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Thursday, May 23, 2024

A collection of basketball collectors

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People collect different things for different reasons, but these three different folks have found the same subject matter to collect—basketball items.

This is the shared story of Aristotle Garcia, Dr. Rico Mesina, and Ariel Morales, whose collections have accumulated over a long period of time.

Take the case of Garcia, who owns the biggest collection of sports tabloids and magazines—around 20,000 items already, valued at seven figures and still growing.

Aris Garcia and his sports magazines

“It was a hobby I developed because I was not born to play basketball. When I was young, I used to help out in a friend’s house and in return, I was given sports magazines, among others, that was the start of my interest,” said Garcia.

But this guy certainly went beyond mere collecting. With the advent of technology, he even started archiving his collection by category and chronologically for easier referencing, with an extra room at his water treatment office in Muntinlupa devoted to his collection.

Just to have an idea of the extent of his collection, he has all the PBA Annuals, including the holy grail in this set, the very first one in 1975; a popular sports tabloid then, Sports World, which he has completed around 85% from 1973 to 1984, and Sports Weekly Magazine, from 1975 to 1990.

On the other hand, Dr. Rico Mesina, an avid basketball fan and player himself, started his collection of sports magazines in 1990, but unfortunately lost them all when the family transferred to a new house.

In 2005, he got a Michael Jordan book at sale price, triggering anew his interest in collecting materials, this time including NBA books and other materials.

And during the pandemic, these last two years gave him more time to devote to his collection efforts. Presently, he has close to 1,300 items in his inventory, mostly magazines and books, but the crown jewels of his collection are the two gold medals from the 1954 Asian Games and 1973 ABC Championship the Philippines hosted and won over South Korea. He, however, does not know to whom they originally belonged to.

Dr. Rico Mesina with the author

“When I started collecting PBA Annuals, it rekindled my interest in basketball, but beyond the PBA, I wanted to know about the start of Philippine basketball and started expanding my collection to earlier periods. This has been the biggest challenge for me,” said the good doctor.

He says it is not really an expensive hobby, though the older items are becoming pricey too.

“Maybe, my present collection has a six-figure value already, and I intend to eventually put up a cafe, where I can show my collection and attract other serious collectors. My collection presently can be viewed at The Collectibles in Greenhills Mall. Also, when I opened The Basketvault in FB, it grew fast, now at around 2,500 members, a real basketball community,” he concluded.

Just like the others, Ariel Morales started his collection with sports magazines in his elementary years, fortunate that he had a mother who bought these sports magazines for him every week.

He expanded his collection to NBA materials, including autographs of popular players, but it was only in 2005 when he decided to focus on collecting jerseys, both local and foreign. Not just collecting them, mind you, but making sure they are autographed.

“I started with NBA retro jerseys, but a friend suggested I do the same with throwback PBA jerseys, too. I did the designs and gave them to a jersey maker who would give me freebies, these shirts I exerted efforts to be autographed following the NBA example. Now, I have the complete set of the PBA’s top players jerseys. Took me 11 years to complete that,” said Morales.

And as his collection grew in number, he has lost count of them already. He found out it can also cause problems.

“People I do not know will approach me to ask if I can arrange meet-ups with players, or give cellphone numbers, I turn these down. I look at myself just like them, a basketball fan, but definitely, I will not give away personal phone numbers,” he admitted.

Total strangers have also approached him for possible business tie-ups related to his collection, which he has turned down, too. After all, he looks at what he is doing as a hobby and not business.

Ariel Morales and his jerseys

When asked what he believes is the most valuable item in his collection, he says “it is an autographed June Mar Fajardo jersey that he actually used in international tournaments.”

And this is the collection of these collectors’ stories.

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