Collectors are born collectors. Generally, it’s not something acquired in later years. For the diehards, they are born with the DNA that makes the compulsion to collect. It is like eating, sometimes even more important. Yes, adding that certain piece that will complete a part of your collection can actually seem like a case of life and death, at least in the allegorical sense. If you are a part of this group, I’ve no need to explain any further and if you are not, you will never understand anyway and probably would no more read this article than you would get up at four in the morning to go to flea market. So if this article caught your eye and you’re still reading, you are one of us.
Like most born collectors, you started very early in life collecting something and as you got older and your pocketbook got deeper, your interests changed and your devotion to your hobby took on depths you probably never imagined and if you are older and have been at this for a decade or more, your collection has probably gotten refined several times and the most sought after items have long since been resting somewhere in your house or office and the amount of items needed to truly complete your collection has dwindled to a precious few and extremely rare items. Yet the monkey is still on your back, You have to collect, to add new items to your collection, no matter that you have almost everything as a true collector can find peripheral items and soon, that too will probably become another faucet of your collection. I collect guns of the Wild West that spans the post civil war era through the turn of the century. My goal was to acquire one high grade example of every gun ever carried during that era that would have been used to put meat on the table or be carried in a holster to protect ones life. After more than 25 years, I got near the end of my quest. I still need a couple of guns but as they became harder to find and more expensive, my urge to collect found me looking for other items of interest. Soon, I had acquired enough gun leather of the period to outfit a platoon. Then I started getting rifle scabbards, Indian weaponry, vintage faro cards, whiskey bottles, hats, spurs, chaps, pictures, and who knows what else. Each addition spawned another integral part of my western collection and hence, another way to feed the monkey. Who cares that just last week I added a gun that I had been searching for twenty years, that was last week.
This malady seems to affect us all and that brings me to the point of this article. If you are a collector of game used jerseys or bats, or both, you will, at some point, find long stretches between acquiring items. And if you are lucky enough to have a room to display your collection, it is filled with racks of bats or showcases of jerseys. But what do you do to feed the habit when the material you seek seems to have dwindled to a trickle?
You have to branch out, it’s the only solution. Whether you are a player concentrated collector, a team collector or category collector, you will reach this point. So what else is there? One collector of game used bats that I know has racks and racks of game bats on display which is impressive in scope and looks really cool on the walls but he latterly hit the wall with his game bat collection. Being an Art minor, I looked at his display and realized what was missing and the same vein, gave him another reason to live for his collection lacked color and balance. Sure he had symmetry with his neat rows of bats but the walls looked bare, they lacked pizzazz. I made a suggestion, why not add other items of high quality with an eye toward condition and aesthetic appeal. He loved the Yankees and the dead ball era so I showed him a few incredible pennants. There color and graphics floored him. He had never really paid any attention to such things as they were not game used having simply been made to appease the appetite of the bygone fan. He loved them and the supply of variations on this theme seemed endless and the pricing, given what he was used to paying for game used bats, seemed like a day of shopping in a Mexican border town with play money. His collection of colorful pennants flourished and he soon had dozens of minty colorful pennants adding color to the previously drab walls of his showroom. First it was Yankees, then it was the other New York teams, and eventually, it was pennants from all the American League and then the National League and then it was All Star and World Series pennants in matched sets. The walls took on the look of a colorful art gallery. At one point, I showed him some great advertising pieces from Lucky Strike, the trolley car series that included the Waner brothers, Tony Lazzeri, Waite Hoyt, and Lefty Grove. He had to get them all. Soon, advertising pieces from Keds featuring the likes of Ted Williams and Roy Campanella were placed between the existing pennants. Ads from Chesterfield, Keds, Old Gold, Cooper Tires, Coke and Quaker Oats featuring all of the greats of the era soon found treasured places on his walls which now had more color than any stuffy art gallery I’d ever been in. He loved it but it too soon ran its course as new pieces were harder to find than he had expected, there just wasn’t that much high quality stuff out there to fill his appetite.
There was only one thing to do. He was running out of both items to buy and wall space so I suggested he get some really nice lighted showcases and let’s look for some really colorful or historic examples of three dimensional items to fill these cases. We found him some really minty boxed New York Yankee store model baseball gloves in the original boxes. He loved them, especially the picture boxes that featured one or more pictures of the player. He took to these like a duck to water and soon had a very enviable collection of both player models and vintage gloves all displayed in beautiful walnut cases that made them look more like a Hope diamond than some kids baseball glove and the array of new old stock boxed goods made his showroom look like a time capsule into an old hardware store. The room was really taking shape. The core collection of game used bats were still there, front and center, but they were now surrounded by brilliant color from floor to ceiling. It was a delight to ones eyes and people who came over who never really got the “Bat Thing” started to take notice. Well, needless to say, the rooms collection, continued to expand into other areas, always with the single intertwined theme of condition and vintage. No new ready made collectibles, no collectors plates, no limited edition statues, no assembly line autographed mini helmets or collector coins, just real stuff that when it was made, it was never made to be collected, that is precisely the point and the reason it is collected today. The room now has stuff in just about every corner. There is a stunning complete set of 1920’s Spalding trophies, World Series programs, and Bobbing Heads and MIB Hartland statues. There are colorful player endorsed board games like the 1913 Major League baseball game that features Horner photos of the likes of Cobb, Wagner, Matty, and Johnson. And there are Babe Ruth, Waner brothers, Yankees, Maris, Mantle, Walter Johnson, and Bob Feller games. And let’s not forget those pre war coin op games that if in working order, add blinking lights, noise and interactive collecting to the mix.
Yes, he still manages to add bats to his collection but the joy he gets from the other items has caused quite a change in his collection and has brought about a more wide spread appeal to others that before seemed rather indifferent to the baseball bats. And as for the dry spells he used to experience when bats were his only game, that is a thing of the past as there is always one more pennant, one more glove, one more game, one more something and that is as it should be.