Seideman: How an ingenious collector landed Moonlight Graham’s rare autograph

From David Seideman at Atlas Obscura on December 22, 2017:

When Jonathan Algard, a construction worker from just outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania, began his passionate quest to obtain one of the 20th century’s rarest and most coveted baseball autographs at an affordable price 17 years ago, he knew the deck was stacked against him. Only four autographs of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham were known to exist, according to PSA/DNA, a top authentication company. A signed 1963 check by Graham sold for $3,000 in 2008 auction and a 1906 minor league postcard with just his last name fetched $5,000 in 2015. Since Graham played just two innings in 1905 for the New York Giants without ever coming to bat or making a putout in the field, the value of his memorabilia is more disproportionate to his performance than any other player’s in sports history.

Algard devised a brilliant strategy to land his Graham autograph for just $15 (plus $4 shipping) on eBay. The brilliant plot relied on the player’s double life—while playing baseball, Graham moonlit as a medical student.

Graham became a pop-culture icon after being included as a character in the 1982 W.P. Kinsella novel, Shoeless Joe, and its film adaptation, Field of Dreams (1989). After obtaining his medical degree, Dr. Archibald Wright Graham spent the rest of his life as the community and school doctor in the tiny town of Chisholm, Minnesota.

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Originally published: December 28, 2017. Last Updated: December 28, 2017.