Back in November 2000, I attended the Milwaukee County Stadium auction, hell-bent on buying something memorable from my favorite soon-to-be demolished ballpark.
I remember the day well. I already had purchased a pair of seats and a "WALK, DON'T RUN SIGN" during the non-auction part, but I wanted something bigger, more grandiose.
It took place in a chilly, a large tent filled with a combination of Brewers geeks and professional antique dealers. I didn't know much about auctions, but I knew that I didn't want to spend all day bidding and losing, so I decided I would make my play early.
The first items up for bid were big, like the actual neon letters that spelled out "HOME OF THE BREWERS." I was shocked that the entire lot went for just a few hundred bucks; either people were still sheepish at this point or no one could think of a good place for a huge neon letter. So, when the six-foot tall sheet metal seating diagram went up for auction, I bid, and then bid again. I got the sign for $350, and hours later, as collectors got desperate, much smaller signs sold for much more.
A lot of my assorted Brewers memorabilia has been relegated to the basement and into storage -- getting married and owning "adult" furniture will do that to your sports stuff, but that "you are here" sign received an exemption and displays proudly in my kitchen.
It's one of the coolest things I own, actually, and while some may laugh that I paid $350 for it, to me, it's priceless.
That's why I understand how people can be giddy about the upcoming "LOST" auction next month in Los Angeles. I mean, I won't be flying out there to buy Charlie's guitar or a six-pack of Dharma Initiative beer, but I can't exactly fault the people who do.
There's something about memorabilia that stirs the heart, even when it's weird.
This morning, in fact, I heard a BBC report about a new biography of an Indian cricket player, Sachin Tendulkar, that will contain drops of his blood mixed into a signature page. Only 10 copies of the special edition will be made and will cost $75,000.
That's taking fandom a little too far.
Nerdy or cool, the best memorabilia is the stuff with which you have a personal connection. Buying an autographed photo is less impressive, to me, anyway, than having it signed in person. Game-worn jerseys are interesting, but I particularly enjoy the wristband that former Brewers 3B Sean Berry chucked to me on the last day of Spring Training.
If you don't get it, you don't get it. That's OK. Memorabilia shouldn't be about showing off. It should be purchased -- or found -- to satisfy the collector, him or herself. And you know you've found the right spouse when she lets you hang a giant map of County Stadium in your kitchen.
What's your favorite piece of memorabilia, sports or otherwise? I'd love to hear about it in the Talkbacks below.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.