As the weather warms up and people get into Spring cleaning, you’ll probably see plenty of garage sales popping up around your neighborhood.
Sometimes, you can find good, cheap values, and other times you just get people’s garbage.
But don’t assume everything that is sold out of your neighbor’s garage is junk. Once in a while, you just might discover something priceless.
Bruce Scapecchi, from Des Moines, Iowa, knows this well. He’s a true garage sale connoisseur, someone who’s seen it all:
“I go, in the summer, anywhere to 2 and 5,000 garage sales,” Scapecchi told KCCI.
Like all garage sale fans, Scapecchi is always keeping an eye out for unique and valuable items.
And in 2013, he noticed something seemingly ordinary was really something special.
At a local sale, Scapecchi spotted a collection of baseball bats on the ground. They were mostly metal, but there was one older, wooden one.
Scapecchi picked it up and noticed the unusual grip—and realized it could be worth a lot more than the one dollar price tag.
While many garage sale hawks would’ve simply bought the item for the low price, Scapecchi did the noble thing and let the owners in on just what they were giving away.
He showed the bat to homeowner Sue McEntee, who clearly didn’t think she had anything special on her hands.
“He picked this particular one up and he looked at me and said, ‘Do you know what this is?’ and I said, ‘Well yeah, it’s a bat,’” McEntee said.
“He pulled me off to the side and said, ‘I think you might have something here.”
Scapecchi revealed what he thought was so special about the bat:
It might’ve belonged to Jackie Robinson!
Jackie Robinson is one of the most famous names in baseball. As number 42 for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he became the first African American to play Major League Baseball in 1947, a major milestone in sports.
“The unique grip of the bat was Jackie Robinson’s style,” he told KCCI.
Luckily, he knew of a way to verify the authenticity on the spot. He made a mark on the bat with a pencil, which in the light revealed Robinson’s name etched in the bat.
“So, it went from being on the ground under a table and being sold for $1 to in the house pretty quickly,” McEntee said.
How did such a rare piece of memorabilia end up at a random garage sale, with no one aware of its value?
It turns out McEntee has a family connection to Robinson.
“My uncle, Joe Hatten, played for the Brooklyn Dodgers,” she explained. “He was called Lefty Joe. He and Jackie played baseball together in the ’40s.”
McEntee explained that her uncle was one of the few players who would room with Jackie Robinson.
“I just thought that was incredible,” Hatten said.
An authentic Jackie Robinson bat could be worth a lot of money—but McEntee says that, given her family’s history with Robinson, it would mean more just to keep it in the house.
“We’re gonna keep it,” she said. “It’s not going anywhere.”