Q and A with Gary Cypres Part II: A collector and curator in one



Following up on the first part of the interview, we continue with Gary Cypres:

Q: Where there any other museums you could even model it after?
A: No, there weren’t any. I’ve been to Cooperstown, and that’s different, quite dark (in its lighting) honestly. I understand why, being in the art field, knowing about curation and preservation, but to me, when this museum isn’t open every day, we can control the lighting. I knew of the Helms Bakery Sports Museum here before my time, but it never knew what that was, just remnants of that collection. It wasn’t devoted to the teams here, either, just a collection of sports stuff. So without a model, I thought I’d do this myself. I wanted others to help me but I found out most of them knew nothing about sports. So that was a problem. I ended up doing it myself, right, wrong or indifferent. I’m the curator, we make our own stuff, for better or worse, an amateur playing museum curator.

Q: And you’re able to take parts of it around town, to Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.
Yes, we’ve had wonderful relationships with them over the years, even before the current (Dodgers) management spent a significant amount of time and money trying to recapture the historical moments. I think we found out from people visiting here, and the major collection in the Dodger Stadium suite area, there was a sense of enjoyment seeing the old stuff from the fans who could visit it. Over the years, we’ve done Dodger Fan Fests, too. You can’t bring a lot down, but that was 30,000 who attended who could see some of it.

Q: You’ve probably seen some of the things the Dodgers franchise has in their own collection. They’ve considered opening their own Hall of Fame or museum on their property. Is there any working relationship about either you or them buying items that come up in auctions?
No, because I think the Dodgers usually refer things that come up to me. Their view of it, to begin with it, is mostly to duplicate things. As a museum person, duplication isn’t a no-no, but it’s not what it’s supposed to be. For their purposes, I know it was quicker and more efficient to do that. That’s not me. You can have some duplications where nothing exist, but the heart of any museum is the real stuff and people would rather see a real Mitchell and Ness jersey than one recreated. The Dodgers have their view and I have my view. I collect very deeply, anything with the Dodgers from balls to bats to contracts to correspondence, hats, trophies. The Dodgers have put up mostly duplicates, borrowing it a lot from me, of programs and yearbooks, blowing up to show things they’ve won over the years. I have a different purpose and different collecting feel as to what I want and what’s important to me.

Q: Before the Internet, which makes things easier to find and connect with people, how did you network and get started on finding your treasures?
Like anything, start on the lowest end of the totem pole. I would stand in line at a card show for 45 minutes, go around and see everything, met the dealers, wrote to them to get brochures. Now, I can get in with an exhibitor pass. But I’m still making them rich and making me poorer in finances, but richer in memorabilia. I eventually became more well known with my collection, and they call me now basically. They’re all my friends after all these years, talk to them all the time, and I know what’s going on in the industry, what’s coming up for sale, what’s out there, what I’d like and what I really need to finish collections on certain things. You have to figure out what you covet and then who has it. The amazing part of collecting, for awhile, I got a lot of Dodger stuff, and a friend will email me with Dodger things from his collection and wondering if I’d buy it. So it’s, all right, here I go again. It’s like the forbidden fruit. I said enough, but then he’ll say, well I have these, and it’s oh, well … I wanted to relax for awhile. I’m getting old. I have estate issues.  But somehow, maybe it’s a good thing, I get drawn right back into it. It’s like the famous like from “The Godfather.” No matter how much I want to stop and consolidate, something comes up that I treasure and all these logical considerations stop and the collector comes out again – it’s time to add to the collection again. That’s what happens to me. So I’ve decided to concentrate on Dodgers and Yankees from the ‘50s, but then, I just bought Steve Garvey’s MVP trophy from ’74 – why, because it was there. It was nice add to the Dodger collection. So irrespective of my desires to be rational, it doesn’t work really.


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