There have been
new card sets produced in connection with the Olympics that include
runners. The Centennial Olympic Games Collection was produced for
the '96 Games. A beautiful set called U.S. Olympic Champions, released
in '96 by Upper Deck, features Michael Johnson and a great Joan
Benoit Samuelson card. Awesome photography.
In 1991 Impel
Marketing issued the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame set. This attractive
set contains some of great names in running history, including Jesse
Owens, Frank Shorter, Billy Mills and Wilma Rudolph.
From 1983 comes
the Greatest Olympians set by Finder Image International which
includes Jim Thorpe, Jesse Owens, Wyomia Tyus and Rod Milburn.
- It's best to purchase recent sets like these complete from a card
shop or dealer. Buying and opening individual packs can be
fun but in the long run you will have too many duplicates and still
be trying to complete the set. It's much cheaper to purchase them
as complete sets.
it gets interesting. Tobacco companys have used cards as inserts
with their products for years. The most well known sets consist
of baseball stars, but some have featured runners. Here
are just two examples.
Mecca/Hassan Cigarettes produced a set of running cards now
known as T218's. Beautiful in their color and simplicity,
the 2 1/2" x 2 7/8" cards featured long distance men as well
as track stars.
notable runner included is Johnny Hayes, the 1908 U.S. Olympic
Gold Medalist in the marathon.
A great set called
Sportscasters was produced in the late 1970s. Made up of approximately
2,800 cards of many sports, 307 are running related in the U.S. edition.
There were 4 editions printed in 9 different countries. Stars
through the years appear, from Paavo Nurmi to Abebe Bikila to Ben
Jipcho, and on and on! The cards measure 4 3/4" x 6 1/4".
tobacco companies have produced a variety of cards over the
on a British card from the 1930s.
originally sold as part of mail order club. You subscribed and periodically
received a shipment. Many people did not continue their subscriptions,
so the higher numbered cards are harder to find. Some dealers
know this and price accordingly. Many dealers are less informed
and wouldn't know Mike Boit from Marty Liquori, charging the same
price for any track card except Jesse Owens. Check
out our Sportscasters Gallery for
the cards we have available.
- Sportscaster cards are not rare and dealers' prices can vary widely. Shop
around! Buying in volume can enormously reduce the per card
The best place
to find vintage cards is at large regional sports memorabilia shows.
Small shows usually don't attract the vintage dealer.
Crucia l- The best cards should look brand new regardless
of age! Damage such as blemishes, folds, tears or worn corners
decrease a card's value.
are becoming a common collectible. There are dealers who specialize
in old Sports Illustrated issues. Running stars on covers
are plentiful. Roger Bannister was featured as SI's 1954 "Sportsman
of the Year" on the cover of the January 3, 1955 issue.
Track and Field
programs are far less common, but available. From local
events to national meets, they appear in many varieties. There are
no price guides. Negotiate and buy it when you see it,
you probably won't see it again. Shows that focus on antique
paper items such as "Papermania" are excellent hunting grounds.
Penn Relays program.
University of Illinois track program.
Medals from track
meets and roadraces can be found, usually at reasonable prices.
Some medals are "generic" bearing no date or event description,
simply showing an athlete or listing a finishing place, and are
of limited value. Some are inscribed with all pertinent information
including the recipient's name and result. Much better.
A great place to
find medals is at antique shows. Some dealers will have cases
filled with political buttons, small military items, etc. If you sift
through the junk very often you can come up with a treasure.
New York Amateur Athletic Union track medal.
finishers medal, missing the ribbon and clasp.
endless in their variety. Olympic related items flood the market,
from tacky ash trays to elegant posters. At some point
you have to ask yourself, "Do I need to collect everything?" An
attractive, nicely made piece cannot be ignored, but plastic Olympic
Except for Olympic
items, there are no price guides. Make your best deal.
postcard of the 1929 'Bunion Derby' featuring the winner John
Salo. This was a race from New York to Los Angeles, a
distance of 3,665 miles. Salo completed the race in 525 hours,
57 minutes, 20 seconds.
Always a popular
collectible, runners have been signing for years and dealers usually
have them as a supplement to their main sports offerings. You
must have trust in the dealer that an autograph is genuine. I
don't think the limited running market is subject to the forgeries
found in baseball, but you can't be sure of authenticity unless
the dealer provides proof. (Or at least a good story.)
seem arbitrary, depending on the knowledge of the dealer. As an
example, I purchased the autograph of Mamo Wolde (1968 Olympic Marathon
Gold Medalist) last year for $10.00 from a dealer. It has been known
for a few years in the running community that Mamo is being
unjustly held in prison. During the Atlanta Olympics Mamo Wolde's
tragic story was broadcast. That dealer's price for Mamo's signature
is now $45.00.
in different forms with different values. A handwritten, signed
letter with interesting content would be prized. See our feature
on Clarence H. DeMar for a rare find! A
plain card with just a signature is standard. Some autographs,
known as "cuts," are clipped from documents. These are usually
less valuable. Recently though, I saw a Paavo Nurmi "cut" autograph
advertised for $200.00.
Emil Zatopek, triple Gold
Medalist in the 1952 Helsinki Games.
Lists of mailing addresses of athletes
are available for sale through some dealers. Many people enjoy
the "sport" of writing to an athlete, requesting a signature. This
is a very economical way to build a collection, with the added excitement of
waiting for the return mail.
Zola Budd, famous for her collision
with Mary Decker Slaney.
In the end collecting is a very personal
thing. The value you and I attach to an item will very greatly. At
this point this is a great advantage to the running collector. The
market is not dominated by price guides and bargains abound. Best
of all, I keep discovering things from decades ago that I had no idea
existed, but are wonderful pieces of running history.
*Our Final Buying Tip- Speak up! Antique
dealers or even sportscard dealers very often do not prominently
display running memorabilia because of the small demand. Ask, and
very often a dealer will have something hidden away.
Article Date: December 1997