Walter Johnson's game-worn jersey photo-matched to 1920: 'It's a unicorn'

Heritage has placed $3 million estimate on ultra-rare Big Train jersey

Cover Image for Walter Johnson's game-worn jersey photo-matched to 1920: 'It's a unicorn'
Just two jerseys from Johnson's Hall of Fame career are believed to exist today. (Courtesy: Heritage Auctions)

When Heritage Auctions began listing items for its upcoming May 16-18 Spring Sports Catalog, one piece immediately stood out: a 1920 Walter Johnson game-worn jersey with an estimate of $3 million.

There was no photo-match — which was unsurprising considering the age of the jersey — and that was, by no means, a demerit on its value.

But earlier this month, Resolution Photomatching was able to find a match for the jersey, tying it to an April 29, 1920, game against the Yankees, during which the Big Train faced Babe Ruth for the first time in Ruth's Yankees career.

The designation represents Resolution's oldest jersey match in the company's history.

Despite the newly found photo-match, Heritage has no intention of increasing its estimate, sources tell cllct.

"We obviously feel like the ceiling has gotten a bit higher since we were able to match it," said Dan Imler, Heritage Vice President of Sports, Private Sales & Consignments.

Just two jerseys from the Hall of Famer's career are believed to exist today, with the other displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Heritage jersey was originally given by Johnson to his teammate Eric "Swat" Erickson, who, upon retiring, built a farmhouse in Jamestown, N.Y., storing all of his baseball mementos after the 1922 season.

Johnson's jersey sat there for eight decades until it was uncovered in the early 2000s, when it surfaced for the first time.

It sold for $352,000 at a joint SCP Auctions/Sotheby's sale in 2006, after which it entered a private collection.

This spring marks its first public appearance at auction in 18 years.

"It's a unicorn," Imler said. "It's an ultra, ultra elite artifact."