Sport icon Wayne Gretzky once said: you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. And that was exactly the mentality of a The New York Daily News staffer Barry Meisel and his long-time trading buddy had when they decided to take a chance.
After years of chasing stories on the beat, Meisel, an award-winning sports writer-turned business executive is now leading The MeiGray Group, a successful authenticator and retail distributer for game-worn or used sports memorabilia.
Established in 1997, The MeiGray Group was formed by Meisel and Bob Gray (hence the company name) two sports memorabilia collectors from New Jersey who met while trading game-worn hockey jerseys. The two began selling game-worn jerseys to the sports-collecting public in August of 1997.
Today, The MeiGray Group is the second sports memorabilia company in the nation and headed by Meisel. His successful 18-year sports journalism career began while he was directing Garden Sportscard Company, which Meisel founded in August 1977, the prehistoric days of the sports memorabilia industry, while a junior at the State University of Binghamton, New York.
Under Meisel’s direction, Garden Sportscard’s sales increased by more than 500 percent over four years. This rapid growth reflected his passion for the industry and experience as blossoming sports journalist. After his college graduation in May 1979, Meisel got his first gig at the Binghamton Sun-Bulletin to cover the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Whalers.
Sportscard and memorabilia collecting, at that time, was still a relatively unknown hobby when Garden helped popularize the retail sale of cards and accessories to collectors. From the late 1970s to the early 1980s, Garden sold nearly 10,000,000 sports cards and more than 100,000 plastic card holders, sheets, albums and boxes to thousands of collectors across North America.
By 1981, however, Garden had become so successful that Meisel and his partner had to run it full-time. Rather than give up his sports journalism career at the age of 23, Meisel sold his 50 percent stake in Garden. He spent five years at the Sun-Bulletin, and then continued on with his sports journalism career to cover the New York Rangers, New York Mets and New Jersey Devils for the Daily Record.
Bringing integrity to game-worn jersey collecting
Most of the game-worn jerseys that the MeiGray Group offers comes directly from the pro sports teams in which they have signed working agreements. Those agreements currently are with the:
• National Hockey League
• American Hockey League
• Binghamton Senators
• Hartford Wolf Pack
• Philadelphia Eagles (NFL)
• Texas Rangers (MLB)
• Dallas Mavericks (NBA)
Every jersey sold is registered into The MeiGrade System, an exclusive registry created in-house to track and protect the authenticity of game-worn jerseys. It’s the industry’s most powerful stamp of approval.
In the 1970s, when the trading industry picked up, however, authenticity was not always the guaranteed.
In fact, authenticity continues to be a challenge in the memorabilia industry
Game-worn jersey collecting has skyrocketed over the last decade. But jersey authenticity has been a troubling issue for teams, dealers and collectors alike. There are far too many jerseys falsely advertised as “game-worn.” “We fully believed game-worn jerseys would become a legitimate sports memorabilia success story if an authenticated company like ours partnered with professional teams and leagues, and publicized their direct relationships,” says Meisel.
The MeiGray Group has, since its inception, created agreements with pro sports teams to improve the integrity of the distribution of these valuable collectibles, protecting collectors and fans from getting ripped off. By partnering with the vendors and leagues, The MeiGray Group in partnership with various sports teams appreciate the company’s professionalism it brings to the hobby and the unique expertise in marketing these items as highly coveted jerseys and collectibles. With their help, countless pro teams have reached their financial and charitable goals.
Customer service stands them apart
Having sold more than 29,000 jerseys without any returns speaks to the level of comfort its customers have in the authenticity of MeiGray’s product. Jerseys are priced fairly, usually charging less than its competitors for similar products even though they still pay just as much or more for the merchandise. Meisel prefers not to speak about the start up costs long-range business plan and secure financial situation permit us to reach for a smaller profit margin.
And that’s how The MeiGray Group has strategically positioned itself to stand out from the crowd. “We did have to convince the teams and leagues, and then the collecting public, that this was the best way to ensure authenticity. That took time, effort, advertising, and a good business modal.
Evidently, it was all a risk worth taking. AB