It is not that I am a total wimp, but I do truly hate going to the doctor unless I am really hurting or sick. It is not the shots or the white coats or the smells or any of that. Mostly it is the bills. But, whatever the reason, I just have a great distaste for visiting the practitioners of the Hippocratic oath.
But one doctor made the event a bit more enjoyable.
Along with many others in our contemporary society, I have found myself needing to change doctors every now and again to keep current with the providers covered by my insurance. It is always a hassle and just adds to the distasted I have for the whole doctor visit situation. On one occasion I was referred to a doc who was taking on new patients, and a guy whom a wife of one of my friends recommended. It was a fairly normal and boring visit…until I was ushered into the doctor’s examination room. Framed on the wall was a beautiful Mitchell and Ness 1969 Cubs home jersey of all-time great Ernie Banks. It was framed and signed with the PSA/DNA sticker showing.
It changed the whole complexion of the examining room and that visit to the doctor.
When the physician came into the room and introduced himself, I quickly complimented his nice piece of baseball memorabilia. Immediately he changed from probing doc to proud collector and we began swapping stories of items we had obtained, traded and sold. It was one of the best doctor’s visits I ever had.
Of course, the guy moved his practice out of my network just two months later.
But I was reminded of that Cubbie-loving doc recently when another doctor came into the shop to buy some Triple Threads. As we talked he began admiring some of the nicer framed pieces we have in the store. Then he saw the Mickey Mantle PSA certified, autographed photo matted and framed with a large Yankees patch logo and a reprint rookie card. He asked for a price, and I gave him a good, solid deal.
Very soon I was wrapping the piece in bubble wrap and helping the gentleman out to his car. He reminded me of the doctor mentioned earlier when he stated that he could not decide whether to take the framed Mickey auto home or to place it in his office. As I was telling him the Banks jersey story he told me that he has long had some Topps uncut sheets framed and adorning the walls of his waiting room. They are a hit with his patients young and old.
We then began discussing ways for a collector’s prize possessions to be enjoyed outside of the traditional man cave or closet or basement or whatever. In a world where almost every things seems to be shared (actually, too much is shared in my opinion…does my Twitter account really need the picture of a stranger’s appendectomy scar retweeted?), and in a world where it seems increasingly difficult to express any real form of individuality, a sports collector’s items may well be a decent venue in which to declare and share who they are.
Commercially or professionally this has been done for a long time. If you have ever had the pleasure of dining in one of the restaurants partially owned by a national sports celebrity, it is likely you have seen this adaption of memorabilia.
One of my personal favorites was a trip to Shannon’s Steak House in downtown St. Louis a few years ago. At that time the pillars in the rooms and the walls between dining areas were filled with autographed baseballs behind thick acrylic panels. Some light passed through the gaps between the balls, which provided a classy effect, and the signatures had all been placed where they could be easily read (if the handwriting allowed). Sure, there were plenty of framed items on the walls and behind the bar, but it is the architectural use of the autographed baseballs that really stayed with me. It would be easy to do something similar and on a smaller scale in a family room, an office or what have you. And the collection would be growing beyond the man cave.
Another athlete’s dining establishment that did a good job of displaying artifacts was Don Mattingly’s “23” restaurant in Evansville, Indiana. The restaurant, which took its name from Mattingly’s jersey number with the Yankees, has been closed since 1996, but I can still recall some of the creative use of memorabilia it employed. The entrance to the restaurant featured a replica ticket booth, souvenir stand and contained old World Series programs. Of course, photos of Yankee legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle decorated the halls, as did other baseball greats like Gil Hodges and Jackie Robinson. Throughout the place there were various displays that housed bats of Ty Cobb, Pee Wee Reese and others. Even the Men’s room got into the act with articles of classic ballgames and Mattingly’s diamond exploits framed on the walls and placed where they could be read.
But you don’t have to be a doctor or own a night club or restaurant to get the collection out of the man cave. Not at all. It just takes a little ingenuity (and maybe an understanding wife) to make such things happen.
A teacher friend places a different bobble head on his desk each week of the school year. At times he has covered the player’s name and used a “guess who it is” contest to get his students interacting with him on a level beyond the text books. Another teacher has used parts of her collection that have become either broken or otherwise ready to pass along as parts of assignments in her creative arts class. I recall seeing one really “interesting” piece employing several body parts from assorted Kenner Starting Line-Up figures.
One of my current customers has a small section of the family room where he showcases three or four pieces of his collection on a regular basis. The room also houses his wife’s quilting hobby, and they both have their own spaces, but this “shared” space is one they also share with visitors and allows their individual interests to be displayed as a couple.
Recently we heard from a gentleman who has been purchasing better quality and higher-end pieces featuring the autographs of Hall of Fame players (Satchel Paige, Bill Dickey are a couple of recent buys). He is a very proud and loving father who wants to pass along a love of the grand old game to his boys. Those boys are very young at a this time, and he does not want to “force” them into anything. So, he is using these quality pieces to line the hallways that lead to his sports room from the boys’ room. He figures they will grow up with these pieces being part of their fond memories of home. When the boys are sold enough, he will begin sharing with them the stories behind each of the players represented and, hopefully, pass along his love of the game, and one day the pieces themselves.
One the other end of the financial spectrum I know a man who had a son of about 10 or so who was really getting into baseball and football cards. When the dad tried to share some of his older cards with his son he soon learned how condition conscious the lad had become. He may have picked up the standards from other kids or from some “well-meaning” show dealers. Whatever the case, the kid thought the cards were “cool because they are old,” but not fit for his collection. The dad, understanding but wanting to share his small collection in a meaningful way, got an idea. Upon verifying that the cards did, indeed, have little value, he took them and laid them out on the top of a desk top that he purchased at a garage sale. He then proceeded to cover those cards with some type of a polyurethane (I am not a handy guy, and so I can only report what I remember), and he laid on several coats so that the cards looked as if they were preserved under the finish. Yes, I know some collectors who cringe mightily at such a thought, but that kid thought he had the most awesome desk – and maybe dad – ever.
How do I know? It was the kid who told me the story when I met him on a college campus.
The whole idea of getting the collection out of the cave does not have to based on personal satisfaction alone, either. In fact, some of the best ideas I have come across feature a social aspect of this idea that benefits many people. For instance, most public schools (and many private schools as well) try to bring awareness during Black History Month each February. One enterprising and socially-conscious collector put together a display of cards and memorabilia regarding the Negro Leagues and approached the principal with an offer to display it in one of the school showcases for that month. The idea was such a huge hit that the collector has been invited to come up with other ideas and keep a rotation of his collection going in the display.
Those who are comfortable with speaking will also find very willing audiences among Scout troops, and even in senior citizen homes. On more than one occasion I have been invited to return to retirement homes with pieces of my collection and/or items from my store to share with the residents. They not only love seeing the items, but they often have their own stories to share (and sometimes their own items to display). One of the homes has even asked if I might bring some baseball card packs to sell them so they might given them away as part of the presentation. No problem for me.
One other idea before closing. Many areas have local photography clubs. Some are in high schools, and some are independent with a large age spread involved. You might be surprised to find how excited such clubs will be to receive an invitation to photograph interesting sports pieces and displays. Especially in winter months when outdoors photography is less than desirable for many. As the collector you may choose what and when and where items are displayed, and so there are few risks. And, if you make it part of the offer, you end up with several quality photos of your collection, which is a nice reward.
In fact, there is much to gain from getting our collections out of the man (or women) caves. Be creative, Have fun. Isn’t that what a hobby is all about?