Everyone wants an autograph


There’s a pretty cool article up right now over at IndyStar.com, detailing Peyton Manning’s views about signing autographs. Given his popularity, he’s had to deal with some interesting fans who want his signature, and Manning has a couple funny stories to tell.

“I was at a charity golf tournament, and this guy came up to me and I could tell he had a prosthetic leg,” Manning said recently. “He said, ‘I want you to sign my leg.’ I’m like, ‘C’mon, man, you don’t want me to do that, do you?’

Another time at UT, the doctor examining him asked Manning to sign his X-rays.
“I said, ‘Before I sign those, could you tell me if I’m going to be out the whole season?’ ”

“My dad always said, ‘It takes the same amount of time to smile as it does to be a jerk, so you might as well be nice.’ I used to watch him and how good he was about signing when he won and when he lost.”

“I know that’s what bothers a lot of the big-name guys, Tiger and others,” Manning said. “The dealer pays these kids money to stand on line and get things signed. Then the dealers sell it on eBay or wherever. I saw a kid a little while ago, I said, ‘Hey, man, surely you have enough by now? How much are you making on eBay? Now seriously.’

“The kids always say, ‘No, I’m not selling, I’m not selling.’ But I know they are because when I sign, I ask, ‘Who’s this to?’ They’ll say, ‘Just sign it, just sign it.’ Then it’s memorabilia.

Interesting stuff. I had never heard about the practice of sports collectors hiring young kids to get autographs for them. I wonder if I would have done that when I was a youngster, trying to scam an autograph off of Mike Piazza to make a buck. Needless to say, my desire to collect autographs has practically vanished over the years. I don’t have many, as my dad and I never went to games early enough or stuck around after, waiting and waiting for a humble player. Still, I remember being at the age when getting an athlete’s autograph would have been a big deal. So, I decided to send a couple baseball players a trading card of themselves, with a brief letter, to the appropriate addresses. Funny enough, at age 10, I was already becoming jaded. Though I really wanted signatures from Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr., and Barry Bonds, I aimed low. I contacted Barry Larkin, Rod Beck, Jeff Blauser, and Chipper Jones, who was just starting out. Rod Beck and Chipper responded. They both had signed their card and I was ecstatic. Now if I were to see an athlete out and about, I’d probably ask them if they’d want my autograph, just to see their expression.

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The 30th annual National Sports Collectors Convention


Paul Lukas of ESPN recently spent some time at this year’s National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland.

So I’m speaking from experience when I say the key to a happy collecting life is the moment when you accept that you can never collect everything in a given category, because there will always be at least one thing out there that you can’t afford, can’t find or don’t know about. The feeling of completism will always be out of reach. Once you admit that to yourself, the world becomes a fun museum and you can cherry-pick some nice items that push your buttons without the pressure of having to acquire all of them.

But most of the collectors at the National didn’t appear to have experienced that epiphany. This was especially true of the baseball card collectors (by far the largest contingent of attendees), a disturbing percentage of whom seemed to fit all the worst collector stereotypes: nerdy, overweight, socially awkward. As I watched these guys — and believe me, all of them were guys — feverishly flipping through bins and albums of cards, trying to cross out items on their want lists, it occurred to me that they seemed to take very little pleasure in the act of collecting. They were more like addicts trying to cop a fix, and I found their frantic, joyless movements from dealer to dealer rather depressing.

Lukas has also put together a nice set of photos from the event. The piece is worth reading, if only to get a sense of the kind of ephemera that are sold at these things. For example, the 1999 Yankees championship trophy was on display along with a bunch of championship rings. Pretty cool.

I used to collect cards for many years when I was younger. It’s easy to stop as you get older and need to conserve your money. These days, I’m more into seeking out rare LPs than sports memorabilia. Simply put, it’s just expensive to get into this stuff. I’d still love to go to a convention, but it won’t be a while until I’m buying Robin Ventura’s gold glove off some nerd.

The current (sad) state of card collecting

Thanks to Big League Stew, I stumbled upon this little eight-minute documentary about modern-day card collecting. Anthony Stalter watched it as well, so we’re going to discuss how card collecting has changed throughout the years.

John Paulsen: For me, card collecting started with basketball. I was never really into baseball as a kid (mostly because my dad preferred basketball and football, which he played in college), so my focus was on other sports. I had some old Topps football and basketball cards from the late ‘60s and ’70s, but I don’t really remember how I acquired them. Basketball cards were defunct for a while — Michael Jordan’s “real” rookie card could only be found in a regional set produced by Star — and once the mid-90’s hit, the NBA’s popularity blew up, so did the prices of those Star sets from the ’80s. I got into collecting for two reasons: 1) because I liked basketball (and to a lesser extent, football) and 2) I thought it was an investment that I could someday pass onto my son to teach him about the history of the sport (and about investing). Unfortunately, by the time I had some real money to spend on cards (when I was in college), the basketball card industry was so saturated with all the different brands and sets. Instead of going out and buying one or two rookie cards of your favorite player, now there’s 10 or 15 or more amongst all these different brands. The old rookie cards are iconic. I can still picture the first cards for Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, as well as Jordan’s Star rookie and his Fleer rookie, which came a few years later. With so many different brands/lines floating around, rookie cards have lost their appeal. The whole industry has lost its appeal for me, which is depressing because I probably have a few thousand cards stored under my bed that are worth a fraction of what they were 15-20 years ago. I was more of an individual card buyer than a pack or a box buyer. I bought a few packs and boxes in my day, but all those “commons” seemed like a waste. Anthony — how did you get into collecting and what do you think of the industry today?

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