(“Collectors Corner” by Rich Mueller, Managing Editor of Sports Collectors Daily) – The big ticket items or rare, vintage card sets and game worn memorabilia tend to get most of the attention in our hobby. The T206 stars, scarce 19th century issues, Babe Ruth cards, high grade Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays rookie cards or a jersey once donned by Hall of Famer. They generally bring in the most money at auction, whether it’s through a catalog or on eBay and there’s always a long line of people with enough disposable income waiting to bid on them.
I like those things too—or at least the few I might be able to afford—but the types of memorabilia I find myself saying I’ll never get rid of are the quirky items you won’t find under the “premier” lot” category in an auction catalog. They’re scarce in their own way—or at least unique—but they’re the kinds of great conversation pieces that make you realize why you collected in the first place.
Wading through those catalog pages or a local antique shop in search of them continues to be more fun than anything else. Over the years, I’ve found plenty of interesting pieces that didn’t cost much. Some in the backs of auction catalogs, others just by taking a few minutes to stop somewhere…just in case.
I have a copy of the Columbus Post-Dispatch Sunday magazine section from the week before a very young Ohio State golfer named Jack Nicklaus teed it up in the Masters for the first time in 1960. I found it at an antique market about 15 years ago for $20. There’s a story inside that catches Nicklaus just before he would set the golf world on fire. He was just a college kid then, wondering how good he could be.
I have my Wally Pipp strip card sitting right next to my 1934 Goudey Lou Gehrig. I don’t think you can have one without the other.
I have a file copy of a 1929 letter sent by the president of the Green Bay Packers to some backers in a nearby town, begging them to buy tickets to come see the team play. It mentions Ernie Nevers as one of the opposing attractions.
I have a couple of unopened boxes of Jello pudding from 1962 with the cards on the back. One card is Harmon Killebrew and I had him sign the front of the box a few years ago. He got a kick out of it and that meeting is something I won’t forget.
I own about 15 T206 cards—mostly Hall of Famers and in rough shape—but I love that I have Tinker, Evers, Chance—and Harry Steinfeldt. The third baseman in the infield made famous in the lyrical tribute is a great trivia question.
I have a rectangular B& O Railroad ad that hunt in a West Virginia train station in the summer of 1957, promoting an excursion to Cincinnati to see the Reds play the Milwaukee Braves (who’d win the World Series that year). That type of travel is long gone but it still sounds like fun in 2010. It took five hours and four stops to get from Parkersburg to Crosley Field.
I own a wrapper from the 1935 Diamond Stars set and wonder why more than a few have survived the last 75 years. It’s as cool as any card in the set.
Auction catalogs and eBay are full of those types of things. Shows, flea markets and antique centers are good places to find them too. We may never see a huge return on our investment in things like these, but that’s not why we’re supposed to be collectors in the first place, right?