[singlepic id=242 w=320 h=280 float=left]If you watch “Antiques Roadshow” religiously – as I do – you’re bound to recognize sports memorabilia appraiser and autograph authenticator Mike Gutierrez of Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas.
Sports memorabilia is a BIG BUSINESS – to the tune of a $1 billion annually, I’ve heard – and a major chunk of that is autograph material. Amid this high-stakes collecting area, Mike is a voice of authority. According to his bio on the Heritage Web site (www.ha.com), “Mike has over 26 years experience and is one of the few universally respected authorities left standing in a field racked with fraud and forgeries. The industry has been plagued by FBI investigations of fraud and Mike is the single most respected repository of trust in the business.”
Mike has appraised sports memorabilia from the estates of martial arts icon Bruce Lee, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle and heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali, as well as St. Louis Cardinals heavy hitter Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball for the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company.
A couple of years ago, when I was writing a collectibles column called “Northwest Collector” for the classifieds section of the Tacoma News Tribune, I called Mike to ask him about sports memorabilia. In the course of the conversation, I asked him what sports items he collected; to my amazement Mike said he didn’t collect sports material at all – he collected guitars! I never wrote that sports memorabilia story, but I did keep Mike in mind as a story subject himself.
Recently, I interviewed Mike about his guitars and mentioned that I’d seen a number appraised by other experts on “Antiques Roadshow.” Interesting, he replied that those are the guys he hangs out with off-camera or after the segment is recorded.
Some highlights of Mike’s guitar collection:
- A 1961 Fender Precision bass, “my first serious guitar that I got in 1970,” he said. “It’s probably my #1 piece for weight, for comfort, for body contour. I don’t have to think about any player issues and can concentrate just on the music and having fun.” (He plays classic and ’60s rock, by the way.)
- A 1966 Rickenbacker 4005: “That has the best neck that I ever put my hands on.”
- A 1978 ProE II bass guitar owned by John Entwistle of The Who, which Mike purchased at a Sotheby’s auction in London in 2003. Mike has a photo of Entwistle holding this particular instrument, which is the most valuable (in strictly monetary terms) in Mike’s collection.
Mike told me he always goes to the Dallas and Arlington, Texas, guitar shows – “the top two guitar convention shows in the business,” he said.
Here’s are a few more questions I asked Mike:
AmeriCollector: Have you collected only guitars? When did you start?
Mike Gutierrez: “I used to have a collection of deceased Hall of Famers. At one point I had upwards of 90 percent of them, up to 1988 or so. Then I sold them off.
“As far as collecting guitars, I started around 1970. I have guitars that I would go to the grave with: because of the feel, because of the sound – NOT because of the collectability. You put your hand on that thing, the feel of the neck, and you think, man, I’m home: Everything – the comfort, the sound, is me.”
AC: What makes you want to get a particular guitar?
Mike: “The design, the sound, the feel of the instrument and its response.”
AC: How do you manage your collection? Do you ever sell your guitars?
Mike: “It’s a revolving door. I have a connection with guitars that I’ll never move. Also I have a revolving group that changes.”
AC: What advice would you offer to someone who wants to start a guitar collection?
Mike: “Always pick a guitar that feels good and sounds good. If you’re getting a collector guitar (as an investment), you’re a businessman. Decide which you want to be – and you can be both. But if you’re going to sell it, always go for the best condition, in the most original state.”