Published: October 19, 2015
Longtime sports memorabilia collector and dealer John Arcand hosts the television show Big Ten Treasure Hunter, now in its second season airing on the Big Ten Network. He travels around the country, talking to Big Ten team fans and looking at their Big Ten memorabilia collections to get at the stories behind the items they collect and also to consider if there is a deal to be made.
When did you first start collecting memorabilia?
By Wrigley Field in Chicago was a place called Yesterdays. I worked for AU Sports, a Midwest sporting cards dealer, and got paid in cards when I was 10 or 11. I would buy 100-count packs of 1960s and 70s baseball cards. My favorite player was Lou Brock. I’ve been employed or subsidized by the collectibles industry for the greater part of 38 years.
How do you find the collectors whose stories you share on Big Ten Treasure Hunter?
I get calls left and right especially now that I’ve made myself very accessible. The show’s producers and I determine who we go see. We get asked to look at collections all the time. BTN’s website has a submittal page where you can submit photos of your collection for possible inclusion on an upcoming episode of Big Ten Treasure Hunters.
Are you on the road a lot?
I’ve done 3,300 miles in the last eight days. To Maryland and then to Nebraska to meet the fans at a game and to show part of the collection I have.
Tell us about the best thing you’ve bought on the show and also about the one that got away.
We bought a 1930s All-American certificate for Emmett Lowery, an All-American guard for Purdue in the 1930s. That was a great piece and profitable. I had a chance to get the first Rose Bowl program signed; I made an aggressive offer and offered $10,000. I heard later he sold it for $12,000.
Do football and basketball memorabilia dominate the show or what does the range of memorabilia you feature span?
It is mostly football and basketball, but we don’t pigeonhole. Sometimes you run into Big Ten-related memorabilia like Cloris Leachman or Charlton Heston from Northwestern, or Johnny Carson from Nebraska, as well as many astronauts from Purdue.
Who is your favorite among the Big Ten schools?
It’s tough to answer that. I was born in Evanston, Ill., down the block from Northwestern, so I tend to say they are my home team.
What’s the strangest thing anyone has tried to sell you?
Cool items are everywhere in Big Ten country, but the strangest was at Penn State. It started in the garage with this collector who had a white Hummer, huge, with bells and whistles for the tailgate events. Now going into his house and walking into the living room, two full-sized stuffed Nittany lions on logs are looking right at me. After I changed my shorts I saw the rest of the collection — very cool, but it was creepy seeing two large lions.
What are some highlights of this season?
We had a Rutgers collection. Henry Rutgers is one of the founders of the college. One guy had two checks from 1807 signed by Henry Rutgers. That was amazing! We also had a cute little 7-year-old from Michigan State. We walked into the house and it’s his father’s collection, but he let his 7-year-old do all the negotiations. This kid was pretty clever. It was nice to deal with a couple generations of MSU fans. We are also fortunate in Season 2 to purchase a Jim Thorpe book — he was an iconic turn-of-the-century athlete — and from the father of football, a Walter Camp-signed letter.
You’ve seen your fair share of Big Ten memorabilia; what kinds of things do you want to see submitted to the show for consideration?
I’ve seen a lot of items, but what I always like to see is something that is unique and tells a great story. I want to see something that is dear to someone’s heart and has been in the family for several years, something that didn’t come off the shelf of a store in the last five years. And then, my goal is to help people understand what it is and what the value is.
Do you still have a retail shop?
I do; we have three locations, two are in Indiana. Our hub is Daddyo’s owner Kelly Lincoln in Wauconda, Ill., and that’s where the Big 10 memorabilia goes. We also specialize there in framing, comics, records and more.
What advice do you have for new collectors?
First, enjoy what you do as well as what you collect. Starting out, try to narrow your items down then later expand if you wish, find other collector to build your collection with via trade, buy or sell. Be proud of your Big Ten team and show it off. Keep the items you obtain in the best condition possible; this will also help maintain its value.
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