Would you pay $500 for a small piece of thin card board with a piece of clothe inside of it? What if that small piece of card board was a LeBron James basketball card and the clothe was a piece of his jersey? Then maybe some of you would.
Going into the National Sports Collectors Convention at the Baltimore Convention center on Saturday, I had no idea what to expect. I knew it would be a big event and that there would be a lot of items but as I walked in, I was completely blown away. You are overcome by a series of emotions: awe, overwhelming, excitement, back to awe, back to overwhelming. This goes on for about the whole time you are there.
Sports memorabilia collecting is a very weird business; and that’s exactly what it is, a business. There are people who make a living (and very good livings for that matter) off selling things that have little value other than to sports nuts like myself. Guys walked in there with suitcases full of money and walked out with suitcases full of memorabilia or vice versa.
You could seriously spend a couple weeks at this place and not see everything that is there. But in my day there I saw a bunch of interesting things. The convention is really a microcosm of the sports world.\
One of the most telling signs of this was a display that had game worn jerseys from both LeBron James and Michael Jordan. While Jordan’s was priced more, LeBron’s was only valued at $150 less. Just like in the “who is the greatest basketball player” conversation, LeBron only comes in a little behind Michael.
I also found it quite odd that most of the Baltimore memorabilia was valued less than comparable memorabilia from other cities. Even Ray Lewis signed portraits were a hundred or so dollars less than a DeMarcus Ware signed portrait. Even in the memorabilia world, Baltimore doesn’t get an respect.
It was amazing how many baseball cards were there. Hundreds of thousands of cards probably passed through there that day. Whoever said that the baseball card industry was dying obviously hasn’t been to this event because from what I can see, its thriving.
One thing is for sure though. I never thought I would walk into this sports collectors convention and almost walk out with a signed Taylor Swift record. The amount of celebrity memorabilia and comic books there was really surprising. When I see stuff like this, it annoys me when people say sports and pop culture cant mix. The reality is that they do mix to a certain point. Just look at Grantland.com. They make a living off masterfully mixing sports and pop culture.
One of the cooler things there wasn’t decades old baseball cards, the old bats and gloves, or the game worn jerseys. It was the uncut baseball card sheets. These were just baseball cards that were printed out into a few feet long sheets that were never cut into individual cards. There was something artistic about them, especially the ones that were hand drawn. I myself bought a sheet from the year I was born that included a Manny Ramirez draft card.
I didn’t even participate in the multitude of autograph signings they had there that day. Players ranging from Cal Ripken to Barry Sanders were there to sign whatever you could drag in there…for a price of course. Just to give you an idea, Cal was charging upwards $250 for a signature.
The convention was dominated by baseball memorabilia. This was to be expected because baseball has been around longer; and with any type of collection the older, the more valuable. However, in 30 years I would expect football to be the dominate type of memorabilia. It is the most popular sport now and the merchandise will be pretty valuable down the road. I walked out with a huge Ray Lewis signed picture for a mere $150.
I don’t know where the convention will be held next year but if you are a sports nut it is a must see. You will not be disappointed and you will most likely not walk out empty handed. I know it’s a cliché but there literally is something for everyone. And even if you don’t want to buy anything, the convention is still really cool to attend merely for the history of some of the items. You can find yourself standing a few feet from a 1929 game worn Babe Ruth jersey. That right there is worth the price of admission alone.