When Steve Verkman and his New York-based Clean Sweep Auctions came to Indianapolis last spring for a two-day event, he wasn’t sure what to expect.
But when thousands of people streamed into the Wyndham Indianapolis West hotel and waited hours to have their sports memorabilia valued, Verkman knew he was in a true sports town.
“I thought ‘wow, this is amazing,’” he said. “We had an absolute overflow crowd last year.”
So it didn’t take Verkman long to decide to return.
And this year, two of Indiana’s best-known sports figures—Reggie Miller and Peyton Manning—could take center stage.
“They’ve certainly been in the news recently,” Verkman said. “So I expect interest in their items to be high.”
The entertainment and sports memorabilia expert and dealer with 20-plus years of experience will be back at the Wyndham April 28-29 for his Antique Road Show-like event. He will be offering free appraisals on sports memorabilia from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Last year, Verkman expected—and hoped for—lots of old ABA items. His company not only values prized items, but occasionally offers to buy or sell them on consignment. He also carries a healthy number of items for people to peruse and buy.
Last year in Indianapolis, Verkman saw a whole lot more than ABA gear.
“We saw lots of quality Topps and Bowman baseball cards from the 1950s and ’60s,” Verkman said. “There were some good clean, original cards of players like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron. There were some autographed baseball cards in very good shape.”
Of course, there were lots of basketball items, too, such as a 2004 game-worn jersey autographed by Indiana Pacers Reggie Miller that Verkman bought and now values at near $900.
This year, Verkman hopes to see even more Miller items. Now that he’s been elected into the basketball Hall of Fame, the items could be more valuable.
“For someone like Michael Jordan, who you expect to go into the Hall of Fame, it might not have a very big impact,” he explained. “But when someone gets into the Hall of Fame unexpectedly, it can have an impact on their items. Reggie Miller was somewhere in between, so it could have an impact.”
The most valuable Miller items, Verkman said, are those from his 1987-88 rookie season and from the 1999-2000 season, when the Pacers made it to the NBA finals.
Verkman also expects renewed interest in Manning items now that he’s moved to the Denver Broncos and no more Colts items will be produced.
However, he doesn’t think Manning’s Broncos items will hold much value in the long-term. “I don’t think Manning’s Broncos items will be worth much, even if he wins a Super Bowl in Denver. Peyton Manning will always be viewed as a Colt.”
Verkman points out that Joe Montana’s San Francisco 49ers jersey is worth an estimated 50 times more than his Kansas City Chiefs jersey. Montana played his first 14 seasons for San Francisco and his last two in Kansas City.
Johnny Unitas’ autographed Baltimore Colts game-worn jerseys sell for as much as $50,000, Verkman said, while his signed game-worn San Diego Chargers jersey only sells for about $3,000. Unitas played 17 years with the Colts and one with the Chargers.
Since Manning wasn’t a prolific autographer while in Indianapolis, that makes his signed items even more valuable.
“This is a guy who you know is going in the Hall of Fame, who is going down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and who didn’t sign a ton of autographs, so you know these items will hold their value very, very well,” Verkman said.
Of course, Verkman is counting on seeing a lot more than Manning and Miller items.
He is especially interested in baseball cards from 1869 to 1972, items from the original ABA—especially basketballs, baseball memorabilia from the Indianapolis Clowns and Negro League—and authentic sports equipment and awards.
“I was surprised by the turnout and with some of the items brought in last year,” he said, “so maybe I’ll get a surprise this year.”