Sports collecting has lost one of its earliest devotees with the death of Goodwin Goldfaden. The long-time operator of a sports book and memorabilia shop in southern California, died Sunday at age 97.
Born in Cleveland, Goldfaden and his brother began buying sports publications in the 1920s. He moved west in 1947 and eventually opened Adco Sports Book Exchange in
West Hollywood, which was considered by those who visited to be a mind-boggling storehouse, filled to capacity with floor-to-ceiling shelves full of every imaginable type of sports collectible. He owned millions of vintage cards--multiples of many of the hobby's rarest artifacts. Old enough to have sold Babe Ruth cards for $5 and 1952 Topps sets for $100, in his shop, Goldfaden was dealing long before prices began their upward climb in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Goldfaden's shop wasn't much to look at and he didn't promote it in the traditional sense. He didn't have to. Word of mouth and snail mail between collectors, athletes, coaches and fans had made the his shop on Santa Monica Boulevard well known. Dozens of letters showed up each week, most wanting to buy something. Goldfaden usually had it, and the shop gained even more fame in 1971, when Sports Illustrated did a story on him.
He had a reputation for being a bit cranky, especially with the kids who tried to patronize his shop or show tables when he set up to sell at area shows. To those who shared his extensive knowledge, however, Goldfaden was a treasure trove of more information thanks to having not only seen but handled virtually everything at one time or another.
In 1975, he sold his publication inventory to the University of Notre Dame, which was building what is now the nation's foremost sports research library. A curator and six students flew to L.A. to "load the 56-ton library into 2,300 crates and then onto three 40-foot semi-trailers," according to another SI piece in 1979. He then began buying again, a pattern he practiced more than once.
Goldfaden closed the store in 1978 but kept advertising, especially in the West Coast Peddler, where his ads resulted in huge buys. He operated out of his home and several warehouses, continuing to accumulate items. His ads were still running within the last couple of years.
Organizers of the National Sports Collectors Convention planned to honor him in 1997, when the show was held in Goldfaden's hometown of Cleveland.
Goldfaden is survived by his wife, Frieda; stepson Richard Greenberg; stepdaughter Susan Luboviski; brother-in-law and sister-in-law Henry and Michelle Karlinsky; nieces and nephews Susan and Steven Perin, Bruce Goldfaden, and Lynn and Jeffrey Busch, who thought of their Uncle Goodwin as a second father; four grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; numerous other nieces, great-nieces, great-nephews, and cousins.