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From Commodity to Collectible: Autographed Mini Football Helmets

by Rob Bertrand (10/05/12).

If you find yourself in position to get an autograph from a star football player, like John Elway, getting it on a mini helmet makes a great piece of memorabilia and is the best way to display a signature.

Often times the most enjoyable collectible is the one you create yourself. Not in the sense of fabricating one but in the sense of having one autographed by a favorite athlete. Perhaps no other medium displays a full signature as vibrantly as a licensed replica mini football helmet.

Manufactured by a company called Riddell Sports, these miniaturized versions are impressive in detail and very affordable. Additionally, they do not take up much space and make for a very nice display piece. Far less expensive than a football and easier to physically sign, mini helmets have become very popular with collectors in recent years. Licensed by the NFL, CFL and the NCAA, every gridiron fan has the ability to quickly create a collection of football memorabilia to enhance any man cave.

The two primary methods of acquiring mini helmet autographs are typical of most memorabilia: in person (IP) or purchased at retail. When purchasing at retail, whether through online or brick and mortar, the same autograph rules apply. Quite simply, if the signed helmet is not accompanied by a Certificate or Letter of Authenticity (C.O.A. or L.O.A.), from one of the following autograph authenticators—James Spence (JSA), Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA), OR the team or university themselves—DO NOT BUY IT.

Mini helmets, like this one for the Chicago Bears, are licensed by the National Football League.

The NCAA offers officially licensed mini helmets for collegiate teams, including Notre Dame.

Getting your prized mini helmet signed in person brings its own challenges and recommendations. Here are some guidelines for in-person signing that can be applied to multiple medium formats.

• Be specific about where you want the athlete to sign;
• Bring the appropriate signing instrument you want the athlete to use:

    • Decocolor paint pens are the premier choice when using a paint pen;
    • Choose a contrasting or corresponding accent color to the team uniform;
    • Allow extra time for the signature to dry when using a paint pen;
    • A Super Twin Tip Permanent Marker by Sharpie in contrasting colors of black, silver, red, blue and green also work nicely and are sometimes safer to use then paint pens as paint pens take a bit of a knack to write with. If the player hasn’t used them before, you may end up with a scribbled smear. They also combine a medium and kings size tip depending on the length of the player’s name and desired thickness of the signature;
    • If you have the signer use a paint pen and aren’t happy with the signature, don’t be afraid to politely ask if they would mind resigning with a Sharpie (it’s wise to bring some rubbing alcohol and a cotton cloth to quickly remove the signature before the paint dries);
    • Whatever instrument you choose to use, test it on a similar surface as that of the helmet before heading out to your signing event (the back of a smooth plastic ruler works well).

The original packaging for mini helmets include advertising and a holographic sticker.

A specially designed case offers UV protection to keep the signature from fading over time.

Displaying and preserving your newly signed mini-helmet is relatively straight forward, however here are some things to consider. While the helmet(s) come in a packaging with a plastic base plate and clear lid, the lid is not UV resistant, has a licensed hologram sticker affixed to it and the base plate is adorned with the manufacturer logo and product name. While it is possible to remove the unwanted advertising and inexpensively provide a display piece for your autographed mini-helmet, there are alternative, albeit, more expensive options that utilize UV resistant glass and woods stands. Doing a simple online search for “mini helmet displays” will return a myriad of options. However, don’t invest more in the case than the cost of the autograph.

What you collect is up to you. If you want to collect signatures from each team a player plays for, you may have your work cut out for you. Reggie Bush has three: USC, the New Orleans Saints and the Miami Dolphins.

As with any collection, think of a theme before starting. Do you want every living university star quarterback on a single helmet or have each sign their own helmet? Would a collection of NFL Hall of Fame players from your favorite team be more appealing than a collection of players from a team championship year? The possibilities are endless and are for you to decide.

Rob Bertrand has been an active collector of sports cards and memorabilia for more than 20 years. His involvement in the hobby community is well documented, having been the content manager for the Card Corner Club website before the company’s merger with CardboardConnection in 2011, where he is now a staff writer and multimedia content producer. Rob is also the co-host of the sports collectibles hobby’s only live and nationally broadcast radio show, Cardboard Connection Radio. He is the author of the highly respected and trafficked blog, Voice of the Collector and you can follow him on Twitter @VOTC. A dealer himself, Rob runs an online business through eBay, and is frequently asked to consign collections.

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