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Memorabilia Memories: The Ones That Got Away

You might recognize the "Memorabilia Memories" (formerly "Lighting the Lamp") feature from the Game Time paper. Rick Ackerman has been nice enough to send over his column for the website. "Memorabilia Memoirs" will be featured every home game day.

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James Guillory- USA TODAY Sports

Memorabilia Memories with Rick Ackerman

Like any serious collector, be it art, first-edition books, fine wine or even antique cars, hockey memorabilia collectors love to show off their newest acquisitions and proudly proclaim what a deal they got after finding these rare treasures for their collection. It was not by accident that one of the characters in the blockbuster movie Guardians of the Galaxy was called The Collector, complete with a warehouse-sized collection of prized oddities and unusual memorabilia from across the galaxy. However, very few collectors will mention, much less discuss, those unique, incomparable items that somehow got away from them, lost to another collector who somehow managed to finagle it away. In the spirit of the Ghost of Christmas Past, I will share with you some hockey memorabilia that got away from me.

There have been several jerseys that have been lost at timed auctions, be it on eBay or some of the professional sites such as classicauctions.net, Heritage Auctions, auctions.nhl.com  or Lelands. There are scores and scores of these online sites, as can be found at gameworn.net/collectors.html. As in any auction, the buyer has to measure the desire for a certain jersey against the personal maximum funds available. In turn, that is measured against the demand for that jersey as shown by other bidders. I have found the best strategy is to wait until the last ten minutes or so of timed auctions to bid, rather than raising the amount by small amounts over several days. Who cares what the leading bid is until the auction is over, anyway?  Patience is a virtue when it comes to winning auctions.

If the highest bid for a jersey one really wants is $410 with 30 seconds to go, and the maximum one sets for value/personal demand is $500, don't just bid $415 or even $420. If one REALLY wants this jersey, they need to bid up to $475, not including shipping of $25, a total of $500. On some timed sites like Ebay, one will not necessarily have to pay the full $475; rather he or she will have to pay just above the last bid, whatever it was. Remember, though, some people up their own bids a bit in the last ten seconds or so to guarantee that they get the jersey. So, one has to beat that last bid. I have lost many jerseys in the early years of my collecting because I only bid a couple of dollars above a bid, rather than guaranteeing a win by going large, including a very cool black WHL Calgary Hitmen jersey worn by Andrew Ladd, a unique AHL Rochester Americans third jersey worn by Rory Fitzpatrick and a 1992-93 Blues home jersey worn by Garth Butcher, just to name a few.

However, my biggest and most heart-breaking loss was in 2004 on the very first eBay auction in which I ever participated. Up for grabs was a Gary Sabourin game used stick signed by every member of the 1968-69 Blues, including coaches Lynn Patrick and Scotty Bowman, goaltenders Glenn Hall and Seth Martin, Red Berenson, Dickie Moore, Sabourin, Bob and Barc Plager, J.G. Talbot and Doug Harvey. Since I was a raw rookie, I upped the bid by a dollar or so every day, including increasing my last bid (with around 30 seconds left) by only $1. My rival (whoever it was) easily won that auction for a final price of $401.55, only $1.55 over my last bid. I didn't think it would go over $400. Ouch!

The same manner of thinking applies to sites that have a set price for jerseys, such as Meigray's or iceviolence.com, since those jerseys are almost always somewhat over-priced to begin with, and one has to make up his or her mind how strong the desire is for a 2006-07 home Dallas Drake jersey (with the "C" and "Brett Hull" patches) for $795. Or one could have had a Penguins Paul Coffey home jersey from 1989-90 that just sold for $3,750. This is also of concern when the True Blues Authentic Team Store puts game worn jerseys up for sale. Does one really want to pay a couple of thousand dollars for a 2014 Tarasenko gamer? (yes, please)  Five years from now, this jersey could be worth double or triple that price. As an example, around five or six years ago, the True Blues Store offered a couple of Brett Hull game worn jerseys from the early 1990s for $1,000 each. At the time, I had never spend more than $575 for any gamer, so naturally I balked at such a "high" price. Of course, now I deeply regret passing up such a bargain, as Hull jerseys from that same era just sold at auction for around $2,500-3,000 each. And just how fabulous would it be for any avid, serious collector of Blues gamers to have one actually worn by Brett Hull?

Dagnabbit! To borrow a phrase from Bugs Bunny, "What a maroon!"

Sometimes timing plays a part in acquiring a one-of-a-kind hockey treasure, especially when buying memorabilia from private collectors. Thanks to my good friend and fellow collector Kevin Jones, I was invited to the home of someone who had worked at the Arena in the late 1960s and early 1970s and had a vast collection of sticks given to him by the Blues and many other NHL players over the years. I was very happy to acquire a signed stick that was used by Frank St. Marseille, yet dismayed and horrified to learn the seller had just sold a goaltender's stick that had belonged to the legendary Jacques Plante. I could just break down and cry that I missed out on that stick, which was sold for a paltry $350, just a couple of weeks before my visit.

Remember, a limited supply and a high demand (especially for star players) drives prices, especially as more and more people with the money have joined the quest to acquire hockey memorabilia. For many, it is a solid investment for the future, that is if they are willing to sell their treasured hockey relics. If not, their heirs can appreciate a handsome profit.