Gary Cypress holds up his Honus Wagner T206 card, a Holy Grail of baseball memorabilia that some authenticators have graded out to be worth $2.8 million.
“That’s crazy, isn’t it?” he asks, considering how much someone actually thinks the thing is worth.
You may not be able to touch it, but you can see it at the Sports Museum of Los Angeles, which is really a collection of about 10,000-plus sports memorabilia items that Brentwood’s Cypres has put together over the last 25 years and finally arranged to display it to the public.
His SMLA opens the day after Thanksgiving, and we were part of a media-led tour of it the other day that will be the focus of Sunday’s column. We’ll also have a slide show put to music of what staff photographer David Crane captured through his lens (including the shots here of Cypres)
In a word: Astounding. In a few others: There’s some work to do. It could be a little more interactive for the kids. It’s very New York/Boston heavy with items, which may not necessarily have resonance with L.A. sports folk. And it’s not really in the best part of town (but near the Blue Line, across the street from the LA Mart). But those, for now are the only minor constructive criticisms we can come up with. The rest, as they say, is history, for you to enjoy.
Check out the Website (www.sportsmuseumla.com) in the meantime.
“As a collector, it’s not necessarily what’s the most expensive item,” Cypres says. “It could be a million dollar item or 20 dollars, as long as it tells a story.”
L.A. Councilwoman Jan Perry, who helped Cypres get the museum built so that it could upgrade the neighboorhood in an area that has many abandoned or older, delapidated buildings: “I can’t claim to be an avid sports fan, but I’m a fan in the lives of people who’ve achieved so much. To think of the world of Jackie Robinson or Bill Russell and see personal photographs … I don’t know where he found all this stuff.. but I’m happy he was so tenatious with our city bureacy to get it done.”
While it sits at about 32,000 square feet, there’s another 14,000 feet that are in the plans to be added someday. Cypres wants to have it be a place where non-profits can use it for fund-raisers without having to spend all their money on facility rentals. He also wants more room for traveling exhibits.
“What’s my favorite?” he repeats a question about his collection. “Usually the next thing I buy becomes my favorite.”
It harkens back, for some of us who remember such L.A. sports landmarks, to the old Helms Athletic Hall of Fame in Culver City. That collection of trophies and artifacts ended up in a bank building lobby near LAX — Citizen Savings Bank. Which then became First Interstate Bank, and finally, when the Helms Foundation disbanded, all the assets were absorbed by the Amateur Athletic Foundation, which sits over on Adams Blvd., in L.A.
Some links to stories that have been done about Cypres:
==A 2006 L.A. Business Journal story by David Davis, when Cypres was trying to get his collection put together for display (linked here).
==A story by the Professional Sports Authenticator’s David Laurell, which really puts his collection into context with others (linked here)