Even though professional wrestling is recognized by most as a scripted event, full of some of the world’s greatest characters and actors, memorabilia from the squared circle seems to make it into sports memorabilia auctions from time to time. In fact, there’s a select batch of collectors who would much rather own a pair of Bruno Sammartino match-worn trunks than a jersey worn by Mickey Mantle.
Arguably the greatest sports star ever, Muhammad Ali, modeled much of his flamboyant pre-bout hype from pro wrestling pioneer Gorgeous George, and Hall of Famers such as Bronko Nagurski actually participated in pro wrestling.
In an industry where it’s almost inevitable that when a sports personality’s popularity reaches the stature of superstardom, memorabilia companies and the players themselves almost always tend to mass-produce pieces associated with that player and ignore the mighty theory of supply and demand.
How many times have you waited more than three weeks and then stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to participate in an auction only to lose a bidding war well into the 10-minute rule?
Sure, the chase for an item can be fun, but if you really want a piece, the excitement of the challenge usually comes only secondary to the thrill of actually obtaining an item for your collection.
When I left Iola on the morning of April 17 on my way to the Premier Collectible Conference and Exhibition in Rosemont, Ill., the last phone call I thought I’d receive was someone telling me that one of the hobby’s founding fathers of authentication was retiring from his passion of verifying game-used equipment.
Troy Kinunen, lead authenticator at MEARS, was the person on the line with me that day, and to my surprise, he told me that Dave Bushing has “had enough,” and that when I arrive at the show I should interview him to get his thoughts. So that’s exactly what I did.
Crowds of fans and collectors filled the aisles at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont Ill., on March 28-30 at the Chicago Sun-Times biannual show. Behind a solid autograph lineup of football stars, recent baseball Hall of Fame inductees and other notables, show co-promoter Brian Schwartz said the show was a success.
“For the first time I can remember, Sunday was actually a stronger lineup and bigger crowd than Saturday, mostly due to Adrian Peterson, George Brett and the two newest Hall of Famers, Dick Williams and Goose Gossage,” said Schwartz. “The crowd seemed to be really buzzing. That’s always our goal. To make sure people are everywhere, lots of people in the Autograph Pavilion aisle, lots of people at the vendor booths; from the looks of it, the show was every bit as solid as last year’s November show, which was strong.”
One of the most significant keys to any successful sports memorabilia auction house is to “get it right,” and to provide everybody involved an honest, quality and interesting product.
About 20 years ago, while working as a consultant for a major auction house, Bill Mastro, now CEO of Mastro Auctions, wanted to “get it right,” but he had to introduce an idea that was unprecedented in the hobby to do so.
Mastro hired Dan Knoll as the first third-party authenticator in the hobby’s history, and indirectly started a phenomenon that has caused solidity, controversy and an evolution that has helped create the passion of collecting sports-related material as we know it today.
Brett Favre will forever be known as an NFL iron man who started more than 250 consecutive games. That’s a lot of No. 4 gamers that he’s gone through since 1992. Problem is, according to Packers jersey experts, there are thousands of so-called “game-used Brett Favre jerseys” on the market — a number that isn’t even possible for the future Hall of Famer.
Just a few years ago, collectors were able to purchase authentic Favre gamers for less than $5,000, but currently, they’ve been selling for more than $10,000. With the increase in value, there has, unfortunately, been a huge increase in the number of fakes that have hit the market recently.
“Back in the early-to-mid-1990s, I remember people throwing in stacks of original photos and Wirephotos almost as toss-ins to deals. When they were making trades, it’s almost like they weren’t even factoring them in,” said Joe Orlando, president of Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA/DNA).
Boy, the times, they are a changin’.
Slowly, but surely, collectors everywhere are finally taking notice of the significant collectibility that vintage photographs bring to the table.
Honesty, integrity, and authenticity are of utmost importance to both the Carlsbad, Calif.-based Upper Deck Co. and Hunt Auctions of Exton, Pa. In sharing that philosophy, the two industry giants have decided to lock arms in order to provide “the ultimate marketplace for high-end vintage sports memorabilia,” according to Dan Schmidt, Upper Deck’s auctions manager.
Here’s a trivia question that’ll be sure to baffle even the most knowledgeable football buff: What do the 1934 Chicago Bears and 2007 New England Patriots have in common? Give up?
Both professional football superpowers advanced to the Championship Game of the season only to fall to the New York Giants.
Now, there’s no question that the Bears’ bruising fullback Bronko Nagurski was a bit dissimilar when compared to the Pats’ Laurence Maroney, and Super Bowl XLII MVP Eli Manning doesn’t share too many indistinguishable traits with Mel Hein, who won the league’s MVP as the Giants’ center in 1938.