Often people ask me how I got started with sport collectibles. My answer is this: it was a few things actually, but it has always been in my blood. One of the first things that got me started was a story from many years ago. It goes back to an old story with my friends in the 1970s.
In the summer of 1971, a few of the guys got together and drove to Hofstra to see the Jets practice. My friend Al drove them there. Al was older- said he played minor league baseball with the Dodgers in the 60's - said Frank Robinson hit a home run off of him - none of that could ever be confirmed!
My friend Robert saw the helmet just lying there unattended so he jumped a fence and took it...it belonged to Bobby Holloman. He and my friend Wayne drove home with the helmet and came to the schoolyard showing it off.
Seeing this helmet had a huge impact on game-used collecting. Game used collectibles are bigger than people just collecting autographs. Every time we would suit up to play, they would bring along the Jets helmet, and it was more amazing than anything we had ever seen before. The detail and quality of this helmet was impeccable. I would never forget this helmet. At the time, you couldn’t even buy a professional helmet or anything that looked like it.
What elevated my interest in athletes signing baseballs and selling them were credit cards. I remember when I got my first credit card and the incredible discounts I received for using a credit card. I thought, “Wow, imagine using credit card points to get a signed baseball.” The idea was genius. So many people would love to have a baseball signed by his or her favorite player – how cool it would be to get an autographed baseball through an offer when you get credit card statement. Yes, back then you would get offers from several companies on credit card statements through the mail. This would be a benefit that credit card companies could offer you that no other company could say they have.
I still remember how unbelievable my first autograph was and I’m sure many of you feel the same way. It was from Thurman Munson. When I first brainstormed this idea, credit cards were only owned by the older generation and they could give the baseballs to their children. When I was younger, I would give an arm for a signed baseball from my favorite athlete. I would envision walking into my office and seeing a piece of memorabilia from my favorite player on my desk. This idea was unique. It is not only important to come up with a good idea, but also to focus on how to improve and monetize the idea.
Now, people ask me how much I think something is worth, but I think the most important thing is how the product makes you feel, not what is it worth. When you’re buying anything outside of necessities (food, clothing, shelter), you should be thinking about how the purchase makes you feel. What gives you great joy?
That’s what collecting is all about. That Jet helmet made Henry feel like he had an edge and look like a professional. We all wanted to wear the helmet and wanted one of our own. I knew from this point forward, if I was able to get the product, it would sell and have a huge demand.