There’s nothing more enjoyable than meeting a fellow collector and hearing about their autograph collection. As somebody that prefers autographed records and CDs, it’s always the most fun to hear about those.
I have a lot of authors I like, yet I don’t own a lot of signed books. I’m always envious when I go to New York and see the author signings they have.
My favorite sports are basketball, football, and boxing. This means I have a handful of signed boxing gloves (Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar de la Hoya, Archie Moore, to name a few). I have a few signed basketballs (San Diego Clippers team ball in a shooting contest I won, Denver Nuggets in a charity auction I won, and a few others with Hall of Famers). I have to admit though, I’d just prefer autographed sports cards or 8x10s. Mostly because, I just don’t have space for everything.
Since I’m not the biggest baseball fan, I only have about 5 signed baseballs (one has Roger Maris that I couldn’t pass up at an auction). I think the baseball autograph collectors are lucky, because nothing looks nicer than a signed baseball. The background is white (unlike that brown football, that with a black Sharpie, doesn’t show up so well…and silver paint pens can be finicky). This means any pen works, but most prefer the ballpoint pen on the sweet spot, over the Sharpie.
Even if you’re not a collector of sports autographs, you’ll be able to appreciate this collection.
It started in Florida with man named Dennis Schrader. He got his first signed baseball in 1956 as a 9-years-old attending a spring training game. Now he has 4,600 signed baseballs. The collection is certified by Guinness as the largest in the world.
If you’re in the St. Petersburg area, you can check it out at the Museum of History in Florida. It’s open to the public.
Schrader had these balls displayed in a 12x14 foot room in his home. It had a bank vault door and motion sensors and camera surveillance. He decided to donate them to the museum for 20 years. After that, they’ll be returned to his family.
The collection is worth over $2 million, and he’s got all the big names: Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, and the most he ever spent for a single ball – a Joe DiMaggio one also signed by Marilyn Monroe (his wife at the time). I have a friend that has a ball signed by DiMaggio and Monroe, and he’s had offers in the six figures for it.
Schrader also has a lot of Negro League balls, as well as signed balls from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (those were the gals featured in the movie “A League of Their Own”). And like most autograph collectors, he has signed baseballs that are autographed by celebrities that never played the sport, including Presidents.
I think it was a smart move to donate the baseballs to a museum. He doesn’t have to worry about his house being broken into, and they even spent $300,000 to design the proper space to display them.
And what happened to the empty vault space in his home? Well, his wife has over 500 cookie jars she collects. He also has hundreds of autographed photos of celebrities. His wife said they still collect signed baseballs and she always carries one in her purse, just in case she runs into somebody famous.
As cool as it is to donate items to a museum, I’ll share a story with you that happened at the Hard Rock Café here in San Diego. A woman who had an affair with Jimi Hendrix, donated one of his shirts to them. She said they can display it for a few years, and they put it in their front window, with a photo of Hendrix on stage in the shirt. Two years later when they returned it, the thing was all faded out from the sun. That lead to a lawsuit. I never heard the outcome.