Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Putting the Memories in the Memorabilia Business
It's your intrepid sports reporter Jacques Niffer back with another exclusive.
I've been hearing some disturbing rumors the past few years about the amount of fraud that's taking place in the memorabilia business. With that in mind, I decided to go undercover for an investigative, first-hand look at the underbelly of the business. I recently attended a national baseball memorabilia show, disguised as a gullible nerd. Let's roll the tape:
JN: This looks like a good place to start. This guy bills himself as Mr. Nearmint and seems to have a little bit of everything. Excuse me, sir.
MN: (with his back turned, shuffling through a stack of photos) Yea, whadduya want?
JN: I couldn't help noticing your fine collection. I'm a longtime baseball fan and I've got a lot of money to spend.
MN: (immediately turning, smiling broadly) Well, why dincha say so? You've come to the right place.
JN: I've heard you can't be too careful. That some dealers are less than reputable.
MN: You're right about that. You gotta watch some of these guys. But, hey, nobody's got more repute than yours truly. What are ya interested in?
JN: I like just about everything. I love staying in touch with the game through spending large amounts of money on seemingly insignificant items that remind me of my childhood heroes. Stuff that will probably sit in my closet only to be gotten out a few times a year when I want to show off for someone who will either not be interested or will hate my guts out of jealousy.
MN: I know just whacha mean. Why I fell in love with baseball when I was a kid. I played shortstop on my reform school team. I was the leadoff hitter; stole more than 20 bases. And twice that many hubcaps. And, hey, this business is really all about the kids.
MN: (turning around, interrupted by a 10-year-old with greased-back hair wearing a leather jacket): Where the hell you been Vinnie? I need your stuff. I'm trying to run a business here.
Kid: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I told ya I'd have 'em finished today didn't I? Here's the whole stack of those autographed pictures you wanted.
MN: Did you spell the names right this time?
Kid: Where's that C-note you promised me?
MN: (Reaches in his pocket and pulls out a wad of rumpled bills and peels one off). Here, now beat it, ya little shit.
(turns back to JN) Now where were we. Oh yeah, the kids. That's what baseball's all about, right? But back to you. I can tell you're a man with a nose for a good deal. I got something you should be interested in. Just came in this morning. I heard some guys talking about the time Mickey Mantle sent a box of crap to a dealer who was always bugging him for stuff.
JN: He sent him a box of stuff like balls and bats?
MN: No, literally his crap. He meant it as an insult but the guy saved it and now it's worth a lot of dough.
JN: So that pile is worth a pile now.
MN: Huh? Anyways, I got to thinking and had one of my associates to dig up this. (Proudly pulls out a small tupperware dish containing a dark brown blob). It's Babe Ruth's.
JN: (trying to keep from gagging) Babe Ruth? But it looks like it's still steaming.
MN: No, no, that's just from the air conditioning in here. This is the real poop, if you know what I mean.
JN: How do we know it's from Babe Ruth?
MN: Look there's a little chunk of hot dog in there. Everybody knows how much the Babe loved hot dogs. Right?
JN: Impressive, but, I think I'll let that pass.
MN: I'm telling you, this won't lay here for long. This is the sort of stuff that moves quick. Somebody's gonna sniff this out and scoop it up and later this is gonna be worth a load. I'm telling ya, the sales of this stuff will wipe out everything else.
JN: Do you really think it'll go for that much?
MN: Well, if it's not the most valuable thing in here it's a solid number two.
JN: Thanks anyway. What else do you have?
MN: (Looks around and picks up a pair of shoes) Well how about these? These here shoes were the ones Joe Jackson never wore.
JN: A pair of pennyloafers?
MN: That's right. These were never worn by Joe. That's why they called him Shoeless Joe. Must be worth a fortune but I'll letcha have 'em for a hundred bucks.
JN: (pointing to a row of jerseys) What about that uniform jersey?
MN: Now this here is an official game-worn jersey from Ted Williams. Wore it all through the year in 1941. And if you know yer history you know that was the year he hit .400. No tellin' what this will be worth in a few years.
JN: (holding the jersey close) But it's made of polyester.
MN: (leans close and makes a fist) What about it?
JN: Um, well, I'll bet it was comfortable. (Pointing to a stack of photos). You know this autographed picture of Ty Cobb looks interesting. But it looks like it was signed with a Sharpie. Did they have those back then?
MN: Of course. Everybody knows they was invented in 1903 by, um, Leopold Sharpie.
JN: Hmmm. What can you tell me about that Joe DiMaggio bat?
MN: I can see you've got a good eye. This even comes with a picture of Joe hisself signing it for me. Makes it worth twice as much.
JN: (inspecting the picture) It looks like an old ad for Mr. Coffee with a polaroid of you holding a bat taped on to it. And I thought DiMaggio only had one M.
MN: What are you trying to say?
JN: Nothing, nothing. But I was told I should get a Certificate of Authenticity with anything, you know, to make sure I don't get cheated.
MN: (stops smiling) A what?
JN: You know, some sort of guarantee.
MN: You want a guarantee? (grabs a piece of paper and starts scribbling) Here, it says,"I hearby swear that if you think anything you get from me is a friggin' cheat, I guarantee I'll personally break your friggin' face." How's that?
JN: (running down the hall, being chased by Mr. Nearmint): Looks like that's all the time we have for today, fans. And remember, the baseball memorabilia business is an honest as the day is long. Have fun collecting.