LAS VEGAS—A prominent collector sat in Victor Moreno’s corner office at (BidAMI Auctions) Memorabilia.Expert, the preeminent memorabilia authentication and consignment house on West Desert Inn Road, and ogled a photograph of Lou Gehrig.
It wasn’t just any plastic-encased, black-and-white eight-by-ten of the legendary New York Yankee known as the Iron Horse. He’s young. His eyes are innocent. And it doesn’t contain solely his signature. May I always be deserving of your friendship. Cordially, Lou Gehrig. The message adds depth, but the gravitas is contained in to whom it’s addressed.
It’s entirely possible, said Memorabilia.Expert Moreno, that Gehrig had penned the keepsake for good friend and teammate George Ruth, better known to the sporting world as Babe. “Lou Gehrig is my hero … just think about it,” the prominent collector said as he held something that also had likely been in the hands of both Gehrig and Ruth.
The Collector had been after the exceptional piece for months, and Victor sealed a deal for a record breaking price. “$40,000 + for an iconic legends autograph such as Gehrig, with it having great potential of it being written to George Babe Ruth, “To George, May I always be deserving of your friendship,” is not far fetched.”
The avid memorabilia collector, said with conviction “The Lou Gehrig market has been increasing very quickly and is exploding. That’s why I am buying up anything I can find, that has to do with Gehrig.” Victor, Memorabilia.Expert, also agrees with the collector’s assessment of the Gehrig collectible market.
Victor Moreno’s experience and personal touch that he displayed in the Gehrig transaction is precisely why the Prominent Collector has been doing business with Moreno—who has been tapped for his expertise by Sports Illustrated, and other publications and outlets—for years.
Victor Moreno and partner Kieta have been operating Auctions since 1997. That attention to detail and care, the way they cater to buyers and sellers alike, is what highlights their operation. The company, Memorabilia.Expert, retains a team of experts and consultants, Kieta added, that is nonpareil in authenticating merchandise. “We authenticate game-used jersey’s and equipment for Steiner Sports and for BidAMI Auctions.”
Top-shelf sales have included a bat used by Pittsburgh Pirates star Roberto Clemente in the 1971 all-star game, that fetched $17,000, and a uniform—that brought $68,000—worn by Brooklyn Dodgers legend Roy Campanella in 1957.
“We’re the sports memorabilia capital of the world,” Kieta said. “The niche we have carved is that people from all over the world come to Las Vegas, so why wouldn’t you want your collectibles [to be authenticated, sold or auctioned] here? But we are not just about sports, either.”
BidAMI-Memorabilia.Expert also deals with vintage movie posters and props, and items of celebrity and historical value. A framed Godfather piece, autographed by the notable actors in the famous 1972 film, is being prepped for auction. An 1864 presidential pardon signed by Abraham Lincoln, for James Walsh, brought $11,000. An Indian jingle dress worn by Annie Oakley, available via an estate sale, has a price tag of $30,000.
A framed Donald Duck sketch is another fine example of Memorabilia.Expert’s quality merchandise. It was doodled by Walt Disney himself, a flourish of a signature that seems to reflect that its owner never experienced a sour day in his life.
“To know that Walt Disney actually sat down and did that … wow!” said the Prominent Collector. Victor believes the framed artwork, that has authenticated, could bring $8,000 at auction.
The advent of the football season is a favorite time for Victor. A Pittsburgh native, he and his younger brother opened Our Father’s Sons clothing boutique, at Forbes Avenue and Wood Street, in 1969, and it was a hot spot through 1973. They befriended Steelers players by swapping dapper and dashing threads for their game-worn jerseys, harbinger transactions for a future endeavor in Las Vegas.
Running back John “Frenchy” Fuqua was a favorite. I dressed him, Victor said. The Moreno brothers would supply Fuqua with the capes that became his trademark fashion statement, inspiring them to call him The Count. For part of a national television interview, Fuqua insisted on filming in the store, if Victor could concoct an outlandish hook; he found a pair of goldfish-filled shoes. Victor would attend Steelers games at Three Rivers Stadium looking resplendent in a pink fur coat. He’d hire a pilot to circle a plane, dragging a banner that advertised his store, above the stadium during games.
On a 42-degree Dec. 23, 1972, a Sunday, Victor and brother-in-law Joe pondered departing Three Rivers early. It was a playoff game against Oakland, whose defense had been stifling the Steelers. The outcome appeared ugly. Others were leaving, but Victor convinced Joe that they might as well not get caught up in that traffic. By staying, they witnessed the Immaculate Reception, Franco Harris’s incredible touchdown catch off a wild deflection with 22 seconds remaining. Pittsburgh lost the AFC title game to Miami, and the Dolphins beat Washington in the Super Bowl to cap the NFL’s last undefeated season.
The Steelers, however, would claim four Super Bowl championships in the 1970s. That 1972 game developed a nastiness within the Raiders that would give them an outlaw image. Owner Al Davis embraced that label and twice moved his team. He enjoyed Las Vegas, and he would celebrate landmark birthdays here with his wife and a list of luminaries, legends and friends, a traveling party that always registered in triple figures.
When Al died, in 2011, his widow, Carol, continued the tradition. That the Raiders are scheduled to call Las Vegas home, for the 2020 season, does not surprise Victor. Football’s bad boys and Sin City are a natural fit, no matter how much of either label is more fiction than fact. Raiders items have always been popular at BidAmi. A football used in the infamous Tuck Rule playoff game, between Oakland and New England in 2002, brought $32,500; a Howie Long jersey ($5,000), and uniforms worn by Jim Otto in an AFL All-Star game ($9,000) and a 1960s Raiders’ AFL game ($17,000), also drew abundant attention.
A shovel has broke ground on the construction of a $2 billion stadium at I-15 and Russell Road. Through a friend at the Westgate, maybe five or six years ago, Victor first heard about the likelihood that Mark Davis, Al’s son, would relocate the silver-and-black-clad franchise to Las Vegas, which received narrow approvals in political channels last fall.
“I guarantee Al Davis woulda come here in a New York second,” Victor said, had he been able to finagle such a complex, and fantastic, maneuver. “It’ll be a first for Las Vegas. It needed something like this. Raiders fans from all over the country will come here and have a good time. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Including, no doubt, Memorabilia.Expert