The book: “Picker’s Pocket Guide – Baseball Memorabilia: How to Pick Antiques Like a Pro”
The author: Jeff Figler
The vital statistics: Krause Publications, 207 pages, $14.99
Find it: At Amazon.com, at BarnesandNoble.com, at Powells.com
The pitch: I look around this home office space and wonder: How did I end up with all this stuff?
It can’t be worth more in the open market than it is to my own psyche.
Now, I’m comfortably sure of that assessment.
Until this point, I had only curious checks of eBay.com to see what the dollar value might be on some of the things I’ve collected over the years but was considering parting with because of space, lack of fondness, or the desire to maybe “trade up” – getting rid of a few things so I’d have the means to buy something I “really needed” instead.
I’ve had enough discussions with Sports Museum of Los Angeles curator Gary Cypres to know I’m no where near his league as a buyer/collector/investor/historian.
(BTW, the Museum is expected to reopen this month … details to come).
To date, I hadn’t really thought about the benefits of having something like this baseball memorabilia guide until I came across it in a Google search.
The Pickers brand specializes in all kinds of needs for the “hobbyist,” from signs, bottles and other antiques. The “pocket” guide implies you can carry it around with you at some flea market and refer to is when you need some price range. But it really doesn’t work that way.
It’s far more general than specific to our needs, but Figler, who lives in Poway and set up his own “museum” while hosting radio shows about sports collectables, does give everyone a reality check in the opening chapters here.
One, he doesn’t advocate collecting as an investment. Even those who have put down a heap of money for a Honus Wagner card (as he has) won’t see more than a 10-to-15 percent appreciation, “even in a poor economy.” There are always situations where “shocking developments” can turn against you as well. The $3.1 million that Todd McFarlane paid in 1998 for Mark McGwire’s 70th home-run ball – “that ball may be worth a third of that amount” today, Figler thinks.
But he’s used to that.
“Most hope their memorabilia is worth more than it really is, and I usually become the bearer of bad news,” he writes. “More often, I have to tell people that the promotional items given away at a stadium generally aren’t worth much, even if you have several of them. And that includes bobbing head dolls – unless you plan to keep them 50 years with the hope that you’ll have one of a kind. Patience may be a virtue, but in a case like that, patience would be truly overrated.”
So, that Brian Jordan bobblehead of him playing with the Dodgers … we’re OK with letting it go.
Figler tactfully takes the steps in the opening chapters to have people make a list of what they think they want to collect, then let it rest a few days. Go back and see if you still want those things. In essence, don’t impulse buy. It will save you time, money and heartache when you go through online auctions, or happen to come across something at a garage sale you think is a hidden piece of gold.
Figler gives you bidding strategies to take to either large auctions or smaller online dealings.
From there, he breaks down the essential info that you’ll need to determine the value of baseball cards, signed baseballs, game-used equipment, jerseys, bobble heads and statues (“Yes, they’re cuter than kittens .. and display nicely …and easy to move … but inspect it carefully … a cracked doll is worth only about 10 percent of a non-cracked doll”), pennants, pins, board games, jewelry, paintings, posters and other printed material.
We do appreciate all the information, and know to be a little smarter with what we can to keep or move on from here. Especially after reading Chapter 13: “How to Value, Flip and Negotiate Memorabilia.”
All of which brings up the question: In the “printed” category of collectables, what would this guide be worth in 50 years?
More to know:
== Among the “resources” that Figler has in the back of the book, auction companies such as Heritage, Lelands and Sports Collectors LTD are listed. But what isn’t included for some reason is Orange County-based SCP Auctions, headed by David Kohler, whom once had the Kirk Gibson 1988 Dodgers equipment auction and is currently involved in one with Tony Gwynn’s estate. We have used Kohler as a valuable resource in stories we have done on collectables.