Local sports memorabilia collectors and autograph seekers can find both at James Miller’s Fairview Heights store, where he sells autographed photos, posters, jerseys, baseball, caps and more. The Washington Park native has been collecting all of his life and began selling collectibles in 1999. He occasionally brings past and current professional athletes, many of whom are current and former players from the St. Louis Cardinals, to the metro-east for occasional autograph sessions. Business writer Will Buss visited his store last week to talk about Miller’s business:
Why did you open this business?
“We were collectors ourselves and we enjoyed it a lot and thought other people would, too. We just wanted to make our prices affordable for regular customers.”
How do you do that?
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“A lot of it is because we deal with exclusives, which gives us the ability to control the price versus going out and buying it. You cut out the middle man.”
What did you do before starting this business?
“I started out working for the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame and met a lot of people. I was their product marketing director for a couple years. It’s a donation. You don’t get paid. It’s all charity work, but it’s a great way to start our career and I still work for them. As a matter of fact, I just talked to the president of the hall of fame this morning. They introduced me to a lot players; I went to a lot of lunches and we just hit it off. To a player, if you treat them right, they tell somebody else. It’s a snowball effect.”
What else distinguishes your store from your competitors?
“I think we have one of the largest. We’re 10,000 square feet, which is definitely one of the largest shops in the area, maybe the largest shop in the area. We will do whatever it takes for a customer.”
Whose autographs and memorabilia sell the most?
“(Yadier) Molina is our most popular. No matter what, he’s loved by most.”
What are the most unique and hard-to-find pieces you have had in your store?
“We’ve had some Babe Ruth autographs in here. I just sold a Frankie Frisch (autographed) ball. That was pretty good. We just sold a Daffy (Paul) Dean ball, which we sold for $8,500.”
What’s the most someone has spent on an item in your store?
“Probably $15,000 to $20,000.”
What did they buy?
“They bought a couple of different baseballs we had. It adds up.”
What do you enjoy most about your business?
“People. If it wasn’t for the people, I wouldn’t enjoy it at all. A lot of people say you could just do it online. I know stores that have closed and are strictly going online, because they don’t have to deal with it and are just constantly selling something. That doesn’t appeal to me. What appeals to me is being able to socialize and enjoy the collectibles with the customer.”
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2526.
Job: Owner, Collector’s Corner at 2045 W. Highway 50 in Fairview Heights (618-589-6036)
Outlook: “What appeals to me is being able to socialize and enjoy the collectibles with the customer.”