It is kind of ironic that I’m writing this post right now considering that I just busted open a few boxes where the only “hits” were autographed cards, but they were cheap boxes and fun busts. Truth be told, I’ve never been all that excited by chasing autographs out of packs. For what I spend, anything that I pull is going to be extremely common and probably not anything that I’m interested in.
I’m not 100% sure exactly why this is the case, but I think it comes from the environment that I was in when I originally started collecting. If you paid attention, athletes were pretty available at special appearances and you didn’t have card shows where you’d have to pay $150 for a player’s autograph. I remember my grandfather taking me to Jordan Marsh in Boston to meet Roger Clemens and get his autograph. I was a big Rocket fan at the time and this made my day. I had him sign a 1997 Topps All-Star Glossy from the sets that you got from sending away through the mail and the card still is a treasured part of my collection in spite of Clemens running his mouth and injecting who knows what into his body. The kid in me who watched him dominate hitters and who read “Rocket Man” in 7th Grade will always be a fan.
The first time that I ever paid for an autograph, it was for my all-time favorite player and it was something that I was excited about for a month. Dwight Evans was going to be at the monthly Florian Hall baseball card show and I was going to be there. The cost for Dewey’s autograph was a whopping $10 which was something that even a young kid could afford.
I remember arriving to the card show about halfway though the time that Dewey was schedule to be signing and there was no line at all. I got to walk right in and shake his hand and be completely speechless in front of a player whose 24 was on the back of all of my little league jerseys. I wish I had thought of bringing a camera with me because I would have had plenty of time to get a picture with Evans and that’s something I would h
I spent the majority of my free time in high school first working weekend baseball card show and then later in a baseball card shop. One of the monthly card shows that we did at Lantana’s was run by a guy who knew what he was doing. He had contacts with the local minor league teams and had players come in to sign at his shows while they were in town. The show obviously wasn’t as good during the off-season, but it was the best show to go to when a young prospect was there signing.
One of my favorite autographs acquired at Lantana’s was that of Aaron Sele. Sele made a big splash when first being called up to the Major Leagues and had a solid career, but was never the front of the rotation pitcher that the Red Sox thought that he could be. I was a big fan and he was one of many Sox players whose cards I sought out and collected.
Jason Bere was another prospect who was brought in to sign at the show. He was another young pitcher who made a big splash when first called up to the majors. I remember his 1993 Score Select Rookie/Traded card being the hot card in a very popular set that also included Aaron Sele, Kevin Stocker and Kirk Rueter.
Did somebody mention Kirk Rueter? He was a guest at a Lantana’s show as well. The rookie cards of these guys may not sell for much these days, but they were three of the top prospects out there at the time and it was cool being able to add one of them to your collection every month.
I went to the right high school for being a sports card collector. Boston College High School had an annual sports card show while I was a student there and I loved it. One of the big draws were the autograph guests and at the time I remember thinking that $25 was a lot to spend for an autograph and I didn’t get many at the show. The only ones that I did get were the free ones with admission and that’s how I got the majority of my hockey autographs such as Joe Juneau, Ray Bourque and Gordie Howe.
One of the few autographs that I did pay for was that of “The Chief” Robert Parish. I grew up watching the Big Three dominating the parquet in The Gahden and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add a Robert Parish autograph to my collection.
The one thing that I always remember about meeting basketball players is the handshake. My hand gets completely enveloped by these guys. Even little guys like Dee Brown had hands which made mine look like a child’s.
Dee Brown was a favorite of mine from the moment the Celtics drafted him. I enjoyed his style of play as it was something you didn’t see on the Celtics at that point. He became an overnight sensation when his no-look dunk won him the Slam Dunk Championship.
I forget where I first got Dee Brown’s autograph. It may have been the B.C. High show. I do remember the second time though. Brown was doing an appearance for a new NBA Jam strategy guide at a Barnes & Noble book store. I had jury duty earlier that day, but luckily I got out in time to make it to the signing. There was no one there when I arrived which was great because I got to chat with Dee a little bit. I got the strategy guide signed as well as an Upper Deck McDonald’s card.
My current favorite Celtics player is Paul Pierce. While players aren’t as accessible these days, I was able to get Pierce’s autograph in person. Pierce has a charity named The Truth Fund and I went to the kick-off event at the Hard Rock Cafe. While I was prepared for Pierce and had him sign an NBA Showdown card as well as a Beckett cover, I wasn’t prepared for the other athletes that were there such as Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri. Oh well.
I do have some autographed cards in my collection that I didn’t get in person. A lot of them are rookies that panned out to be nothing that I pulled out of packs. One of my best pulls came back when autographed cards in packs weren’t all that common.
The Reggie is a beautiful on-card signature from 1995 Upper Deck. I’m pretty sure that it was a redemption card because I don’t think the certificate of authenticity would have been in the pack with the card. I did well with 1995 Upper Deck. While I didn’t take advantage of the Series 1 offer (Clemens), I did send away for the Series 2 offer which was a jumbo autographed A-Rod card. That card is no longer in my collection being sold just over a year ago to finance a big card show shopping spree.
I’ve also purchased an autographed card or two when the price is right. One of those is this Curtis Martin from Signature Rookies. I was a big fan of Martin and hated seeing the Patriots let him go. He would have solved many years of running problems for the Pats. This card came out when star autographs were still not that common, but rookie autographs were becoming very common. There were on oddball items such as phone cards even. Companies such as Classic and Signature Rookies ran wild with autographs in packs.
I’ve always preferred the in-person autographs though. They have a memory attached and are special parts of a collection. One such memory involves another former Patriot, Willie McGinest. I was out shopping in a mall when I stumbled across a Wizards of the Coast booth set up in the food court. If you sat through a demo of how the game was played (which was fun except for the overpowered, rare strategy cards) then you got a promo pack of cards along with a Willie McGinest promo card that you could bring right over to Mr. McGinest himself to get it signed. How can you beat that? It’s so much better than ripping open up packs of cards to pull an autograph of Dick Squat Jones. Most of the time when I do pull an autograph out of packs, it ends up being something like this:
Gilbert Arenis has been injured more than he has played, Josh Howard was a rare red ink signature pulled from a rare, numbered to 99 rip card and would probably sell for a dollar and Brad Miller was the one per pack auto in the first and last pack of that type of product that I’ll ever buy (since the best part of it was the Larry Bird tin that the cards came in).
Cards such as these have absolutely no appeal to me. It would be one thing if I could turn these “hits” around and help finance my collection, but that’s not the case. Meanwhile, it is cards such as these that are driving up the price point of cards today. Sure, it’s in the cheaper stuff, but it is guys like Steve Pearce and Greg Smith. The big stars are in the more expensive stuff, but you still get a lot more of the bums than the stars. I just don’t get it.