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What to Watch for When Collecting Sports Memorabilia

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In the late 1840s, baseball was establishing itself as America's favorite national pass-time. It truly had something for everyone: baseball provided an escape for the working class men and women looking for some wholesome 

Baseball Card Collectors

 entertainment at the end of a long day; for children, baseball was what dreams were made of. Kids of all ages from all walks of life would piece together their own crude games of baseball, earnestly attempting to channel the top players of their day.

Looking to capitalize on baseball's rising popularity, tobacco companies employed a brilliant marketing tactic that would not only increase sales, but make baseball even more popular (which would then increase sales even more). The ploy was simple: include a card with a popular ball player's face on it in every cigar box. Kids and adults alike began collecting these cards, cards signed by the player himself became valuable, and the art of sports memorabilia collecting was born!

If you're a sports fan and have been thinking about starting a sports memorabilia collection of your own, you need to learn the rules of the game. However, in order to be successful, you'll need to avoid some common pitfalls.

Settling for Low Quality

If you want your sports memorabilia collection to be valued beyond the sentimental, then you'll need to establish a certain standard of quality. One of the main reasons for this is because merchandise that's in good condition is much easier to maintain, and pieces in mint condition are less costly to restore, and tend to sell for more anyway.

  • Appraisal: Most sports memorabilia bargains really are too good to be true. Be willing to spent a little more for high-quality goods, and you'll thank yourself later.
  • Maintenance/Storage: More often than not, you'll need to consult a professional for maintenance tips. However, the best policy is usually to store your goods in a safe, dry place, out of direct light, and most importantly LEAVE IT ALONE!
  • Display: Another reason to stick to high-quality goods is because they're easier on the eyes. If you plan to display your collection, make sure you're displaying pieces you can be proud of.

Going over Budget

On the other hand, you certainly don't want to overspend on your collection:

  • Establish a Budget: Research sites for reputable sellers to get a ballpark idea of how much you should be spending, then STICK TO THE BUDGET!
  • Measure Quality against Budget: After establishing your budget, survey the market to see what quality of goods will fit into your budget.

Buying a Fake

No collector wants to buy fake merchandise. The market for counterfeit goods is a multi-million dollar industry, so it's important to recognize the warning signs that you may be buying a fake:

  • Provenance: Authenticity is a supremely important quality of any piece of sports memorabilia. Provenance, or where a piece comes from, must be established before you even consider a buy. Ask for certificates of authenticity, and where the seller procured the piece. The more you can trace a piece back to its original owner the more confident you can be that it is the genuine article.
  • Points of Reference:Autographs, typeface, materials, or any other tangible element of a sports memorabilia piece can be easily replicated. Be sure to either consult an expert, or have other points of reference on hand to protect yourself from buying a fake.

Getting too Emotional

While the quality of the whole sports memorabilia collection is a direct reflection of the collector's passion, and being passionate about collecting is what makes it fun, you should always be aware of your emotions—especially when you're in a negotiation. Sellers and suppliers are looking to make a profit from their goods, so don't be too eager to show your cards and go all in (so to speak). Be patient in the negotiation process, and always be willing to walk out if the price is too high, or the quality is too low.

Collecting sports memorabilia is a tradition that is braided into our culture almost as much as the sports and players they represent. It's also a great way to transmit and preserve what makes this country great to future generations. Do your research, set a budget, be patient, but most of all have fun!

Joseph Carney is a sports fanatic, and loves writing about anything competitive. His degree is in health and wellness, and he also freelances as a personal trainer. Joseph keeps up to date on the latest in sports, health, and fitness.

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