Darren Russek (Grey Flannel Auctions) Interview



2015-06-26 10:53:35

Grey Flannel Auctions is one of the world's foremost sports memorabilia auction houses, established in 1989 by Richard Russek and Andy Imperato.

Based in New York, the company has grown into one of the most respected Sports Auction Houses in existence and has worked with institutions including the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall Of Fame, the National Baseball Hall Of Fame, MLBPAA, NFL Alumni Association, and the NBRPA.

The company has a history of exceptional sales, including World Record prices and some of the most important and iconic items ever sold at auction.

In addition to hosting three major auctions each year, and providing their expertise to institutions across the U.S, the team at Grey Flannel Auctions can also be seen in action in All-Star Dealers, the Velocity Channel show which follows them as they track down treasures and take them to auction.

Wikicollecting was lucky enough to speak to Darren Russek about the company's upcoming sale, the show and the major developments the sports memorabilia market has seen in recent years….

What can we expect to see featured in your upcoming Summer Games sale?

I’ll give you a briefing on some exciting previews that can be seen on at Grey Flannel Auctions:

  • 1962 Willie Wood Green Bay Packers NFL Championship Game-Used & Autographed Road Jersey (Photomatch)
  • 1972 Carl Yastrzemski Boston Red Sox Game-Used Home Flannel Jersey
  • 1863 Union vs. Hy Eckford Trophy Baseball
  • 1965 Sandy Koufax LA Dodgers Game-Used Home Flannel (Championship & Cy Young Season)

  • 1972 Roberto Clemente Pittsburgh Pirates Signed Final Career Contract (JSA)

  • Incredible 1930 NY Yankees Team Autographed Baseball with Ruth & Gehrig (Nicest in the Hobby) (Full JSA LOA) (Letter of Provenance - Sourced From Jacob Ruppert)

  • 1973 Jerry West NBA All-Star Western Conference Game-Used Jersey (Only Known West All-Star) (Photomatch)

  • 11/3/1996 Kobe Bryant LA Lakers Rookie Debut Game-Used Home Jersey with Shorts (2) (Photomatch) (Worn Very First Game of His Hall of Career) (DC Sports LOA)

  • Early 1930’s Joe Cronin Washington Senators Game-Used Road Uniform (2) (Photomatch)
  • Larry Csonka Miami Dolphins Game-Used & Autographed Home Jersey (JSA)
  • 1966 Stan Musial St. Louis Cardinals Coach’s Worn & Autographed Road Flannel Jersey (JSA)
  • June 13th, 1948 "The Babe Bows Out" Nat Fein's Original Wire Photograph Published in the NY Herald Tribune (Fein LOA's) (Most Historic Photo in Sports History)
  • 1971 Jim "Catfish" Hunter Oakland A's Game-Used Flannel Alternate Jersey Vest (Very Rare) (21 Game Winning Season)

Some fairly amazing and iconic items have passed through your doors over the years. Which pieces stand out as the most impressive?

Just to name a few, I’d say;

  • 1932 Babe Ruth New York Yankees Game-Used Road Flannel Uniform Attributed To the "Called Shot" in the World Series.
  • 1976 Dr. J Julius Erving ABA All-Star Game-Used & Slam Dunk Contest Worn Uniform
  • 1956 Yogi Berra New York Yankees Game-Used Home Pinstripe Jersey Worn In Don Larsen's World Series Perfect Game
  • The 1979 Heisman Trophy Award Presented to USC Tailback Charles White

Grey Flannel is recognized as one of the world’s foremost authenticators of sports memorabilia. Is the fight against fakers getting harder?

It is actually getting easier as our experts know so much more today than twenty years ago. Imagine if Doctors knew then what they know now…

What are the biggest changes to have taken place in the sports memorabilia market in recent years?

The biggest changes..hmm. That is a somewhat broad question but I’d say that the game used / vintage basketball market has grown in recent years, and the Internet has changed the industry in general.

Can’t say this is a major surprise. Our hobby is somewhat cyclical as far as markets go. I believe that basketball collectors have realized that the game-used and vintage items are so unique in the fact that these were such incredible basketball memories that can be captured in their truest form.

For example; 1976 Dr. J Julius Erving ABA All-Star Game-Used & Autographed Slam Dunk Contest Worn Uniform How does it get any cooler than that? This jersey is literally the inception of basketball, as we know it today.

Another major change to our industry just like any other is the functionality of the Internet. This hobby was built on “shows”. When people talk about “shows” in this hobby, they mean conventions as in the National Sports Collectors Convention, which is the biggest.

To get back to my point, the Internet has transformed our industry into a virtual one, where many of its biggest transactions take place online. Same goes with auctions. Long ago when the word auction was mentioned, your brain imagined the auctioneer speaking too fast and banging his or her gavel.

Today, my brain creates the image of an online auction first even though live auctions still do exist. For example, we have a partnership with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in which this year will feature our 7th annual Induction Auction where we host a dinner, and run an auction live at induction weekend (of course very much of the auction’s bidding is done online).

What would be on the Grey Flannel ‘Wish List’ of historic items yet to appear at auction?

We have always wanted to run a 1903 World Series program. The very first Major League baseball World Series program, I think that one is self explanatory.

What are the key factors that can see some items sell for six or seven-figure sums?

The factor that drives prices are based on how badly collector (s) want the item. If they know that an item is historic in nature, unique, and ascetically pleasing then collectors are willing to spend. They want that one of one that no one else in the world has.

Are there any areas of the market, which you feel, are undervalued at the moment?

No sense in beating around the bush, FOOTBALL. We feel game-used and vintage football market has strong potential in the near future.

What do you think it is about historic sports memorabilia that captures collectors’ imaginations?

You answered the question yourself. Keywords; historic, and sports. People live for sports, and when you combine that with history its difficult to beat in the collecting world. Sports memorabilia is different than most other collectables in that it gives people the opportunity to own just that, memorabilia.

People can collect memories of historic sports events in a way that coins, and antiques etc. just cannot match. A jersey from a childhood / American idol’s world famous moments. Easy example: 1932 Babe Ruth New York Yankees Game-Used Road Flannel Uniform Attributed To the "Called Shot" in the World Series.

What would be your advice for collectors just starting out in the hobby?

Collect what you love; these are not stocks or mutual funds, or any kind of financial investment. They are tangible; you can display them in your home and cherish them. What is your passion? Chances are we can find it for you.

Babe Ruth's bat or Ali's gloves? Which would you choose?

I’m going to go with Ruth’s bat. A, I think his legend is larger, and B there are likely far less Ruth bats than there are Ali Gloves.

Tell us about your show All Star Dealers..?

Finally, lol. I could go on and on since the question is so general but long story short; All Star Dealers is about our company, and my family doing what we do every day. Tracking down great auction consignments, the authentication process they go through, and then all the way to the final sale of each item featured. It is our life, our passion, and our profession.

The answer to all of the questions you asked me today are encapsulated into one episode of All Star Dealers which airs every Thursday night on the Velocity Channel at 10 & 10:30 est.

For further information, visit http://greyflannelauctions.com

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