Not many people are privileged enough to turn their passion into profit. For Brian Morelli, this holds untrue. Morelli, a Red Sox fan who resides in New Hampshire, started collecting memorabilia from the team at a young age. Unsigned cards, signed cards, autographed balls, ticket stubs, you name it: Morelli collected it.
As the years went on, this software developer by day became an entrepreneur by night. He decided that in order to grow his collection, he must first sell part of his collection to make room. Soon he began to sell the duplicates of the autographs he had collected over the years. Morelli continued this collection for the next few years.
Soon he noticed that this hobby had turned into a passion, and decided that it was time to make it a business. Shannon Wilkerson, a former player in the Red Sox’ organization, had his agent reach out to Morelli about having a public signing for his client and buying game-used gear from him. In 2013, Morelli started the brand “Sox Signatures,” and it has blossomed into one of the main markets for Red Sox memorabilia.
Morelli saw this as a competitive advantage. Who else was selling game-used items from players before they hit the majors? Not too many sports memorabilia outlets, that’s for sure. For Morelli, this is a self-made success story. He doesn’t get a press-pass to get the autographs. So how does he acquire his inventory?
“We of course have our own private signings with players, and that’s where we get a high volume of products for specific players. The rest comes from attending in person signings that other companies run when the price is right, wholesaling from other reputable companies and private sellers, and sometimes just getting them ourselves in person. We also are constantly searching eBay, other auction sites, collector forums, Facebook groups, and any other place where we can find quality items that fit our price range. The toughest part is finding items that fit our pricing structure as apparently we sell items cheaper than some private dealers,” Morelli told Baseball Essential.
In the memorabilia business, getting access to players is usually hit-or-miss. It takes time, patience, and an extended amount of reaching out to players and their agents through various outlets. While explaining this, Morelli said, “The toughest part is always getting direct access to the players. Sometimes we just send out blind social media requests and hope they respond, sometimes we can get introductions from players that we’ve worked with before, and sometimes we have to go through the agents. Agents are always tough because they always want as much money as they can get for their client — to be fair, that’s their job — but a lot of times, once the agent gets involved, the costs shoot up and we lose the deal.”
As for the business side of things, Morelli says he pays the players up-front for their services, then keeps the profit he makes off of their merchandise. Nine players in the Red Sox organization have reached out to help Morelli and his business including Wilkerson, Travis Shaw, Keith Couch, Steven Wright, Brian Johnson, Noe Ramirez, Michael Chavis, Mauricio Dubon, and Pat Light. Of these nine players, five have made it to the majors and one — Steven Wright — had the honor to be named an All-Star this year. The other four — Wilkerson, Couch, Chavis and Doubon — have shown signs of being able to make it to the majors, although they all reside in the lower levels of the minors (with the exception of Couch).
Morelli, however, is grateful for the opportunity he has selling game-used items and looks to expand his inventory each day, whether it’s game-used bats, 16-by-20 pictures, or authentic jerseys, he doesn’t plan on slowing down. How big does he want this business to be?
“As far as Sox fans will take us! We have all kinds of ideas for the future, the only issue is raising the capital to implement them all. We do a survey at the end of each year for our newsletter subscribers and also open it up to the public as well, where we ask people about what they liked, didn’t like, etc. In the long term, we would love to partner up with some local New England businesses and have some public signings so that more fans could meet their favorite players. We would love to get some more guys on the major-league team and the top-rated prospects as well, but of course the issue is always money,” Morelli concluded.