One of the pioneers of baseball memorabilia collecting, Barry Halper acquired more than 80,000 baseball-related items. Halper displayed much of them in the basement of his residence in Livingston, New Jersey, for many years. The New York Times called him a “one-man Smithsonian.” His enthusiasm for baseball was such that when visitors rang Halper’s doorbell it played the baseball anthem, “Take Me Out to the Game.”
Mr. Halper spent more than five decades collecting baseballs, mitts, bats, uniforms, and other autographed items, and was a devoted fan of the New York Yankees. Through the years, Barry Halper befriended players such as Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle, among others. Halper was also a proud limited owner of the New York Yankees for many years.
Known for collecting highly atypical baseball memorabilia, Barry Halper always liked to share the stories of the items in his collection. The uniform that Lou Gehrig wore during his 1939 farewell speech at Yankee Stadium was once part of Halper’s collection, as was Honus Wagner’s autographed cigar box, and the bat that Babe Ruth used as a cane during his 1948 farewell celebration at Yankee Stadium. Another notable item collected by Halper was a questionnaire filled out and signed by Jackie Robinson in 1946 for his admission to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Montreal farm team.
Barry Halper worked at the wholesale paper supply company owned by his family for many years. Halper attended the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, from 1957 to 1959.
In November of 1998, Barry Halper sold a portion of his collection to the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. The collection was then donated to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. Halper auctioned off nearly all of the remaining items through Sotheby’s less than a year later.
Halper’s collection inspired a three-book set first published in 1999 by Sotheby's and in 2000, publisher Harry N. Abrams, Inc., released a second, more economical, edition. Entitled The Barry Halper Collection of Baseball Memorabilia, the set contains photos of all of the items sold at auction by Sotheby’s. The collection sold at Sotheby's is widely regarded as the largest private collection of sports memorabilia in existence at the time of its sale.