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Despite Changes, Thrift Shops Still Hold Collectible Keepsakes

While prices are going up at thrift stores, you can still find signed bargains that have slipped through the cracks. Two recent finds included a charity event-signed piece by five star athletes and a Barry Bonds litho.

By Tom Talbot

Just as hip-hop star Macklemore raps in his No. 1 hit song “Thrift Shop,” “It was 99 cents!”

Well, not exactly. But it was only $3.99. That’s what it cost me for two great autograph “come-ups” this past month, compliments of the local thrift stores. No doubt Macklemore’s hysterical spoof has brought a lot of attention to the Goodwill and Volunteers of America stores across the U.S.

Heck, there’s so many people in there on the weekends, I stay away. And don’t even get me started about the people who think they are in a grocery store and try to wheel a cart through the aisles. Lady – there’s less than a foot between your cart and the shelves! And is it me, or have the prices gone through the roof this past year in these shops? I remember not too long ago when the prices were slightly higher than your common garage sale. I saw a few nicer jerseys priced at $39.99 last week. C’mon!

Many of these stores even have professional eBay staff who intercepts all the good stuff, making sure it never even reaches the shelves. But it’s for a good cause and there still are a lot of cool items that come through those donation doors. Check these two out.

Charity signed pieces are some of the best. This Alzheimer’s Association dinner piece is signed by Paul Hornung, Willie Mosconi, Cathy Whitworth, Jim Palmer and Warren Spahn. The item was found at a thrift store for $3.99.

Charity signed pieces are some of the best. This Alzheimer’s Association dinner piece is signed by Paul Hornung, Willie Mosconi, Cathy Whitworth, Jim Palmer and Warren Spahn. The item was found at a thrift store for $3.99.

Sports legends plaque
How this made it out of the donation room with a $3.99 tag on it is beyond me. How it ended up in my brother’s hands instead of mine kind of ticks me off! But he let me use it for this column before hanging it in his basement, so I thank him for that. What a cool picture!

Some of the nicest sports pieces come as a result of a charity event, whether it’s a dinner, golf tournament or clinic. This Alzheimer’s Association event apparently took place in 1992 and features the five people pictured in the art: Billiards legend Willie Mosconi, baseball Hall of Fame pitchers Jim Palmer and Warren Spahn, LPGA Hall of Fame pro Cathy Whitworth and NFL Hall of Famer Paul “Golden Boy” Hornung. All five have autographed the piece. Unfortunately, some of the signatures have begun to fade, so it would be a good idea to get a piece of UV glass for it.

Let’s start with Willie. He passed away in 1993 at age 80. Between 1941-57 he won the World Straight Pool Championship 15 times. Nice, full signature, the way people used to sign when they were proud of their signatures. In 1954, he set a world record that will probably never be broken. He ran 526 consecutive balls without a miss during a straight pool exhibition. Many pool experts consider him to be the greatest ever.

Kathy Whitworth won 88 LPGA events and is in the World Golf Hall of Fame. No golfer has dominated like she did on either the PGA or LPGA. One of the greatest of all time – at least in the top three.

Baseball is represented well with a pair of Hall of Fame pitchers, a righty and a lefty. Jim Palmer is one of my favorite Orioles, although I caught him at the tail end of his career with the Birds. His 268 career victories are still an Orioles record. He also sports three World Series rings.

Born about one hour away from me in Buffalo, N.Y., Warren Spahn pitched for 21 seasons, all in the National League. He won 20 or more games in 13 seasons, including 23 wins at age 42. I’m 42 years old, and I don’t even play beer league softball anymore, although I still try to play hoops in the over 40 league. He passed away in 2003.

Last but not least is one of Notre Dame’s finest, NFL and Green Bay Packers god Paul Hornung – still going strong at age 77. Not only did he win the first Super Bowl, he also played college hoops for the Fighting Irish. Heisman trophy winner, NFL Hall of Fame . . . the list goes on and on. Not a bad grouping at one charity dinner. And a nice set of autographs across a number of sports.


Barry Bonds lithograph
I was never a big fan of Barry Bonds, but I’m not passing up a framed 20-by-14-inch lithograph signed by Bonds and the artist, who is an integral part of the steroids saga as well (more on him later).

Titled “Back in the Bay,” it’s a really cool-looking piece. Bonds was one of the best ever. But he screwed it all up by ’roiding up from that scrawny player he was with the Pirates to the bulked up behemoth he turned into for San Francisco. Sad thing is, he didn’t even need to do it – he would probably still have the home run record. I agree with the Baltimore Orioles super slugger Chris Davis on this one – the record still stands at 61 and belongs to Hammerin’ Hank. Bonds, McGwire and Sosa aren’t even in the same zip code.

I didn’t plan on keeping this piece but upon checking the eBay listings, it’s virtually worthless. There are several of the same pieces listed in the $100-$200 range, but no one ever bids on them. I also get quite a kick out of the smiling Bonds likeness. I don’t think I ever saw the cranky Bonds crack a smile during his entire career. Enough beating up on Barry. It’s still a heck of a bargain, and I will find someone willing to pay for it.

So back to the artist, Steven Hoskins, who was described as a childhood friend, business manager and valet to Bonds. Bonds canned him in 2003, alleging that the associate was forging his autograph and embezzling money. He claims that Bonds was taking human growth hormone. He also was a government witness against Bonds in his trial. The whole episode is like a soap opera. Is the Barry Bonds signature real? From what I can tell on other listings, it is authentic and has passed authentication, by JSA.

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