“BUT MIKE, CAN YOU PUT A NUMBER ON IT?”

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I’ve talked about the valuations of memorabilia in the past and those of you that follow me on regular basis know, that it’s not about the money, as far as I’m concerned. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that of course there comes a time when it is about the money.

We live in a world of supply and demand, so it only stands to reason that when an item is pursued, the price of poker increases. As a recent guest on the Humble and Fred radio show (you can listen to the segment on our website under podcasts), the biggest challenge Howard (not so much Fred) experienced was trying to get an estimated value of my collection. One thing people have to understand about collectors is that the value becomes a hurdle to pursue the passion and as a result does become a factor. Confused?

My mantra is the preservation of historical artifacts pertaining to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The objective is to find as many obscure pieces as possible and research the historical significance of every item. This creates a market because someone unmotivated to hang on to artifacts will in turn offer the said piece for sale.

If we talk about valuation, it can be summed up with a old but standard cliché, “It’s only worth what someone is willing to pay.” The Paul Henderson 1972 Team Canada jersey he wore scoring arguably the most historic goal in hockey history, sold for $1.2 million a number of years ago. That exact sweater was offered to me a year before the sale for $175,000 and I thought it was too much. At the time I figured the dealer, brokering the transaction was taking a hefty commission so there probably was a lot of room in the price, but even still, too expensive. Your immediate thought is, I must be some kind of fool for passing on an artifact that was worth 5x what was offered originally. But not so fast folks. When the sweater failed to sell privately, it went to auction. The auction house created a whirlwind of interest and hype surrounding this historic jersey. I was contacted by a major Corporation who wanted to partner to bid on the piece and asked what number would win in the end. They were extremely excited to lock down the jersey, planning a National marketing campaign. The figure they had in mind was $500,000 and when I informed them it wouldn’t be enough, to say the sound of silence was deafening, would have been an understatement.

“Well Mike, how much do you think it will sell for?” he whimpered, in a voice that was barely audible and clearly disappointed.

“Look with all the publicity, some rich guy is going to step-up and either do exactly what you guys are trying to do or just own it because he can, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it sell for at least a million.”
And that’s exactly what happened.

I’ve mentioned in the past, the Gretzky canvas pennant, with Wayne standing alongside Tretiak in their National uniforms. I purchased a number of them, for what turned out to be a few dollars apiece, thinking something was wrong. Less than a year later the pennant was documented as one of the scarcest Gretzky pieces in existence, with an estimated value in excess of four figures.

The Jim Craig collection, featuring 19 pieces of his, from the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” was offered for sale at $5.7 million. The valuation was insane but who am I to judge? If some rich, patriotic American wants to own this group of items and market them, show it off, donate to a museum or just enjoy in his “man cave,” then, all the power to the chap. But really, a million dollar estimate for the flag Craig wrapped himself in after winning? The collection was put up for sale August 1 to November 1, 2015 and when I last checked, was still available.

There are so many mitigating factors involved in placing a value on historical pieces. How can you put a value on the thousands of hours a person like myself has spent walking flea markets, antique shows, card shows, travelling all over the country, scouring through boxes of items, searching for that ever elusive piece? The miles traveled to cities and places (some not so nice) only to come up empty. Long before the easy access to people, places and things of today, it was a painstaking and frustrating endeavor filled with “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat.”

It’s equally disappointing when the first thing an interviewer or guest ask, is the value of the collection or what’s the most expensive piece in “The Room”. I do “get it” because, the world today puts more significance on anything we have or want once the value has been established and dollar figure then enables the viewer too either see the piece, item or thing as attainable or not.

That being the case, how do you put a value on a poster of Frank Mahovlich I gave a copy to his father and 50-years later relaying that story to Frank, in my room, and he’s hanging emotionally on to every word? Or Ann Barilko reading a letter written by her brother Bill, asking for a tryout with the Leafs and tears streaming down her face? The look and reaction of Wayne Gretzky spotting his “Saturday Night Live” contract in the display case I have of him; what’s the dollar figure you put on that? Listen to his expletives on our website.

Examples like these define what acquiring artifacts are really all about. Discover an item that catches your eye and then research as much information as you can about the piece. It’s surprising what will be uncovered during the process and will lead to a trail of further mystery and intrigue. When you least expect it, the “real finds” are discovered.

Passion, persistence, knowledge and unfortunately money, are qualities associated with anyone who collect anything, may it be wine, cars or even Tim Horton coffee cups (yes I know someone who does collect those). However one thing we can all relate, can be summed up in everything we do in life and quite simply put, “Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.”