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Thrift Store Success Stories

A local buying trip to area thrift stores lands some unexpected treasures. Among the items picked up are a signed book fr a U.S. General, a signed Curtis Joseph photo and signed and game-used hockey sticks, including an example by Tom Barrasso.

I really enjoy hitting up the thrift store circuit during the week. I’m constantly on the hunt for sports memorabilia, autographs, signed books, jerseys and frames that I can later use to custom frame my own pieces. I’ve had great luck through the years, but things have been kind of slow in the last year or two. But every once in a while I hit a huge score and it’s a great rush hustling up to the register to pay a few dollars for something you know is worth much more, both sentimentally and financially.

I recently had one of those days. I was on my first stop of the day – the Goodwill store about a mile from where I work. I have the place mapped out by this time and always peruse the bookshelves the minute I step in. The books are in no particular order, but I can always spot a store-bought autobiography or sports book that may have been signed. I usually pop open half a dozen books, hoping that a signed book was donated. It amazes me how many autographed copies are actually sitting on thrift store shelves for the princely sum of a few dollars.

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I spotted a brand new book about former General and Commander of the United States Central Command Tommy Franks buried among the multiple Stephen King novels.

As I turned the cover page over, I could tell that it had a book plate attached to the paper and there in bold pen was Franks’ autograph. There was an envelope stuck inside the book and hoping for some forgotten birthday card stuffed with $50 bills, I instead found a formal invitation for the event that Franks spoke at. The dinner was held for a charity event here in Rochester in 1994. Franks was the keynote speaker, and the cheapest seat in the house was $350.

I paid just under $3 for the book and this one item would have made my day. The cover of the book is really well done and will look fantastic matted with the cut autograph from the book and the invitation.

My shopping trip was not over yet, and I continued on to the frame section. Over the years, I have picked up many frames to remove the contents and reframe my own items using a mat cutter that I bought at a craft store. If you have been to a frame store recently, you know that it is not cheap to get your photos matted and framed. I will continually pick up frames for a few dollars that easily cost $100-$200 when they were originally purchased. With your own mat cutter and a little bit of time, you can mat and frame your own pictures.

In the frame section, I discovered a Curtis Joseph “CuJo” plaque featuring a picture signed in gold paint pen. This was a little pricey at $5. I didn’t have this goalie’s autograph in my collection, so I was pumped to purchase this autograph.

Just when I thought the fun was over, I entered the electronics area which sometimes has random sports equipment.

Sticking out of an old golf bag was a half-dozen old hockey sticks. As I got a little closer, I noticed that several of them were signed. Two of them were goalie sticks, and I realized by the stamps and the tape jobs on top of the sticks that most of these were game-used!

Probably the best of the lot is a specially made goalie stick for the Canadian National Show. It was custom built for the show to be signed by Hall of Fame goaltender and Philadelphia Flyer Bernie Parent. It is signed by Parent and also stamped, signed and dated by a notary republic at the show in 1993. On the reverse side of the blade, Manon Rheaume, the first-ever female professional goalie, also signed the stick along with another notary stamp. What a cool piece to add to the collection!

The other goalie stick is a game-used model from Tom Barrasso. It’s in great game shape with Barrasso’s tape job, number and stamp signifying that it is from a game. This signature, unlike a few of the others, is bold and black and looks like it was signed yesterday. It really pops against the white background of the stick.

Probably my favorite of the lot is the game-used Mike Ramsey stick. Ramsey was an integral part of the 1980 Miracle on Ice gold medal Olympic team and I’m a huge collector of anything related to the Miracle. Ramsey went on to play for the Sabres and has signed this game-used lumber that will be hanging on my bar wall soon.

Fins up!
No, I’m not talking about the great Jimmy Buffett, though he has been connected with the Miami Dolphins in a partnership and the creator of Landshark Lager beer enjoyed responsibly throughout Sun Life Stadium.

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I did receive a great through-the-mail response from one of my favorite Fins players this week. John Offerdahl, one in a long line of tough linebackers who have sported the aqua and orange, returned my mini helmet and cards signed perfectly. He even sent his own custom card that has a bible verse on the back. I was excited to get the bonus card because the photo on the card also features Bruce Smith of the rival Buffalo Bills.

Smith just recently started signing through the mail this past year sent in care of the Hall of Fame in Canton. This card is definitely headed to Bruce next.

It’s a lot of fun to collect cards signed by more than one person, though it is a bit difficult for the player to find real estate for his signature.

Navy Seals sink Bin Laden
In a week where all sports news took a back seat to real life and the news that public enemy No. 1 had been terminated by the Navy Seals, a strange coincidence presented itself later that day.

I received a request back from NBA legend David Robinson – two Sports Illustrated covers of his days playing for Navy. “The Admiral” has been awesome the past few years through the mail – one of the rare “50 Greatest Players of All-Time” members to still sign his autograph requests. He even adds his very cool “50” inscription, along with a host of his favorite bible verses.

To see the Navy uniform in the mail that day was jolting, but it brought a smile to my face. We’ll probably never know the names of the elite members of Navy Seal Six, but I for one would be happy to add their autographs to the history side of my collection. These guys are the real heroes – not guys who can dunk the ball or hit a home run.

Athlete Addresses
David Robinson
c/o Shipmates Inc.
24165 Interstate 10 West
Suite 217-268
San Antonio, TX 78257

John Offerdahl
2749 NE 37th Dr,
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33308-6326

This address, as well as thousands more, can be found at Talbot can be reached at