The Personalized Passion of an Autograph Collector and PSA/DNA Set Registry Hall of Famer
It is rare to find a collector who is not also somewhat of a historian, and vice versa, a historian who isn't also a collector. The two just seem to go hand in hand.
There are also few people other than historians and collectors who pine over the loss of things that no longer exist and revere the old and scarce items that have survived. Whether it be an item of artistic craftsmanship, things that elicit the nostalgic memories of a bygone era, or items associated with an individual or a significant moment in history, it is the lovers of history and the curators of such items who possess the greatest knowledge of these treasures and passionately want to preserve or own them.
While there are far too many things - from the dawn of time to the latter years of the 20th century - that have been lost to the ages, it is important to understand that not everything that has disappeared or become scarce is of a tangible nature. Along with the scarcity of some valued items, many also lament the diminishing amount of manners, dignity, charm, grace, caring, empathy, and honesty to be found in today's world.
We are now living in an age in which learning and knowing things has less value than ever before because the answer to any question we may ever have can be found in seconds on a device we all carry in our pocket. Ours is an era in which even the once commonplace act of listening to music on a vinyl record, a tape, or a disc are as foreign to anyone under 30 as the learning of cursive handwriting or the concept of using a pen to write sentiments on paper, signing it, placing it in a sealed envelope, putting a stamp on it, and having a government employee deliver it to a friend, relative, or lover.
"No one writes anything anymore," says Jim Doyle who is a serious collector of PSA/DNA-authenticated autographs and PSA-graded sports cards and sets. "And nowadays, with just about everything being done electronically, people hardly even sign their name anymore, much less sit down and write a letter. We just don't see that personal touch anymore."
Doyle, a 1971 graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette who played offensive tackle for the Ragin' Cajun football team from 1967 through 1970, today serves as the chairman and chief executive officer of the Coastal Chemical Company, which distributes fuels, lubricants, process chemicals, and production treating chemicals to the oil and gas industry. He is a man who, along with his family and career, is passionate about autograph and card collecting and keeping the lost art of handwritten correspondence alive.
"I write somewhere between 200 to 300 letters every year," says Doyle. "I recently went on a business trip to Houston where I met with the presidents of three companies. When I got back home, I composed a handwritten letter to all three of them thanking them for giving me their time and for their business. I got three responses back, ironically via e-mail, commenting on how impressed they were that I had taken the time to handwrite them letters. My wife is always asking me why I take the time to handwrite letters and my answer is that I have a tremendous appreciation and respect for the personal nature of a handwritten card or letter. I love, what is sadly becoming, the lost art of personalization, and I think that is why I have such a love for autographed items and signed cards."
Sports Market Report (SMR)recently visited with Doyle who, although he is now a Louisianan, was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Jim Doyle (JD): As a kid growing up in Milwaukee, I was a fan of all the local teams. I especially loved the Braves and I remember they had a bus called the Stadium Flyer where, for about 15 cents, you could ride it directly to County Stadium.
Back in those days they had a thing called the Knothole Gang [a minor league baseball promotion] - if you were a kid around 12- or 13 years old, for 50 fifty cents you could sit out in center field.
In those days there were a lot of double headers, so for around two dollars you could get a hot dog and a soda pop, watch two games, and have the chance to catch home run balls hit by guys like Henry Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Joe Adcock, and Johnny Logan. Those were great times, and I have wonderful memories of going to those games.
Sports Market Report (SMR): What about on the football side? Were you a Packers fan?
JD: I was and still am, even though I have made the transition from the North to the South. After graduating from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, I went back home to Milwaukee for a while and then joined the National Guard. Ironically, they sent me to Louisiana for basic training.
When I finished my service with the National Guard, I decided I really didn't want to return to Wisconsin, so I moved to Lafayette, ended up marrying a girl from Louisiana, and have been in the South since 1972. I've now lived in Louisiana longer than I lived in Wisconsin, so I've been a New Orleans Saints' season ticket holder for more than 30 years. My heart is still with the Packers though. Well, I actually pull for both of them. But when they play each other, I have to admit that I do now side with the Saints.
SMR: Were you a card collector as a kid?
JD: Yes, thanks to my mother. She worked in a bakery every day from the afternoon into the evening. It was a retail bakery, and along with all the baked goods, they also sold baseball cards. I had two brothers, and my mom would bring home boxes of Topps cards. My brothers and I loved getting those cards and I distinctly remember one thing about our early collecting days: we hated the New York Yankees [laughs].
There was a good reason for that. In 1957, when I was nine years old, the Yankees played the Braves in the World Series and the Braves won in seven games. Then, the following year, the Yankees and the Braves both made it to the World Series again. I just assumed the Braves would win that series because they had a three-to-one game lead, but the Yankees came back and won it in the seventh game. I was devastated, and from then on, I searched out all the Yankee cards to make trades, to flip them against the wall, or to stick them in the spokes of my bike.
SMR: So were you exclusively collecting cards of Braves players?
JD: Yes, mainly Braves players. But then there were players like Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, and a few others that I really liked from a personality standpoint. So I was also always on the lookout for cards of players that I liked for one reason or another.
SMR: Were you a set builder back then?
JD: I wouldn't have been classified as a set builder, except for the Braves. I did try to build a complete set of Braves cards from a few years, but I was never really a set builder. I never attempted to put together anything like an entire Topps set from any specific year.
SMR: Did you continue collecting as you got older - through high school and college?
JD: I did continue collecting into high school, but I think like with most kids, my interest in cards waned as I started getting busy with school, friends, and playing sports. Then, when I went off to college, I completely dropped out of the hobby. It was just the classic story: my parents moved out of the house we grew up in and my mother threw out a lot of stuff, including tons of old cards.
SMR: When did you get back into collecting?
JD: What got me back into collecting were my kids. I have two daughters and a son, and I used to take them along on trips with me because, due to my work, I've always had to do a lot of traveling. I would always try to make those trips fun and enjoy some quality time with them. Well, my son liked three things: baseball, baseball cards, and roller coasters. So one year we went to California and saw all five California baseball teams in an eight-day period.
We started in San Francisco, where we saw an Athletics game and a Giants game, then we went to Los Angeles, where we saw the Dodgers and the Angels play, and then continued on down to San Diego for a Padres game. As everyone knows, California also has its share of amusement parks, so we also visited the parks so we could ride the different roller coasters as we went along.
Well, it just so happened that while we were on that trip, the National Sports Collectors Convention was being held in Anaheim and, because he loved baseball cards, we decided to stop there too. After that, I began taking him to a lot of card shows; however, because I wasn't into collecting at that time, I found it got a little boring. So that is what sparked my desire to get back into the hobby and I decided I was going to put together a complete 1958 Topps Baseball set.
What attracted me to that set was that it was the year when I was at the height of my collecting as a kid and I remembered so many of the cards that had come out that year. It was also the only set that commemorated the Braves World Series. That set also contains the only card that has Mickey Mantle and Aaron on the same card - #418 World Series Batting Foes card - which I thought was very cool. So, let's see, my son will turn 40 this year, so that was almost 33 years ago that I got back into collecting again.
SMR: Things had changed quite a bit from the time you had been collecting as a kid.
JD: Very much so. I really started learning as much as I could and became somewhat of an expert on what was happening with cards in terms of third-party grading. As time went by, I also grew very interested in the PSA Set Registry.
SMR: What was it about the Registry that you liked?
JD: I love the way it lets collectors keep score. Sports card fans are sports fans, and sports fans love stats and scores: who is doing well, who is winning, and by how much. The Registry provides that. It gives collectors a way of comparing how they are doing against other collectors who are interested in the same things.
For the better part of the past 33 years, I have been looking for cards and upgrading sets, and I am very proud to have a high-ranking 1958 Topps Baseball Master Set on the All-Time Finest list. I have all 534 cards and my set has a weighted GPA of 8.86 on the Registry.
The Registry has added an entirely new element to the card collecting hobby. Without it, I would have no idea what I really had or what else was out there. It provides information that would otherwise be unobtainable, and it also provides the element of fun and competition. I'm very proud of my Registry accomplishments.
SMR: When you got back into the hobby, were you only buying graded cards or were you also purchasing ungraded cards and then submitting them for grading?
JD: In the early days, I would go to card shows in little towns. I had conducted a lot of research on how cards were graded and knew what to look for as far as corners, centering, and stains went. As a result, I became pretty adept at knowing what to look for, so I would take my chances and buy ungraded cards.
I wasn't collecting for the value back then, and even as time has passed, I have never given much thought to what a card or set might be worth. I was focused more on the competition of putting sets together and the grade of a card. By going to those small shows, I always seemed to be able to buy four or five cards that would grade well, and in a couple cases, I made out very well.
SMR: Along with collecting cards, you also have a love for signed cards and autographs. How did that interest begin?
JD: About 15 years ago, I was at a show and saw a set of Perez-Steele autographed cards. Now, I guess that there are pure card collectors and pure autograph collectors. I'm one of those who is in between. I love autographed cards and I'm attracted to anything that has been signed by a player, so autographed cards are a natural for me. I think I am like most people who collect autographs - I feel that they are a personal connection to the player. I love the fact that a signed card is one that is unlike the hundreds or thousands of cards like it because it was actually held in the player's hand. That's what makes those cards exciting to me.
I once had a baseball that Pete Rose signed. Along with his signature he wrote: "I would walk through hell to be in the Hall of Fame." That is as personal as it gets, and it also holds a historical significance that I love. Whether it is Aaron, Mantle, or any number of legendary players, when any item has actually been held in their hands and signed, it becomes very personalized and special. That is what had me so fascinated with that Perez-Steele set I saw.
After seeing it, I started putting sets together. I completed four sets: the Hall of Fame, Celebration, Great Moments, and Masterworks sets. My goal was to put together those sets in the highest grade condition possible. So on the Registry, I have the Perez-Steele Celebration set in perfect GEM-MT 10 condition. Every single card is graded a PSA/DNA 10. I also have the Great Moments set in PSA/DNA 10. The Hall of Fame set I put together has an overall GPA of 9.6. There are only two cards in that set that are PSA/DNA MINT 9s. Then, after putting those sets together, I transitioned to collecting Yellow Hall of Fame Plaque cards, which I really love.
SMR: Of all the cards that have come in and out of your possession over the years, is there one that is a standout or a personal favorite?
JD: I think my favorite card of all time is, and will always be, the 1958 Topps World Series Batting Foes card with Mantle and Aaron that I mentioned earlier. It is such a beautiful card of two of baseball's greatest legends frozen in time. I can't imagine a card collector who would not want that card, and it means even more to me because Aaron was with the Braves.
SMR: You have been a card collector since before PSA grading and the PSA Set Registry came into existence. In your opinion, how has PSA changed the hobby?
JD: I think every collector knows the hobby would not be what it is today without PSA and PSA/DNA. When it comes to autographed items, the most important thing is to have the signatures authenticated by a knowledgeable and respected third party, and PSA/DNA is the gold standard.
Every collector of cards and autographs knows that the hobby was once rife with forgeries. That would have just continued until the hobby collapsed had it not been for PSA and PSA/DNA. This is, of course, especially true for serious collectors and investor collectors. If you are going to pay $8-, $9-, or $10-thousand dollars for a card, then you want to be sure it's real. When it comes to being the widely accepted leader in authentication and grading, PSA and PSA/DNA are it.
As for the Registry, as I mentioned earlier, I love the competition element of it. But, beyond that, it is also an extremely important tool for collectors and dealers. Sure, it is a lot of fun to be able to really keep score of what you have in a way that would never exist without the Registry, but it also gives you an understanding of what is out there and how you match up against other collectors. It is also a great way of meeting other collectors, making friends with people who have like interests, and helping one another to achieve collecting goals.
SMR: You have such a palpable passion for cards and autographs. If an SMR reader were to visit you at your home or office, would that passion be evident?
JD: [laughing] No, not at all. I know there are collectors who enjoy displaying things, but that's not me. When it comes to my cards and autographs, I enjoy taking them out from time to time and really studying them. But I didn't get into this hobby to show them off, or even for the investment value.
I got in to card collecting for the pure pleasure of completing a set of things that appeal to me. I love the history that is associated with them: who originally bought them, where they bought them, where and when they were signed. Yes, I have a competitive streak that makes me want to complete sets in the highest grades possible, but I also love the cards for their historical significance. It is all of those things that makes this hobby pleasurable to me, but I do keep that to myself.
I think if anyone were to ask my work colleagues or people I have known for many years what my hobby is - if you gave each one 50 guesses - collecting autographs and baseball cards would probably be the last thing they would ever come up with. Collecting is a big part of my life, but it is something that I enjoying keeping personal. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I love things that are of a personal nature - signed cards, autographed items. It is why I enjoy writing personal letters to people. I love things that are personalized, that are rare and historical, and that you don't easily find anymore.
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