If you channel surfed in the wee hours of the morning during the mid or late-1990s, you couldn’t miss him. Sandwiched between shows about jewelry and beauty products on Shop at Home Network was a husky voiced pitchman bellowing about the virtues of rookie cards and signed memorabilia. It felt like even if you hit the mute button on your TV set, he’d still find a way to make you hear him. If it was after midnight, Don West was on the air.
From 1993-2001, West hosted a sports collectibles show on the shopping network, desperate to sell us “gem mint tens” and “limited edition autographs”.
Never mind that the market was in the early stages of contraction. The show was a cult favorite among the coveted young male demographic, some sober and some not, who tuned in just to see some of the off the wall antics and outrageous commentary. Eventually, many of them gave in and bought something. It was a bonus that West wasn’t above taking a “swim” in cardboard when segments went awry.
Shocking as it may have been to those who preferred Goudeys and card shows over Griffey rookies and 800 numbers, the show was a hit. Once bringing in about $3 million per year, the program averaged over $150 million from 1995-2001. During his entire run as host, viewers purchased over $1 billion worth of products.
“To this day people still come up to me and share stories of their late night viewing years ago,” West told Sports Collectors Daily. “TV was different in the 90s. Between 1:00 AM and 6:00 AM all that was on was infomercials. I was something different to watch and I hope somewhat entertaining. I am still flattered and love to hear how I kept them up at night.”
The show was even parodied in a Saturday Night Live skit with Will Ferrell playing West.
Eventually, the heavy schedule required by the network became too much.
“In 2001 I was really burned out as Shop at Home was having me go live four nights a week six to eight hours a night to make up for other shows that weren’t doing well. It was not healthy.”
But it was prolific. Videos of some of the more over the top moments showed up online. Tribute websites were launched by fans who loved the schtick.
After leaving Shop at Home nearly ten years ago, West moved on to sports talk radio and TNA Wrestling where his bigger than life personality fits right in as the announcer and director of merchandise for the show that airs on the Spike TV channel every Thursday night.
Nearly ten years removed from his sports card hawking days, West has also returned to his roots, bringing elements of his old show to a new website, WildWestDeals.com, a venture he launched with business partners in Nashville.
Among other items, West offers bulk buys on sports card boxes and autographed items, while making his pitch via online video. Unlike his cable show, buyers don’t have to call in during a specified time. The segments aren’t live. He’s also branched out a bit.
“Sports, gadgets, comics, coins, movie memorabilia, you name it and I will probably give it a try,” said the 47-year-old Chicago native.
One thing won’t change, though. West uses the same style he always has. “It is just my personality,” he explained. “I am a collector so it was easy to get excited.”