5 and 5, The Oscars edition!

Today we talk with Adam, and discuss his amazing collection of Oscar’s related ephemera!

5 Questions On Your Collection

1. What do you collect?

Tickets and other paper and related materials from the Academy Awards.  Basically, there are several categories of items that I chase after:

–Tickets to the Academy Awards ceremony;

–Tickets to the Board of Governors Ball: the Academy’s official after-show party and has been held every year since the 30th Academy Awards [1958]. These tickets are even more challenging than Oscars tickets because there are fewer of them–not everyone who attends the ceremony is invited;

–Invitations to the ceremony and/or ball.

–Passes: the Academy prints up a wide variety of access passes to allow the working press and show participants backstage access to various parts of the theatre and party.  The pinnacle of pass collecting is the “Academy Official” badges and passes category, which are basically all-access passes and are the rarest, for obvious reasons.

–Paper ephemera: There is actually a wide variety of items that are associated with the Academy Awards.  Members of the Academy receive a ballot to vote their choices, screening schedules, membership cards, and all sorts of solicitations from studios.  There are also a wide variety of decorative and collectible ephemeral items like ticket envelopes, auto passes, and so on.

–Programs: I have actually stopped collecting the more recent ones because they are no longer limited to attendees but can be purchased from the Academy directly, hence are not rare.  Older programs are quite a challenge to locate.  There are also menus from the various Board of Governors Ball events that are very difficult to find and present a nice challenge for a collector.

2. Why do you collect this?

I backed into it, really.  For about a decade when I was a teenager my father’s company was the outside public relations agency for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. My father, who was president of the company, sat on the Academy’s Public Relations committee and he and my mother had to attend the Oscars every year as a business thing.  Big sacrifice, right?  They would bring home tickets to the show and the Board of Governors Ball afterwards, programs [some of which had his name in them], backstage passes, and swag bags of goodies given away to attendees at the Ball.  I more or less was gifted with a collection and I was just enough of a packrat to keep nearly everything.  Even so, I wish I’d been more diligent about saving some of the “swag” items, like the candies shaped as the Oscar, as they have now become quite scarce and coveted collectibles.  In my defense, they did taste good.

Owing to my father’s involvement in the show I have always been a big fan of the Oscars.  I get excited every year.  I’d guess that I am the only straight man in the world who is not in the movie business and who actually watches all of the pre-shows and the full Oscars show every year.  I am often the only male in the room in an Oscars viewing party.  One of the great things about collecting Oscars stuff is that there is a new batch of items every year to chase after.  The weeks following the Oscars are very busy Ebay time for me.

3. Is it displayed? 

Not really.  A few of the items are displayed at my office but most are not.  I am not big into displaying items.  I tend to enjoy flat items like tickets stored in orderly albums that I can sit down and peruse at my leisure.

4. Do you have a “Holy Grail” or “White Whale?”

I think every collector has wish list items and realistic items.  The “best” wish list item an Oscars memorabilia collector could ever hope to own is an Oscar statuette.  Even with tremendous financial resources–which I do not have–the odds of owning one are infinitesimal.  All Oscars issued after 1950 are accompanied by a contract that requires the winner or his/her heirs to sell it back to the Academy for a buck if it ever to be offered for sale.  That came to light in a lawsuit filed against the daughter of Orson Welles, who wanted to sell her father’s statuette and was sued by the Academy [which lost because the statuette involved was a pre-1950 version].  Consequently, any Oscar that hits the market legitimately is a pre-1950 statuette.  Also, it appears that Steven Spielberg has undertaken to buy back Oscars on behalf of the Academy, so the prices they realize have escalated to the point where it is unreasonable to hope for one.  A sale in 2012 of a dozen statuettes went over $3 million.

I would happily settle for a “genuine” replica, which I will explain.  There was one Academy-sanctioned Oscar replica, a mini-Oscar made as a swag item for the 11th Academy Awards that was placed at each attendee’s place setting at the banquet tables [the Oscars at that time were dinner-dances held at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, not theatrical shows–that changed only after radio broadcasts of the show became popular].  When the mini-Oscars surface, they sell for thousands but there are no contractual restrictions on trading in them and several hundred were made, so obtaining one is a realistic hope.  Another replica was made by Paramount in 1935 to commemorate its first Oscar win but it is not clear that it was sanctioned by the Academy.  I’d take one of those too.

Barring an Oscar or one of the “genuine” replicas, my realistic want list is for any Academy Awards ceremony ticket that predates the end of World War II.  According to the Academy’s library, which I contacted for help with setting my collecting goals, there may have been tickets issued as far back as the early ceremonies, though no collectors I know have ever seen any and none are known in the public realm.  The earliest known ticket at present is from the 16th Academy Awards held in 1944 as an informal event at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood [I suspect it was informal in deference to the war].

5. Any great stories or experiences as you’ve collected this?

Two come to mind:

When I was in college my father called me shortly before a spring break and told me that I was working over the holiday at his office clearing out old file cabinets and moving furniture.  When I got there and started working I realized that what I was clearing was decades of files relating to the Academy Awards shows.  As a collector I instantly understood the value and significance of the materials I was supposed to trash.  I asked if I could keep any of the items destined for the trash and was given the OK, and I ended up going home with an entire carload of thousands of items: programs, posters, passes, invitations, buttons, backstage materials, pictures, etc.  I even got two of the “envelopes” from the awards shows themselves.  I parlayed that find into a business selling movie memorabilia at Hollywood collectibles shows, which I ran until about 1994.  My only regret is that I was not able to take everything and carefully sort it out at my leisure, as I am certain that I missed some great items.  I know for sure that I stupidly threw away stacks of response cards that were the RSVPs that the Academy members sent back to reserve tickets.  Many of them of course would have been filled out by actors, directors and other notables.  I’ve seen such items sell for quite a bit, so who knows how many great items I trashed that day.

My other story comes from when I was doing Hollywood memorabilia shows.  A customer put me in contact with the heir to the estate of Dory Schary, who you may recall from his cameo in one of the I Love Lucy episodes that was set in Hollywood.  Isadore “Dory” Schary was the head of production and later president of MGM.  He was also a packrat of the first order.  His house in West Hollywood was crammed to the rafters with movie memorabilia, and we are talking some of the greatest items imaginable.  I was give the lead because he had some Academy Awards materials he was interested in selling.

I met with the heir at Schary’s old house.  To set the stage, when I walked into the home into the living room, an entire wall was covered in caricatures of Joan Crawford–who had been a personal friend–done by every major caricaturist and cartoonist of the era.  The bookshelves were filled with signed books on Hollywood, all gifts to Schary.  The walls were covered with large format signed photos of MGM stars.  I recall a 16 x 20 black and white fully inscribed photo of Fred Astaire that was tucked away in one hallway corner, for example.  It was a museum-quality piece.  There were tens of thousands of items of incalculable value falling out of every drawer and cabinet.  In the attic, he had a glass negative archive of MGM behind the scenes materials, including what he said were Samuel Goldwyn’s personal photos.  An artists’ portfolio he produced from a closet contained the original artwork that was used to make the lobby cards for Gone With The Wind.  It was mind-blowing.

The Oscars material I was there to look at wasn’t extraordinary, especially as compared to the museum of Hollywood treasures I’d been shown, just a stack of paper ephemera–ballots, screening schedules, etc.–but did include a couple of Schary’s Academy membership cards.  I bought it all without really going through it.  The surprise was when I went home.  I opened a fold-out poster-sized screening schedule and out tumbled a pair of unused tickets to the 45th Academy Awards!

5 Questions On Collecting

1. How do you acquire your material? Auctions? Trades? Dealers? Shows?

It varies.  Mostly I acquire things through Ebay and auction houses because as a professional and family man I simply don’t have the time I would like to go antique and thrift store hopping.  That said, when it comes to Oscars stuff, one of the great things about living in Los Angeles is that it all took place right here, which means that items that were handed out at the Oscars and anything salvaged from the trash typically went to Los Angeles residents, and the best odds of finding something Oscars-related at random would be around Los Angeles.  I always ask about movie memorabilia at any antique store I visit in town.  I once walked into a junk store near my office in Burbank, asked the owner if he had any Oscars memorabilia, and he pulled out a pair of programs to the 50th Academy Awards ceremony which I purchased for a few bucks.  I’ve had really nice items pop up in local antique and thrift stores, at paper collectibles shows, and even at sports memorabilia shows.

2. Do you have any collecting philosophies? Strategies?

Rarity, rarity, rarity.  I try to collect items that are genuinely and objectively scarce.  And there is nothing like talking to a non-collector who shares an interest in something, like the Academy Awards, and being able to pull out a ticket from the actual Oscars show where their favorite movie won the Best Picture award.  That “holy crap” moment is immensely satisfying for any collector.  If something is mainstream or commonplace but I want to have it, I try to obtain it as cheaply as possible and I patiently wait for a good deal.

I do not believe in the concept of “condition rarity” where the value of an item is dictated not by scarcity but by its condition relative to similar items.  There are inevitably finds of better conditioned items that kill the value of condition rarities.

3. What’s your favorite/least favorite part of collecting?

My favorite part of any collecting is the camaraderie I share with fellow collectors.  Most of my friends are “hobby friends” who share the same defective collecting gene that I have.

I am also an organizer and researcher by nature and habit, so delving into the history of an item and unraveling the backstory is often the most fun.  I have been fortunate enough to have fallen into collecting niches [Academy Awards, boxing cards www.americasgreatboxingcards.com] that are not well-documented and that have allowed me to both accumulate extraordinary items at price levels with which I am comfortable as well as to research and publish information that was lost or unknown.  I have several articles and books on card collecting to my credit.

Another thing I enjoy immensely is the entrepreneurial buzz of finding an item, understanding its significance and value, and flipping it for a big profit.  I have had my own business for nearly two decades where I make my living but I get more of a kick out of finding an item worth a few hundred dollars in a junk box at a flea market than I do out of making many times that at my trade.

The thing I like the least about collecting is when the collectible field in which I am engaged hits a tipping point where prices rise to levels that mean I cannot realistically hope to own the items I want.  Although I remain active to some extent, I gravitated away from primarily collecting pre-war baseball cards over the last 10-15 years because the influx of collectors whose day jobs are in financial services and investing pushed the prices on the cards so high that I could no longer hope to complete many card sets.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not begrudging those wealthier collectors their passions–we are all the same brand of nerd when you come right down to it–but it is frustrating to me as a collector when I cannot put together the collection that I want to have.  For example, when I started out collecting in the late 1970s, the T206 Honus Wagner baseball card, which is the most valuable card, was available for several thousand dollars.  A decade later, my first job out of law school in 1990 paid me $48,000 a year and although the Wagner card had increased tremendously, I could have hoped with some thrift and time to save enough money to buy one.  Now, with all but the most destroyed versions of the card selling for more than my house does, I cannot delude myself into believing I could ever own one.  That sort of inflation has spread through the baseball card market.  As a result, there are more and more cards carrying four, five and even six figure price tags, and I am simply priced out of more and more of the cards I want.  As a collector knowing that I cannot hope to own so many items is a real bummer.

The Oscars memorabilia field is one where I am able to realistically compete for anything short of an Oscar statuette.  The problem of course is finding the materials in the first place.  I have literally been collecting Academy Awards tickets for 30 years and I am still far from a complete run.

4. Did you collect anything as a child?

Brother, did I ever!  Sports cards, rocks and fossils, even bugs.  In my view, collectors are born, not made.  My daughter is not a collector and neither is my wife. I’ve given my daughter cards in fields she loves [like dance or movies] but it doesn’t spur her to collect.  They treat my collecting bug as a mild form of social disability or mental illness.

5. Any advice on collecting? 


Learn before you leap.  As Gordon Gekko said in Wall Street, the most valuable commodity of all is information.  There is a lot of great information out there on virtually anything you could choose to collect, but you have to do your homework.  Knowing what I am looking at has saved me from making bad purchases to be sure but more importantly, it has helped me to identify and pick up extremely rare items that I might have otherwise missed.  In any collecting field ignorance is not bliss.

Be nice to people.  It is such a simple, obvious thing, but so many people get so wound up in their own heads that they forget that collecting is often a networking game.  Even if you get taken advantage of occasionally, keep doing it for selfish reasons.  You never know who knows who and what they might be able to send your way, and it only takes one lead to make the score of a lifetime.  When I was setting up and dealing Academy Awards memorabilia at Hollywood collectibles show I made the acquaintance of a retired reporter who had a few items, pretty decent, that he wanted to sell.  I purchased the items for a fair price but I also spent the time to be nice to him because I could see that he was older and a bit lonely.  After several shows he mentioned that he knew the heir to the Dory Schary estate that I mentioned above and put me in contact with him.  Had I been brusque or rude with the reporter I’d never have gotten to see that estate.


Wow, Adam! Some really great information there, and I really enjoyed your in-depth answers. Thanks so much for sharing your collecting with us!

I’d show photos, but Adam has plenty available on his website, so you should definitely check them all out! Also, if you have any interest in boxing cards, check out his link provided above! Great information!

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5 and 5, Game-used bats

Today we check in with Tom, a collector of New York Yankees game-used bats! Let’s check out his responses to the “5 and 5” questions!

5 Questions On Your Collection

1. What do you collect?

I collect lots of things: baseball cards, casino chips, hundred year old dollar bills, old bottles.  Basically I’ve always been a collector ever since I was a kid.  Right now a big part of my collection is game used baseball bats.  I’m a Yankees fan and I’m collecting bats of Yankee players from their amazing World Series winning team from 1998.

2. Why do you collect this?

That Yankee team has connected me so many times with other people.  I was down on baseball after the strike in 1994.  I had gone to games all the time, but after the strike I stopped.  I didn’t come back to baseball until the Yankees World Series win in 1996, but I didn’t get back to a game until 1998.  That year I forged a friendship with an older guy named Lou that grew up in Brooklyn back when the Dodgers were there.  He told me stories about growing up in NY when Joe DiMaggio was the toast of the city and even though Lou lived in Brooklyn, he was a fan of the Yankee Clipper.  It was that friendship that made me realize that baseball was about connecting with other people as much as it is a sport.

Flash forward to the 2010 National Sports Card Convention in Baltimore and I’m walking the floor with my great friend Ted.  We come across a dealer with a Bernie Williams bat.  I always wanted a game used bat, so Ted bargained with the dealer and I had an awesome bat.  The next thing I know I’m collecting the entire 1998 Yankees team, and every time I get a new bat I share it with Ted.

I like to think that the 1998 Yankees, while a great team, have played a part in my life in connecting with some friends over the years and I’ve come to realize the power of sports in that way.  Just last night I spent an hour showing my bat collection to my friend Eric.  We became friends at age 6.  He moved to San Diego about 20 years ago, but we’ve always been in touch.  Last night was his first visit to my place, and he took each bat I have and gave it a swing and we had a great time just bullshitting.

3. Is it displayed?

Right now display is not the right word.  They are standing up in a corner in my bedroom, but Eric lined them all up last night in an impromptu display.

4. Do you have a “Holy Grail” or “White Whale?” 

For my bat collection it’s hard to say White Whale, since these bats are so modern, but right now I would love to find a Mariano Rivera gamer.  He’s the best relief pitcher in the history of the game and seems like such a great humble guy.  Since pitchers hit so little, finding a gamer of Mariano seems like a White Whale.

5. Any great stories or experiences as you’ve collected this?

When I take a look back, I realize more great stories are coming.  That’s one of the awesome things about collecting.

5 Questions On Collecting

1. How do you acquire your material? Auctions? Trades? Dealers? Shows?

I acquire my bats through auctions and private sales with collectors and dealers.

2. Do you have any collecting philosophies? Strategies?

My strategy is to acquire bats that I know I will enjoy.  I know I like to pick up a bat and swing it, so if it is cracked to the point where I can’t swing it, I skip it.  So I always ask the question.  Bats are so personalized by the players that I never know what I’ll find, so I keep an open mind.  Finally, if I’m going to buy something that is more than a couple of hundred bucks, I try to make sure I know the source, just so I’m comfortable with my purchase.

3. What’s your favorite/least favorite part of collecting?

My favorite part is sharing my collection with someone that really enjoys it like I do.  My least favorite part is hearing about people taking advantage of collectors by selling fake stuff.

4. Did you collect anything as a child?

I collected coins and baseball cards (really all kinds of cards) and I still have them today.  Along with that, I’ve saved pretty much every ticket stub for sports events, concerts, and plays since my dad took me to my first big league baseball game when I was 9.

5. Any advice on collecting?

Try not to spend more money than you can afford.  I’ve found as much fun collecting things that are free as things that cost lots of money.
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Thanks, Tom! Really a great collection. I think it’s a great idea to collect something associated with a great memory. As an Angels  fan, I once put together a signed ball from every player/coach on the 2002 World Series Champion team! It’s a lot of fun!


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The Heritage Meteorites Auction

The catalog for the Meteorite auction held by Heritage arrived recently, and it’s a wonder to behold!

Not only does it contain some truly rare and beautiful meteorite specimens, it also is extremely useful as a resource. The first few pages have a great “Introduction to Meteorites” and a really nicely done glossery. While I shared some essential definitions, Heritage has gone and defined terms like “astrobleme” and “cosmic ray exposure age.” I’ll definitely be keeping this catalog for future reference. I think we should see this in more catalogs. So many terms are thrown about when going through a catalog. It’s nice having a reference.

While they have gone a bit overboard with the titles (some of my favorites include lot 49007: the meteorite that discovered Earth” and 49012 “The urgently hoped for cure dispatched by God!”), the write-ups are nicely done. I’ve always believed one of the best ways to learn new information about collectables is to read through the auction catalogs.

Probably the most famous example of an American meteorite is the Canyon Diablo. Found near Winslow, Arizona, these meteorites are highly collected. They can be extremely artful, and indeed, are often purchased by interior designers.

A very cool looking example is lot number 49017, the “Wishbone from The Devil’s Canyon!”

That’s a very striking meteorite! Distinctive! But it’s important to note! This meteorite is only 33 by 32 by 12mm in size! That’s 1.33 by 1.25 by .5 inches! TINY! Estimate? $800-1000.

I’ve learned that when I’m going through a natural history catalog, I MUST have my measuring tape with me. So many of the examples really are small (often called “thumbnail specimens) and you need to understand the size. There’s very rarely context in the photos provided.

Another cool piece is lot number 49027 (Imilac). This large piece (9.5 by 8 x 5 inches)  is really striking, with the polished side showing the incredible space gems. The other side . . . completely different. Earthy, not showing a hint of what is inside.

I really like lot number 49034: Valera Meteorite. It looks so small (2 x 2 inch slice) and unassuming.

Who would have ever guessed that this slice is from the only meteorite to cause a fatality? In 1972, farmhands in Trujullo, Mexico awoke to find a large, unusual rock next to a cow’s body. If you want a story to accompany your display, that’s a great one!

For those of you who wish for the moon, here’s your chance. Lot 49049 is the “fourth largest piece of the moon”, and the largest ever offered at auction! The estimate is $340,00-380,00!!! For that, you’ll win two slices, totaling almost 4 pounds.

Less than 0.1% of all meteorites recovered are lunar in origin, with only 150 pounds known to exist! Amazingly enough, no lunar meteorites have ever been found in Europe or America.

Here’s an auction title you don’t see every day, “Herbie Hancock and the Meteorite From Mars!” Owned by musician Herbie Hancock, this small Martian meteorite is being auctioned to support the Thelonius Monk Foundation. It’s small (.66. by .5 x .5 inches), but it how many other meteorites can claim they were “concert-used”? Martian meteorites are rarer than lunar ones.

Finally, what I think is the coolest meteorite in the auction! Lot #49091. It’s not a specimen, it’s a table!

It’s large (for a meteorite), measuring in at 36 by 23 by .5 inches. It’s probably not enough for a desk, but it would be a very impressive piece up on the wall. Plus, it looks great, similar to brain coral or brain agate! It could be yours for the estimate of $110,000-$140,000.

It’s an impressive catalog, showcasing some truly impressive specimens, as well as being highly informative. If you’re interested in meteorites, I suggest getting a catalog. You’ll really learn a lot, and maybe find the one piece you can’t live without – the one that starts your collection!

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5 and 5 Baseball books

It’s time for another “5 and 5.” I think this could become a regular Friday event. This time, we talk to Max, a Canadian collector.

5 Questions On Your Collection

1. What do you collect?

My collecting focus is on pre-1970 baseball books, both fiction and non-fiction.  As well, I have a strong interest in early Western Canada baseball ephemera.

2. Why do you collect this?

As a child, I had a strong interest in baseball ever since I answered the advertisement for Strat-O-Matic baseball in the back of a comic back (It was either that, or the ad for the amazing sea monkeys).  My first contact with baseball books was thus not as a collector, but in purchasing The Sporting News “Batting and Earned Run Averages at a Glance” and “Ready Reckoner” so I could compute averages for my leagues.  However, the old-timer Strat-O-Matic cards did inspire an interest in the history of baseball.  As a twelve year old, I recall reading Harold Seymour’s first two volumes on the history of baseball, and being amazed by the rich fabric of the game.  The other book that was even more enthralling was Robert Peterson’s Only the Ball Was White, the first modern history of the Negro Leagues.  As a young boy in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, it was an eye-opener, especially since I only had to that point a vague understanding of Jackie Robinson and what he had accomplished.  Finally, I remember the amazing feeling of opening Macmillan’s Baseball Encyclopaedia for the first time in my high school library, and finding full details of the statistics of years long gone by, and for the years of those stars where they did not have a Strat-O-Matic card.

As a youth, I didn’t really collect baseball books, other than to buy a few titles that were of interest.  The bookshelves were filled with successive editions of the Macmillan encyclopaedia and Total Baseball.  In the 1980s, Bill James and the Elias Baseball Analyst were purchased.

My collecting interest was spurred around 1990 by a discovery of an old fiction title on the shelves at my in-laws in rural Nova Scotia.  It was a copy of The Grip of the Game by Burt Standish, whoever he was.  There was no dust jacket, but it had a gripping notation that it was part of “The Big League Series”.  After that trip and a return to Vancouver, we were on a holiday in Oregon.  We were in a used book store, and I was gently meandering through the baseball section of the store.  The owner noted my interest and asked if I was on the mailing list for Bobby Plapinger’s Baseball Books.  He passed my the catalogue and I was amazed by the seemingly endless list of titles, and more impressively, the listings of a number of books from before World War II.  I spent a number of hours with the catalogue and then ordered a couple of titles.  I don’t recall exactly what I ordered, but I do know that I began to correspond with Bobby by mail and phone and he greatly assisted me in the transition from a raw collector to a somewhat seasoned one.

From that point, on every holiday and spare moment on a business trip, I made the point of searching every used book store in the area, and the collection grew.  Unlike a number of baseball book collectors, I collect both fiction and non-fiction.

As for the Western Canada focus, we live in Vancouver, British Columbia and I’m from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  As such, I’ve developed an interest in all types of baseball ephemera from Western Canada.  Vancouver in particular has had a number of baseball card sets including Obaks, Vancouver Senior Amateur Peanut Cards of the 1930s, Vancouver Capilanos Popcorn cards of the 1950’s and finally Chevron Vancouver Mounties cards of the 1960s.

3. Is it displayed?

The books are on display.   Unlike cards, books take up a tremendous amount of space to display.  I have one room dedicated to books, and the basement seems to be filled up with books as well.

4. Do you have a “Holy Grail” or “White Whale?”

There are perhaps two.  As book collectors know, much of the value in early 20th century looks lies in the dust jacket.  Most early readers discarded the jackets, and this means that for most early titles, you will see many copies before finding one in dust jacket.  In over twenty years of collecting, there are two books which should have dust jackets but I have never seen them.  They are Christy Mathewson’s Won in the Ninth and Frank Chance’s The Bride and the Pennant.  The absence of a Mathewson jacket is particularly perplexing, because it is a relatively common book to find without a jacket.

5. Any great stories or experiences as you’ve collected this?

There are numerous stories of bargain purchases along the way, followed by an equal number of over-payments.  One story that stands out was when I was buying a book.  Like many books, it had a gift inscription in it.  This inscription read something like “Happy birthday, Johnny from Grammpa.  There’s something in this book that I’m sure you’ll enjoy”.  Aside from the inscription, the book was in fine condition, appearing unread.  As I approached to pay for the book, I opened it up and noted there was a crisp $5 bill inside.  When I showed this to the bookseller, he laughed so hard and said if he was just as stupid as Johnny to never open up the book, the $5 was mine to keep–with the purchase.

5 Questions On Collecting

1. How do you acquire your material? Auctions? Trades? Dealers? Shows?

In the early days of my collecting, used bookstores and antique stores were a tremendous source, but required much leg work. With the internet and such sites as ABEbooks and ebay, almost all my buying is now done that way.

2. Do you have any collecting philosophies? Strategies?

In any area of collecting, it is important to purchase what you like.  If you’re looking to collect baseball books as an investment, it has not been a great decision in the last twenty years.  As with many areas, the internet has made certain titles plentiful which were once thought difficult to find, and has caused a reduction in those prices.

3. What’s your favorite/least favorite part of collecting?

My favorite part of collecting is finding a new dust jacket or a new title which I haven’t seen before.  While many people ask me whether I’ve read all the books I collect (I haven’t), the main reason for collecting is the aesthetics of the book.  As well, I’m met a few good friends along the way and those friendships transcend collecting.

I’m not sure there is a least favorite part, except perhaps having to deal with all the duplicate titles I’ve acquired along the way through up-grading my collection.  As well, the set of baseball book collectors is decidedly small, and it would be nice if there were more new collectors entering the scene.

4. Did you collect anything as a child?

Not really.  I bought a few hockey and baseball cards, and my mother didn’t throw them out. The only card that is missing is my Bobby Orr rookie card, which as an eight year old Montreal Canadiens fan, I proudly improved with devil horns, rimmed glasses and a goatee added to Mr. Orr.

5. Any advice on collecting?

Make sure you have an understanding spouse and collect to enjoy.

This is Max’s understanding wife Jennifer, in front of the original artwork for the book The Speed Boy (Shown below). Max notes that, if he did not already have this artwork, it would be his holy grail. Also, Jennifer is an amazing artist, and has some some amazing sports pieces.

Thanks, Max. Incredible collection.

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Playing with a full deck!

As a kid, I grew up fascinated by magic. It was amazing what magicians could do . . . and at the heart of it all were those decks of cards. Blue and red bicycle decks being fanned out, flourished, and appearing/disappearing at will!

I think we’ve all seen those decks. You can buy cases of them at Costco! Recently, I’ve been enjoying a website called Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a way of funding projects. You see a ton of people wanting money to fund movies, music, and small-business startups. While those are fascinating to read, I have really focused on those projects involving custom decks of playing cards.

It works like this. A designer comes up with an idea for a great deck. Once they determine how much money they need to fund the project, they go to Kickstarter and create a webpage. To get people to fund their project, they offer rewards. Obviously, the higher the donation, the more you get in return. I generally fund between $20 and $30 dollars, just wanting a few of the custom decks. Higher rewards can include uncut sheets, some original artwork, helping influence the design of certain cards, or, if you’re a retailer, large numbers of decks for resale. (Note, payments are done through Amazon.com).

I though I’d show off some of the projects I’ve supported. Some are still in the funding stage.

One of my most recently supported projects is the Vanda deck. Not only is the deck visually appealing, innovative, and printed to high standards, it has a really distinctive “rotationally-symmentrical” design for the pips. Very cool cooling. It comes in two editions, with the GOLDEN edition being limited.

Another really cool ongoing deck is the “Cthulu” deck, based on the HP Lovecraft character. Again, each card is custom-designed, and the court cards are spectacular. Much like the previous deck, it comes in two editions (green and red, with the green being limited).

One last ongoing project is the Ritual Deck. This deck, inspired “by the true origins of magic,” is just beautiful, with a really striking red and black backs, as well as an embossed box. I really like the soft black designs on the faces. I’ve not seen that before.

This next deck, the Quicksilver, finished funding with over $50,000, making it the highest funded deck in Kickstarter history. I really liked this deck, with its shades of blue and silver. The blue really pops, and the silver is printed with metallic ink!

Speaking of blue, the artwork on this next deck is beautiful. Blue Bloods. Of all the decks shown, these are the most classic, in my opinion. The look is distinctive, with some serious thought put into the personalities of each particular suit.

The last deck I want to look at today is one of my favorites . . . the Spectrum deck! This extremely colorful deck looks just like a normal Bicycle deck, except that each back is different. Perfect for magicians, this deck is great for flourishes and spreads. More than any other deck I’ve received from Kickstarter, it gets a great reaction when shared.

It really is amazing how many different decks of cards are available. It seems like every hotel chain, airline, sports team, or city has their own design. Kickstarter gives us a great opportunity to collect well-designed, high-quality, and truly artistic decks at a reasonable price. I usually get three decks. I like to have one signed by the designer, I keep one sealed, and one I open. It’s a deck! I want to play with it!

It certainly makes me want to design my own deck! What would you design?

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5 and 5

This blog post is (I hope) the first of many in a series I call “5 and 5,” in which I ask collectors 5 questions about their collection, and 5 more questions on the concept of collecting.

I chose to start with my friend Anthony, because I think his collection of unopened packs of baseball cards is amazing.. Also, I chose to start with him because he said “Yes”! So, here we go.

5 Questions on Your Collection

1. What do you collect? Unopened wax packs of baseball cards. I also collect cards, baseball display pieces, vintage California surfing material, African art work, and stamps in my passport.

2. Why do you collect this?  It started with the nostalgia of holding a 1970 pack, the first ones I opened as a 9 year old. From there I found an appreciation of the graphics of each year, which are so indicative of the period. The rarity of finding something that old unopened intrigued me, as did the mystique of what lay inside. And as I expanded that run of packs to earlier issues, the thrill of the chase. Some of the ones from the ’50’s and earlier are incredibly tough to find.

3. Is it displayed? No, it used to be. Now it resides in a safety deposit box. Concerns about light degradation and theft caused me to put it in a safe, dark place, but I do bring them out a few times a year.

4. Is there a “white whale?”  There has been, and continues to be. My first goal was every Topps nickel (’69 and before) or dime (’70 on, and going up as inflation really took hold in the mid ’70’s). Finally achieved that a few years ago, with the addition of the impossibly tough ’56 and ’58 packs. At this point I’m chasing packs that may or may not exist- I won’t know until I see it.

5. Any great stories as you collected this? Not really, just a slow plod to completion, meeting a lot of great people along the way.

5 Questions on Collecting

1. How do you acquire your material? Auctions? Trades? Dealers? Shows?  All of the above. Fraud is a bit issue in collecting packs- it doesn’t take much to fake a pack: a wrapper, a piece of gum, and a stack of cards. So it’s important to know what you’re buying and from whom. There is basically one dealer that can be trusted, and a small network of collectors.

2. Do you have any collecting philosophies/strategies?  Just the basic ones- if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t rely on “experts” to legitimize an item, but use it as one part of your research. Learn everything you can about a subject and talk to anyone willing to teach. And research past history to see what has been offered and how often it tends to come up. A lot of times another item will come along, but every once in a while that one of a kind item will be offered and you need to recognize the difference.

3. What’s your favorite/least favorite part of collecting? Favorite part is seeing something I haven’t seen before, even if I’m not able to add it to my collection. Least favorite is the quick buck middlemen and scammers. Fortunately those are few and far between.

4. Did you collect something as a child? Baseball cards, for a few years. A check list of beaches I’ve surfed a bit later.

5.       Any advice on collecting?  Enjoy what you collect, and collect what you enjoy.

Thanks so much, Anthony! What a stunning collection. I think you’re right in that the graphics are indictative of the period. I always thought a great art exhibit would be “The Art of the Pack.” You can really tell the era by the colors and artwork!


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Need a car?

A recent article on nbcnews.com asked readers to vote on their their favorite car from a movie or television show.

Here’s a link to the article.

As you can see, the options are:

  1. The Trans-Am from Smokey and the Bandit
  2. The Gran Torino from Starsky and Hutch
  3. Herbie the Love Bug
  4. The Batmobile
  5. The General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard
  6. The gold Firebird from The Rockford Files
  7. Other

I feel that, given those options, I’d have to choose the Batmobile. It’s probably the most enduring vehicle of those offered. I do have a special place in my heart for the General Lee, as I really did enjoy Dukes of Hazzard!

I feel, however, that they missed some really obvious choices!

I’d have added the following:

  1. The Delorean from Back To The Future
  2. K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider
  3. The Van from The A-Team
  4. The Bluesmobile from Blues Brothers
  5. Bond’s Astin Martin

The list could go on! Ghostbusters, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and more! I think it would be very interesting to see the vote broken down by age. While I’d certainly vote for KITT or the Delorean, they’re certainly generational! It’s important to keep that in mind when collecting. Sometimes, a collection can age itself out of value. When a film or show transcends generations, and becomes iconic, you can see extreme prices in auctions.

(Random piece of information. When I was young, I was a huge fan of Knight Rider! I LOVED that show, and KITT was the coolest thing ever. My parents took my to Universal Studios and they had a KITT on display. Even better, you could sit inside it. Well, I sat down, and I heard that voice say “Hello Douglas, how are you doing today?” and I just froze! That was, at the time, the coolest thing that had ever happened to me. Even today, when I remember it, it makes me smile. I don’t have a picture of me in the car, but here’s a photo of how the car looked on display in the mid 80s!)

What cars am I missing? What’s your vote for best car from a tv show or movie?

By the way, the Batmobile was winning the NBC News poll, and rightly so, given the options!

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Out of this world! (Part 2)

I really wish I could convey all the necessary information about meteorites for collecting, but that would be impossible. So, I thought I’d focus on three more.

  1. Thumbprint
  2. Oriented
  3. Widmanstätten patterns


As a meteor flies through the earth’s atmosphere, heat and pressure cause the surface to melt and experience ablation (removal of material vaporization, chipping or some other erosive process). If the meteor is tumbling through the air, it can result in deep regmaglyps, otherwise known as thumbprints.

In some cases, the thumbprints can be so deep that they go through the meteorite. Here’s an example.

Meteorites with features like this are extremely popular in collecting. They can add some serious visual interest (and it’s always good to have a talking point or two on your items). In addition, they can add serious value.


Oriented meteorites are essentially the opposite of those with thumbprints. The meteor, as it’s flying through the atmosphere, settles into one position. It will then developed a nose-cone of sorts, oftentimes with characteristic flowlines and fusion crust (all highly collectable). This photo shows a small oriented meteorite . . . note the flow lines at the top.

Widmanstatten Patterns

Unique to each meteorite fall, Widmanstatten patterns are found in iron and pallasite meteorites. When a meteorite is sliced, polished and etched with acid, iron-nickle crystals appear.

This example, from the Muonionalusta fall is much different from the following Seymchan meteorite.

As I said before, there’s really so much more to learn about meteorites! One last thing, however, that can really add value to a meteorite is if it actually struck as it crashed.

In 1984, a meteorite fell and struck a mailbox in Claxton, Georgia.

In late 2007, this mailbox was auctioned by Bonhams for $83,000!

That photo at the mailbox is my favorite meteorite-related photograph of all time! It definitely needs a new caption!

In 1992, a meteorite crashed into the trunk of a 1980 Chevy Malibu in Peekskill, NY. Having just purchased the car for $300, the owner turned around and sold it $10,000! The car has been on display in museums around the world, including both the American Museum of Natural History and France’s National Museum of Natural History.

If you’re really interested in learning more about meteorites, or perhaps you’re interested in buying one or two, Heritage Auctions (out of Dallas, TX) has an all-meteorite auction this October. Once I receive the catalog, I’ll go through it and share my thoughts!

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Out of This World!

There’s something magnetic about collecting natural history.  Even when surrounded by amazing artifacts from sports and movies, people will connect in some primal way with material that’s natural.

Meteorites can hold a fascination that goes beyond that! I can still remember buying our first meteorite from a gallery in Laguna Beach. I was enthralled when I saw it . . . a nice chunk of metal from the Campo Del Cielo find. My wife was less than impressed, noting it looked just like a hunk of metal. I, however, couldn’t stop running my fingers over it, stunned that I was actually touching something from outer space!

When I bought that first one, I knew very little about meteorites. It turns out that the Campo Del Cielo meteorites would be the 1991 Upper Deck baseball set of meteorites. Extremely popular, but very common.. Larger examples, such as this 270 pound example from our collection, would the the 1991 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card in gem mint condition!

Now, with years of experience collecting meteorites, I’ve learned a few things. In this post, let’s cover some basics . . .

What is a meteorite? Before an object can be a meteorite, it must be a meteoroid and a meteor.

  • Meteoroid: A small  piece of debris in the solar system. When it enters the earth’s atmosphere, it becomes a . . .
  • Meteor: Often called a shooting star, a meteor is created by the object entering the earth’s atmosphere. Friction and pressure create heat and light, forming a fireball flying through the sky.
  • Meteorite: If the meteor survives contact with the earth, it is now classified as a meteorite, becoming a highly valuable object to scientists and collectors around the world.

Types of Meteorites:

  • Stony: The most common meteorite (94%), these are made up of stone (hence the name!). There are subdivisions within this catagory, but for now, just know that these are the most common to fall. They are rarer within collections, however, because they often look just like other rocks. It can take high-level isotopic analysis for confirmation. (The example shown before is a Plainview meteorite, so named because it fell in Plainview, Texas).

  • Iron: Approximately 5% of meteorites that fall to earth are iron-based. While rarer, they are easier to find and make up larger percentages of collections. The Campo Del Cielo example above is a great example of this one. Here’s another photo of a smaller Campo piece.

  • Stony-Iron: The rarest of all meteorites, these examples make up 1% of meteorite falls. Sliced, these can be spectacular, often combining the iron matrix with gemmy material known as peridot (not the same as earth-based peridot).

There is so much more to meteorites and collecting than what I’ve talked about here. A follow-up blog will delve into more detail, because we’ve only touched the surface of the subject.

Collecting meteorites is becoming more and more popular, and you can now watch a reality showed called Meteorite Men on the Discovery Channel! It’s worth checking out.

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Absolutely modern magic!

The collectability and coolness does not end with vintage magic posters! Modern magic posters are often more affordable, easily found, and more likely to be a magician you’ve seen in person!

Growing up, I was first introduced to magic by Doug Henning and his “World of Magic” specials in the 1970s!

Posters like these:

have great color, and really bring back of a lot of memories.

Just about everybody knows who David Blaine is. He really became popular in the 90s with his street magic videos. You know, the ones with people flipping out because he could levitate, or throw a playing card through glass. Later in his career, he really switched into escape-style magic, along with feats of endurance. Posters were available for these events, and they were often an homage to past magicians and artwork.

And my personal favorite:

I love the artwork on these. You can see, as the times change, what used to be little imps (red devils) have turned into sexy women. Another bonus to collecting modern magicians and posters is that you can often find them signed!

Cards as Weapons! That is a title of a book written by amazing magician/historian/actor Ricky Jay! Want to throw a playing card hundreds of feet? Want to impale a watermelon, or the back of a room with a card? This is the book you need! While the book is rare, a poster of the book cover is even rarer!

Over the years, Ricky Jay has done some amazing limited engagement shows around the country! Not only does he show off amazing magic, but the shows are art, directed by playwright/director David Mamet.

As many of Ricky Jay’s books are about the history of magic and other assorted curiosities, it’s no surprise that he’ll have a poster act as an homage to a great.

Not only is this based on the spectacular Kellar poster, it also harkens back to the Chung Ling Soo poster in the previous post!

As you can see, modern magic posters have plenty of allure. They’re rarely as expensive, easier to find in nicer condition, often signed, and are of magicians you can see in person!

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