Jeff Cox got his start collecting baseball cards around 1987. He soon branched out and began collecting old programs and yearbooks. “The older I got, I started gravitating toward things I liked the most,” he shares. Being a Cincinnati Reds fan, he began to add game-used jerseys and batting gloves to his collection, as well as autographed memorabilia. One of the first signed memorabilia items he purchased was an Edd Roush autograph.
As his collection grew, Jeff discovered that he most enjoyed collecting “oddball” items – unique pieces that might not be worth as much, but can’t really be found anywhere else. Today, his complete collection includes items such as a 1947 Reds schedule, a 1986 Reds employee handbook, press pins, luggage tags, photo pins, and game tickets (including a record-breaking game ticket signed by Pete Rose and tickets to the 1940 World Series), and over 100 autographed baseballs. He has a menu, drinking glass, and napkins from Johnny Bench’s restaurant. “I’ve got a few correspondence letters from the Reds traveling secretary discussing hotel rates for the players,” shares Jeff. “I’ve got a 1976 World Series hospitality pass and a 1976 cameraman’s jacket from NBC sports. Those are the kind of things that are fun to find.”
While he’s slowed down with collecting baseball cards, Jeff has completed his team sets from 1953 to 2000. He has the complete run of scorecards and yearbooks dating back to 1953. More recently, he purchased a suitcase that was used by reliever Tom Hume. He also owns a pair of Adam Dunn’s cleats with his signature and the words, “First home run,” inscribed on the shoes.
Jeff finds it difficult to choose just one favorite item. “I’ve got a few!” He has a third base from St. Louis when Ken Griffey Jr. scored his 500th home run. Another favorite is a more unique item: a 1954 scrapbook filled with every day’s newspaper clippings from the beginning to the end of the season. “It’s six inches thick!” The oldest item in the collection is an illustration and write-up from Harpers Weekly in 1869, showcasing the first pro baseball team. He also owns a few baseball cards that date back to 1909 and 1911.
To discover more items for his collection, Jeff likes to attend memorabilia shows for Cincinnati. There, he finds lot of memorabilia, such as Crosley field stadium seats. “It’s like Christmas!” he says. He also attends Reds Fantasy camp, where they have 24 former players coaching. “It gives you an opportunity to get personal and get autographs,” he explains. “It’s a cool experience if you’re a fan.” About 70% of the autographs in his collection are obtained in person through shows, signings at sports cards shops, and fantasy camps – making them extra special for the memories they carry.
One of the most valuable items in Jeff’s collection was obtained in a rather unusual way. Jeff and his wife were shopping at a flea market, and Jeff was browsing through a stack of scrapbooks. He found one that had some baseball cards taped to it and was shocked to realize that one of them was a Jackie Robinson 1949 Bowman rookie card. He paid $6 for the scrapbook, and he expects the card to be worth $1,000 or more once he has it graded.
Not including the baseball cards, Jeff’s collection has grown to include approximately 10,000 items. These are currently displayed in a tiny spare bedroom, but Jeff has big plans for the future. Jeff and his wife are building a house, and Jeff will have 700 square feet of space which he calls the, “Reds Hall of Fame North.” He plans to display his collection to look like a museum, but he doesn’t organize the items in any particular way. “I like things kind of mixed up – it makes you look a little bit more.” In the new home, everything Jeff has collected will be on display, and there will be room for more. The only item he doesn’t display are his programs and sports cards.
In addition to collecting, Jeff has one other baseball-related hobby: creating customized bobbleheads. In the past five years, he’s done at least 100 different ones. Jeff says, “It allows me to blend my artistic skills and love of baseball into one!” He sells the majority of the bobbleheads to other Reds fans, while keeping some personal favorites.
Ultimately, Jeff’s collection is a way for him to celebrate his passion for the sport. “As a baseball fan, every kids dream is to play major league baseball,” shares Jeff. “The large majority of fans don’t get to do that, so the next best thing is to collect things they love. I like to bring parts of the game into my collection. I can keep the game around me as much as possible!”