Bill Corcoran figures he’ll have to be a little more careful with his jokes from now on. Either that, or he’ll have to keep finding bigger warehouses for his inventory of sports memorabilia.
Corcoran and fellow Florida memorabilia dealer Neal Rosen had been kidding each other for years about buying each other out. It was always friendly ribbing and nonsense – an annual gag. Until the last year, when it actually started to seem like a good idea.
“It’s just been a running joke every year at The National,” chuckled Corcoran. “I’d see his big setup and walk by his table, and Neal would say, ‘Bill, why don’t you just buy me out?’ Every year we’d see each other and go back and forth.
“Then last year it got a little more serious. I started thinking, ‘Gee, maybe I would like to have a lot of his stuff.’ ”
Recently, the two veteran autograph pioneers did, in fact, come to an agreement, and Corcoran has added somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 pieces to his already massive inventory that now numbers more than 400,000 signed items.
The deal seems to be the proverbial “win-win” scenario for both sides. Corcoran will add Rosen’s splendid stash of autographs – which is particularly heavy on New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers items – while Rosen will be able to continue operating his company, Thrill of Victory, arranging signings, doing shows and stockpiling new inventory from scratch without having to deal with the logistics of a back room overflowing with inventory from three decades in the autograph business.
“It’s a great situation for both of us,” Corcoran said. “They are still going to retain Thrill of Victory and still be in business. They will still be very active and still set up at shows. From Neal’s standpoint, it allows him to run a little more lean. Over 30 years, stuff really piles up.
“From my standpoint, I’ve built my inventory on 3-by-5s and cards, and adding his inventory of 8-by-10s and balls, it provides me with almost everything,” Corcoran continued. “It really supplements my inventory … and lets us assist virtually every autograph need and every collector. Between my own inventory going back 100 years, back to the turn of the century, and now adding all Neal’s stuff, it’s just unprecedented.”
To ensure that the whole deal runs smoothly, Thrill of Victory will continue to sell its old inventory, which now belongs to Corcoran.
“During the transition time, however long it takes, I’ll continue to sell Bill’s merchandise as if it were my own,” Rosen said. “I know what’s there, what isn’t there. With my help, Bill will be able to sell a good portion of it.
“Since I’ve worked so hard to build inventory and my reputation, I wouldn’t sell it to just anybody off the street. Bill has the same passion that I do, with regard to both the industry, the inventory and the reputation that he holds … I’m going to do everything that I have been doing, which means I’m going to sell the inventory that my customers are looking for. Nothing has really changed but the weight of the inventory in my back room.”
Like Corcoran’s existing inventory, the overwhelming majority of Rosen’s autographs came from his own arranged signings and show appearances. In addition to the thousands of Yankees and Dodgers items that have now been moved to Corcoran’s Tampa facility, he will also be getting an impressive variety of football, basketball, hockey and boxing signatures.
“It’s exciting. It has kind of breathed some new life into me,” Corcoran said. “As exciting as sports and memorabilia are to me, you do get tired of seeing the same stuff over and over. Now, I open up boxes and say, 'Wow, this is really cool.’ A lot of it is all new to me.
“If I had to hazard a guess, I’d figure maybe 98 percent of this stuff was signed in person. Neal was ahead of his time as far as putting inscriptions on things. He’s gotten Hall of Famers saying different things on their autographs – players that might have five or six different ways they signed. I’m going to have a lot of things nobody else has ever had.”
Corcoran said his low-key business approach will remain the same. He has plenty of experience dealing with a large inventory, and he plans to continue his practice of putting out a monthly catalog for his core customers.
“I’ve always tried to fly under the radar and keep a low profile,” he said. “It will be business as usual, but with more items to offer behind the scenes.”
Rosen admits to having mixed emotions about parting with his hard-earned stockpile of signatures, but he is looking forward to a bit of a fresh start – and a lot more storage room at his Boca Raton location. He’s already joking about propositioning Corcoran again in the future.
“I might (bargain with him again)!” he said with a laugh. “Let me tell you, we can laugh about it, but if it works out for Bill and it works out for both parties, who’s to say my inventory in five years wouldn’t be worth checking out again? And who knows, my position might be so good I could say, ‘Bill, I’m interested in buying it all back