|Monday, January 12
Updated: January 13, 6:27 PM ET
Rocket is not done yet ... will Yankee fans react?
By Darren Rovell
Throw out those retirement newspapers, the unlicensed gold retirement card and the 8-by-10 matted photo of final cap tip. Roger Clemens' signing with the Astros just rendered those "final" mementos a little less valuable.
Luckily, a slew of collectors won't be impacted by Clemens' change of heart, as only a handful of commemorative career items were minted. If anything, marketers say Clemens himself has the most to lose by not going out as a New York Yankee.
"Whenever you walk away from the Yankee legacy, it's a huge compromise off the field," said Brandon Steiner, president of Steiner Sports, which is selling Clemens' final cap tip photo from $9.99 to $19.99, depending on size and framing option. "This is going to put a bad taste in the mouths of Yankee fans."
Steiner says the possible loss in value of the photos is a "non-factor" to his business.
One company is still selling a limited edition of 5,000 "Roger Clemens last game" photo collages and The Highland Mint produced a photo, coin and "final pitch" game-used dirt plaque for $79.95.
"I guess we'll have to come out with one next year called the sequel," joked Vince Bohbot, executive vice president of The Highland Mint. "When we were making this piece, in the back of our minds, and I'm sure in the minds of those buying the piece, we thought this might not be his last game."
Clemens himself perhaps helped out collectors who wanted him to inscribe October 22, 2003 -- the date of his final game on items.
"They asked him, but he wouldn't do it," said Jeff Rosenberg, president and CEO of Tri-Star Productions, which has had Clemens under an exclusive autograph contract since 1999.
Rosenberg says he believes that it's not yet clear whether the price of his Yankees items will decline.
"When he left the Red Sox, fans were very upset, but we sell plenty of Red Sox product today," Rosenberg said. "I think the market might depend on what happens in Houston and how well he performs."
More items were produced commemorating Clemens' 300th win and 4,000 strikeout -- which happened in the same game, June 13, 2003, against the St. Louis Cardinals -- than items produced on occasion of his retirement. A framed replica lineup card of the game with a picture of Clemens retails for $125.
"It's very rare in baseball to see a lot of items surrounding a retirement," said Rich Klein, a price guide analyst for Beckett, a sports collectibles publishing firm. "Not many people care about the final moment. With a pitcher like Nolan Ryan, for example, they care about 5,000 strikeouts and seven no-hitters."
Klein says that the few novelty items of Clemens that were produced will decline in value.
"Like the supposedly final Michael Jordan shot (against the Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals) wasn't the same after he came back for two years to play for the Wizards, Clemens' final cap tip is definitely less of a moment now that he'll be back on the field again."
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.firstname.lastname@example.org.