Tuff Stuff’s Holiday Gift Guide

By Dennis Tuttle

Oh, ho-ho-ho, what to buy the sports collector for the holidays? Or better yet, what to buy for yourself? We all know it’s very difficult when you find that perfect gift for a friend or loved one, only to realize you really, really want that piece of memorabilia for your own collection. That’s why some people get a bag of commons for Christmas. They have been very, very bad that year.

But searching for great gifts is a snap with the holiday gift guide section that I put together for the fine folks at Tuff Stuff’s Sports Collectors Monthly. The guide looks across all sectors of the sports collecting hobby and flushes out what’s hot, what’s trendy and what’s a good bargain. From cards and autographs, to special editions, oddball items, upstart products and even memorabilia roadtrips, you should find something in this guide to suit the collector within you – or a friend.

Tony Romo, Cowboys QB Legacy
Following in the footsteps of Dandy Don Meredith, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo has enormous national popularity that extends down to his memorabilia market. His autographs have climbed about 20 percent since the start of the 2007 season, and his 2003 SP Authentic autographed RC No. 217 is valued at $650 (ungraded). But the interest in his materials hinges almost weekly on how the Cowboys are playing. So if they reach the Super Bowl, look out!

New York Giants Team-Signed Helmet
Team-signed items of Super Bowl champions are always popular in their own market, but what separates the Super Bowl XLII champs is their place in rich NFL history. Think New York Jets winning Super Bowl III, except maybe even bigger. The Patriots were trying to be the first undefeated team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, and the Giants came into the game as 13 1/2-point underdogs. The Giants had barely made the playoffs, had to win all their playoff games on the road and then pulled off the staggering Super Bowl upset. Game MVP Eli Manning’s autographed football with the SBXLII MVP inscription ($499) is the hottest autograph of the season. A team-signed helmet will push $2,500, but you’ll have a keepsake of remarkable historical value.

Michael Phelps Mania
The fastest swimmer of all time has quickly become the most marketable Olympic swimmer since Mark Spitz in the 1970s. Like Spitz, Phelps has the young female demographic swooning, so if you know someone who has a life-sized poster of Phelps on their wall, they will probably faint over a Phelps-signed Sports Illustrated cover photo or Olympic action photo of the new greatest American hero. Price: $549-$599 at www.steinersports.com.

Cut Above the Rest
Most of the major card companies now produce some sort of memorabilia card with a cut signature, offering two levels of collectibility: something for the base or player collector and something for the investment collector.
You can get everything from modern stars to all-time legends such Jim Thorpe, Sammy Baugh, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth. Prices have ranged from double figures for common stars to $10,000 and above for deceased HOFers.
There are several sets to pursue, including Upper Deck’s SP Legendary Cuts, Sport Kings Papercuts and Playoff Prime Cuts, among others.

Yankee Stadium Legacy Box Set
You don’t have to be a Yankee fan (or hater) to appreciate the historical significance of the “House That Ruth Built.” Now that the Yankees have played their last season in the storied stadium, grab this 100-card commemorative card set from Upper Deck that chronicles favorite moments at Yankee Stadium. Each card has terrific photos and descriptions. Price: $19.99. Visit www.upperdeck.com.

Mets/Shea Stadium Relics

Now that the Mets are moving to new digs across the parking lot, perhaps their fans are getting a little weepy over the dump that is Shea Stadium.
That’s why the team is having an awesome sale of stadium seats and relics through Opening Day 2009. Each month there will be a new auction of items from areas around the park. You can also buy a stadium brick for $50. You can purchase stadiums seats in pairs for $869. Visit www.mets.com.

The One Autograph You Must Have (Active player)
We asked a handful of dealers and collectors who is the one active athlete who would make a nice addition to any collection, and the answer,  overwhelmingly, was New York Jets QB Brett Favre A Favre-signed football ranges from $200-$500 (authenticated) and authentic mini helmets sell for  around $150. Visit www.creativesportsent.com, www.victorycollectibles.com or Favre memorabilia expert Rick Radke at www.radtkesports.com.

The One Autograph You Must Have (Retired)

No surprise here: Michael Jordan. Five years since he retired for the final time, Jordan continues to be the modern-day Ruth of sports memorabilia, drawing interest and values as if he were still playing. 
Jordan’s signature is forged more than any other, so make sure you buy from a dealer you trust or from an authenticated distributor, such as www.upperdeckstore.com. Really cool item: the Jordan Art of the Dunk filmstrip display ($1,200).

Historic College
Football Posters

One of the best new entries into the hobby is also an old standby – posters.
Andy Moursand, a former bookstore owner, and Mike Geraghty, a nationally recognized equine artist, have combined to produce football posters from old college program covers dating to 1898. The original artwork of around 100 schools, such as Notre Dame, Michigan, the Ivy Leaguers and more, is available in stunning reproductions. You could pay hundreds for one of the vintage programs, but you get a full-sized poster for much, much less. These posters are great visuals. Visit www.historicfootballposters.com for more information.

Figurines
Rick Romito has long been a one-stop shopping destination for information, product and sales of sports figurines. He even has own line of figurines.
At www.romito.com, you’ll find great prices and a tremendous selection of more than 1,000 items, including Hartland show exclusives and signature series, McFarlane figures, Southland plastics and much more.

Die-cast Vehicles

Press Pass Collectibles delivers the hottest NFL, MLB, NHL, & NBA licensed die-cast vehicles on the market. With superior details and working features, these expertly crafted pieces prominently feature team logos and color schemes and are a must have for any true fan. Visit our store at www.presspassinc.com today, to check the availability of your favorite team in numerous limited edition series.

Alex Ovechkin Signed Items

The Washington Capitals’ electrifying young star has leaped to the head of hockey collectors for cards and autographs. His rapid value escalation is rivaling that of NBA superstar LeBron James in his first few seasons. Ovechkin-signed  pucks ($125), sticks ($350) and jerseys ($475) have almost doubled in the past 18 months.

Some autograph items are available through Sports Collectors Showcase of America (www.csashows.com). Looking for a rookie card? Grab the 2005-06 Upper Deck Young Guns No. 443 ($160 and climbing).


The Great Auto Racing Road Trip

If you are an auto racing fan and collector, there’s no place like the annual National Auto Racing Memorabilia Show. The 30th edition will be held May 22-23, 2009, at the Indianapolis State Fairgrounds. The show serves as a prelude to the Indy 500 on May 24.
Fans can get driver autographs, see vintage racing cars and hook up with dealers and other collectors. Admission is reasonable for a national show. Visit www.narmshow.com, and plan your trip to the show and race.

2008 Topps Baseball Set
Topps releases its complete set each year just in time for holiday sales, and this year you can buy the 660-card set in a variety of packages, including boxed sets for select teams, an All-Star edition or the standard complete set. Topps’ design was popular with a lot of collectors this year, and a bevy of inserts, including 50th anniversary relics and Presidential Stamps, have made this a good year to purchase the granddaddy of sports cards. Complete sets sell for around $56 each. Visit www.topps.com or call (212) 376-0300.

Supplies, Supplies, Supplies!

Uh, no Gomer Pyle, it’s not surprise! It’s supplies! And every collector worth his toploaders needs them.
Check out our friends at Casey’s Distributors (www.caseys-distributing.com) for a terrific variety of collector-safe products, such as card holders, albums, pages and other storage needs.

Displays

Ultra Mount Displays (www.ultramountdisplays.com) is the king. The all-aluminum displays are not only well-priced, but used in many schools and museums. For smaller shelf items, such as caps, balls and etc., visit BCW Supplies (www.bcwsupplies.com) for their wide selection of attractive ultraviolet protection acrylic displays. Pennzoni offers very attractive wood and glass displays at www.pennzonidisplay.com These items are popular for vintage items.
And you can visit the website shop of your favorite pro team; Many have displays with the team logo burned into the acrylic. These items are about 25 percent more expensive that non-marked cases, but they look sensational.

Bargain Basement

Athlon Sports has not only long held a place in sports periodicals, but the Nashville-based company has been a growing presence in sports memorabilia.
And one of our favorite online shopping stops is the website’s clearance store, where you can routinely find more than 350 items, most of them autographed, at steeply discounted prices. You’ll find items of HOFers, active players, upstarts, has-beens and even a few entertainments pieces.
Best finds? Cal Ripken-signed items. To learn more, visit www.athlonsports.com.

Donruss Americana Cards

The popularity of collecting images and signatures from actors, musicians, politicians and other public celebrities far exceeds anything related to sports in years and breadth. So when Donruss rolled out the pop culture Americana Series, we had to wonder: What took so long?
This fun, quirky release, offering two series and a signature cuts series, taps into entertainment with cards, autographs and relics.
Let’s just say that Adam West/Bert Ward card is high on someone’s Christmas list. Visit www.Donruss.com to learn more.

What’s Getting Hot …
Topps announced in early October an exclusive agreement with Ultimate Fighting Championship to produce trading cards of past, present and future UFC competitors. The deal lasts through 2011, but mixed martial arts fans and holiday shoppers don’t have to wait.
Donruss already has Ring Kings MMA inserts as part of the American Series II cards, and Upper Deck’s “The Art of Fighting” was released in October as the sport’s first stand-alone set. The 100-card set includes autographs, gold parallels and Classic Clashes inserts. Retail price is around $55.


Yankee Stadium Tour

Give your sports fan a gift he or she will never forget in a final tour of Yankee Stadium, being offered on a limited basis until further notice. The 45-minute tour takes you throughout the park – the monuments, clubhouse, field and press box. Admission is $20 for adults and $15 for kids under 14 and senior citizens. However, admission does not guarantee a sighting of the notorious stadium ghosts that have spooked many opponents over the years. Visit www.yankees.com for tour details and tickets. SCM

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