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Sports Memorabilia Collectors Gather at Municipal Building

December 6, 2011

Collector and show promoter Gary Thomas displays some of his sports action figures during Saturday’s event at the Municipal Building in Newport. (Photo Mike Olmstead)

NEWPORT–Sports memorabilia enthusiasts gathered at the Municipal Building in Newport on Saturday to buy, sell, trade, and admire a wide variety of sports collectables.
Put on by long time collector Gary Thomas, the event featured collections from Thomas as well as a host of other local collectors.
"We've tried the show here a couple of times, and hoped to get people who have cards to bring them in and try to sell them or just display them," says Thomas, "But I have been in the hobby for at least twenty-five years."
Thomas, who's display on Saturday featured memorabilia from all four of the major sports, travels around the New England area to attend shows and to show his wares. He described some of the things he saw at a show in Massachusetts.
"I was recently at a show in Wilmington MA, which is one of the biggest shows on the east coast, and they had a lot of Cal Ripken autographs, a lot of 1986 Red Sox stuff, and just about anything you could imagine as far as cards and memorabilia."
Thomas himself has narrowed down his personal collecting habits, going from purchasing things pertaining to the NY Giants, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Celtics, and his favorite team, the Cleveland Indians, to a more specific search of things related to the great Indian hurler Bob Feller.
The card industry itself, as well as the memorabilia world as a whole, has seen a drastic change in recent years, a change that may make it harder for people to get into collecting as a hobby.
Says Thomas, "Unfortunately they have changed it, they have kind of taken the kids out of it with everything being so expensive now. You have to be serious about it, as it is a big thing now a days."
Richard Cartee, a collector of primarily cards, was also on hand, bringing with him a small portion of the over 400,000 cards that reside in his own personal collection, talked about how he got the collecting bug.
"I collected as a kid but got out of as I graduated from high school and went into the service. I've always been interested in them, and I've always enjoyed them."
Now retired, Cartee looks forward to spending this winter going through his massive collection, organizing it, and recording it into his computer.
For a long time the only way collectors could obtain merchandise would be to attend shows and visit specialty stores, but now with sites like ebay, access truly has gone global.
But with increased availability comes increased problems. One of the biggest ones facing collectors today is the selling of fraudulent autographs, so many people within the industry strongly advise to make sure your purchase has the proper documentation that prove its' authenticity.
As a collector myself (sports jerseys are my weakness), I have greatly benefited from the world wide availability, purchasing products from across North America, and from as far away as the Southern Rim.
However it is not always the most time friendly hobby, as I have also spent a few late nights sitting at my computer watching the auctions tick down to zero, hoping I have not been outbid by another collector. But when I won, the thrill of ownership was electrifying.
Thomas hopes to run another one of these shows this coming spring, giving the community to come and get a glimpse of things from a bygone era.
And if you do go, bring an extra couple of bucks and pick up a jar of Brian Eldridges' Dilly Beans. You'll be glad you did

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