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Champion Cardinals are signing, but not as a team

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St. Louis Cardinals team-signed items could be the most valuable in recent memory because of high demand from the team's huge base of avid fans combined with low supply as none of the autographed memorabilia companies have been able to put a team-signing project together.

Tristar Productions and Steiner Sports have, in the past, been able to come to terms with enough players to put together team-signed projects with the past several World Series champions. Because they have not been able to do so this year, Tristar Productions has signed Series MVP David Eckstein and teammates Chris Duncan and Scott Spiezio to exclusives, while Steiner Sports has exclusively signed manager Tony LaRussa and battery mates Jeff Suppan and Yadier Molina.

Michael Barnes of Barnes Sports Group in St. Louis is not familiar with the inner workings of this year's negotiations, but helped the Cardinals sell off their Busch Stadium memorabilia last year and said there was very little team-signed material available at that time, either. As for this year's team, he said he's been bombarded with questions about how to get team-signed items, so he knows there's heavy demand.

"The demand in St. Louis would be immense," he said. "People understand how big this could be if you could get a team-signed program put together."

Unless one of the major memorabilia companies puts the team together, fans have a couple of choices - take a chance on items on the secondary market (most of which offer authentication claims that veteran hobbyists may shy away from), or items that fans were able to get personally signed, one signature at a time. Barnes said one of those opportunities will come in January.

"It's called the Winter Warmup, the annual event the St. Louis Cardinals put on in the third or fourth week of January, and it benefits Cardinals Care," he said. "That was the only place to get McGwire (in the late 1990s). The Cardinals really work hard to get all of the players there. If you're a fan and you want a team-signed item, that's the place to get it, though in the past, they've had a lottery (to get autographs of the top players), and I assume the same thing will happen with Pujols, Rolen and (Jim) Edmonds this year."

Tristar announced it has already held its first signing with Eckstein, who signed "WS Champs/MVP." Tristar also has held post-Series private signings with Chris Carpenter, Edmonds, So Taguchi and fill-in closer Adam Wainwright. Steiner has had signings with Suppan and LaRussa, with Molina signing soon.

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