One of my favorite thrift stores is Savers, and I always have good luck when visiting this chain.
There are more than 315 stores scattered throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia. I’ve found countless mini helmets over the years, but recently a few full-size editions have shown up. In the last several months, I have found a hat trick of helmets and bought every one of them. For $10 each, it’s a no-brainer.
The three helmets I now need autographs on include the Cleveland Browns (where have you gone, Otto Graham?), St. Louis Rams (wish Kurt Warner signed helmets through the mail) and a special Denver Broncos Super Bowl helmet. A new full-size replica usually runs about $80, and minis are usually $20-$25, so it’s nice to get some of them for next to nothing.
If you have ever taken any of your collectibles to get professionally framed, you will quickly realize it costs a small fortune; many times the framing costs are more than the value of the item you want to frame. I’m constantly on the hunt at thrift stores for frames that I can reuse.
I came upon a beautiful framed piece the other day featuring a five-card double-matted Minnesota Twins collage. I paid $5.99 for it, and I guarantee it cost more than $200 originally. Each card has its own cut and is lifted up. I just have to figure out which five cards I want to display from my collection and how to protect the autographs on them. (The existing five cards were all mounted directly to the foam core insert).
I have framed numerous posters, pennants and other sports collectibles over the years using “previously enjoyed” frames, shadow boxes and display cases. Another cost-friendly option is using coupons issued by some of the national art and craft store chains like Michael’s or Jo-Ann Fabric, which routinely offer 40 percent discounts.
Cooking with the PGA
One place I wouldn’t hope to find anything autograph-related is the sheets and aprons section.
I was wrong.
I happened to be wandering down the aisle and found a 2003 PGA Championship apron signed by more than 20 golfers. I went to the event here at Oak Hill and have several signed items from it already. Looking at the autographs, I could only identify a few. I compared them to my signed poster and several matched up. The lesson here is to always write down who signed a particular item – especially a multi-signed one. This is still a very cool and unique item, and I was happy to pick it up for $3.99. At the prices they were charging in the clubhouse, I guarantee this apron was at least $30 before the autographs, probably more.
I always peruse the jersey sections at thrift stores, but the people doing the pricing are starting to wise up as to the value of these items. I can remember when I could pick up jerseys for $2 or $3; now they are more like $8 or $10, which is still a good deal. I have seen an influx of donated knock-off jerseys from China in the stores lately.
I picked up two Buffalo Sabres jerseys that were both signed. I found one authentic Sabres youth jersey that was signed by former captain Daniel Briere. I also found an adult blank-back jersey signed on the front by both Briere and Jason Pominville. I’m not sure why anyone would donate a signed jersey, but I’m more than willing to take it off their hands for $5 or $10.
I also found an old-school satin Syracuse jacket – similar to the old Starter jackets. Upon closer inspection, it was signed on the inside by Syracuse legend Dwayne “Pearl” Washington.
There’s always a huge section of used books at most thrift stores. I spend my first 15 minutes or so in two sections: Sports and autobiographies. I’ve probably found 50 signed books this way.
My best one was a Willie Mays autobiography signed on the inside. A few weeks ago I found a softcover book signed on the front cover in gold paint pen by Jerome “The Bus” Bettis.
I also like to buy books to send them out to get signed. Most of the time I just mail out the covers instead of the entire book. The artwork on many covers for sports books looks even better than magazine covers or pictures.
Good luck hunting at your local thrift stores. Send me an e-mail and tell me about some of your finds!