Friday, March 26, 2010

The Greatest Wrestling Extravaganza of All Time

It's WrestleMania weekend!

That sentence doesn't have the same feeling of grandeur it once did for many fans, but no one can argue that it still is the biggest event of its kind, and the most recognized for that matter.

How did it get so big? Say what you want about him, Vince McMahon knew what he was doing. He took an oft-talked about gamble, and it paid off. But to take that gamble, he had to know he had something big. He did. He built it up to BE big. Nonstop promotion on his television programming. Television and radio spots. And print...

A lot like major motion pictures, the WWF put out press kits heralding the arrival of WrestleMania. It's unknown how many of these survived, and they're very overlooked wrestling collectibles.

Shown above are the kits from the first WrestleMania, as well as from 2, III, IV, and VI. Kits exist from V and XIV as well, and possibly more. As I said, they're overlooked AND underdiscussed. That's why I'm here.

Even with the first one, the folders that create the "shell" of these kits are glossy and printed on heavy stock. The first is put out by Bozell & Jacobs Public Relations of New York City, while the next two were put out by Wishner Communications. As the years go by, any mention of a PR and/or advertising/marketing firm are gone, and the WWF takes sole responsibility for their product. A sign of the company getting bigger and bigger.

While it would be all but impossible to 100% confirm what was included total in these kits, some include the WrestleMania program magazines (discussed in an entry of this blog last year), others include 8x10 promotional glossies, but all contain the "hand-typed" style press releases you would expect in a press kit.

To the collector who is just interested in the more visual aspects of merchandise, these kits wouldn't really fit into your collection. To those, like myself, who love the "behind the scenes" items that your average fan wouldn't have had access to, these are a total treat. Even friends of mine who are fans but not collectors were blown away by these. They tell the story of the growth of WrestleMania without the need of a book, newsletter, or historian. They show the evolution of how, at one point, a full history of the WWF Heavyweight Championship could be told on one typed page. They explain just how important closed-circuit television was to the early days of 'Mania. They ARE the history of the event which helped take a regional wrestling promotional and turn it into a worldwide, multi-million dollar empire.

Say what you want about the WWE...but this is how they grew.

Enjoy WrestleMania XXVI!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Highlight: The Living Legend Is Still Hero To 'Da Burgh...

As I type this, "The Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino is collecting yet another accolade celebrating his life and career. Tonight, right here in Pittsburgh, the hometown of both Yours Truly and The Champ, Mr. Sammartino is receiving the 2010 Dapper Dan Lifetime Achievement Award. Dapper Dan Charities is a decades-old local organization which celebrates and sponsors local athletics. For many years, celebrities from around the globe attended the event, but this year's event will be held high above all others to many wrestling fans.

Bruno has been all over the local media for the past week, and rightfully so. Bruno's called Pittsburgh his home since his days as the world champion and is a true sports deity among Pittsburghers about 45-years-old and up.

That isn't to say he doesn't have younger fans, too.

I grew up knowing more about Bruno than most kids watching WWF (and later WCW) wrestling in the '80s and early '90s. While most just thought of him as an announcer or special guest referee, I heard many a tale, from my elders, of his glory days in the ring. Especially remembered were his days on "Studio Wrestling," the title of the local weekly wrestling program. To my family and families all around the northeast, Bruno was the ultimate link between the '60s and '70s northeast wrestling and the product starring Hogan, Flair, Savage, and Sting.

Sadly, that link came to an abrupt end when Bruno decided to take an opposing stance of the then-current product. Even when he later associated himself with the NWA/WCW, you could sense he truly wasn't feeling it. The sport he long held the crown of was long gone.

Bruno's feelings towards the wrestling/sports-entertainment product of the '80s to present has long been documented elsewhere. That's not the point of this entry. Instead, I want to briefly honor the man who battled Gorilla Monsoon, Killer Kowalski, George Steele, and Hans Mortier. I want to remember the man who captured the heart of "Ringside Rosie" and so many other fans not just here in Pittsburgh, but in the northeastern United States and beyond. I want to maybe make just one more "younger" fan know why so many baby boomers will always remember Bruno as "The Champ."

Above is a sample of my collection of autographed Bruno memorabilia. While we here in Pittsburgh are lucky enough to have any number of signings from The Living Legend each year, it still makes me smile when I see fans in other parts of the country wildly approving of Bruno coming to their area. It would give any Pittsburgher a sense of pride.

The black and white photo in the center is Bruno's favorite photo of himself over the course of his career. The Wrestling Revue magazine just below it happens to be my favorite Bruno collectible.

Thanks champ...enjoy your award!


I would be remiss if I did not mention the passing of another wrestling legend and Pittsburgher this past weekend. Baron Mikel Scicluna, '60s and '70s WWWF star, passed away at the age of 80. While a notorious, foreign object-wielding villain in the ring, Scicluna was known to be a great man in the real world.

Godspeed, Baron.

Thursday, March 18, 2010 I gave in... I'm not CRAZY about the Mattel figure line, but any smart collector wouldn't turn down a limited figure.

Many of the new Mattel WWE figures have been released in special limited editions with "Commemorative Championship Belts" limited to 1,000. The figures, which retail for around $10, have proven to top out on the secondary market at around $30 a pop. Nothing too pricey, but in my opinion, nothing that desirable either.

The belts are huge, unlike any real belt (they're said to be designed after the Backlund-Sheik-Hogan belt, and there is a passing resemblence) and they're HUGE on most figures. At least I stumbled upon the one that the belt, due to it's size, looks decent on. It's also one of the rare figures, in my point of view, that Mattel has gotten the likeness pretty close on.

Don't get me started on their Jack Swagger figure.

So I did indeed find one of these, randomly, at a Wal*Mart. What really struck me, is that it was obvious from the selection that many figures from the same shipment had been purchased before this one. So while these are limited, possibly from the reasons I listed above, they just aren't that desireable.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wrestling MarketWatch: Autographs

Whew, can't believe I started this thing almost a year ago. I hope you guys are enjoying it and getting some info out of it. It's fun to do, and although I haven't gotten to update nearly as much as I'd like, I still hope to change that.

This entry is the first in a series I hope to revisit every so often, with a title I'm stealing from CBS...MarketWatch. Except, unlike the other MarketWatch, my version will give overviews on the market of...what wrestling collectibles.

Before I get into this entry's particular MarketWatch topic, let me explain how I'll base the information I present. Years ago, most collectors and dealers in ANY hobby lived and died by one thing: the price guide. Aside from ones with large numbers of pictures included, price guides are all but antiquated. Items are only worth what people are willing to pay at any given time. That's why one very well-known website pretty much destroyed price guides. That website? eBay.

As I tell anyone who asks my opinion on collectibles and resale of any kind, say what you want about their fees and practices, the latter of which grow more frustrating for the honest dealer each day, but the only way you're going to get EXACTLY what your item is worth at resale is by PROPERLY listing it on eBay.

Properly, you ask?

Here I am, giving my secrets away, but that's what this blog is for. The key to getting a GREAT deal on eBay is finding an item that is improperly listed. If the item isn't listed, in the title, as EXACTLY what it is, chances are that it's not going to sell for what it's worth. Who's going to find it? The keen-eyed collector that KNOWS to look for mistakes.

On the other hand, a properly listed item is going to sell for EXACTLY what it's worth on eBay. Unlike at a show or any other venue where your customer base is limited, on eBay the entire WORLD is watching...'88 WWF pun only partially intended. At a show, you stumble upon an item, and generally don't have other collectors vying for the same item at the same moment. At an auction, more importantly a properly listed online auction, your potential buyers can be ANYWHERE, therefore driving the price to it's exact value aka *WHAT THE COLLECTORS ARE WILLING TO PAY!*

Whew, now that we have that out of the way, let's move onto the rasslin'. The first focus is on something near and dear to my heart...autographs. They aren't every one's cup of tea. Some collectors hate them and feel they ruin items. To me, it makes (most) items all the more special.

The autograph world, in general, is an odd one. The wrestling autograph world...even odder. Collectors shell out hundreds to thousands of dollars a year to travel and obtain wrestling autographs personally. I should know, I'm one of the sickos. Why? All for personal pleasure. The resale value? Next to nothing.

There are exceptions. Soon after a star's passing, as with all autographs, the value of their particular items will shortly go up. Others who have passed before the "modern era" of collecting can also reach decent heights, but nowhere near the heights of a deceased person in another genre.

The general feeling is that most wrestling autograph collectors simply like to obtain their items in person. While it's very easy for even a rookie collector to spot a fake, the fact is, due to their low value, there are very few fake wrestling autographs out there.

That isn't to say the market is faux-free. A signed Yokozuna WWE Classic Superstars figure and signed Eddy Guerrero autobiography (both items produced after their deaths) are just some of the forgeries I've seen out there.

Still, I feel one day, especially during the next wrestling "boom" period, the market for wrestling autographs, as well as most other wrestling collectibles, will sky-rocket once again.

I've had my eye on a few recent auctions. To get an idea of what properly listed and advertised, authentic, and no longer obtainable autograph or autograph collections have gone for, here are a few examples:

*Just this weekend, a vintage autograph book of nearly 100 signatures sold for $295. I watched this one with great interest, as not only was the auction nicely presented, but it was advertised on at least one Internet forum where fans of classic wrestling would be able to learn about it. The book contained downright impossible signatures to find, the crown jewel in my eyes being the father of Japanese wrestling, Rikidozan. Rikidozan was murdered in the early '60s. That, coupled with the fact that he was largely an international star, made that item probably one of the few opportunities collectors will EVER have to add his autograph to their collection. More recently deceased names such as Freddie Blassie, Ernie Ladd, and Mr. Moto (Tor Kamata) were among other big stars in the book. The seller included the story of how and when the autographs were obtained and who the original owner was. The story added up. I have a feeling the value would've been a lot more, had a lot of the autographs not been cut from their original pieces of paper and taped into the book, and the book being in less than stellar shape, with stains, etc.

*A few weeks ago, a seller listed, individually, a set of promo photos from the first WCW Slamboree event. The photos featured four stars on each, all of which were at an autograph signing at the pay-per-view dubbed "A Legends Reunion." Nearly all of these 8x10s had AT LEAST one deceased star on each, and iconic names at that. Wahoo McDaniel, The Crusher, The Fabulous Moolah, Dick Murdoch, Johnny Valentine, and Lou Thesz were just some of those names. The photos topped out at around $30 to $70 each, with the highest one featuring Wahoo and Crusher along with living stars Dusty Rhodes and The Assassin. These were a great opportunity for even the most skeptic autograph collector to get some very rare autographs. There probably aren't that many sets of these particular photos UNAUTOGRAPHED, as the photos were exclusive to the event. Add that to the fact that the signatures were nice, big, and clear, and that there's extensive documentation from photos to video proving that these stars were at this event (I've even seen photos of the autograph session), I'm actually surprised that these items didn't go even higher.

*And's all about the item. Sadly and obviously, there will be no more NEW items signed by The Fabulous Moolah. That said, Moolah did a lot of signings in her day. There are a lot of signed Moolah photos out there. One item, that was released the year she died, was her one and only action figure. It was part of the highly-collected WWE Classic Superstars line, and she did do several signings after these were available. One recently sold on eBay for $100, while autographed photos of her can be obtained for around $10. Obviously she signed fewer figures, therefore bringing up the value, added to the fact that many collectors try to get as many figures signed from the Classic Superstars line as they can get their hands on.

That's it for the first "MarketWatch" entry. I hope it was fun and a bit enlightening. Feel free to comment either on here or if you're a member of our fan page on Facebook and let me know what you'd like to see.

Coming soon...a very special WrestleMania entry focusing on a set of items from "The Greatest Sports Entertainment Spectacular of All-Time" that have rarely been seen, a possible rant about a recent issue I personally encountered with a certain wrestling company's online store, and maybe that showing of the branch of my collection focusing on "The Dream," that I've been promising for awhile now.

Thanks and stay tuned!