What's it worth?
Although the question is posed every day about automobiles, houses, jewelry and more, when it comes to sports-related property and vintage memorabilia, Brandon Steiner is the man to ask. Twenty-two years ago he founded Steiner Associates, which marketed athletes to restaurants and sports bars.
In a typical Facebook moment, a friend of his, Bill Lederman, said "Steiner Associates" didn't sound quite right. Hence the evolution to Steiner Sports around 1994. The change was made and it has been Steiner Sports ever since.
Just 20 years ago Steiner was sitting across the table from "The Mick" engaged in a spirited debate about whether Mickey Mantle's autograph was worth $15 or $20.
"Five dollars was a huge difference back then," said Steiner, who is now CEO of Steiner Sports. "At Steiner Sports every morning starts off with what's it worth, as we are constantly negotiating with modern-day players, and at the same time reacting to highs and lows in the vintage market.
Dealing with Mantle happened early on, and that led to working with Walter Payton, Phil Rizzuto, Derek Jeter, Mark Messier and others.
Many of these high-profile athletes will be doing future interviews with Steiner, discussing everything from the field to the living room. Ultimately, Steiner will find out what they collect.
Recently at Steiner Sports, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice told stories of going out to New York Jets camp as a kid and chasing players down for their autographs.
For Steiner Sports, individual players gave way to team projects such as the 1986 Super Bowl champion Giants, and the 1996 World Series champion Yankees. "The team projects keep you on your toes … so many different players and personalities," Steiner said. "But when they are finished, it's a gratifying feeling. Customers love to collect team-signed items.
You go to sleep, knowing you negotiated successfully with an entire team. Not only that, but an entire team that just won a championship.
You look up right now at the hobby, and Babe Ruth and Thurman Munson are two of the hottest names in collecting. How can that be? The Babe hasn't played in 70 years, and it's about 30 for Munson. You just can't predict the vintage hot markets.
For Steiner, the market never stopped changing for his company, as the humble beginnings were in booking athletes and helping companies manage their partnerships with athletes and teams.
Only from the leftover items, was the memorabilia business born. "I would give an 8-by-10 signed photo to a customer, trying to solicit business and the next thing you know they have a huge smile on their face. I said, 'We may have something here. Maybe we need to be selling these items,' " Steiner said.
For example, recently Steiner Sports had an entire collection of Los Angeles Lakers items that a person was throwing away. Steiner got involved and the "Coast 2 Coast Collection" is expected to raise more than $150,000 on our auction. The items are being bid on right now.
Steiner has been featured on CNBC, Fox Business, ESPN Radio, and has his own show on YES Network, "Memories of the Game." He is always asking athletes what they collect, whether it's for his show or in his partnerships with numerous personalities.
After five years negotiating directly with teams, Steiner Sports created several partnerships, including Steiner Yankees, Steiner Syracuse, Steiner Notre Dame, Steiner MSG, Steiner Red Sox, Steiner Cubs and Steiner Cowboys.
In an unpredictable and ever-changing market, you can count on Brandon Steiner to get to the bottom of what it's worth.
In the future in his column, you can reach out to Steiner, and finally find out: What's it worth?
Just send a jpeg image or two of a sports memorabilia item in your collection along with a description of it, your name, hometown and email address to us here. Steiner will pick one submission once a month and offer his expert analysis of selected items.
Stephen Costello is vice president of Steiner Sports Memorabilia, Inc., which is based in New Rochelle, N.Y.