Park Ridge business sells signings from the stars
Sports enthusiast Dan Parker, holding a signed lithograph of Taylor Swift, operates Hobbs Hobby Hut, an online memorabilia business, in Park Ridge. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 25, 2013 11:17AM
Dan Parker’s business, Hobbs Hobby Hut, gives him access to today’s biggest sports stars.
But getting gear signed by Jonathan Toews and Brian Urlacher isn’t about turning a big profit. Parker sells coveted autographed sports memorabilia for the love of the game.
“It is about making money like any business but it’s not like breaking the bank,” he said. “I wasn’t getting into this to get rich or retire. I understand it’s all about putting a smile on (someone’s) face.”
Parker and his wife, Katie, operate Hobbs Hobby Hut’s online storefront from Park Ridge. They specialize in supplying one-of-a-kind memorabilia on consignment for charity fundraisers.
Parker, a self-declared sports nut and longtime collector of baseball cards, started Hobbs Hobby Hut as a side business a decade ago. Last year he left a career in corporate purchasing to make it his full-time job.
The company — which is named for Robert Redford’s character in “The Natural,” Roy Hobbs — does more than supply run-of-the-mill autographed jerseys.
Parker uses creative framing and unique inscriptions to provide memorabilia most people hadn’t seen before, such as a “Derrick Rose MVP ’11” autograph or a throwback football helmet signed by Bears Hall Of Famers Gale Sayers and Mike Ditka.
What sells, however, depends on what’s happening in the world of sports. No one wanted hockey gear during the NHL lockout, Parker said. When a player gets traded, signed gear can become worthless.
“It’s a tough market because auctions sometimes do as well as Chicago teams,” Parker said.
Yet typically there are more wins than loses. Memorabilia from aging and deceased Hall of Famers tends to increase in value over time. Parker expects D-Rose’s comeback to provide a boost for items signed by the Bulls’ number one player.
Since counterfeits and forgeries put a damper on the market for signed collectibles, the only ways Parker gets his goods are by witnessing an autographing in person, and taking in items verified by the Professional Sports Authenticator.
Hobbs Hobby Hut also works to appeal to a variety of tastes and offer different price points. One of its most popular items features vintage photos of Chicago’s four sports stadiums. A map of the city’s neighborhoods and photos of the Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day are also good sellers.
Over the last year the company began working with an auction packaging agency to create unique experiences: a trip to The Masters, a hot air balloon excursion, and the chance to drive a NASCAR racecar.
The only memorabilia not for sale is part of Parker’s personal collection, which includes items bearing Michael Jordan’s mark.
“He’s a tough autograph to get,” Parker said of the basketball legend.
Another prized possession is an original program book and collage of player autographs from the 1961 World Series champion Yankees.
As for the age-old question of which Chicago baseball team he sides with, Parker maintains neutrality.
“People ask, ‘Are you a Cubs fan or a Sox fan?’” he said. “I’m a sports fan. I’ll go to any event I can.”