Clemente’s Corner: Collecting Hockey Autographs Through-the-Mail

How the Pandemic Turned Me Into a TTM Nut

It was two years ago that the pandemic forced all of us to stay home. Like many of you, I used much of my downtime to do things around the house. It also forced me to organize my card collection.

I can’t say it’s quite as organized as I would like it to be. It was during that process, however, that I refocused some of my hobby energy. I didn’t know what to do with the many junk wax base cards that I had amassed over the decades. Some I gave to charity. Others were given away to trick-or-treaters. Even with that, I had tons left over.

That’s when I discovered TTM – short for Through-the-Mail – autograph collecting. My kids and I decided why not mail cards to former NHL players to see if we could get them back signed. In doing some research online, I realized that there was an entire community out there who have been doing the same thing for years – and with much success. I watched YouTube videos and read blogs where collectors bragged about their returns. I was hooked.

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Clemente’s Corner: 5 Hockey Card Collecting Predictions for 2022-23

October, as far as the NHL is concerned, is all about beginnings. It’s the start of a new season. After a long summer, fans across North America are excited to watch their favorite teams once again.

For those of us who collect hockey cards and memorabilia, it’s the start of a new collecting season. We’re all eagerly anticipating Upper Deck Series 1 to come out, scouring the checklist to see which “Young Guns” cards to gobble up and what will the inserts look like this time.

This is also a time for me to take out the crystal ball and make some predictions for the next 12 months. These are largely based on experience and observation – no guarantees that I’ll be correct – but it is something to ponder as you enjoy the season.

Collectors have already gotten a chance to whet their appetites with Upper Deck MVP, which is both affordable and plentiful (at least at my local Target), if you’re looking for a fun rip before the puck officially drops on the 2022-23 season.  

Here are five things to watch for over the course of the season:

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Clemente’s Corner: Collecting the ’72 Summit Series

The 1972 Summit Series Between Canada and the USSR has Some Great Collectibles

The year was 1972 and the Cold war was in full swing. Relations between the West and the Soviet Union were tense, sometimes teetering on the brink of nuclear war. It was also a time when the USSR dominated international competition, displacing Canada as the world’s hockey power.

Since the Olympics were only open to amateurs in those years, Canada could not field their NHL players. The Soviets, on the other hand, claimed their players were amateurs because they had been employed as military officers. In reality, they exclusively played hockey, skirting the rules and gobbling up gold medals in the process. Canada, upset that it could not use NHLers, withdrew from the 1970 IIHF World Championships.

In 1971, the Canadian embassy in Moscow learned of the Soviets’ interest in playing a series of games after reading an article Soviet newspapers. The negotiations for the series were finalized at the Hotel International Prague during the 1972 World Ice Hockey Championships. The deal included the playing of eight games – four in Canada and the other four in the Soviet Union – and would pit players such as goaltender Vladislav Tretiak against future Hall of Famer Phil Esposito. 

The games – known as the “Summit Series” – were contested between September 2-28. The expectation was that Canada would win given that they featured the world’s best players; a roster that also included goaltender Ken Dryden, defenseman Serge Savard and center Bobby Clarke.

Canada won the series 4-3 after the third game ended in a 4-4 tie. The hero of the series, however, was Paul Henderson, a player who otherwise had a relatively average NHL career. He played in all eight games for Canada, tallying seven goals and three assists. Henderson scored the winning goal in the 6-5 win in Game 8 that won Canada the series.

On the 50th anniversary of that epic series, here’s a look at the collectables, from trading cards to pucks to signed photos, that continue to grab the fascination of hockey fans everywhere.

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Clemente’s Corner: Recapping the 2022 National Sports Collectors Convention

What Was There and What Did You Get?

If you attended the 42nd edition of the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City, then you’re probably still dealing with sore feet. 

I found myself soaking those dogs a day after walking the showroom floor for seven straight hours. My feet did hurt for a day – but you couldn’t take the smile off my face for days.

In 2020, my plan had been to attend my first National, scheduled to take place that summer in Atlantic City. COVID-19 upended the planet. The event, like everything else, was canceled.

Two years later, I got my chance to attend the NSCC, albeit for a day (on the Friday) following a three-hour bus ride from New York City. I finally got the chance to take in all the buzz and enthusiasm that comes with such a massive show. Aisle after aisle lined with tables made it disorienting at times. I couldn’t even find the exit at one point!

There was plenty of buzz and enthusiasm. Indeed, from July 27-31, all hobby eyes were fixated on the coastal New Jersey resort famous for its casinos. In a summer where I attended both the Toronto Sport Card Expo and Chicago Sports Spectacular, I was truly in awe of the National’s size (750 exhibitors spread out across 460,000 square feet!) and variety of collectables inside the Atlantic City Convention Center. It also seemed as if nearly every breaker and YouTuber was at the show.

I got to see a SCG 9.5 Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps card, a bat used by Babe Ruth and a game-worn autographed Lionel Messi jersey. While the cards, autographs, ticket stubs and pennants for sale at the National was the big draw, it’s also the chance to meet up with friends, talk about the hobby and get away from the realities of everyday life.

In addition to hockey, I collect baseball and soccer cards. In that regard, the show did not disappoint – although hockey typically gets the short end of the stick at the five-day show.

Here’s my recap of this year’s National.

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Clemente’s Corner: Go ‘Fourth’ and Collect These Iconic USA Hockey Cards

We’re officially in the NHL offseason. While the league goes into hibernation mode until a new season starts on October 11, there’s still plenty of hockey out there for everyone to enjoy this summer.

The new 3-on-3 league, known as 3ICE, just launched, while card and memorabilia collecting never stops as many of you out there prepare to attend The National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City at the end of the month.  

The dog days of summer get into high gear with the Fourth of July and everything that goes with it such as pool parties, cookouts and fireworks. Of course, America’s birthday is also a great excuse for me at my very first “Clemente’s Corner” to write about some of my favorite hockey cards featuring players in their USA uniforms.

It could be because I am also a big soccer fan, but I do love international hockey competition. I miss seeing NHLers play at the Olympics. It’s for that reason that I am going to rundown my favorite cards featuring U.S. players just in time for Independence Day.

Some of these cards are true gems. Indeed, they are cardboard miracles when you consider how infrequently players have appeared in past sets wearing their national team colors. Here are a few of my favorites:   

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Five Things to Know About the Toronto Sport Card Expo

Story and photos by Clemente Lisi

Sports card collectors have the annual National Sports Collectors Convention to look forward to at the end of every July. Hockey card collectors, on the other hand, got to enjoy the Toronto Sport Card and Memorabilia Expo during the first week of June.  

Sometimes referred to as the “Canadian National,” the Expo typically features tons of hockey cards and collectibles and sections of the showroom floor do sometimes feel like you’ve stumbled into a museum. The spring edition of the Expo that took place from June 2-5 was no different.

It was the first spring Expo held at The International Centre, located near Toronto’s Pearson Airport, since the pandemic forced stay-at-home orders and halted travel. The easing of COVID-19 restrictions, both in the U.S. and Canada, made for large crowds during the four-day show, which was moved from March.  

While the majority of people at the show hailed from all over Canada, a few out there, like me, made the trek across the border to Toronto. After four days in Toronto, I totally recommend taking such a trip in the future. For example, Toronto takes as much time for me to get to from New York City by plane (just two hours) as Atlantic City, site of the next National, is by car. It’s true that airfare costs more, but finding a deal is possible. 

For anyone considering attending the Toronto Sport Expo in the future, here are five things from this last show that you should know. 

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