An Insight a Day

Why Spend $3 Million on a Baseball?

In a recent podcast interview, why did Todd McFarlane spend $3 million on a baseball?

I was trying to make sports toys and I couldn’t make sports toys. Why? I couldn’t even get a meeting because I’m a nobody. The NHL, major league baseball, the NBA, NHL, why would anybody let me in the front door? They wouldn’t. And so you have to figure out back doors and alternatives.


Anyways, the 70 McGwire ball, the last ball he hit that was a record, goes up for an auction in Madison Square Garden. I’m the anonymous bidder. Anyways, nobody’s ever spent more than $300,000, $400,000 on any baseball paraphernalia. At the end of the auction, I end up winning the 70 ball and it costs me three million dollars. 10 times what the previous record was, three million dollars.


I knew that spending and getting that ball would get me headlines. So instantly it was a national story and I was on lots of talk radio shows and TV shows and everything. I mean I canvased the planet. And do you know how much money it would cost to get that attention by buying ads in any of those areas? It would cost you way more than three million, but let’s put that to the side.


Those headlines then got seen by all the sports leagues and the unions. And when I phoned the next time and said, “Hey, I’m Todd McFarlane and maybe you’ve heard of me, I bought the McGwire ball, but I’d just like to talk to you. I’m also in the toy business.” They let me in the door and I got to have a conversation with them. In short order I ended up having the license for baseball, football, basketball, and hockey.


I made more than three million dollars in profits on those toys multiple times over those 13 years. So at some point you have to put up an ante on the table to play the big game with the big boys in poker.


Then what ended up happening, people see those headlines and they go, “Oh, if he’s got three million dollars to wipe his ass on a baseball, he must be successful, he must have a lot of money. Bring the successful guy into the room.” And I got the four licenses and it was there.

Link to the full transcript.

The next time you see a headline about someone buying something for an absurd amount of money, stop and think for a moment. It could just be yet another marketing or publicity stunt.

As an example, remember that (in)famous NFT that sold for $69 million? Would you be surprised if the buyer turned out to be a crypto investor and the founder of an NFT investment company?

Everydays was purchased by Singapore-based programmer Vignesh Sundaresan, a cryptocurrency investor and the founder of the Metapurse NFT project, also known online by his pseudonym MetaKovan. Sundaresan paid for the artwork using 42,329 Ether. Both the buyer Sundaresan and the seller Winkelmann had a vested interest in driving up the price of the work, in order to bring attention to and drive sales for a speculative asset related to twenty other Beeple works, which they called "B20 tokens." The price of these tokens, in which Sundaresan held a majority stake, reached its peak during media coverage of the Everydays auction, and subsequently collapsed. Because of this, some observers have described the auction as a publicity stunt and a scam.