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Bob Gerber, owner of The Antique Man, purchased the famous 825-pound ball of string in 1999 when Haussner's restaurant in Highlandtown closed. Gerber, who paid more than $8,000 for the iconic ball made from the string used to tie laundered linens for the restaurant, plans to sell this collectible within a year. He is downsizing the operation at his Fleet Street antique store. Feb. 4, 2020
Bob Gerber, owner of The Antique Man, purchased the famous 825-pound ball of string in 1999 when Haussner's restaurant in Highlandtown closed. Gerber, who paid more than $8,000 for the iconic ball made from the string used to tie laundered linens for the restaurant, plans to sell this collectible within a year. He is downsizing the operation at his Fleet Street antique store. Feb. 4, 2020 (Amy Davis)

It sits in a Fells Point antique shop, a kitschy keepsake from a classic Baltimore restaurant. Haussner’s may be gone, but its jumbo ball of string rolls on. And it’s for sale — though, at 825 pounds, it might take a modern-day Sisyphus to move it.

Exterior of The Antique Man, a quirky store that has been an institution in the 1800 block of Fleet Street for more than four decades. Feb. 4, 2020
Exterior of The Antique Man, a quirky store that has been an institution in the 1800 block of Fleet Street for more than four decades. Feb. 4, 2020 (Amy Davis)

The four-foot sphere, made from strings that once bundled Haussner’s laundered linen napkins, was a showpiece in the iconic German restaurant in Highlandtown until, after 73 years, it closed in 1999. Then, like the art that graced the place, the ball of string was sold at auction. Bob Gerber bought it for $8,250 to display in his shop, The Antique Man, on Fleet Street.

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“I wanted [the ball] to stay in Baltimore,” Gerber said. “I still get good advertisements off of it. But we’re slowing down now and getting ready to close the business.”

So the string ball is on the market. The price?

“I’d like to get what I paid for it,” Gerber said. “And I’d like it to stay in town.”

A label on the ball, from the 1970s, claims that the string was saved from bundles of 19,794,950 napkins over the course of nearly 50 years and that, if unraveled, it would stretch for 337-1/2 miles. It’s said that Frances Haussner, the restaurant’s matron, balled the string to remind the staff not to use the napkins as cleaning cloths.

Detail of the famous 825-pound ball of string that is roughly four feet tall. Bob Gerber, owner of The Antique Man, purchased it in 1999 from Haussner's restaurant in Highlandtown when it closed. Gerber, who paid over $8,000 for the iconic ball made from the string used to tie laundered linens for the restaurant, plans to sell this collectible within a year. He is downsizing the operation at his Fleet Street antique store. Feb. 4, 2020
Detail of the famous 825-pound ball of string that is roughly four feet tall. Bob Gerber, owner of The Antique Man, purchased it in 1999 from Haussner's restaurant in Highlandtown when it closed. Gerber, who paid over $8,000 for the iconic ball made from the string used to tie laundered linens for the restaurant, plans to sell this collectible within a year. He is downsizing the operation at his Fleet Street antique store. Feb. 4, 2020 (Amy Davis)

The ball even inspired a song by David DeBoy (author of “Crabs for Christmas”):

"O little town of Baltimore, what pleasures you did bring,

Like Hochschild Kohn, and the Colts’ end zone,

Bob Gerber, owner of The Antique Man, purchased the famous 825-pound ball of string in 1999 when Haussner's restaurant in Highlandtown closed. Gerber, who paid over $8,000 for the iconic ball made from the string used to tie laundered linens for the restaurant, plans to sell this collectible within a year. He is downsizing the operation at his Fleet Street antique store. Feb. 4, 2020
Bob Gerber, owner of The Antique Man, purchased the famous 825-pound ball of string in 1999 when Haussner's restaurant in Highlandtown closed. Gerber, who paid over $8,000 for the iconic ball made from the string used to tie laundered linens for the restaurant, plans to sell this collectible within a year. He is downsizing the operation at his Fleet Street antique store. Feb. 4, 2020 (Amy Davis)
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