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Cartoonist’s book sketches collectors’ obsessions

Posted Nov 7, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo

Updated Mar 27, 2013 at 10:05 PM

I love to collect things. My wife likes to remind me that I collect baseball and football cards, coins, books, baseball hats and bobblehead dolls.




“You collect wives, too,” she says wryly.

Guilty. Been to the altar a few times, but I am not adding to that collection.

Whether you’re collecting cards or wives, you need a sense of humor. And that’s why cartoonist Andy Broome’s self-published book, “Collecting the Collector,” hits so close to home. This paperback book, which costs $11.95 and can be purchased via Amazon.com and createspace.com, takes a humorous look at the obsessive side of collectors.

It doesn’t matter what you collect. Broome has a cartoon that will make you laugh, nod your head and confess, “Yep, that’s me.”

Broome, who turns 36 on Tuesday, works as a senior vintage grader for Beckett Grading Services. He is heading to Toronto this weekend for the Fall Expo, the largest sports card and memorabilia show in Canada, and he logs about 25,000 miles a year flying to shows for grading purposes.

Broome has been at Dallas-based Beckett since 2004; previously, he worked for a small grading company for four years in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tenn. He also has appeared as a consultant for the PBS television series, “Antiques Roadshow.” His cartoons have been published in the Harvard Business Review and in Beckett’s “Guide to Phone Apps.”

Collecting — and drawing — have always been in his blood.

“I draw a lot — no pun intended — from daily experiences,” Broome said. “You can’t be a good writer without some life behind you.

“It’s the same with drawing.”

Broome began drawing and collecting when he was 10. Both have always gone hand in hand, he said.

“I’ve always been a collector,” he said. “I was doing yard sales and card shows since I was 12.”

Broome said he drew his first cartoons when he was 10. He began cartooning professionally 12 years ago, but “it was never a full-time occupation.”

But with “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz as an early influence and the drawings of Peter Arno at The New Yorker as a more contemporary hero, putting out a book was “something I had to get out of me.”

“I thought there was a void,” he said.

Broome said cartooning is a two-step process for him. “The writing comes first, as I can see it in my head. Some captions need to be reworked and reworked and others sometimes just come to you out of nowhere.

“Once it’s down, then it’s penciling out the cartoon.”

Broome’s favorite cartoons, he chuckled, “never saw the light of day.” But his current favorite is “whatever sells.”

At his “regular” job, Broome works at authenticating and grading cards and memorabilia. A “Star Wars” fan, Broome has jokingly been referred to as “Darth Grader.” He said the past 12 months have been “a record year” for grading.

Sports cards and memorabilia is big business, and with any business where authenticity is cherished, shady characters are trying to make a quick buck.

The challenge in grading, Broome said, “is to stay one step ahead of the alterations and the counterfeiters.”

Among the photos in this post is a 2008 shot of Broome holding a 1909 T-206 card of Honus Wagner that he graded for auction purposes. The tobacco card, known as the Holy Grail of baseball cards, belonged to an elderly couple in Florida.

“This gentleman from Florida was down on his luck and he and his wife started cleaning their home. He came across some boxes that belonged to his father or grandfather, and they had 500 T-206 tobacco cards.”

The couple sent the cards to Beckett to be graded. Broome got the assignment to grade the Wagner card.

How did it grade out?

“Only a 1,” he said. “It had great eye appeal, but it graded out a 1 because of the corners and damage on the back of the card.”

Beckett arranged to sell the card for the couple, and the payoff was a cool $317,000 (including buyers premium) in May 2008. That’s a record for any card graded a 1.

Speaking of Florida, Broome has roots in Tampa, specifically in Ybor City. His great-great grandparents worked at the Hav-A-Tampa factory; his great-great grandmother was a cigar roller, while his great-great grandfather was a night watchman at the plant, which opened in August 1902 and closed in July 2009.

Broome said one story he’d been told about his great-great grandfather involved cigar boxes.

“He would get the cigar boxes and build clocks out of them,” he said. “Wish I had one of those.”

Broome’s grandfather also grew up in Tampa, but after serving in the army he moved to Chattanooga.

Despite now living in the Dallas area, Broome, an East Ridge High School graduate, still has ties to Chattanooga, dubbed “The Scenic City” because of its location in a valley overlooked by Lookout Mountain. It’s a beautiful area, but I always referred to Chattanooga as “the tire squealing capital of America.” Wait at a traffic signal on Rossville Boulevard and listen to what happens when the light changes to green; you’ll understand.

One of Broome’s passions in his hometown is to save venerable Engel Stadium, which opened in 1930 and was the longtime home of the minor-league Chattanooga Lookouts baseball team until the team moved out in 1999 to occupy a new stadium that overlooks the Tennessee River.

“There’s so much history there,” Broome said.

I’ve been to Engel Stadium and loved its quirky dimensions. It had a high concrete wall in right field, center field was 471 feet from home plate (along with a hill that had the word “Lookouts” engraved in it), and there was a shed in left field that housed tractors and gardening tools. There was room to the left of the shed, so a ball hit into the fenced area surrounding shed would be a home run, but a ball hit to the left of it would remain in play. Talk about some crazy bounces.

The stadium now is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Joe Engel, who owned the Lookouts, was known as the “Barnum of Baseball.” In 1930, he traded shortstop Johnny Johns for a live turkey. On April 2, 1931, Engel brought in 17-year-old teenager Jackie Mitchell to pitch in an exhibition and she struck out Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Broome wrote a novella based on Mitchell, called “Her Curves Were Too Much For Them.” He also has an enviable collection of Lookouts memorabilia.

As for writing, are there plans for a second book of cartoons?

“The response has been great. People have been coming up to me asking me when my second book is coming out,” Broome said. “I guess I’m writing a second book.”

I guess you could say details are sketchy about the release of Book No. 2. But I’m looking forward to it.

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