Collecting Is Passion

April 12, 2006

Steiner Sports Official Blog Post / Jason Klein
April, 2006

Collecting is passion. It is happiness. It is an escape. It occurs in many different ways every single day. Collecting is natural. For children, it could be action figures, dolls, or comic books. Adults might enjoy coins or stamps. IRS Agents collect taxes. Gamblers collect winnings. Even countertops collect dust. Collecting takes place where you least expect it - family photo albums,

DVDs, shirts, books, memories and thoughts...all forms of collections. The late Dick Schaap claimed he "collected" people with each story he covered during his legendary journalistic career. Everything's collectable. With so many collectable options, what drives someone to gather sports memorabilia? "I do it for the love of the game," said Bob Meno of Stamford, CT. "I've been a sports fan all my life and collecting gives me a great sense of nostalgia. I enjoy looking at certain pieces and remembering where I was and what I was doing at that time. You get a certain rush from it." Sports evoke emotion like nothing else can. The pulse of today's sports fan beats to the tune of the opening jingle on SportsCenter. There is an overwhelming thirst for sports information: highlights, updates, scores and opinion. A sports fan's mood throughout the day can often be dictated by how their team did the night before. It consumes them. It is this fervor that fuels this fanatical hobby. Collectors are sports fans looking for an intimate avenue to connect with their heroes. Sure, some collect with hopes that someday their trinkets will go up in value, but that is never the sole reason one sets out accumulating pieces of the game. There are plenty of other things to collect if financial gain is paramount. No, sports collectors collect for the love they have for sports.

Getting Started.
There is no standard way to start a collection. They often begin like any other compilation of items might - with one single piece. "I needed a present for my dad's birthday," said Sandra Andrews of Phoenix, AZ. "I got him the team signed 1986 Giants photo from Steiner Sports - he loves the Giants. I grew up a big sports fan too, took one look at the photo, and decided that I needed to start collecting pieces for myself." It is not uncommon for the first installment in a collection to be a piece commemorating a significant accomplishment in a team's history. According to Jared Weiss, President of Steiner Sports, a championship often stirs up strong emotions from fans, leaving them hungry for memorabilia to commemorate it. "I know people who say that other than their wedding day and the birth of their child, June 11, 1994, the day the Rangers won the Stanley Cup, is the greatest thing that ever happened to them," he said. "That's passion. Collecting is dictated by that kind of passion for a particular sport, team or player." Upon commencement, a collector might set out striving for something that is ultimately unattainable - a complete collection. Collectors are often motivated by a desire for completeness. Each additional piece gives them a sense of wholeness, that is, until something new occurs to alter the sports landscape - a player gets traded, a record gets broken, another championship is won. The direction a collection takes is often determined by what happens on the field. As long as sports exist, there will always be change. Subsequently, there will always be something new to collect.

What Do People Collect?
Like snowflakes, no two collections are alike. The only similarity from one to the next is the emotional investment made along the way. "I collect events that have meaning," said Chris Fasciano, Lincoln, MA. "I have a picture of Ali fighting Frazier and I remember as a little kid watching the fights with my dad at home. Every time I look at that photo, it reminds me of spending time with my dad." Collecting sports memorabilia can often serve as an escape. It can be a diversion from everyday life, alleviating stress from the daily grind. A mere glance at certain pieces can transport even the biggest of kids into a personal sports utopia. "I love to collect moments," said Steve Calcagno, Islip, NY. "One of my favorite pieces is the autographed Paul O'Neill 16x20 of him tipping his cap. I love that piece because every time I look at it, it takes me right back to Game 5 in 2001. Fifty-five thousand people chanting, 'Paul O'Neill...Paul O'Neill...' Just amazing." For some, it's not so much the individual moment that translates these emotions, but rather a series of events, perhaps evoked by a single player. "Growing up, Mickey Rivers was my favorite player," said Shawn Smith, Hudson NH. "He always had a smile on his face, hustled...just a great all around player. Collecting his pieces makes me feel like I'm 9 years old again. It helps preserve that feeling for me." Mickey Rivers might not be the most glamorous or valuable of athletes to collect, but, according to Weiss, it's more about how the pieces make the collector feel, rather than how much one invests in them. "You don't need to spend a ton of money to get a great collectable," he said. "It's about the moment. It's about the memories. A lot of collectors grew up watching sports with their dads. Collecting helps them re-connect with those moments and remember those times." Bottom line, people collect what makes them happy. Some people accomplish this with autographed photos from their heroes depicting signature moments - a shot of Derek Jeter diving head-first into Yankees lore, the 1980 USA Hockey Team celebrating a miracle in Lake Placid, Hank Aaron going yard for the 715th time in his career, or a giddy Mark Messier hoisting that elusive cup on Garden ice back in 1994. Others prefer more tangible pieces of history like autographed helmets, jerseys, bats, and baseballs. While some collect pieces representing their favorite players and teams, others find enjoyment putting themed collections together: baseballs signed and inscribed by Hall of Famers, perfect game pitchers, or 3,000 hit/500 home run club members. There are also many people who enjoy taking actual pieces of the game home with them by collecting game used pieces, items used by players during actual game competition. So many different avenues, all leading towards a sports nirvana.

Your Memories Are Authentic, Your Memorabilia Should Be Too!
After establishing that true wealth for collectors is determined by happiness rather than monetary value, it's important to take a look at a very important aspect of the sports collectable industry: authenticity. Collectors often try to save a few dollars by acquiring pieces through third parties or auction websites, a decision that could ultimately affect the way a particular piece makes them feel. How can an autographed piece completely satisfy a collector if there is any doubt, no matter how small that doubt might be, about where it originated from and who actually signed it? It is best to purchase directly from large, reputable memorabilia distributors with an authentication process in place. Companies like Steiner Sports guarantee the authenticity of their hand signed collectables. Each item autographed at a Steiner Sports signing is witnessed by a Steiner Sports representative before being cataloged and inventoried in their corporate offices in New Rochelle, NY. Athletes are asked to sign an affidavit to document the date and location of the signing too. After being examined for quality, a tamper-proof hologram is placed on each item, declaring it 100% real. In addition, each Steiner Sports collectable comes complete with a certificate of authenticity, further guaranteeing its genuineness. With a rigid processes in place, there's no doubt that companies like Steiner Sports take authenticity very seriously. "It's the single most important thing," said Weiss. "I think we take authenticity ten times more seriously than some of our customers do. I start to tell people about the witness and the affidavit and they are already moving onto asking more about the piece itself. We take a lot of pride in putting out credible pieces." The proper research must be conducted before making a purchase. Know which athletes sign exclusively with particular companies. For instance, if collecting Derek Jeter pieces, make sure it's coming directly from Steiner Sports, as he is an exclusive athlete of theirs. Make sure pieces come with certificates of authenticity from a large reputable company and look for any additional form of documentation, such as holograms or stickers on the actual piece. Lastly, don't be afraid to make a call. When unsure about something, call a representative from a company like Steiner Sports. They work in the industry and have excellent insight and knowledge about what pitfalls to avoid and how to get the most out of your collection.

Do It For The Love Of The Game.
"People ask me all the time what my collection is worth," said Meno. "They look at my signed photo of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and say, 'Wow, that has to be worth thousands.' You know what I tell them? It doesn't matter how much money its worth. It's already shown its value to me." It would be naive to think that collectors looking for financial gain don't exist. There are some who collect certain pieces to eventually sell them off for profit. However, there are plenty of other things to invest in. They chose sports memorabilia because a part of them does enjoy the game. Every piece has a unique importance and meaning for the avid sports collector. They represent years of tireless devotion and support, and countless memories that will last a lifetime. Many collectors have dreams of one day passing their prized possessions onto their children, a symbolic way to share the stories of their childhood, and at the same time, leave behind a piece of themselves. While still collecting, many enjoy showing off their pieces to friends and family. However, at the end of the day, if the one doing the collecting isn't happy, what's the point? "I don't do this to please other people," said Mike Stackhouse, Shrewsbury, PA. "I do it because it makes me happy. It's very gratifying for me." There is a lot of pride involved in this hobby. A lot of emotion goes into it, and even more emotion comes out of being involved with it. It can serve as a form of therapy, happiness, and ecstasy - a way to preserve the accomplishments of childhood heroes. To some it is a therapy, to others an escape. Collecting is natural. It's human nature to gather pieces of value. Collecting sports memorabilia isn't just about collecting pieces of value though. It's about happiness. It's about passion. "The world is filled with so much pain and suffering. Sports serve as an escape for many," said Weiss. "Everyone enjoys sports. It's the stories, the statistics, the records, it's the underdog. I mean who didn't want to see George Mason win the [Men's College Basketball] National Title? I think it's that passion that drives people to collect."




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