By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
By Tessa Stuart
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Down in Huntsville, Alabama, last week, Rudy Giuliani was forced to answer questions about the gaudy World Series rings he's been wearing on the presidential campaign trail. "I paid precisely what anyone else would pay," he insisted, adding that he didn't get any of them until after he left office. He was responding to a Voice story ("The Yankees' Clean-up Man," May 915) that charged him with taking the rings while in office and failing to disclose them as giftsboth of which are violations of law that could still be prosecuted. He branded the Voice's revelations "a joke," though it was his contention that he paid full value for them$2,500 for the 1996 ring in 2004 and $4,500 apiece for 1998, 1999, and 2000 rings in 2003that had much of the sports-memorabilia world laughing.
The Yankees haven't been very forthcoming about the core value of their rings, but the Chicago Tribune reported last year that the 2005 White Sox ring "might have cost as much as $20,000 to make if recent World Series rings by the same manufacturer are any indication." The Boston Herald put the appraised value of the Red Sox 2004 ringnothing but the jewelsat $16,300. The Anaheim Angels had their 2002 ring appraised at $15,000. And Jerry McNeal, the ring expert for the Baseball Hall of Fame, says the 2003 Florida Marlins ring cost $46,000 to make. The New York Times says the Yankees once estimated the cost of one of their rings at $8,000. But the price rose to more than $10,000 by 2000, according to both a Yankee source and a memorabilia expert, Pete Siegel, whose store, Gotta Have It Collectibles, has actually sold sports items to Giuliani.
The three-karat, 2000 ring weighed more than an ounce, had 22 diamonds and 34.5 grams of gold, and featured three subway cars etched above a façade of Yankee Stadium, representing both the Subway Series victory over the Mets and three consecutive championships. David Bernstein, the Yankee's director of hospitality, told the Poughkeepsie Journal that the team drastically cut the number of people getting the 2000 ring, limiting it to only 10 to 15 people who worked at the stadium, but still giving one to Giuliani. With 25 or so executives who'd received it in the past denied it in 2000, the exclusivity added to its value, just as the end-of-the-drought breakthrough represented by the 1996 ring boosted its worth.
Spencer Lader, who regularly appears on the Yankee television station as a memorabilia buyer and expert, says he paid $18,000 for a ring owned by Arthur Richman, an obscure Yankee executive. Lader, like a half dozen other experts, says all Yankee rings have "an intrinsic value" beyond the sum of their parts and regardless of whose name is inscribed in them. "They commemorate a significant sports event," says Lader, adding that there is no way that Giuliani insured any of his rings for as little as $2,500. Dick Williams, an ex-manager of other teams who was a consultant to the Yankees when he won his ring, sold it at auction for $34,787.
Giuliani's name obviously adds much more value to the rings than Richman's or Williams's. The Voice story cited three memorabilia experts who put the combined market value of the ex-mayor's rings at a minimum of $200,000, and a fourth who said $100,000. Giuliani responded by telling reporters that he shouldn't have to pay what a collector might, a nice way of saying he was entitled to a breathtaking discount. But even subtracting what his name contributes to the market price, the Yankees, pushed by two Times reporters who wrote stories in recent days, couldn't offer any examples of others who bought these not-for-sale rings at anything approximating Rudy's price. The New York City Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) has ruled that city employees "may accept a discount" from a vendor for the employee's "private use," but only if "the discount is available generally to all government employees."
Of course, that ruling is only applicable to the rings if Giuliani received them, or was promised them, while still a city employee. The Yankees are straining to support Giuliani on the price question, but they're not helping him on the pivotal issue of the timing of when he got the rings. Alice McGillion, the team spokeswoman, says the team has no record of when Giuliani received them, and won't answer questions about whether they were all made for him while he was in office. The Voice story established that he received the 1996 ring in 1997, around the time the players did, and the other three in 2001. Both the COIB and the NYC Department of Investigations would have the jurisdiction to investigate that, as would the Manhattan and Bronx District Attorneys. None will answer questions about any possible ongoing investigation.
The New York State Lobbying Commission, which levied one of its largest fines ever on the Yankees for tickets it gave to public officials, would also have the authority to examine whether the team accurately disclosed its dealings with Giuliani when it settled with the commission in December 2003. It issued subpoenas against the Yankees at that time and those subpoenas could simply be renewed. The commission can only examine gifts to Giuliani that occurred while he was in office. Its initial probe went back to July 2001, which is precisely when the 2000 ring was finally presented to the players.