The FBI has apparently begun a crackdown on the sports memorabilia business.
I’ll admit that I don’t really understand the collection of autographed memorabilia. It isn’t that I don’t have autographed items, but apart from a lithograph that was produced by and for the Flyers Wives Fight for Lives carnival a number of years ago, a couple of gifts the Flyers sent to me as a season ticket holder, and the irreplaceable (don’t laugh too hard, now) Ricky Botallico autographed baseball sent to Phillies season ticketholders after his All-Star season, I don’t own, nor have I ever coveted, an autographed item that was not autographed in my sight by an athlete or former athlete.
The autographs I’ve collected were acquired for free at events held by sponsors for the purpose of athletes or former athletes interacting with their clients and prospects or at events where autographs were being offered in return for charitable contributions. I’ve never stalked someone for an autograph, never run into someone in a hotel lobby, or restaurant, or on the street and asked for an autograph. Never attended a card show or bought admission to have someone sign for their own enrichment.
Also, I happen to think that if I meet a famous person on their own time that I really don’t have the right to demand, or even ask, something of them. The most I’ll do in that situation is engage the person in conversation. It may be something as simple as saying, “I’ve really enjoyed seeing you play.” But in a few cases it’s become a real conversation. And, unlike the experiences of autograph collectors, I’ve never had a bad interaction.
For me, it’s been about collecting experiences. I have memories I can recall with a smile–a wink from Ozzie Smith, a hug from Tug McGraw, a few flirtatious comments from Paul Blair, a wave and a smile from Randall Cunningham–all so much more valuable in nonmonetary terms than a scrawl on an object or scrap of paper.
So I find myself shaking my head in incomprehension when I read about people paying money, in many cases big money, for signed baseballs, autographed scraps of uniform fabric, or (and this really boggles) collectible sports cards with embedded threads of uniform fabric.
I do collect things. Even sports-related things. I have a number of bobbleheads, mostly Phillies and Flyers, and a few of the Flyers bobbles are even autographed by the real owners of the heads. And I have photographs I’ve taken of athletes at work playing, getting ready to play, or at a charity event, but none of a guy who isn’t. At the end of the day, though, I’m not a collector in the sense I don’t seek these things out with any kind of method or passion.
But I don’t get collecting things, autographed or not, that you pay hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars for. Especially when you know that the industry dealing in these things is full of shysters selling bogus memorabilia. ‘xplain it to me?