With big-time bragging rights and an autographed, hand-painted Michael Jordan Bulls Jersey from Upper Deck Authenticated (UDA) on the line, 29-year-old Roy Lautieri stepped up and hit nothing but net. An avid sports enthusiast and autograph collector for the past 20 years specializing in UDA memorabilia chronicling the likes of Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, Lautieri sufficiently wowed Upper Deck’s internal committee in the company’s recent “Hunt for the Ultimate Man Cave” contest. With one room in his house completely decked out in UDA keepsakes, Lautieri’s video entry was compelling enough to sway the judges despite the more than 50 outstanding entries that were received.
“People can debate what the true definition of someone’s ‘man cave’ is,” said Chris Carlin, Upper Deck’s sports marketing manager, “but there is no doubt Roy’s ‘man cave’ featured a personal collection that impressed everybody.
“He did a terrific job of not only decorating his designated room with valuable sports memorabilia, some of which consists of highly rare 1-of-1’s, but he also submitted a very interesting video entry that kept everybody’s attention with his informative voice-over narration. We had some terrific entries, but nobody else’s came close to the enormity and outstanding player lineup of Roy’s. Plus, his collection is comprised almost entirely of UDA items from the past and present, which was one of the most important parts of our judging criteria.”
On May 17, Upper Deck’s Marketing Team announced the contest, setting it up to run through Father’s Day weekend (June 20). It was created to reward some of UDA’s loyal constituents for their devotion to the brand and dedication to sports collecting. Every week, simply by entering, a random winner was picked to receive a Michael Jordan game-used United Center floor piece from MJ’s tenure with the Bulls. But the pièce de résistance – the MJ-signed Bulls Jersey, hand-painted by renowned sports artist Jolene Jessie with an image of MJ dropping in another basket – was the ultimate driver in attracting as many entries as the contest did. The limited MJ keepsake, numbered to 6, has a retail value of $3,000.
Lautieri, a bartender who hails from Coventry, Rhode Island, possesses a sports memorabilia collection comprised mostly of basketball merchandise, including an eye-popping assortment of Boston Celtics items. “That is my team,” he said. His vast array includes signed basketballs as well as sneakers and photos from Celtics stars like Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, but also from non-Boston sports stars like Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Lamar Odom
“As far as Magic goes, I am kind of caught up in the Magic vs. Bird rivalry,” said Lautieri. “I would rather see a no-look pass than a dunk any day.”
Married to his wife, Kristen, for the past three years, Lautieri had this to say when asked how he balances his collecting passion with being a husband: “My wife loves the fact that my hobby makes me so happy and she even has a couple of favorites herself including the [Kevin] Garnett Breaking Through,” he said. “On the other hand, she says ‘Babe, don’t you think you have enough autographs? When will it ever end?’ But that is true love for you because she knows it will never end and she’s okay with that. So, I always get her opinion on what I should buy next.”
He considers UDA’s coveted, triple-signed “Legends of Sport” lithograph autographed by Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, which retails for $6,000, to be his most prized piece of memorabilia. “If for no other reason than the fact that my wife and I met Ali a few years ago at the Hotel Atlantis [in the Bahamas] and he made such a great impression on both of us. Not only did he agree to take a photo with me, but he posed for it as if he was punching me right in the jaw. So when I saw that UDA had that piece, I knew I had to have it.”
Working as a barkeep for the past 10 years, Lautieri loves his profession which so far has been able to support his collecting pursuits. “What’s a better job than talking about sports and making drinks? I mean, working for Upper Deck is the only other thing that comes to mind,” he said.
“Other than my family, Upper Deck is what I live for. It is my passion. And to be appreciated for my loyalty to you guys means the world to me. It makes me feel that every dollar I’ve ever spent on UDA products was worth it.”
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