Dan Pennington is a huge sports fan, especially when it comes to his favorite team, the Chicago White Sox. He saw his first Sox game as a child in 1976, inspiring his lifelong passion for collecting baseball cards and sports memorabilia.
Years later, wanting to share his hobby with other avid collectors, Pennington opened his own shop, Me and Dad’s Toys, 720 E. State St., Geneva. For eight years, he has carried a wide array of items related to sports, especially baseball memorabilia.
“I probably have 250,000 sports trading cards in the store, with a box from each of the last 40 years,” Pennington said.
“The rarest card I have at the moment is a T206 Ty Cobb card that probably retails for between $750 and $1,000,” he said, adding that last summer boasted a big seller for the shop, a golf card signed by both Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan that went for around $3,400 on Ebay, he said.
A little further north in the heart of St. Charles, Rob Anderson of Anderson's Coins and Collectibles, is selling cards that range in price from 25 cents to $50, making collecting them an affordable hobby for any age.
Of course, there are a few sports cards out there that could break anyone’s budget, he said.
The T206 Honus Wagner card, designed and issued by the American Tobacco Company from 1909-1911, is a gem Anderson would love to one day find. It is considered one of the rarest and most expensive baseball cards in the world, thanks to Wagner's refusal to "play ball" with the tobacco seller, as legend has it.
“Honus Wagner didn’t care to have his picture on a pack of cigarettes, so he forced the tobacco companies to remove his card,” said Anderson. Other stories attest it was a fight over compensation that led to the pulling of the card.
Either way, only about 57 of those cards are believed to exist today, and one sold at auction for $2.1 million, earlier this month. The baseball card was the highest selling item at the April 5 Goldin Auctions' showcase in New York, alongside a copy of Alex Rodriquez's 2009 World Series ring that sold for $50,398 and a signed Derek Jeter bat swung in the 2001 World Series that fetched $37,486.
Pennington and Anderson each will bring part of their own vast collection to a new trading card and sports memorabilia event called “Take Me Out to the Card Show,” on Saturday, April 27, in Geneva. Hosted by the Kane County Cougars, the special public event will be held inside Fifth Third Bank Ballpark’s upper deck. Sports enthusiasts, avid collectors and young fans can peruse the aisles of sports-related items offered by local hobby shops and sports memorabilia stores. There will be activities, giveaways and programming, as well. Kids under 12 are free, and the whole event helps support Ozzie's Outreach, the Cougar's Charitable Foundation.
“It’s about having a good time. Whether there are 1,000 people there, or 200 people there, it’s going to be a fun day,” said event organizer Dan Campana. “We’re going to giveaway some great prizes and there’ll be some great interactions."
Those exchanges could include a meet-and greet-with a well-known pair of Chicago sports personalities. Chicago Blackhawks legend Denis Savard is scheduled to sign autographs from 10-11:30 a.m., and former Chicago Cub Randy Hundley will pen his name from noon -1:30 p.m.
Campana’s 8-year-old son, Ryne, may request a couple of those autographs. He's named for Campana’s baseball hero, Chicago Cubs hall of famer Ryne Sandberg.
“Yep, I won the baby-naming coin toss,” Campana said, laughing. Young Ryne might wear his baseball uniform too, as youth baseball and softball players who show up in their team uniforms will win a special door prize at the event.
But for collectors and enthusiasts like Pennington and Anderson, the most fun part of being a collector is the hunt.
“You don’t know if someone will walk in one day with a Honus Wagner card, or what you’ll stumble across,” Anderson said, grinning. “You never know what you’re going to find.”