Touring Mickey Mantle's old house, watching your kid play Xbox with Larry Johnson and going through Phil Rizzuto's personal collection may seem like a dream come true for most sports fans, but in Spencer Lader's case these are just a few facets of his job as the owner of Authentic Memorabilia.
In 2004, Lader started a company in the sports memorabilia industry, which was originally billed as the Memorabilia Road Show with Ed Kranepool. He shared ownership with the former Mets first baseman and cast of other notables, including Diana Munson, Randy Maris, Bobby Murcer, Russell Friedman and Barry Halper.
After its first auction, which according to Lader was hugely successful, his company was approached by one of the owners of the Baltimore Orioles, Steve Geppi.
In November of 2004, Geppi bought out everybody's share of the Memorabilia Road Show with Ed Kranepool, except for Lader's and as a result, he and Geppi were now partners, making up Geppi's Memorabilia Road Show.
Fast-forward to 2006, another successful auction was produced by Lader's company, which featured items from the personal collections of Rizzuto, former Montreal Expo Rusty Staub and former Yankee batboy Bert Padell. Lader's business relationship with Geppi lasted through October 2006, but according to Lader, Geppi had too much on his plate to keep their company to the standard that he was striving for, and as a result the two businessmen parted ways.
"I think Steve is one of the most capable guys I ever have met, clearly one of the nicest guys I've ever met," said Lader. "But this became a really small part in the overall scheme of things in Steve's life. Because of that, it became kind of a stepchild to him, and it was my main gig. I felt it wasn't getting to where it should be. We went our separate ways in a nice way, leaving our relationship still intact."
According to Lader, solid relationships build all successful businesses. In fact, Lader has been building important contacts since his teenage years at Tilden High School in New York.
At Tilden, Lader was the school president. The school's vice president was civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton and Willie Randolph was the captain of the baseball team.
With the help of these contacts and contacts he has made through the years, in October 2006, Lader transformed Geppi's into his new company, Authentic Memorabilia.
Lader, who has again partnered with Kranepool, Dr. Nitin Doshi and Daniel Dechon, said Authentic Memorabilia is basically a derivative of the Memorabilia Road Show with Ed Kranepool and Geppi's Memorabilia Road Show, but he has moved his business to New York and considers his organization to be a competitor to one of the most successful East Coast hobby giants, Steiner Sports.
"We decided to do it a little different than last time," said Lader. "Our goal is kind of to become competition with Steiner. Brandon (Steiner) is an extremely capable guy, with an extremely great product, but there is always room for competition."
Like Steiner, Authentic Memorabilia focuses a good part of its efforts on the New York sports markets, with exclusive rights to athletes such as Jason Giambi, Willie Randolph, Jonathan Vilma and Carlos Delgado, however the company also has deals in place with the Chiefs Larry Johnson and is negotiating with Chicago Cubs' pitcher Carlos Zambrano and others.
Authentic Memorabilia offers autographs and game-used memorabilia from its list of athletes, in addition to offering public signings and special events that Lader stressed were important to the company.
Whether it is speaking engagements, golf outings or even bar mitzvahs, Authentic Memorabilia will provide the public with its athletes for these opportunities.
Lader said he really enjoys seeing his athletes interact with the public. He mentioned that he even has a special test for the players before he signs them to an agreement with his company, which further demonstrates his passion for sports and the hobby.
"One of the things that I do before I sign a guy is have them come to my house and watch them interact with my kids," said Lader. "If they cant do that, then they're guys I don't really want. The guys I have right now are great guys. I need guys that are going to be friendly with people and guys that will go the extra mile."
According to Lader, if you do business with his company you will see that it also goes the extra mile. And it makes sense. A lifetime collector who deals with other fellow collectors seems like a nice fit for top-notch customer service. And that, according to Lader, is what it is all about.
For more information on Authentic Memorabilia, visit authmem.com or call (888) 466-0216.