Brandon Steiner: king of stuff

By Neil Best

Here is a story I wrote for the Friday newspaper about Brandon Steiner, CEO of Steiner Sports and one of the most innovative, influential figures in the history of sports memorabilia.

Some of his merchandise-creating stunts - many of them involving dirt - rub purists the wrong way, but Steiner said he merely is giving people what they want, often in more affordable packages than old-school memorabilia.

There wasn't room in the newspaper story fully to capture the magnitude, and strangeness, of Steiner's 35,000-square-foot warehouse in New Rochelle, which looks like most warehouses until closer inspection reveals oddities such as home plate from the 2009 ALCS, signed by every Yankee from that championship season.

Eventual price? Not sure. A lot, though.

There are boxes and boxes of signed balls, by everyone from Derek Jeter to Manny Sanguillen.

There are boxes of dirt capsules from stadiums across America.

There is a custom printing area and a custom framing shop.

And that's only the warehouse. Back upstairs Steiner's offices also are a memorabilia museum. Weird but cool: A sidewalk box that sold The National, the late, lamented national sports daily. Inside it is a copy of the final edition.

My favorite item in the place rests downstairs, acquired as part of the ongoing renovation of Madison Square Garden.

It is a goal from Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final, signed by two of the Rangers from that year, with more to come.

Steiner has both goals and is considering cutting the netting from one of them into 1,994 pieces to sell off "so everybody can have a piece of that net.".

What might the one that is intact go for? At least $50,000, probably.

"We figure Mark Messier has to deliver that to the house of whoever buys it," Steiner said. "There's no question it has to be that kind of thing."

More leftover quotes from Steiner:

On what started him in the business: "I had so little as a kid [in Brooklyn]. This is all the stuff I wanted. It drove me. When I was a kid we couldn’t even get a jersey that looked like the thing the player had worn. All we wanted to do was find anything the players wore."

On the experience of going to a game for him now:

"My mind has definitely gone to a lot of weird places and I put a lot of thought into it. When I go to a game in all fairness it’s not a normal experience anymore for me. It hasn’t been for a while. That’s one shortcoming of the job.

"Going to the game now is a challenge and a responsibility, and it’s work. It’s fun work, it’s not something to complain about, but my mind is not at a normal place when I’m at any competitive event at any decent level.

"Even when I’m at a Little League game I’m thinking, 'Wow, that glove 20 years from now [might be of interest]. There are gloves from 30 years ago that are pretty cool looking now."

On those who find some of his merchandising tacky:

"I’m very careful about not doing things that take away from the authentication of the game or the player. I think that’s what separates me from a lot of other people is that I think there is a little class, a little dignity. I’m not in the sewer scrapping."

On providing affordable merchandise:

"Everybody understands the Babe Ruth jersey. You don’t need Brandon Steiner to sell Derek’s 3,000th hit jersey either. But how about the other 50,000 people in the stadium who can’t afford that jersey? I’m thinking about that guy. That’s my guy."

On the value of keepsakes such as pieces of the old Yankee Stadium foul pole:

"Little Johnny 50 years from now when he’s talking to his kids, I don’t know how much it’s going to be worth, but he can say, 'I have a piece of the foul pole from one of the greatest stadiums of all time.'"

On Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit:

"I think it was special. I always try to be careful with him about the individual accomplishments because it’s not something he loves to dwell on. That’s not fake, that’s authentic. We usually back off on a lot of individual accomplishments."

On Jeter's value as in the memorabilia business:

"He’s become a staple in our business. You really can’t be a true collector without collecting him. He’s now got a place that's almost a little Jordan-like from back in the day."

On how much Jeter's 3,000th hit ball would be worth on the open market:

"It goes down as you move away from it. A couple of hundred grand, $150,000 plus. I don’t know how much the kid [Christian Lopez] would have gotten [after paying a sales commission]. He probably would have gotten $150,000, $200,000.

"The kid was up here yesterday all day. We needed him to sign some balls and we had some Hall of Famers here. He got to meet Orlando Cepeda, Jim Bunning, Ralph Kiner."

On controversial ideas such as having O.J. Simpson sign memorabilia in the late 1990s:

"On one hand I have people saying, 'Brandon, you shouldn’t do that.' On the other hand I have people saying, 'Brandon, can you get me that?'"

On Jeter's interest in collecting:

"Derek said he’s not a big collector, but he’s a passive-aggressive saver. He lets his family save a lot of stuff for him. We always have a little bit of collecting in us. I’m just here to enhance that and bring that out again."


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