Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hidden Treasures of a Championship Chicago Bulls Collection

As I travel across the country visiting with individuals and appraising collections, there’s always something different and unique that catches my eye. Recently, after I appeared on a radio show, I received a phone call from a woman who lived very close to where I grew up and attended high school. Her uncle was a former Chicago Bulls player during the ’90s and had received six of the championship rings that come with winning an NBA championship. The family wanted to know how much each item was valued at.
I spent an entire Saturday going through item after item, and putting a price tag on everything from a Michael Jordan signed rookie card to a gold and diamond pennant that was presented to the wives/girlfriends of the players after they won the NBA championship in 1996.

Many of the items were unique and were only obtained through the Bulls organization. Game-worn shoes, team-autographed banners, and expensive jewelry kept me on my toes throughout the process. In a few rare instances, I wasn’t immediately sure of the approximate value, so I put those items to the side and kept digging for more. As I worked, different members of the family would walk in and explain various pieces. The stories were endless. I could have stayed in the house for weeks on end, just listening to the incredible stories of what it was like to be part of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.

Darkness began to settle in and my time with the collection and the family was nearing its end. I asked the family what they found to be the most enjoyable part of the day. Their response? “Seeing you smile from ear to ear throughout the day.”

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In Search of Sports Cards: Getting the Collecting Bug from Dad

Fathers teach us a lot growing up, and for one gentleman I met recently, collecting runs in the family.
Not long ago, I received a call from a guy with the name of Michael. (It’s always enjoyable to speak with someone who shares my first name.) Michael was a collector of many things.
Michael’s father collected jazz 78s, and was well known in the music circuit. He passed along the collecting “bug” to his son, who started collecting scrap metal on the streets on his neighborhood. Shortly thereafter, Michael’s aunt purchased a Miami Dolphins football helmet and gave it to Michael. Even though Michael was living in Illinois, he quickly became a Dolphins fan. Playing football as a youth, Michael’s nickname was “Czonka,” after the great Hall of Fame fullback for the Miami Dolphins. For the young football fan, football cards became the next great obsession.
As kids, we don’t always make the wisest decisions, but that’s part of growing up. We learn from our mistakes.  Michael’s father purchased a shoebox of baseball cards from the 1970s. One day when Michael was headed to a friend’s house to show off the collection, it started raining and Michael moved some of the more valuable cards inside his t-shirt so they would be shielded from the rain. Unfortunately, the rain was too strong that day and the cards—including a 1971 Topps Pete Rose—were badly damaged.
When I first met Michael, I wasn’t expecting four large boxes of vintage baseball and football cards. The boxes were being stored in his daughter’s closet and Michael and his wife needed the storage space, as he was expecting another baby. Paul, Michael’s dad, had recently passed away, and it felt like it was time to sell the collection.
It was exciting to go through each box and see what I could unearth. The first box contained Roberto Clemente’s rookie card. This was very exciting, but upon closer inspection, not only was the card heavily worn, but somebody had used a blue ballpoint pen to deface the front. In fact, there were hundreds of cards that had a large “X” on either the front or the back. On the plus side, some of the earliest cards were from the 1933 Goudey baseball card set. The ’33 Goudey set is a favorite of mine due to the numerous Hall of Famers included.
I purchased the entire collection. As sad as it was for Michael to sell it, he knows it’s going to a good home—one that will keep the memories alive.