Some people might think I sit around in my underwear all day bidding on EBay just so I can out/over pay against competing collectors and dealers who promptly get on a public forum and accuse me of running up prices and keep them from adding hundreds of game used items to their collection at the retail/collector price they feel is fair. Of course, these are collectors and as such, I think they are entitled to pay less than a dealer as long as they sign into law an agreement that they too will sell their collection at cost someday. Dare we say the “P” word, ah hell, this is America, lets just call it what it is, setting in our mind a wholesale and retail price and then outbidding all others on a public venue for the right to buy it, shoot it, photo shop it, do the research, write it up, post it, than when it sells, handle the shipping details, all in the name of “Profit” And if it doesn’t sell for a “Profit” in a certain length of time, it may make it into another auction which sometimes results in the greater evil, the “L” word.
Yet, some of these same pundits that lament the fact that I bid and buy at a level higher than they deem realistic will email an EBay seller, such as one of them did on a game used Frankie Frisch bat, offer them few hundred dollars and then place for sale on their favorite free selling (cheaper than selling on EBay) sight for $4250, something that broke no written law to my knowledge. Then this same dealer/ collector , having marked the price up over ten times his negotiated EBay price and lamenting the whole time that this was part of his “ Personal Collection” ( at least for a few weeks) but had come across some complications and had to sell. I called thinking $4250 was a pretty good price for a rare Frisch gamer ( a fair price either in an EBay auction or privately), called and found out it was still available and I stated I would purchase said bat. Well, things apparently got better for this dealer (collector) and the verbal and in my mind, a binding contract was voided (basically, take a hike, it’s no longer for sale) but alas, need and sorrow returned and the bat was back for sale at just a bit higher price than I had already agreed to pay a few weeks earlier. Moral, everybody likes to buy low and sell high, and while not everyone would (or should) go back on a verbal contract, the right to sell at a profit and the need to find inventory for a dealer is a constant.
Replacing inventory with vintage game used bats is not like refilling an order for more shoes for the shoe department. You have to search and constantly pay what many feel is retail and then hang onto that item until the full value of such an item is realized and the market catches up to your prices or you may be forced to auction in which you may or may not make up your original cost or any profit. That is the trouble when dealing with unique and vintage items, you can’t sit and wait for them to come to you and no matter what you pay for an item and sell for today, you will soon have to pay what you sold the last one for just to get another in stock. They “ain’t” making any more and if they are , you really have to worry.
This brings me full circle back to the topic of where does inventory come from. Yes, I along with millions of others, peruse the trillions of items offered on eBay and try and buy items that interest me at what I feel is a fair price that leaves room for profit but this is but a small piece of the puzzle. I thought it might be of interest to go through a typical month as it pertains to acquiring and selling items. This does not include the office work or doing write ups, phone calls. Articles, e-mails, etc. etc which seem to take up most of ones week. We will start this odyssey at the end of March and take you through April for some insight into what goes on in our world of buying and selling in a typical month. I flew to Philadelphia on Thursday the last week of the month (March) , renting a car and driving to Atlantic City for the Atlantique Show, billed as the largest high end indoor antique show in the world. It has been a dealer and collector must show for the better part of twenty some years.
While sporting goods are not a staple at this show, it was the “theme” of the spring event and they had a great booth sponsored by Hunt Auctions that featured Lou Gehrigs last NY Yankees Jacket, a killer Ruth game worn hat, the first really nice Gale Sayers shirt I have ever seen, a Whitey Ford game worn jersey from him, a killer oversize 1926 Yankees team photo that was once sold in the Halper auction, a 1927 Yankees panorama, a Rocket Richard jersey and more. All in all , a great exhibit, especially for a crowd that does not generally specialize in sports memorabilia. Over the course of the next few days, I walked the aisles to the tune of what seemed like a few hundred miles and eventually bought a 1932 and 1935 World Series mint bats with the never seen Chicago Cubs mini pennants till attached and in minty condition, a nice 3×4” die cut Winchester rifle cardboard sign circa 1950, a turn of the century French mechanical gambling game with four circa 1910 lead cars and the original box/lid ( I love old toys and stocking the web sight with new finds is one of my great joys) , a 1920’s Red Grange pin with the original ribbon and a version that nobody I talked to had ever seen and even included the original back paper label along with the more common “Souvenir” version of the Grange pin, (3) 1927 Charles Lindbergh advertising cardboard fans, a “Terry and the Pirates” original 1930’s puzzle with a killer box, a 1930’s Grand National Tea Tin and a few sundry other items. While in the area, I finished a deal finding a seller/buyer for a 1935 Cubs road jersey. Troy, on the other hand, spent the weekend at the Chicago show where he picked up some incredible photographs of wrestling and football.
Arriving home on the first flight Monday morning, I got home , got my car and drove an hour or so to pick up a Frank Chance uniform for a potential client who was flying in later in the week as well as play office catch up after being gone all weekend. Every Tuesday is authentication day in Milwaukee which may increase to two or more days depending on retail submissions and many more if we were doing an auction or large collection. Our days there usually end around 1-2 AM along with the hour trip back.
Mid week is always home office week which this week included an internet auction in which I was bidding. (Due to the entire auction being on the 10 minute rule, that is, every time a new bid comes in, another 10 mins. Is added to the time clock which finally ran out about 2;30 AM my time. I got a great early 1950’s Rochester Royals basketball uniform , an incredible run of 1938 White Sox autographed Burke photos and some nice pennants. I met the prospective Chance buyer on Weds day at the airport as well. Friday morning, April 4th, I was up at 4 AM to make the hour drive to the Chicago Advertising and Coin Op show held in St. Charles at the Pheasant Run twice a year. Over the years, this venue has offered some incredible games and advertising pieces. Walking around in the dark at 5AM with a flash light, I found a nice Vest Pocket Basketball Game and almost bought three original gas station oil can displays from the 1950’s that included Whiz, STP, and some odd never heard of company all in their original boxes. The three were priced as a group at $1000 and even though I don’t think there was much left there and did not purchase , I am now having second doubts that I was too cautious as they were nice and would have made a nice addition to our misc. advertising section. I purchased two 1970’s machines that dished out small prizes in plastic bubbles for a quarter for Troy so he could display his Bat Man and Planet of the Apes toys. I also bought a couple of mint boxed 1950’s Spacemen Parachute Toys. These were original boxes of 24 different colored five inch aliens and spacemen all in the original box with their fragile plastic parachutes still attached. We had the army men variations of these parachute men when I was a kid. I also saw some of the nicest and most expensive sports coin ups in the world including the 1937 World Series and a couple of basketball games priced anywhere from $7-37,000. There was great 1930’s three foot high easel back die cut Paul Thompson Granger ad as well but at $850, while a fair retail price given the vg condition, I thought it too was all the way but what a piece for the vintage Hockey guy. If I collected that stuff, I would have been carrying that piece home as well. As for real sports stuff, I found an old dealer friend who had just gotten a nice collection of (9) 1965-68 game used bats, all American League and most were Red Sox including the finest Tony C bat I have ever seen, ordered in November and December of 1968 for his 1969 comeback, tons of pine tar, game use , # on knob and not cracked. Other bats included Rico Petrocelli and Reggie Smith (1967 Red Sox), Paul Blair (early Orioles bat), Pete Ward (White Sox), Tom Matchick and Mickey Stanley (1968 Tigers), Syd O’Brien , Dick Schofield, all of which were from that same 1965-68 era.
The first Sunday of the month is always Kane County flea market day. Early buyers can get in at 8AM on the Saturday before for $50 or you can wait until 11;30 and get in for a few bucks and if you come on Sunday, consider it solely for the exercise as the really great stuff will usually have been picked clean by noon on Saturday. It was at this show a few years ago that I found an entire bucket of 1950’s game used Brooklyn Dodger bats that included Hodges, Snider and Reese as well as an all original 1939 Les Bell Pittsburg Pirates jersey, half a dozen stars and stripes patches and enough baseball gloves to outfit the Boy Scouts of the entire state. Being the first flea market this year that wasn’t under snow, I entered early and after a few hours and quite a few tours of the field (you are looking as they set up so something might hit a table the minute you walk away so you have to hustle and keep going over familiar ground) Today’s finds included 20 circa 1900 “The 101 Ranch” real photo post cards (RPPC) and a 1927 Lindy RPPC. In addition, I managed to find an atomic age dining room light for my daughter’s apartment that she had been looking for (yet not a single sports item). Saturday afternoon found me trying to get my 1954 Show ready Chevy 210 station wagon ready for the spring and summer car shows but the battery was still dead.
On Thurs, April 10th I will be in Pittsburgh on the first flight to search for photographs in the main library micro film files and will then rent a car to make it to Cleveland by 2PM for the newly revised Strongsville show. For years this was one of the best shows in the country and now, Paul Fusco is bringing back this classic in Cleveland and I am looking forward to making some great buys here as it seems that everybody I have talked to is going to be there for this comeback show. MEARS Auth, LLC is flying in Saturday and the day will be spent discussing plans for our new MEARS building which, when finished, should be quite a showplace for just about any collectible. Monday the 14Th will find me back in the East to facilitate a jersey deal of great importance that I will share with you as soon as the whole thing is finished. I thought the Medwick or Chance shirts that we have worked on this month were special and they were but they pale in comparison to this jersey so stay tuned. Other shows this month include the Chicago Trade show sponsored by Mastronet the week of April 19th, One in which I will be on a panel to answer questions and MEARS will have a booth there as well so make sure you stop by if you can. We are going to be giving away copies of Bowie Kuhns book (from his estate) to anyone who stops and registers a web address who would like to be kept abreast of MEARS activity as long as the supply lasts which , I think, is close to 100 or more books so do stop by and get one. One of the best toy shows in the world will be held the last weekend of April in St. Charles. This show is loaded with great toys and some of the rarest outside a museum and is a must for any fan and one I haven’t missed in years. And yes, there are sports items showing up all the time, especially board games. One of my favorite shows is the CADA show (collectors arms show) in St. Charles. I collect guns and western memorabilia and this is a twice yearly show that never lets me down as I always come home with something. CADA sponsors shows all over the states and if you have one nearby, it would be time well spent as there is a lot more than guns and while sporting goods will be in short supply, you will find paper items galore including catalogs, fobs, etc. One of Illinois best flea markets and the first flea market of the spring for Zurko is held in Grayslake IL. It was here I found a game used Ruth bat and a game used Hank Aaron All Star bat along with more less memorable items than I could list on this page. Lastly, on the same weekend of the toy shows is a nice toy auction held by Bunte’s in St. Charles as well.
In between, buying trips in three different directions all have to be finished by April. Oh yes, a 1946 Thorton Lee jersey, 1940 Don Lee uniform, 1969 Washington home jersey and enough misc. items to fill a small auction catalog sent in from collectors and dealers as a result of over twenty years of paid advertisements in just about every type of paper along with leads from books and articles and you get the idea of a typical month in our quest for adding material to our website. So the next time you see me bidding on EBay, don’t take it personal. I am not bidding just to see my name in print. It is one of many tools that are part of the game, outbidding and hence out paying my competition for the right to try and turn a profit and continue to build the largest inventory of sports collectibles ever built. We try and build this inventory as it appears with an eye towards pre 1987 items with a focus on pre 1970 so that our inventory is both diverse and unique so that when the time comes that someone is looking to finish that 1969 Mets run of game used bats and they don’t know where else to turn, we might have just what they are looking for.
Until next time, David Bushing