In today's world, one of the most effective means of transmitting a message or eliciting an emotion is by using the power of presentation. It is evident everywhere: from the way the government, the military and corporate America present themselves, right down to the way we individually present ourselves through the clothing we select to wear and the hairstyle we choose to adopt.
Whether it's an organization, a business, a product, a service, an idea, a person or even a place, how we perceive or feel about something comes down to how a presentation has been executed to consciously or subconsciously influence us. Presentation, in essence, is what motivates us to feel a certain way and act.
Presentation, of course, also plays a significant role in the card, memorabilia and collectibles hobby. Whether it's a signed baseball sitting in a display case on a businessman's desk or an entire room that has been transformed into a showcase of elaborately arranged game-used and one-of-kind museum-quality items, collectors are as enthralled with seeing a well-presented collection as they are to personally present their own treasures.
"I'm all about the presentation," said card and memorabilia collector Mike Michelin of Dupont, Washington. "When I get a card or a signed photo, I want to relish it and be proud to own it. For me, it would not be something I could enjoy if it were stashed away in a safety deposit box. I want to be able to walk into my house and see the things I love. I display my cards and signed items as art; it's my home décor. When you come into my house and look at my walls, you will see autographed photos and cases filled with signed helmets and balls. It is all about presentation—and all about sports—because that's my passion. It's what I love. I get great enjoyment every time I walk into my house and see these things. It never gets old."
Born in Southern California, Michelin grew up in Anaheim near Angel Stadium and attended Walt Disney Elementary School—two venues that would instill in him an early love for sports.
"We used to go to a lot of Angels games when I was a kid," Michelin recalled. "That really got me interested in baseball. Then, when I was in the first grade, I really got into football because the Los Angeles Rams began using my school as their training facility. My sandbox was where the Rams' kicker would practice taking snaps and kicking field goals."
Having been around sports since he was very young, Michelin said that both watching professional games and playing himself became an integral part of his life. "Sports were a very important part of my life throughout elementary school, and even more so when I got to high school and college," said Michelin. "I went to Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, and I played baseball there for two years before I joined the U.S. Navy."
Following his stint in the Navy, Michelin went back to school and became a fire fighter—first with a paper manufacturing company, and then with the forest service where he worked as a member of a hotshot crew based out of Boise.
Although Michelin enjoyed working with the fire service, he found his true calling when he did some summer work in the construction field. "I had a friend whose father owned a construction company in Boise," he said. "One summer, when things were slow at the fire service, I went to work for him and quickly caught on to construction work. So I changed my career, joined the union for metal stud framing and drywall workers and got a job with a construction company here in the Seattle area."
Michelin, who is a participant in the PSA Set Registry, came to the attention of Sports Market Report when he had a rather unique custom presentation frame created for a card set that has special meaning to him. Believing that the concept he came up with for card presentation would have great interest and appeal to other collectors, we recently caught up with Michelin to ask him about the frame he had created. We began our conversation by asking him how he first got started as a collector.
Mike Michelin (MM): I was a big card collector as a kid, although I really didn't know too much about what I was doing. Back then, the hobby was very different. When you would go to games, the players were very interactive with fans. After games, we would go behind Angel Stadium to where the players parked, and when they would come out, they would sign our mitts, baseballs and cards. I remember getting Reggie Jackson to sign for me—Don Baylor, Rod Carew, all the big stars from when I was a kid.
Sports Market Report (SMR): The manner in which you present and display your collectibles is very important to you now. Was this true when you were a kid as well?
MM: (laughing) No, not at all. Like I said, when I was young, I really didn't understand the collecting aspect at all. I would get a mitt signed by Rod Carew or get Reggie Jackson to sign a ball. When I got home, I would go out and play with them. As you can imagine, that didn't do much for the ball or the mitt from a collectible standpoint. But I didn't think of it that way back then. When I was a kid, playing with that signed mitt or ball made me feel like I was holding a piece of one of the game's great legends.
That was back in the late-1970s and early-1980s. During that time, the Angels were my favorite team and I was thrilled when I would get one of their cards. Whenever I would get a quarter for doing some chores around the house, I would then go and buy a few packs, chew the gum and check out the cards. If it wasn't one of the Angels' cards, I would put it in the spokes of my bike. So again, that kind of shows you that I didn't really know what I was doing. But I loved the cards—playing with them and sharing them with my friends.
SMR: High school, college, girls and a career are the things most childhood card collectors give as the reasons they stopped collecting. Was that the same with you?
MM: As I got into my early-adulthood, I lost interest in collecting cards. During that time in my life, attending sporting events became my hobby. I loved going to games much more than I cared about collecting cards or anything else. But in a way, I don't think I ever totally got over collecting cards. I can clearly remember many times when I missed the cards. I remember, from time to time, seeing a certain card that I once owned in a shop or in SMR, and I would wonder what ever happened to it.
SMR: Do you still have any of your cards from when you were a kid?
MM: I don't have any of my cards from when I was a kid. When I went into the Navy, my mom gave them all away to Goodwill. Many times I have felt like kicking myself for not telling her to keep them because I had a lot of really nice and important cards.
SMR: When did you get back into collecting?
MM: I got back into collecting in the late-1990s. When I first got back into cards, I was primarily collecting football cards. Then when my son, Alex, was born in 2000, my goal was to get rookie cards from the year he was born of different players and from different sports and manufacturers. I thought that if I did that, then later on in life it would be a great collection to pass onto him. I also wanted to start collecting the cards of my favorite players from when I was a child—Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Gale Sayers, Emmett Smith, Franco Harris. I'm a big fan of running backs. They're the workhorses of the offense, and I have a lot of respect for what they do. So, I got back into cards. As the years have gone by, I have become a much better collector. Today, I have a far better understanding of what I want. I'm more focused, and I'm really into the presentation of my collectibles.
SMR: So along with cards, you also collect other things. What else do you collect?
MM: First and foremost, I'm really into collecting cards. I collect other things to compliment the presentation of my cards. I have a nice collection of signed footballs, helmets and photos, and I am also trying to collect an autograph of every one of my favorite players from every sport. The autographed items are especially significant to me. I mean, if you have an interest in a certain player, like say, Barry Sanders, and you get a Lions helmet that he has signed, you feel like you have a connection with him. For me, that helmet and a signed photo are the things I want to include in the presentation of my Sanders' rookie card. With any player's rookie card I own, I want to have it framed with their signed jersey and a signed photo. It's all about presentation. When people come into my house, they get to see the signed items and the cards together.
SMR: It was actually your passion for presentation that sparked our interest in speaking with you. You recently did something quite unique with a very special set. Tell us about it.
MM: You're talking about my 1986-87 Fleer Basketball set. I love that set because when I was growing up, Michael Jordan was at the height of his career. He was so amazing and electrifying. During those days, the Bulls were incredibly dynamic: they had Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen. That's why I love the Fleer set so much. Michael Jordan was my favorite player, and there were so many great players and rookies in that set—guys who went on to become Hall of Famers and who continue to have an impact on the NBA as coaches and even owners (as is the case with Jordan). Putting that set together was a very emotional experience for me. It was also hard for me to complete the entire set. I'm just a blue collar worker, so for me, putting the Fleer set together was a process that entailed getting one card at a time. I couldn't afford to just go and buy a complete set, but it was something I really wanted to do. So I set it as a goal and came up with a plan. By getting one card at a time, I could afford to put the set together. There is a lot of work that goes into finding an entire set. It took me about a year to complete it, and even so, I am still always trying to improve it. My set is on the PSA Set Registry and it's currently graded at 9.9.
SMR: So as a "presenter," you clearly wanted this set to be presented in a special way.
MM: Absolutely. Being as that I have such a passion for both my Fleer set and for presentation, I really wanted to do something special with this set. I knew I wanted to have them matted and framed, so I kept laying them out on the floor and playing around with a couple different layouts. I have had many things matted and framed, so I began by going to my usual framers and then on to a few other local frame shops. When I would explain what I wanted to do, they would all just shake their heads and tell me they couldn't do it. I told them I wanted each card to be individually double matted next to one another. The thing that made it difficult was that I also wanted the cards to remain encapsulated and to be matted in a way that would keep them in place without any sort of adhesive. And because I am always upgrading my set, I also wanted the frame and the mat to be designed in a way that would allow me to just turn it over and open each card's individual backing to remove or replace any card without disturbing the others.
SMR: Did you ever just consider rethinking your idea?
MM: No. I knew what I wanted and could totally visualize it in my head. I always felt it was just a matter of finding the right person who could make my idea a reality. I finally found a shop called Jazzbabies Fine Art owned by a woman named Pam. I explained my idea to Pam and I liked her right away. She is the type of person who if she doesn't know how to do something, she'll find a way to do it. Coincidently, just when I brought my idea to her, she had just purchased a new machine called Wizard that is a computerized matt cutter. She contacted the company who manufactures the Wizard in Mukilteo, Washington, and explained what I wanted to do. They were intrigued and actually sent a guy out to help her set up the new machine for this project. Pam and the representative who came out were constantly going back and forth with the engineers back at the company, determining how to accomplish some of the more intricate work. They made my concept a reality. Pam is a real perfectionist and loved taking on this challenge. No one at my local cards shops had ever seen anything like it. I mean, they have the ones with the little wood rails that you can set your cards into, but with my piece, each card is individually matted in a way that makes them appear permanently matted in place.
It ended up costing me $1,400, including the framing—which I thought was a good price because when I went around to other places, I was getting quotes ranging from $1,500 to $3,500 for just cutting the mat. It was worth everything I paid to have it done. When I walk in to my house, I look at that framed set and I always say "Wow!" I just love to look at that set—all those cards together—beautifully framed. It's just beautiful!
SMR: Are you working on anything else?
MM: I just finished something along the same lines with my best basic Walter Payton set. I had them matte a signed photo of Payton with his cards arranged around the photo.
SMR: Do you have other interests besides sports and collecting?
MM: Along with going to sporting events, I love mountain biking with my son, Alex, who is now also into playing baseball and soccer. We also love to snowboard and enjoy the outdoors, which is something you can really take advantage of here in the Pacific Northwest. We go up to the San Juan Islands and go hiking. It's just a great place to live... with the mountains, the water—you can go whale watching. It's a great place for outdoor activities.
SMR: You mentioned earlier that you are a very different collector today than when you were a kid. What do you think made you such a better collector the second time around?
MM: There is so much more information available now, mostly thanks to PSA. And of course, now it's all about authentication and grading. Every collector today knows that. And everybody also knows that PSA is the renowned name in card grading and autograph authentication. When you look online and see a picture signed by Michael Jordan that has been authenticated by PSA, and then see one that just has a certificate of authenticity by some dealer you've never heard of, there is a huge difference. I guarantee you the PSA authenticated photo will have a higher price and that it will be the one that I, or any other collector, will purchase. There's a good reason for that; PSA authentication really means something. That is what it comes down to—authentication and grading by a company that holds the reputation for being the ultimate authority in the hobby. PSA is the best at what they do and everyone knows it.
SMR: You have also become an active participant of the PSA Set Registry. How are you enjoying that?
MM: The PSA Registry is great! It makes you strive to put together the best set possible. I get great enjoyment out of my participation in the Registry, and I'm proud that out of everyone in the world, I have the fourth best Walter Payton set in existence. I think the Registry helps you set goals, and it encourages collectors to work together in order to help each other accomplish their goals. You really have a lot of fun and learn a lot by being involved with the Registry. Look at Walter Payton cards for example. There is only one 1985 Topps Walter Payton card that has ever graded a [PSA GEM-MT] 10, and that card has yet to show up on the PSA Set Registry. So, for all of us who collect Payton cards, we are keeping a very close eye on the Registry to see if it will ever show up. The Registry has brought an entirely new dynamic into the hobby of card collecting. I look at it as another way for me to present my cards.
If you would like further information on the custom framing that was done by Jazzbabies Fine Art, you can visit the shop at 3711 49th Ave SW, Olympia, WA 98512, or you can contact Pam at (360) 943-0631. You can also visit the shop's website at: www.pamjam.net.