I have spent nearly all of my professional life working in and around sports memorabilia. I have worked in many different capacities, ranging from designing exhibits at a sports museum to authenticating game used equipment for the San Diego Chargers to buying and selling cards and collections.
Along the way, I have been hired at various times to decorate trophy rooms for a handful of major league baseball players. These projects are among the most enjoyable of my career, as they typically involve working with fantastic memorabilia in a beautiful surrounding, with the lone goal to make the room look great. Still, even the most perfect of projects present challenges. In these cases, that problem often has to deal with finding creative and attractive ways to display a lot of memorabilia into a space that perhaps wasn’t designed to hold so much. Along these lines, I have developed a few neat tricks to get the most out of the space available.
BASEBALLS – Most collectors have at least a few baseballs in their collections, while some have hundreds. I came across one such situation back in 2004, when I was setting up a trophy room for former San Diego Padres closer, Trevor Hoffman. Trevor had collected a game ball from each of his saves. By the time I began working on his collection, he had accumulated more than 300 save baseballs, each with notations about the game neatly written on the balls.
Trevor had some nice, arched display areas for his collection, but nothing that was equipped to handle so many balls. What I decided to do was to make these balls a backdrop for all items pertaining to his 300 saves, which was a very significant achievement at that time. We installed 3.5”-deep shelves, that had small cups drilled about every three inches. By stacking the shelves tightly-together, we were able to make space for roughly 400 balls, and the display gave a very interesting backdrop for anything that was placed in front. It just so happened that the Padres had made Trevor a “300 Saves” jersey, so we had it framed and mounted to the front of the ball shelves. The effect was quite spectacular and really helped to convey the true nature of the accomplishment.
BASEBALL BATS – Similar to baseballs, many collectors have a number of bats in their collections. With their long, narrow shape, large quantities of bats can be a challenge to display. One simple solution, which I used in a room for former second baseman Bret Boone, was to build a bat rack that lined bats vertically on the lower half of a wall. Displaying bats in this fashion accomplishes a couple of things.
First, it allows you to handle a very large quantity of bats rather easily and inexpensively. Second, it takes away the lower 1/3 of your wall, which can be a challenging display area. Items hung that low are somewhat awkward as they force the viewer to stoop or get up close to see framed items. By dedicating the lower portion of the wall for bats, you effectively free up the more comfortably-viewed area, while still benefitting from an attractive bat display.
If you want to take this display one step further, a simple shelf can be added slightly above the bat rack to give greater flexibility for displaying non-framed items.
JERSEYS – Autographed or game-used jerseys are often the centerpieces of a memorabilia collection. They are bright, colorful, and often historic – real conversation starters. The only problem is that once framed, they are so darned big!!! My framer and I came up with an inexpensive and attractive solution to this problem, and I have since used it with nearly every one of my projects since. Typically, when you take a jersey to be framed, the framer will cut out a board around which he will mount your jersey. This board can be cut to any size, depending solely on how much of the jersey is to be displayed. Once this board is cut and inserted inside the jersey, the framer will use an acid-free mounting tape or stick pins to hold it firm and in place.
Now instead of taking that mounted jersey and sticking it into a large, and expensive frame, you can simply set it up on a shelf. The jersey is displayed just as it would normally be, just without the frame. The opportunity to display jerseys without taking up about 7.5-square-feet of wall space gives you much more flexibility in your sports room. On a shelf, it can now be used as a colorful backdrop to the other pieces in this area of your display. You get all the bang of displaying your jersey for about $35.
Before closing, I’d just like to remind collectors to be aware of the damage that can be caused by light. Take the extra time and effort to make sure that you have proper lighting in your display areas, and that nothing in your collection is being subjected to direct sunlight or UV rays. Aside from that, be creative, keep collecting, and enjoy your sports rooms!
Todd Tobias is an American Football League author, historian and collector. You can read more about this historic league, and view Todd’s collection of autographed cards on his blog and website, Tales from the American Football League. You can also view more of his display work at www.tobiassportsprojects.com.