One company is putting a first-person, hand-written story behind a new line of display pieces featuring some all-time NFL greats…with more to come.
Since he first got into the sports memorabilia business in 1998, Kelly Johns has seen about every notable player’s autograph attached to a photo, jersey, mini-helmet or ball. His longevity is testimony to the ever-increasing popularity of momentos attached to the games and players. There comes a time, though, when it all sort of blends together. He thought it might be time for something a little more personal. Something different. Last fall, Memothentic was born.
Johns and his staff has created a new line of display pieces featuring not only a mini replica jersey and autographed photo but something never before done on a large scale before–a copy of a player’s hand-written description of what’s depicted on the image.
"We try to match the memory to the moment," Johns explained to Sports Collectors Daily. "It’s something that has a lot of meaning to it. Not only is it fascinating to read what they were thinking but it is equally amazing that memory is in their own writing. It really becomes a very interesting piece of history."
Thus far, Memothentic has secured licenses with the NFL and some retired players to use photos and reproduce jerseys. 20 players have participated in the first series of Memothentics including Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Barry Sanders with 25-30 new additions possible as negotiations with the players and their representatives continue.
Memothentic asks the players to write what they were thinking the moment the photo was snapped and reproduces those memories with a high resolution scan on a thick, glossy card that when combined with the photo, serve as unique selling points.
"A lot of the pictures we’re using have never been seen before by the general public. We’ve been buying the rights to as many unique photos as we can to make the pieces as special as possible."
“The Warm Up” by Joe Montana is the first Montana Memothentic ever created. The memory is from Super Bowl XIX and it features a rare shot of the young quarterback before the game.
A second Montana piece depicts "The Catch" from the 1981 NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Montana piece measures 32" long by 14" wide. Memothentics kept them to a manageable size by effectively shrink all of the elements of a pro jersey into one including a label, collar and logo. The company also shrinks the players’ script to a workable size.
Memothentic is a California-based company so several of its early pieces focus on established relationships with players like Montana, Rice and former Raider greats like Ted Hendricks. Autographed pieces are limited to a number often coinciding with the player’s jersey or the year of the event. The Montana Super Bowl piece is limited to only 85 signed copies for the year 1985. A Willie Brown autographed Memothentic is one of just 24 produced.
"Our goal is not to limit these to marquee players," Johns said. "We just launched a Rod Martin that shows him raising three fingers in the air for the three interceptions he made to set a Super Bowl record. We did it because we realized it was such a unique accomplishment and the photo was so great, we knew it would be really popular with Raiders fans. And it is. The neat thing is that it’s a way for some of the lesser-known players who didn’t get rich playing pro ball to make royalties off the sale. A jersey featuring some of these older retired guys might not sell very often but something like this will."
Memothentics are framed and matted but the company attempted to keep them affordable. The Hendricks sells for $247 with the photo autographed and $147 unsigned. Superstars like Montana and Sanders are somewhat higher.
"We wanted to keep it affordable for blue collar fans who don’t have a tremendous budget but were looking for something really unique and different," Johns explained.
Previous business relationships with some of the athletes helped move the process forward but getting the players to commit their memories to writing is sometimes challenging.
"It’s a daunting task to get the player to sit down and actually write out what they remember. Some aren’t sure where to start or what to include. Others are just busy. But a lot of the players have really enjoyed seeing these come together. When their own families read what they’ve written, it really becomes personal. They’re a part of the work." The original hand-written player memories are kept in a file at Memothentic’s office.
Johns hopes to expand his new line to Major League Baseball and other sports, maybe even movies.
"I can see us using a still photo from a Star Wars movie with the actor writing down what he’s thinking in that scene or another memory associated with the movie. It’s a concept that really can transcend sports. True memorabilia is about memories and this has memories in it."