About cllct -- your home for collectible coverage

Cllct aims to be the first media entity to cover all things in the memorabilia market

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The 1987 Topps cards of the world champion Mets were the top targets of a young Darren Rovell.

The sign in the store window jumped out at me so vividly, it might as well have been glowing: 1987 Topps Baseball Is Here!

Bookmarx was originally a vintage bookstore in Roslyn, N.Y., but that glass front window was only advertising baseball cards when I laid eyes on it in February 1987.

For an 8-year-old baseball fanatic, the message was a honing beacon.

Growing up on Long Island, I was obsessed with the New York Mets. In my first season as a fan, we won the World Series in magical fashion.

It was much more than Bill Buckner.

Doc, Straw, Mookie, Nails, the Kid. I knew them all — right down to every last statistic. I wanted to know more, wanted some way to connect directly with my heroes.

I found it on those pieces of cardboard.

As spring training began in 1987, I started the practice of begging my parents to take me to Bookmarx. The boxes, with Dave Righetti on the front and my catcher, Gary Carter, on the panel facing out, displayed the retail price of 40 cents a pack.

I remember seeing the wood borders for the first time, and my exuberance over the chase for those rookies with the golden cups.

Jose Canseco. Danny Tartabull. Pete Incaviglia. Cory Snyder.

And the Future Stars. Bo Jackson. Rafael Palmeiro. And who could forget Dave Magadan?

I walked out with those packs, along with a Beckett Price Guide, so I could see how much I had “won” for my 40-cent investment.

As I chewed on the gum, which began with a crack, lasted for a couple minutes and then liquified, I began to sense I was hooked. Not only to cards, but to stats. And, little did I know at the time, the business of it all.

The arbitrage of buying packs, winning the lottery, going to shows and selling those cards at a profit.

I was also born to be in this position. No, literally.

Malcolm Gladwell in “Outliers” wrote about the luck of being born in the right spot, of professional hockey players born in January and February, and of certain people born in the right years. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were born in 1955. By the time they were 18, computers were first becoming a mass idea. Someone born in 1955 was going to become "the computer guy."

I was born in 1978 and hit fourth grade in 1987, when the boys at Roslyn Elementary talked about baseball and only baseball. I had my set rotation of Mets hats and T-shirts — caricatures of Gooden, Strawberry, Carter and Hernandez — and I wore little else.

But I was born to be here.

In the summer of 1987, the day after I turned 9, WFAN, the first 24/7 sports radio station debuted in New York. I could talk Mets all day long with my friends, and when I was tired, I could listen to others talk about the team nonstop!

From 1987 to 1994, it never stopped.

I started a card business: Baseball Mania Inc. — though it was never legally incorporated — and a monthly collectors magazine of the same name. I sold it for $1 to my friends.

I attended countless card shows, which included hurdling a kid to beat him out to buy the Billy Ripken “F--- Face” card and scoring a Don Mattingly minor-league card with the Columbus Clippers, only to find out, days later, that it was indeed a fake.

In 1989, I was thrilled to get the Franklin Electronic Baseball Encyclopedia and tried to memorize all the players from Don Aase to Paul Zuvella. I reserved the handle "Stathead" on AOL that same year.

My high school years were filled with listening to “Mike & The Mad Dog” and Steve Somers and even calling up to give my take.

And then came college at Northwestern, where I discovered eBay my junior year. The "nuwildcat99" handle is still very much active.

As I started to make some money, I went deeper into collectibles.

I bought Darnell Autry’s game-issued Northwestern Rose Bowl jersey for $5,000 in 2005.

Soon, cards didn’t do it for me anymore. I got into one-of-one pieces. Things that were the best in the world.

I saved up for the big ones, and over the years, gained a reputation in the industry as a savvy collector who delved into less liquid markets.

I pulled off some astonishing returns: tickets to Tiger’s first PGA Tour event, or Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to JFK, both of which I “30 x’d” in a little more than a year.

In the early 2000s, I became the first national reporter to consistently cover the space at ESPN. My first appearance on ESPNEWS included a box of cards as a prop, and I continued to slip in coverage of the hobby through my years at CNBC and the Action Network.

When COVID-19 hit, and the collectible market exploded, memorabilia was suddenly being called a “true alt asset,” as opposed to something that just fills a man cave.

And as a journalist, I looked around and felt like I didn’t have an updated home. There were a few sites that catered to hard-core regulars, but nothing to reach the masses or offer in-depth storytelling and quality journalism.

I believe collectors need a home to visit every day, with articles and video focused on this now-developed market.

And that’s the genesis of cllct, the first true media company dedicated to the collectibles industry. A website that keeps track of the other scoreboard — the auctions, the prices, both rising and falling, the items and how they got here, and the characters who spend their cold, hard cash on them.

In the coming months, we will lean on sports, but we will feature much more. We promise to be at the center of everything that everyone is talking about, and we will do it with the utmost credibility.

I’ve hired Will Stern, a memorabilia-obsessed reporter well beyond his years, to join me in covering the market, and Kevin Jackson, an organizational and editorial genius who I worked with at ESPN, as our chief content officer. Also joining us, after nearly 30 years at ESPN, is Ted Bishop to work on our business relationships. Matt Liberman will make our live shows and video clips sing.

I hope you will bookmark cllct.com, as we plan to earn your stay here, and subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

After 24 years in the business, I am finally home, where I was always meant to be. I hope this will be your home, too.

-- Darren Rovell, Founder, cllct