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Investors, True Fans and Sports Memorabilia

Sep 14, 2008
People collect sports memorabilia for two reasons: they are collectors and view their collections as an investment or they are true fans. Baseball, often called America's game, is a case in point though the same applies to football, basketball and hockey. It applies to all sports equally but let's talk baseball here.

Back in the 1950's, Mickey Mantle was baseball. When Number 7 walked to the plate swinging warm-up bats, everyone watching knew that "The Mick" could save the day for the Yankees once again. On any given day, he was good for a home run. The shy, likeable kid from Oklahoma was carrying on the Yankee legend that started with Babe Ruth and included guys like the "Iron Horse" Lou Gehrig and "Joltin' Joe" DiMaggio.

There were other legends playing at the same time as Mantle as well. The "Say Hey Kid" Willie Mays and Boston's Ted Williams come to mind. But Mickey, wearing his Number 7 uniform, embodied what the game meant to the fans of that era.

To be a part of that legend, to resurrect that feeling of warm summer days and the crack of bats echoing through ballparks, is why true fans love to collect baseball memorabilia. If you're lucky enough to own an autographed Mickey Mantle baseball, it's not just an artifact that sits on your desk.

You may look at it a hundred times a week and 99 times it's just an autographed baseball. But the 100th time, that's when the magic happens. That's when the small red-laced ball evokes what it means to love the game; a love that drives true fans to surround themselves with things that define the game. It's an awesome feeling to stand in the presence of things actually touched or even worn by the greatest players of all times: a Willie Mays' autographed ball, a signed Ted Williams "Splendid Splinter" bat or perhaps an authentic Mickey Mantle autographed Number 7 jersey.

Maybe it's remembering those days through the prism of years gone by that makes it seem like those were simpler times and the game was purer. There was no sense that the stars of yesteryear were playing for any other reason than their love of what they were doing and their desire to be the best. Unlike many of today's players who seem to follow the dollar, most fans never worried that their heroes were going to leave for greener pastures and higher salaries. Mickey was a Yankee, period. Ted was a Red Sox and Willie a Giant. Their loyalty was to the game, their team and their fans. And the fans reciprocated.

There's nothing wrong with collecting memorabilia just for the sake of collecting, of course. There's nothing wrong with wanting a collection to grow in value and produce a return on investment. Investors go down to the local sports store and stand shoulder to shoulder with the true fans. They wander from affordable sports memorabilia to the rare sports collectibles, weighing each item in terms of its value and potential worth.

Truth be told, it's hard to distinguish a collector from a true fan. Both can recite chapter and verse about each player behind a particular piece of memorabilia. They know that Mantle hit 536 home runs during his career, Willie sent 660 balls out of the
park and that Ted Williams hit 531 homers. In fact, because the collectors are weighing investment value, they probably have a greater knowledge of what each piece means in terms of a player's career. There's nothing second rate about collecting baseball memorabilia as an investment. It's a pretty safe bet that the investment will pay off in the hands of a savvy investor.

But it's hard not to wonder if any of the memorabilia they collect ever send them back to the days when Mantle, Mays or Williams strode out to the plate ready to face down the opposing pitcher. When time stood still and the only thing that mattered was whether or not Mickey would do it again. When the fans asked or wanted nothing more than the knowledge that their heroes were giving it their all. When every day was a bright summer day and everything was the way it should be. When fans understood they were in the presence of greatness.

For the collector, an autographed baseball is an investment. For the true fan, an autographed baseball is a window that reveals and preserves what will always be a part of their life and will never be defined by a price tag.
About the Author
Michael Greene is a huge fan of "The Mick" and keeps his Mickey Mantel memorabilia in a glass case under lock and key.
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