, Newburyport, MA

January 23, 2008

Success never gets old for Patriots collectors

Stephen Tait

NEWBURYPORT — Laurence Maroney’s stock is rising, and not just on the football field.

In the Patriots’ first two playoff games, Maroney rushed for 244 yards and three touchdowns, helping to lead the New England Patriots to yet another Super Bowl. That effort is helping Karen Fletcher move lots of Maroney-related collectibles out the front door of The Cuckoo’s Nest on State Street.

“Maroney is hot right now,” she said.

Though this will be the Patriots’ fourth Super Bowl in seven years, success never goes out of style for collectors. The economy may be slow, but the sales of Patriots collectibles, from AFC Champion hats and T-shirts to autographed photos and balls, continue to grow along with the prices.

“The Patriots are always selling, but especially this year,” Fletcher said.

Jay Sullivan of Salisbury said he collects all-things Boston sports but has a special affection for the Patriots.

Framed posters, team jackets, bobbleheads, shirts and countless helmets are everywhere in a special room designated for the collectibles at his home.

But Sullivan said for those just starting out in the world of memorabilia collection, this season may not be the best. Just one game away from a perfect season, Patriots gear is expensive, he said.

“The prices go through the roof though,” he said. “Tom Brady; this is going to be his fourth Super Bowl, so you are going to pay some serious money for his autograph.

“It is insane. If you are just starting out, it is going to cost you some money.”

Pete Williams, a sport memorabilia expert and author of “Sports Memorabilia for Dummies,” said a good season like the Patriots’ inspires many commemorative items.

“Collectors and fans are more inclined to purchase such items, caught up as they are in the frenzy of things,” he wrote in an e-mail.

But Williams said that when people buy a Patriots statuette, pennant or some other collectible, they do it because they enjoy the item — not necessarily for an investment. Williams said he’s written extensively on what he terms “the myth” of sports memorabilia investment.

“The reason memorabilia becomes valuable is that it generally wasn’t considered memorabilia when it came out,” he said. “Since 1980, memorabilia has been aggressively marketed as memorabilia, produced in huge quantities, and been kept over the years. So there’s neither rarity nor intrinsic value to it.”

That may be why so many collectors opt for a simple T-shirt or hat, rather than an autographed item.

At Olympia Sports in Seabrook, N.H., the store is sold out of Patriots T-shirts ($20 each) and long-sleeved T-shirts ($22) that declare the New England Patriots the champions of the AFC.

“I’m totally out,” said Marie Prince, the store’s manager. “Hopefully, we will get new ones in the next couple of days to keep everybody happy.”

Prince said the AFC champions hats are also selling briskly and that altogether they had a “steady” day of sales.

“They were waiting in their cars for us to open,” she said. “With the Red Sox, they did the same thing: They were waiting out there.”