Dwight Clark Autographed Sports Illustrated (credit: Randy Yagi)
A popular hobby almost as old as the national pastime itself, collecting sports memorabilia has evolved to become a billion dollar business. But not every sports collector has the experience or the finances to purchase valuable baseball cards like a 1909 Honus Wagner or Mickey Mantle’s rookie card from 1952. While collecting sports memorabilia is more popular than ever, novice collectors can learn about making the right choice by visiting a local sports collectible store. Here are five of the best in the Bay Area.
King’s Baseball Cards
2284 Fulton St.
Berkeley, CA 94704
Located just steps from the UC Berkeley campus, King’s is said to be California’s first full time sports memorabilia and baseball card store. Established in 1976 by Cal Berkeley grad Dennis King, the local business has one of the largest collections of vintage sports cards from 1887 to 1958, including rare cards of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb. Other highly prized baseball memorabilia include cards autographed by early Hall of Fame ballplayers like Rogers Hornsby and George Sisler, as well as an extensive collection of rare cards dating back to 1916 from the historic Pacific Coast League (PCL). In the rock poster business for more than 45 years, King is an internationally recognized authority on vintage sports memorabilia and rock posters and possesses one of the world’s largest collections, including several from Bill Graham’s historic San Francisco concerts from the 60s and 70s held at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium and the Winterland Ballroom.
1859 El Camino Real
Burlingame, CA 94010
Serving sports fans since 1988, Lefty’s Sports features an enormous collection of memorabilia as well as non-sports related items. Founded by co-owners Jim Bernardini and Steve Teani, Lefty’s Sports also offers custom framing, a Beckett grading service and hosts a number of events including fundraisers, birthday parties and autograph signings. Over the years, Lefty’s Sports has hosted a number of sports celebrities, such as current San Francisco Giants Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, as well as Giants legends Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry. Other famous athletes who have appeared at autograph signings include Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry, former 49er Patrick Willis and former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Just recently, five members of the world champion Golden State Warriors were on hand for autograph sessions, including Shaun Livingston and star forward Draymond Green.
1163 Chess Drive, Suite J
Foster City, CA 94404
Located right off the busy Bayshore Freeway in Foster City, ManCave Memorabilia is one of the best stores for sports collectibles from Bay Area teams like the San Francisco Giants and the 49ers. The very popular sports memorabilia store also features custom framing services, autograph signings, auction fundraising services and more. Owner Joe Leonor and the staff at Mancave Memorabilia also devote an entire online section for clothing and collectibles from the San Francisco 49ers known as Niner Empire, as well as items from the San Francisco Giants and the Golden State Warriors. Among the notable sports celebrities who have made autograph appearances here include Buster Posey, Joe Montana, Madison Bumgarner, Steph Curry and Sugar Ray Leonard. Mancave Memorabilia also sells hundreds if not thousands of items through eBay, with recent offerings like a framed photo with a handwritten autograph of Michael Jordan, a lithograph signed by Bay Area native Joe DiMaggio and an autographed and framed race pit jersey of NASCAR star Danica Patrick.
Peninsula Sports Cards
572 El Camino Real
Belmont, CA 94402
With three Bay Area locations, Peninsula Sports Cards has one of the largest collections of sports memorabilia in the Bay Area. First opened in 1981, it’s also one of the oldest local businesses selling a variety of items, including signed jerseys, cards, baseballs and bats, other sports collectibles and possibly a very valuable Mickey Mantle 1952 rookie card, featured prominently on the main page. All three locations also maintain their own online auctions through eBay, with the largest listings from the two other stores, South Bay Sports Cards in Sunnyvale and Stevens Creek Sports Cards in San Jose. Peninsula Sports Cards also offers custom framing services, memorabilia holders and non-sports collectibles such as Pokemon and Star Wars trading cards.
Sports Gallery Authenticated
922 San Leandro Ave., Suite J
Mountain View, CA 94043
For over a decade, Sports Gallery Authenticated (SGA) has earned a great reputation for its commitment to customer satisfaction. Founded in 1999, the local business maintains a huge collection of sports memorabilia both at the showroom and through its online business with a special emphasis on Bay Area teams like the San Francisco Giants, San Francisco 49ers and the world champion Golden State Warriors. Sports Gallery Authenticated also offers custom framing and display case services and hosts a number of events and sports celebrity signings. Among the Bay Area sports legends who have made appearances at autographed signings include Steph Curry, Ronnie Lott, Rollie Fingers, Willie McCovey and the greatest San Francisco Giant of them all, Willie Mays. In addition to its primary showroom and framing facility in Mountain View, SGA also has a mini showroom in San Ramon, as well as permanent displays of collectibles in local restaurants and sports bars such as First and Main Sports Lounge in Los Altos and Huntington Station in Morgan Hill.
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com