Joe Verno's collection may not be the largest, but it certainly is one of the nicest. Verno's collecting focus is simple; he wants the best pieces of the best players. Mantle, Ruth, Williams and Robinson are just some of the names that reside in this management consultant's home.
Some collectors would prefer a collection filled with quantity--not Verno. He takes pride in having what is considered uncommon and unique. When Verno entertains guests at his home in Colorado, he wants to show them something that they have never seen before and something that they may never see again.
How did you get started collecting?
I started 5 or 6 years ago. I didn't really collect sports memorabilia when I was younger, but I have collected sports related collectibles for years. I started with things like duck decoys and then decided to eventually get into cards. My initial goal was to buy one great card, and that card was a Mickey Mantle rookie in mint condition. I called every dealer in the country trying to find it. It was hard at first because I had no experience with cards and didn't know how to tell the difference between grades.
What players do you focus on and what is it about those players that appeals to you the most?
My focus is fairly simple. I try to collect highly visible Hall of Famers such as Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. It is the marquee player who has the most staying power. I collect single-signed baseballs and key cards from the members of the 500 home run club. I also collect sets such as the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings, 1955 Topps All American Football and 1950 Bowman Football. I am trying to assemble the 1950 Bowman Football set in PSA 9s. I really enjoy working on the sets because I get the same satisfaction in finding a common for $100 as I do finding a $10,000 card of Mickey Mantle.
What are some of your favorite pieces in your collection?
I have a few favorites. I really enjoy my 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle rookie. It's a PSA 9. I also really like my 1955 Topps Jackie Robinson. That one's a PSA 10. As far as memorabilia goes, I have two more favorites. My Babe Ruth game-used bat from 1932 is a really neat item. I also have an autographed wire service photo of Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx that is really unique as well.
Why is it important to you to have your items authenticated and graded by PSA or PSA/DNA?
Well, I have always believed that you should buy the very best you can afford and PSA has made the entire buying process easier for me. I travel 42 weeks a year and there are no shows or conventions around here, so I never get to see these cards in person. With PSA, I don't have to worry about the quality once it is graded and this gives me a secure feeling as a buyer. I don't mind paying a premium for PSA cards because the cards are consistently and accurately graded. You have to be willing to pay for the best if you want the best.
How has the hobby changed and what do you think the future holds for the hobby?
When I first started collecting, I would call about 20 different dealers every week to check on their new inventory. I really worked hard to acquire these items and, along the way, I established relationships with many of the quality dealers out there. Now, many of the high quality items are ending up in auctions so the personal relationships have dissipated a bit. Auctions are fun but they are not the only way to sell cards or memorabilia. I think the future is bright for the hobby because of the authentication process and buyer security, but I would like to be able to purchase more items privately rather than competing at auction all the time. I really enjoy the hunt for great sports collectibles: it's the search that is really fun for me.