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Collections & Hobbies

19 years to go


A grandpa’s legacy: “The Moraine Collection”

Adam Moraine began collecting sports memorabilia as an 8-year-old with his grandpa.
Photo by Jeff Pitts

Mr. Harry Pittman, Jr. knew beans about baseball cards, but the bubblegum card collecting craze was peaking in 1988, and his 8-year-old grandson, Adam Moraine, needed a hobby. As such, along with his wife, Alberta, Pittman and his grandson began a grand bonding endeavor, hunting for gems at card shows, collectible shops, flea markets and mall autograph signings.

Three decades later, Moraine is 39 and has his sights on making Gramps proud.

“To amass one of the finest privately owned sports, historical and Hollywood celebrity/entertainment memorabilia collections in the entire state of Iowa,” he says. “Ultimately consigning my entire collection to the major auction block when I become a 50-year collector in 2038.”
He has 19 years to go.

“I go by the mantra of vintage is king,” he says. “I’m a big vintage guy: Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Clemente, Koufax, Musial, Berra, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio. Those are my guys I primarily focus on.”

Prep Iowa

That list also includes Ty Cobb, the man Moraine believes is the best baseball player of all time.

“Hands down,” he says. “No one played the game as hard nosed or as gritty or as rough as Cobb. He was the epitome of a ballplayer.”

Cobb’s T206 tobacco card — printed between the years of 1909-1911 — is one of The Moraine Collection’s crown jewels.

“It’s my favorite card in my entire collection,” he says. “Mine has the more common (and less valuable) Piedmont Tobacco brand, unfortunately. Still a valuable card, though.”

Modern-day stars are also in Moraine’s possession, as he actively works to assess who will be in the next wave of vintage.

“Definitely Mike Trout,” he says. “He’s the future. He’s the next generation’s Willie Mays. Absolutely. I have his rookie card. I have a signed game-used Nike batting glove. He’s this generation’s five-tool player, this generation’s Mantle. He’s phenomenal.”

What about Harper?

“I don’t like Bryce Harper,” he says. “I don’t have anything with Bryce Harper….I do play favorites.”

Who else is unwelcome within The Moraine Collection?

“Just Bryce Harper,” he says while shaking his head.

The Moraine Collection originally consisted of only baseball cards and autographs. But after Grandpa Pittman passed away in 2001, Moraine sought some advice on how to collect in the future.

“In 2002, I wrote a letter to Iowa’s greatest investor, John Pappajohn, seeking investment advice,” says Moraine.

“Diversify,” responded the legendary businessman.

Taking the advice, Moraine quickly expanded by procuring autographs from Hollywood stars, athletic memorabilia of all kinds, and even items from presidents and historical figures.

Now Moraine has his sights set on an exit strategy. In 1999, a 50-year collector named Barry Halper, a man who had amassed memorabilia for half a century, auctioned off his collection through Sotheby’s Auction House, and the results were staggering. Halper fetched nearly $22 million during a weeklong auction, setting a record for sports memorabilia.

Moraine has never sold anything from his collection, but 19 years from now he plans to mimic Halper, and sell it all on his 50th anniversary of collecting. He will be 58.

“That’s what I’m going to do,” he smiles. “I’m going to be a 50-year collector, consign my collection to Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, and retire a very wealthy man. That’s my plan.” ♦

The Moraine Collection is kept in a vault at an undisclosed location. The following list is a small sampling of the treasures that the vault contains.

A document with Arabic writing and signed by Saddam Hussein.
A note on congregational stationary signed by Mother Teresa.
A clipped signature from a canceled check from Judy Garland.
A typed letter signed by President Teddy Roosevelt.
A John F. Kennedy autograph that was signed while he was in office.

The Moraine Collection has an estimated 400-500 autographs, including at least one autograph of every current living baseball Hall-of-Famer. Other highlights: a golf ball signed by Tiger Woods, a hockey puck signed by Wayne Gretzky, a Ken Griffey Jr. game-worn wristband, and signings by Ted Williams, Roger Maris, Babe Ruth, Bronko Nagurski, Jackie Robinson, Honus Wagner, Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and too many others to mention.

Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Dr. J, Walter Payton, Wayne Gretzky, Stan Musial’s 1948 Bowman rookie, Yogi Berra’s 1948 Bowman rookie, Roger Maris’ 1958 Topps rookie, a recently acquired Roberto Clemente and many more. ♦

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