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Original Issue

No Cheap Seats

Collectors are drooling over doomed parks

IT SOUNDS like a Zen koan: When is a brick not a brick? Answer: When it is pulled from a soon-to-be-destroyed New York ballpark. In that case it's a collectible. With both of the city's teams moving to new homes next year, the impending demolition of Shea and Yankee stadiums has collectors drooling at a market for detritus, one that should be unlike anything seen in the history of sports memorabilia. "This is the highest level, bar none," says Mike Heffner, the president of Lelands, a sports auction house. "I know a lot of people who would rather have pieces from Yankee Stadium than the Roman Colosseum."

The parks are owned by New York City, but both the Yankees and the Mets are in talks with officials on agreements under which the teams and the city would work together to market collectible items from the stadiums and then share the money. And there should be plenty of money to go around. "The prices would be off the charts," Heffner says. "Nothing out there can even compare."

The teams are expected to sell everything that isn't nailed down, as well as a bunch of stuff that is. "If you dismantle Yankee Stadium, you could sell it one brick at a time," says Bill Mastro, the CEO of Mastro Auctions. "Would they generate millions of dollars? Absolutely. Would they make 10 times as much money as Shea? Yes." So a two-ounce vial of soil from The House That Ruth Built would likely sell for at least $50, with a bucket of sod going for $500. A brick would fetch at least $100; a seat—of which 25,000 could be sold—would be worth $1,000 or more. Clubhouse urinals might bring $2,000 each. As for premium items, Derek Jeter's locker would fetch from $25,000 to $50,000, while Tom Seaver's old Shea locker would bring $10,000 to $20,000.

Which means that stadium security this season is likely to be at an alltime high. The Yankees and Mets declined to comment on the ballpark defense policies they'll employ, but they're no doubt expecting people to loot, loot, loot for the home team all season long. Such desecration cannot be allowed to happen, of course—unless the teams can get their cut.

The Pop Culture Grid