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Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Updated: August 18, 1:59 PM ET
Memorabilia Madness!

By Bill Simmons

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you want to skip Bill's quick introduction about the 2011 National Sports Collectors Convention and go straight to the 16-page mega-photo gallery essay, here are the links:


Back in 2009, my first National Sports Collectors Convention yielded a 2,200-word essay, a 20-page photo essay, a decent-sized hole in my checking account, and the enduring disgust of my wife after I returned from Cleveland carrying vintage pennants, Topps boxes, beaten-up posters and various other items that I didn't really need. One year later, I went back for seconds — this time in Baltimore — under the guise of filming a TV segment for E:60. I bought more useless stuff and had this exchange with my wife upon returning home.

—Her (sifting through one of my bags): "What's this?" —Me: "That's a 1940s Red Sox razor. An old-school one!" —Her (opening it): "What are you gonna do with it?" —Me: "I don't know. I just thought it was cool." —Her: "How much did it cost?" —Me: "Like 150." —Her (confused): "And you can't shave with it?" —Me: "No. It's a collector's item." —Her: "Where is it gonna go?" —Me: "I don't know." —Her (thinking about slitting my jugular vein with the razor): "You don't know?" —Me: "No." —Her: "Why don't you think of these things when you're buying this stuff?" —Me: "I … I don't know."

That should have been it. A third straight year would turn me into an official NSCC junkie, push me closer to wearing my first cheaply made Hawaiian shirt, and maybe even lead to my first conversation with a divorce lawyer. But when I learned the 2011 Convention was being held in Chicago — one of the happiest cities to visit during the summer — and that a few of my friends were going, I mean, how could I skip it? I didn't plan on doing a photo essay or anything this time, just going for fun. But first, I needed clearance.

—Me: "I'm thinking about going to the Collectors Convention again next month." —Her: "What? Where is it?" —Me: "Chicago." —Her: "Chicago? That's not fair!" —Me (panicking): "I'm going for work — doing a photo essay for Grantland." —Her: "Wait, didn't you already do one of those?" —Me (thinking): "Yeah, but still."

In the words of Ernie Banks, let's play two! CLICK HERE FOR MY 2011 PHOTO ESSAY.

PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 The convention always kicks off on Wednesday afternoon with a special VIP event. I'm not sure "VIP" is the right word — when I think "VIP," I think of velvet ropes being lifted and $500 bottles of Belvedere being ordered, not two lifelong bachelors haggling over the price of a PSA 6 Mickey Mantle card from 1958. But for an extra "VIP" fee, you get a VIP badge ("look, I'm a VIP!"), some limited edition cards and an advance look at everything for sale that week. This old-school pinball machine from the 1950s sold within the first 20 minutes on Wednesday. You know, because anytime you can splurge on something that's exceptionally heavy and isn't fun to play, you have to do it. One of my favorite pieces: an authentic 1966 Packers clubhouse sign featuring all their title flags up to that point (on sale for a crisp $2,900). We Oooohed and Ahhhhed at this one for a few minutes before remembering that we weren't Packers fans. These prophetically vintage "Juicemobiles" football cleats were going for $150. You always forget how famous O.J. Simpson was before he may or may not have brutally murdered his ex-wife and a waiter. I thought this picture said it all. Did I look around for a framed "Tiger's 18 Holes" collage featuring 18 autographed photos of every bimbo who claimed to sleep with him? Yes. Yes I did. One of three uncut sheets known to exist from Topps' 1969-70 basketball set. It's a $40,000 piece. If I ever owned something like this, I would get it framed, hang it in my living room, then annoy everyone who visited my house about it. Do you understand how cool this is? DO YOU? Nobody made basketball cards from 1962 to 1968! You're looking at the rookie cards for future Hall of Famers like Kareem, Havlicek, Reed and Frazier, as well as the first Topps cards for Wilt, Oscar and West! I NEED YOU TO BE MORE FUCKING EXCITED PLEASE!!!!!" If you thought the Tiger market is suffering, check out poor Alf. It's over. He can't even go on Celebrity Rehab to extend his 15 minutes.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 An unexpected surprise at this year's convention: an Olympics collectibles exhibit! (If you think I went a little overboard with the exclamation point, just wait.) That's a banner from the 1924 Winter Olympics in France — the first year they separated the Summer and Winter Games. When I asked how much it cost, the seller just laughed. That's an NSCC tradition: the condescending "I'm not even wasting my breath and giving you an answer because you can't afford it" laugh. It's a smart move: You're not wasting time with the customer AND you're doing a little reverse psychology on him. Hold on, you don't think I can afford it? (Whipping out a check.) Watch this! Watch how much I can afford it, buddy! An authentic Longines clock from the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley. How much do you think it cost? I'll tell you after the next picture. That clock? Three grand. Three grand! Meanwhile, here's an actual silver medal from the 1980 USSR Olympic hockey team. (Note: I assumed that Vladislav Tretiak whipped this medal at his coach during the medal ceremony for benching him in the USA game. Nope. It belonged to one of their forwards, who probably ponied it up on a bread line or something.) I thought about making an offer because it's really the ultimate "Eff You, We Won And You Didn't" collectible … and then they told me it was $25,000. Well, then. I walked into the 2011 show with two goals: Don't shake hands with anyone who's eating, and only buy things you can't find anywhere else. These two items qualified: unripped tickets for the 1980 USA-USSR hockey game ($450) and the USA's gold-medal game against Finland ($150) … you know, only the greatest weekend in the history of American sports. I haggled the guy down to $500 for the pair, one of my only two purchases of the week. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! More important, check out my grotesque collector's edition fu manchu that I grew just for the convention. It was only missing a cheap Hawaiian shirt to go with it. "I'm starting to lose hope, I can't find an Al Oerter autographed discus anywhere … hey, wait a second!!!"

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 Check out the USA shooter on the bottom right of these 1992 Olympics cards, the one who looks like Guillermo from Jimmy Kimmel Live. His name is John McNally and I'm reasonably sure this is his rookie card. Isn't he precious? All right, John, look like you're going to shoot something, hold it right there, hold that look, beautiful! That might be a keeper! Here's the eBay auction for McNally's rookie card if you want a better look. Feel free to "buy it now" for $99.99. No, really, go ahead.

Two years ago, I would have spent $20 on this phone from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles …

… especially when they showed me that you could replace the top of the phone with this statue of someone throwing a discus (another $25). Then I realized both items would end up in my attic. I walked away. Veteran move.

For about 2.709 seconds, I thought this was a Nancy Kerrigan doll and got superexcited to buy it just for the Tonya Harding jokes. Nope … it was a Katarina Witt doll. Sadly, there's no "Infamous Sports Moments" collection to cover things like Kerrigan/Harding, Favre/Sterger and the Artest Melee.

Me: "What's that?" Guy behind counter: "It's a 1980 USA speed skating suit." Me (excited): "Eric Heiden's? Guy: "No, one of his teammates."

(Two seconds of awkward silence as I try to figure out how to walk away.)

Signs you might be a weirdo, Vol. 219: You avidly collect items from the 1936 Summer Olympics in Germany.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 Ahhhh, the good ol' days, when athletes could make a little extra money from cigarette ads without worrying about dying from lung cancer or corrupting America's youth.

So what if there's no good way to smile while holding a cigarette without looking effeminate, drunk or effeminately drunk? That didn't stop legends like Stan Musial …

… or the great Mickey Mantle, for that matter. The good news for the Mick was that nobody would ever DARE question his sexuality.

Whoops, I spoke too soon. Welcome to my single favorite piece every year. It just slays me. Can you put a price on this kind of comedy? (Actually, you can — the price was $3,495.) I know it's easy for your eyes to gravitate towards the Mick, lock on him, then stare at him in disbelief for the next two to six hours, but check out the look on Yogi Berra's face — it's the same way Beecher used to stare at Keller during Season 3 of Oz. Can you imagine if A-Rod and Jeter released a similar ad in 2011? Would the Internet self-combust?

Continuing our smoking theme: These two authentic St. Louis Hawks lighters from the 1961 (left) and 1959 (right) were going for $250. Limited market here: How many St. Louis fans stuck with the Hawks after they moved and smoke cigarettes/cigars AND have $250 to burn on a genuinely dumb purchase? We're basically down to Jon Hamm and that's it.

Speaking of Hamm, it's always fun to think of the real-life Don Draper seeing one of these 1950s ads and saying, "No, no, that's all wrong! I told you, I want Leo smiling! And I want him holding a bat!" I vote that we start making superawkward ads with baseball players and managers again.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 I spent a few minutes trying to think of the most realistic Jay Leno/Tonight Show joke about Gen. Custer's belt buckle and settled on this one: "Gen. Custer's belt buckle was the last stand … for his pants!!!"

A piece with autographed photos of all seven actors who played James Bond, plus Bond creator Ian Fleming. Check out George Lazenby (middle left) rocking the ascot! No wonder they dumped him after one Bond movie. PS: Did you know Lazenby recently divorced tennis star Pam Shriver and had a bitter child custody battle with her? I may or may not have stumbled across this information while Googling "James Bond Lazenby ascot."

A perennial nominee for the "Single Worst Anniversary Gift You Could Give Your Wife" Award: an autographed piece from a horror movie in which Jack Nicholson tried to murder his wife and son with an ax.

A perennial nominee for the "Single Worst Gift You Could Give, Period" Award.

Gotta love these old-school movie posters — especially the one on the left, in which Anthony Perkins played Jimmy Piersall and threw like even more of a girl than the dad at the end of Field of Dreams. I nearly went on an old-school-movie-poster binge before remembering my vintage pennant bender from 2009 — when I bought six or seven of them at the NSCC show, then found out later that most of them were on eBay for half the price — and calmly walking away.

A framed photo of Tommy John, Ricardo Montalban, Burt Reynolds and Chris Evert that's autographed from Evert to Tommy. If you can't make out what she wrote, here's what it says: "To Tommy — thanks for the greatest orgy of my life. Please thank Burt and Ricardo for me." Actually, it says, "Thanks for watching me this week!" Wait, that's just as creepy. I kind of wish I had bought this.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 This Pats jersey haunts me every year at the convention: I always get excited to see the old-school red jersey in the massive game-worn jersey section, I always get doubly excited for the "33" (my favorite number) and then I always pull it out and realize it's for Joe Peterson, who played three games for the Pats during the 1987 strike and was apparently 5 feet, 4 inches tall. No way I could wear it … nor would I want to wear it since he was a scab. By the way, I turn 42 next month.

Gorgeous Red Sox jersey from the immortal 1975 season (belonging to Jim Willoughby) that was being auctioned off at a later date. That was my biggest gripe with this year's convention: too many splashy displays by auction houses that weren't actually selling anything (just promoting future auctions). If you're going to do that …

… do it like the Gray Flannel guys, who bring killer stuff from their future actions AND sell a few extras, as well. This was one of their neater Basketball Hall of Fame auction pieces: Wilt Chamberlain's practice jersey from the ABA's San Diego Conquistadors, an impossible find because the NBA sued the Q's and prevented Wilt from playing even one game for them. (He ended up coaching them instead.) The jersey went for a crisp $13,200 last week.

One more Grey Flannel piece: a Buffalo Braves warm-up jacket from Mike Davis (circa 1971) that eventually fetched $19,200. I adored this one. The most expensive uniform from that Hall of Fame auction? Julius Erving's 1974 ABA Eastern All-Stars jersey went for $132,000 as part of the Al Trautwig Collection. Yes, THAT Al Trautwig. Once a ball boy for the Nets and a stick boy for the Islanders, Trautwig apparently saved everything and finally cashed out in this auction. You're right, this is too much information.

Something I never saw before this year's convention: Fight-worn boxing shorts for Tommy Hearns, Julio Cesar Chavez, Larry Holmes and others. The bad news: These things are expensive. Like, five-figures expensive. The good news: They smell like stale blood, stale sweat and fromundacrotch cheese. Oh wait, that's also bad news. I don't see this market catching on.

We're cheating with a photo from 2010's convention in Baltimore. That's me holding Sam Bowie's game-worn warm-up jacket from his Nets days. About two weeks after touching this jacket, I tripped in a parking lot, twisted my right knee … and it hasn't felt quite the same since. True story.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 You never know when the Collectors Convention is going to give you a random punch to the gut.

A relic from the days when it was safe to let Cleveland sports fans play with darts.

When I was growing up, we didn't have the Internet, video games or cable television to entertain us; we had boxing robots. Watch this old commercial if you don't believe me. (Cut to everyone over 40 nodding sadly.)

When you're the prewar sports memorabilia guy, you know you can leave your station for a few minutes and probably not miss out on any customers.

It's a Joe Louis clock that looks like Joe stepped on a grenade, lost everything below his torso, then the doctors replaced his waist and legs with a clock. They wanted something like $500 for it. I spend a lot of time being confused at the NSCC.

Another auction piece: Honus Wagner's game-used bat. They were expecting it to go for seven figures easy. Do you think it pisses off Nap Lajoie that Honus has become the go-to guy for all old-school baseball memorabilia? Lajoie: .338/.380/.466 splits with 380 steals, two MVP awards, five batting titles, a Triple Crown, 0 rings and 104.2 WAR. Wagner: .328/.391/.467 splits with 723 steals, three MVP awards, eight batting titles, no Triple crowns, 1 ring and a 134.5 WAR. (Thinking.) You're right, Nap should shut up.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 I love when sellers try to woo potential buyers with absurd notes like, "COULD THIS BE MICHAEL'S GLOVE?" I would have gone with, "DOES THIS SMELL LIKE EMMANUEL LEWIS?"

Mementos from the 1987 NFL strike. I was intrigued until the seller told me that he wanted $900 for one of them. That's not cutting it unless they were autographed by Shane Falco.

To the left: A salesman's sample of the Hart Memorial Trophy (for the NHL's MVP). To the right: Marcel Dionne's Art Ross Cup for winning the 1980 NHL scoring title (sold for $11k in an auction one week later). Here's my question: What would make for a better fantasy football trophy? My buddies and I debated this for a few minutes — I was in the Art Ross Cup camp because you could pour drinks into it. These are the things you discuss at the NSCC.

Pete Rose is a running joke at the convention; he's signed so many things over the past 20 years that it's devalued his signature to "Davey Concepción" levels. Did you know that Rose does 180 signings per year just in Las Vegas? One hundred and eighty! Put the sharpie down, Pete! I'd like to go back in time and tell 1986 Me how things were going to turn out for Rose, Clemens, Tyson and O.J., just to see the look on 1986 Me's face.

Our most dramatic moment of the convention: On Thursday the U.S. Postal Service swooped in on someone's booth …

… and arrested a dealer from Minnesota for mail fraud involving a "game-worn" A-Rod jersey that turned out not to be genuine. You know, kind of like A-Rod. Poor Minnesota — it can't even get through a Sports Collectors Convention without suffering an agonizing loss.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 Rule no. 1 of the NSCC: Don't get sucked into the Magazine/Program Vortex. You could lose two hours before you even blink. Don't even glance at them. You hear me? LOOK AWAY!

Another rule: Always ask if something that seems to be vintage is actually vintage. Like this "Ted's Root Beer" sign, which turned out to be one of those new-retro products that can be found easily on eBay for 19 bucks. Not autographed by Ted, but still.

Another rule: Don't collect anything that's politically incorrect now but wasn't politically incorrect back then, no matter how rare it is. There's just no upside. It's a Curb Your Enthusiasm plot waiting to happen.

Fine, fine … there's a little upside here. The "More" pushes it over the top. I e-mailed this to 10 of my Jewish friends with the question "How excited would you be to get this as a holiday gift on a scale of 1 to 10??" The average score? 7.2. One friend pointed out, "It's a relic, y'know — in the last decade or so, the Chosen People have flooded the sports world." Another said, "As a gift for my grandfather, this would be better than a live Streisand performance of Hava Nagila." My favorite response: "I'm good with just the one copy that I have. Get me something else." He was serious.

So much to love here: the title (and … HOWE!), the price (75 bucks????) and the fact that it's co-signed by Gordie and his wife. I nearly thumbed through it to see if it included a "Gordie Howe hat trick" bedroom anecdote but decided against it.

The strangest thing about the convention every year? That MantleMania hasn't subsided even a little. Only Mantle gets a whole wall of autographed photos like this. It's bizarre. He's like the Pied Piper for socially awkward, over-55 white guys.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 The winners of our "This Jersey Never Should Have Effing Happened" Award for 2011 (Guy Lafleur's game-worn Nordiques jersey) and 2010 (Joe Namath's game-worn Rams jersey). I can't wait to give this award to Kobe Bryant's game-worn 2014 Heat jersey someday.

One of the pieces I always stare at the longest. We've seen it at three straight NSCCs; nobody ever buys it. In fairness, you could probably get Mike Eruzione to come to your house and cook your extended family dinner for $500.

I like that Jim Craig has signed so many of these over the past 30 years, he's now settled on a catchphrase: "Believe!" He probably had a four-year run of writing "Do you believe in miracles?" before having an Epiphany that he could pretty easily speed the process up. Believe!

These mid-1980s WWE superstar dolls are a great example of both the "I'm going all in!" collection (either you get all of them, or none of them, but you can't get two or three and call it a day) and the "Honey, look what I bought for our son's bedroom!" collection (when a father uses his young son as a collecting beard to buy things that he really wants for himself). My son is my collecting beard for uncut Topps sheets from the 1970s. He has four in his room already, all of them framed, and literally couldn't care less about any of them.

How much would I have to be paid to hang this over my desk and stare at it for a solid year as I tried to work? Fifty grand. That's my figure. Not a dime less.

The most inexplicably priced piece from the 2010 convention. Two hundred dollars! For Corey Brewer! You're not gonna believe this, but we didn't see any framed/signed Corey pictures at the 2011 convention.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 Here's what I was talking about earlier: These auction houses that swallow up the convention with their you-can-look-but-you-can't-buy merchandise. I'm showing you SCP Auctions because …

… they're working with Julius Erving to hawk his MVP trophies, jerseys, championship rings, sneakers, you name it. I find it profoundly depressing that one of the most influential basketball players ever needs to do this. Let's just move on.

Yet another eye-opening auction piece. There's an 88 percent chance that Gordon's first wife snuck this out of the house during their acrimonious divorce.

(Oh, God. I gotta fight it … it's too easy … I can't do it …)

(Although I don't know how much longer I can fight it off …)

(Please, God, give me the strength …)

"I want to kiss you. I could care less about the team struggling … I just want to kiss you!"


Speaking of wanting to kiss people, here's a picture of me and the real-life Dottie from A League of Their Own (the character that Geena Davis played). She had a women's baseball collector's booth — over her left shoulder, that's a jersey autographed by every living female baseball player from the 1940s. Check out how happy I am in the photo. Please, don't forget that I'm an enormous loser. Not for one second.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 In the 2009 photo essay, I mentioned some niche collectors like Vintage Hockey guy, The Ring Man, Uncut Sheets guy, Unopened Boxes guy and so on. Here's another one: The Boxing Collector. I don't understand why more collectors don't look for these niches/gimmicks instead of being the 7,200th guy who thought it was a good idea to sell vintage baseball cards. Why there isn't a killer NBA Collector has to be one of the great mysteries of the NSCC every year. I'm consistently perplexed.

Here's another good collecting gimmick: Just call yourself "Uncle Dick." That works for casinos, card collecting, porn, wrestling, a limousine business … really it doesn't matter what you're doing. He was my favorite 2011 collector, on the heels of …

… Rich Altman, my favorite collector from 2010. Folks, Rich Altman is buying dead Hall of Famers. Just bring him the corpses and he'll take it from there.

Every year at the convention, there's at least one item that makes me say, "Huh?" This year, there were three. The first: something like 200 authentic sleeveless A's jerseys from the Early Reggie Jackson era. I can't think of a single reason why you'd want one of these unless you were producing a rom-com in which Katherine Heigl lived in the Bay Area and threw on one of Ryan Reynolds' favorite throwback A's jerseys to make him eggs after she moved in with him because they got married after she was nearly deported, only they ended up falling in love, and hot damn, did Katherine look sexy in that A's jersey! Other than that … I'm at a loss.

What a conundrum. On the one hand, team-issued Brewers suitcases from the '70s or '80s! On the other hand, no wheels! How would you use them? Just to store stuff? I don't know what would have happened had these been team-issued Red Sox suitcases from the Lynn/Rice era, and frankly, I hope I never find out.

Our third "Huh?" item: A 40-inch Red Sox statue dating from the 1950s. It cost about as much as a new 50-inch Panasonic plasma … but good golly was it spectacular. I didn't seriously consider buying it only because my lunatic son would have ended up fighting it or something.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 Sing it with me: "I'll be there for yoooooooou … (for only twelve hundred bucks) … I'll be there for yoooooooooou … (I'll lower it another two) … I'll be there for yooooooooou … (I'll take seven but no lower) …"

For the life of me I don't know why I don't own this picture yet. Welcome to my childhood. (Thinking.) Maybe I'll buy it for the collecting beard's bedroom.

I think Nolan Ryan started this trend with the 200,000 photos he signed (and counting) of him kicking Robin Ventura's ass: It's the retroactive, trash-talking, sports-memorabilia market! Here's a framed photo of Chuck Bednarik's famous hit that knocked out Frank Gifford for nearly two seasons, which Chuck decided to sign, "Sorry Frank, this game is f-ing over!" Whoa! Fifteen yards for taunting!!! I just wish a still-concussed Frank had signed it, "You're so perky!" (Wait, nobody got that last joke? You don't remember Frank's stewardess scandal from the late 1990s? Come on people, work with me!)

This signed Al Davis check is going to skyrocket in value when he dies six years ago.

Here's a Chiefs practice sign from the early '90s (signed by Joe Montana and Marcus Allen, among others). I sent it to my buddy Connor (a die-hard Chiefs fan) explaining what it was, telling him the price ($600) and jokingly asking if I should buy it for him and have him pay me back later. His response: "Is Derrick Thomas on there?" That's the great thing about the Collectors Convention: You can lose your mind on a certain item without even being there.

My favorite running subplot of the 2011 NSCC: Whenever three collectors wearing ghastly Hawaiian shirts inadvertently wander within two feet of each other, or as it's more commonly known, "The Triple Hawaiian." You'll see it happen maybe two or three times per day, and it's always special — especially when there's an unbilled cameo from a fourth guy wearing jorts. I don't know what I want more from the 2012 NSCC in Baltimore: a vintage red no. 33 Pats jersey that fits me, or a picture with a collector who's wearing a Hawaiian shirt with jorts.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 I'm a little confused by the "Vintage Empty Box" market. A box of Topps baseball cards from 1962 that's in phenomenal shape … but with no packs inside it? Huh? It's not like you can give one of these boxes as a gift; the recipient will see the box and think, "Awesome, I can't believe he got me a box of baseball cards from 1962!" for two seconds before the sobering realization of, "Crap, the box is empty." So it's decorative only. Sell your stock in the Vintage Empty Box market.

Our 2010 winner of the "If You Forced Me To Spend Four Figures On A Set Of Cards, Here's The Set I Would Have Picked" Award: a mint set of Brady Bunch cards. Excuse me, can I see the card of Mr. and Mrs. Brady awkwardly hugging as Mr. Brady stares into the distance and continues to live a lie? Is that a PSA 8?

And here's our 2011 winner. I love the Tall Boy format, the rich colors, the red Pats jerseys, the crew cuts, the young Buoniconti cameo, the "BOSTON" on a football card … actually, I need to get away from these cards before I drift over to eBay and something bad happens.

No, this wasn't a joke item: This was an actual product from the 1940s and 1950s, back when "gay" doubled as a term for "happy."

In my E:60 segment from the 2010 NSCC, I riffed about this movie-worn White Sox jersey from Eight Men Out (very cool, by the way), wondered if it belonged to Charlie Sheen and joked that, if so, the price could skyrocket because "he's going to be dead soon." We ran the piece in October; a few weeks later, he went off the deep end. Add this to my résumé.

A staple for any "Coolest NFL Jersey Ever" discussion: any Rams jersey belonging to Jack or Jim Youngblood from the late 1970s. Tremendous colors with the added comedy of their first name being crammed above the "Youngblood." How many professional athletes have ever had their entire name on a uniform? Would you say it's more than 10? Less than 10? If you think of any examples, e-mail me.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 Here's our 2010 winner for the "Framed/Signed Picture That's Least Likely To Be Purchased" category. Our six 2011 nominees were pretty fantastic, I have to say. Let's start with …

Look, it's nothing against Danica. She seems very nice. But a married guy couldn't spend $319 on this picture, obviously. If a single guy hung it in his house, any visitor would immediately think that (a) he was planning on stalking Danica, or (b) he had already stalked Danica, and now he was wasn't allowed within 100 yards of her. So who does that leave as a possible consumer? A sports bar owner in the deep south. That's really it.

It's been awhile. And the hits keep coming for Steelers fans! I'm gonna say that price is about 150 bucks too high.

Actually, who am I kidding? I almost bought this.

This could easily double as the DVD cover for Landon's first all-male porn movie, Extra Time!

Someone actually took a signed photo of one of the least liked celebrities of the past 20 years, then said, "How can I make this a little more appealing? I know, I'll add a picture of Trump and Michael Jackson, then frame those pictures together into a bigger piece!" Just a staggering achievement that cruised to the 2011 "Framed/Signed Picture That's Least Likely To Be Purchased" Award. Thanks to all our nominees.

CLICK HERE FOR NEXT GALLERY PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4PART 5PART 6PART 7PART 8PART 9PART 10PART 11PART 12PART 13PART 14PART 15PART 16 The second thing I purchased at the 2011 NSCC: a Foot Locker/NFL toy chest from the 1960s for my son's bedroom. The price? $110. I couldn't resist. And this wasn't even a collector's beard purchase — he might actually use this thing. Or so I keep telling myself. As for my favorite almost-purchases …

This O.J. doll was going for $115. A little too rich for my blood. If I didn't buy this doll, it's only because I loved it too much.

My buddy Jacoby attended the NSCC with me: We both laughed at the way the football was bursting out of this signed Favre picture. Anything that involves the words "Favre" and "bursting" is funny now. It just is.

I never seriously thought about buying this program from 1983's Billy Martin Roast, but I did love thinking of a dais of Billy, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Moose Skowron and many other Yankees from that era, and how they probably broke the "collective blood-alcohol level" and "most inappropriate collection of jokes" records for a roast. What a shame that YouTube didn't exist back then.

Even if $300 was too pricey for this admittedly awesome fight poster, I want you to think about the concept itself: Why did we drift away from overpowering heavyweights fighting five schlubs in one night, and why can't we drift back?

You knew this was coming: I've been joking about these signed Ryan/Ventura photos for years, even predicting two years ago that Robin Ventura is eventually going to snap, fly to Texas and fight Ryan again just to salvage his honor. Well, if this doesn't get Ventura fired up, nothing will: Ryan signed this particular photo "Don't mess with Texas." He keeps upping the ante. It's like he WANTS Ventura to come after him. These are the things you learn at the National Sports Collectors Convention. Until next year.

Bill Simmons is the Editor in Chief of Grantland and the author of the recent New York Times no. 1 best-seller The Book of Basketball, now out in paperback with new material and a revised Hall of Fame Pyramid. For every Simmons column and podcast, log on to Grantland. Follow him on Twitter and check out his new home on Facebook.

Previously from Bill Simmons:

Summer of Mailbag: The Revenge! The Glorious Return of the Mailbag Red Sox Report Card 'Good Lord! That's His Music!'

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