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Finding the Holy Grail of Pete Rose collectibles

Collector's Corner

Despite Pete Rose turning 79 on April 14, there are still quite a few Pete Rose collectors out there, many eagerly waiting for the latest Pete Rose card to come up for auction on eBay. A nice example of Rose’s rookie card still commands a premium. But there are several other rare, hard to find items Pete Rose collectors are looking for. The 1963 French Bauer milk cap, late ‘60s Topps Standup, Topps disc, and Punchboard to name a few.

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I have been collecting Pete Rose exclusively since 1969. And as I tell people and other collectors, when your hobby is collecting Pete Rose, you don’t have time (or money!) to collect anybody else due to the sheer number of Rose items out there! One of item that is missing from my collection, what I call one of the “Holy Grails” of Pete Rose collectibles is the revered 1982 FBI (Fanta Beverage Inc.) disc. When one came up for auction on eBay in late January, I was just salivating. Finally here it was!

I wrote to the seller, Colm Boyle, and told him about being a longtime Pete Rose collector. The FBI disc, measuring nearly 3 inches across, is seldom seen, and to add to the mystery, Colm’s disc was different than the one that is most commonly observed. The FBI disc is thought to have come out in 1982, but we came to the conclusion this must be a 1981 disc, as the writing was in French rather than English, and the design was slightly different.

Colm and I had a great back-and-forth. We even talked about meeting in Las Vegas after the auction. I wanted some Rose items signed, and Colm had other business to attend to. We even talked about taking the Pete Rose and Nolan Ryan FBI disc to Pawn Stars and meeting up Rick Harrison just for the fun of it (as we’re all the same age) and maybe even get on TV (although I would never sell!).

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I bid high, more than ever before, but still lost the auction. Nevertheless, Colm and I kept communicating and every time I talked to him about his find, the story got more and more interesting, because he discovered a bounty of collectibles at an antique bazaar. By all accounts this was a most incredible find, one of those that big stories are written about.

I interviewed Colm on his lucky find:

Bruce: This is an incredible find!

Colm: It was an epic day. In addition to hockey cards, I found 14 MLB cards that day and also four CFL football cards, which I’ve already sold.

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Bruce: How did this all come about? Did you find these in a garage sale?

Colm: Funnier than that. I found them at an antique bazaar in a church basement. I saw a huge box of O Pee Chee Canadian NHL hockey cards that contained two Bobby Orr Chicago Blackhawks cards. These are rare, because Bobby Orr only played 18 games with the Blackhawks. In addition there were some special insert cards with Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden, which are rare too. The box was rectangular with two card boxes inside another box.

Bruce: Guess from the first glance, you knew you had something. Can we ask what you paid for it?

Colm: The woman who sold them to me said they were her husband’s cards, and she wanted $25. I tried to offer $20, but she was insulted a bit and gave me the stink eye. So I agreed to pay the whole $25.

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Bruce: How did you come across the FBI discs?

Colm: I found the FBI disc an hour later after I paid for the item. They were shoved between the two boxes. After my wife and I left the bazaar, the wife went to the Bulk Eco bulk store. While in the parking lot, I was pulling out the hockey cards. As I pulled out a box, 18 FBI discs popped out. Fourteen were MLB discs and four were classic CFL star players (Canadian Football League - Tom Forzani, Ry Nettles and two others) from 1979-1980. Which is cool, because CFL cards are in low circulation overall and are usually considered hard to get (They sold for $80). The whole thing was a total fluke.

Bruce: Did you know what you had?

Colm: Not really...Pete Rose played a year in Montreal so I saw him several times, including a double header versus the Reds. When I first found this lot, I thought it was Expos only and a regional run at that because Rose was an Expo and there was also Bill Lee, Steve Rogers, Warren Cromartie and Andre Dawson cards as well. But the Reggie Jackson got me thinking that I better do some research.

Bruce: After you did the research did you know you hit the jackpot?

Colm: I knew they had some value, because again, while my wife was off in the Eco store I started taking photos of the cards in my trunk of my SUV for reference. Then I went online on my smartphone and was Googling and came across a Bob Lemke article about rare FBI MSA Discs being the “Grail” of baseball cards. But the article was very old, it was vague and only gave prices for some cards. It said Steve Garvey was worth $25, Dave Winfield $35, Reggie Jackson $75 and Nolan Ryan $400. On eBay I could only find CFL cards, which were selling for $25 to $35 each, which I thought was really cool. At the time, I was excited about the Nolan Ryan card and expected to get $500 to $800 for all them. I then posted the cards and discs in some blogs and chat rooms to get some additional information. But almost no information came in from anywhere. A lot of people kept trying to buy from me for a price lower than the Lemke article. One guy under the name IamaSteveGarveyfan paid up $60 via PayPal and again, I started to think and worry that Reggie, Winfield, Pete and Nolan would be big. But how big? One guy from a blog asked to purchase the Rose card for $100, and then balked. Guess he felt bad, and told me that this was really rare. Said to go to eBay and suggested I would get $300-$400. So I put it to the test. I put the Reggie Jackson up for auction on eBay first, and the rest is History... The Jackson card sold for $1,080 CAD ($770 USD), Nolan Ryan for $811 CAD ($578 USD) because it was trimmed, and Pete Rose sold for $1,625 CAD ($1,158 USD). Sorry Bruce.

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Bruce: Sob! Holy cow…Any other great players with the FBI discs?

Colm: Besides Reggie Jackson and Nolan Ryan there were a bunch of stars. Steve Garvey, Dave Parker from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Dave Winfield, Bob Bailor (Blue Jays first draft choice ever) and of course being a Montreal Expos fan Bill Lee, Steve Rogers, Warren Cromartie and Andre Dawson cards—those were also really cool.

Bruce: My folks used to drag me to garage sales all the time. I hated it. Never really found much that I wanted!

Colm: Well you never know what you are going to find!In the past decade, I have found some amazing vintage sports stuff, including a pair of old CCM lacrosse gloves, an actual game-used 1970s goalie stick from Bernie Parent, a signed Vladimir Guerrero baseball, a 1930s Montreal Canadians hockey puck, and a pair of 1968 Red Bobby Hull Senior Pro Gloves. But by far this was the biggest and rarest find. That day was my lucky day!

Do you have a unique story to share about a sports collectible or collection? Please send to dstrege@aimmedia.com.