He always offered the baseball hat for a try-on and photo opportunity, he said, because, “That was such a one-of-a-kind cap, and this was a way that they could sort of touch Lou Gehrig.”
The hat still has its shape, along with Gehrig’s name stitched into its leather brim. Auction officials are predicting it could bring upward of $200,000.
The entire collection could yield more than $400,000, Mr. Rosen said.
Gehrig items have drawn large sums in the past, including a jersey he wore that sold for $870,000 at auction, and his rookie contract with the Yankees in 1924, which sold for $480,000, Mr. Rosen said.
Mr. Ellis lives midway between Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, in Boston, near the theoretical border that divides Red Sox Nation from rivals in Yankees territory, where geographic baseball loyalties are mixed.
Mr. Ellis is a Yankees fan, but his son and daughter root for the Red Sox.
“If they had been die-hard Yankee fans, I’d have more reason to keep the collection,” he said. Instead, despite their Red Sox loyalty, he will give money from the auction to his grandchildren who are heading off to college.
And so these Red Sox fans will benefit from proceeds received from selling an old Christmas card Ruth sent Gehrig, in which Ruth uses bats to spell out “Merry Christmas” on the field as Santa looks from the edge of the Yankees dugout.
The college fund will also be enriched by a signed registration slip for the 1926 Peerless coupe Gehrig bought shortly after joining the Yankees.