deck in right-right center field.  At the Astrodome, Nolan's #34 is in the rafters in left field among a few other players.  At the main Dome gift shop I luckily found a pennant form Nolan's jersey retirement misplaced among other pennants, and a retro jersey for $200 from the early eighties, along with an overpriced autographed ball.  Otherwise, not much was going on related to Nolan Ryan.

    Alvin was the highlight of my trip.  What made it a great experience was the people.  If you just start talking to people in the town, you will be amazed at what they know about Nolan and what experiences they have had involving him.  Quite by accident, I ended up taling to really close friends of the Ryan family, including a gentleman who lived two houses down from Nolan and watched him grow up.  I ran into Wendy Ryan's volleyball coach, and talked to Nolan's persoanl secretary and the secretary at the Nolan Ryan Foundation.  The general concensus about Nolan and the entire Ryan family"  they are some of the nicest people you will ever meet, and you would never know they were worth millions.  (Just don't ask for his autograph when you see him in town!)

    It was through just talking to people and asking questions that I found out what house he grew up in and where he lives now, along with the best places to go and how to get there.  There are many things to see in Alvin, and not previously knowing what they were it took me two days to get to it all.  Definitely visit the following:  the Chamber of Commerece, for a map and guide to the city; City Hall for Nolan's statue outside; the High School for Nolan Ryan Field and the trophy case with a small display, including high High School jersey; the Nolan Ryan Foundation; the Express Bank; and the Nolan Ryan Center, which had yet to open when I went.  Also, at the edge of town on one side is a large ground sign welcoming you to "Alvin, hometown of Nolan Ryan" and on another side is a  similar, yet less impressive billboard to the same effect.  I highly recommend eating at Joe's Barbecue Co while in town.  It is Nolan's favorite restaurant and I can see why.

    I was amazed at the sheer volume of new to me Nolan Ryan items I found at the shows and card shops.  It actually proved quite difficult to budget my spending and I ended up purchasing $250-$300 worth of Nolan related things.  The shows proved to be the most plentiful along with two particular card shops.  At the card shows, which I found out about in my May Beckett, I gound Nolan baseballs, pins, cards, coins, and toys.  It was at the shows that I did most of my buying laong with setting up a few contacts for future Nolan related purchasing and selling.  The card shop in Alvin, called The Old Ballpark, had a large selection of mostly Nolan cards, because of the nearby Foundation.  Sports Collectibles of Houston, which is pretty clsoe to the Dome, was a fantastic store with all kinds of oddball Nolan collectibles, ad sheets, magazines, and cards.  I must have spent at least an hour in the store.

    I hope that if you ever get to visit Texas on a Nolan Ryan trip that my experience will enhance yours and that you will discover even more than I did. 

-Ryan Johnson, Beaver Creek, Ohio


QUESTION:  Can you please tell me who Nolan Ryan hit his first home run off of and is in the Hall Of Fame?  Thank you.- Justin Klosterman   

ANSWER:    Nolan hit his first major league home run off of Don Sutton on April 12, 1980.  The reference is in the book "Throwing Heat", page # 206 of my edition 1988.  Nolan says "Don Sutton was the first person I ever knew who scuffed a baseball. Some years back I managed to hit a home run off of Don."   Nolan later managed to retrieve the ball since "I haven't hit too many home runs in my career",  and noticed the scuff marks.  Nolan hit his second and last major league home run off of Rick Mahler on May 1, 1987.  -Mike Thornberg, Connecticut


QUESTION: Where can I find information on Nolan Ryan's introduction to the Baseball Hall of Fame? Date? Time? Events going on that day? I received as a gift the opportunity to visit Cooperstown and this seems like it would be perfect timing to be there when Nolan Ryan get's inducted!
Trent W. Thomas, Texas


ANSWER:  Please see this web site for Hall of Fame 1999 information:   -Ron Vender, Canada


Click on the image to see the video.