Collector Has The Right Stuff For Gamecock-philes
He has Carolina - Clemson programs going back to 1936, including one from the
last Big Thursday game, played in 1959; a John Roche Denver Nuggets uniform;
basketball jerseys worn by Sheila Foster and Martha Parker; autographed photos
of Frank McGuire; football jerseys worn by Kevin Long, Clarence Williams, Harold
Green and Robert Brooks; George Rogers' New Orleans Saints jersey; the shoes
Todd Ellis was wearing when he was injured on the last play of his collegiate
career; pennants; rings; helmets; you name it.
"It's just a lot of stuff," said Michael N. Safran, '83, of his legendary
Gamecock sports memorabilia collection, which he has been squirreling away over
the past 14 years. The collection now contains so many items that he's at a loss
to know exactly how many objects he has ("It's in the thousands") or even to
describe every piece. Some time ago he started to inventory the collection, but
is still listing it all after filling up 15 pages of computer print-outs.
The Gamecock collectibles are actually one segment of an even larger group of
memorabilia representing all men's and women's sports at colleges and
universities throughout the Palmetto State. Safran began assembling the items as
a sideline to operating The Collector's Collector, a mail order collectibles
business which deals in pop culture items like sports memorabilia, movie
posters, vintage toys, and the like.
Safran, who received his bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from USC,
figures collecting is in his genes. His father, the late Milton Safran, '48, who
owned Safran's Antiques Galleries in Columbia, instilled in his second oldest
son a business sense about antiques and collectibles and, perhaps more
importantly, an appreciation of history.
The idea for the sports collection was born in the early 1980's when Safran
attended a sports card show with a friend. "I thought it was fun and
said, "but the cards didn't interest me much." Instead, he turned to sports
autographs and then game used equipment, which ultimately led to championship
sports rings for the Super Bowl, World Series, and college bowl games. The rings
have since become one of his professional specialties.
"I wanted to put together the best collection in the state of something that
appealed to me" he said, "but I knew there were other people who were ahead of
me as collectors. I began on a statewide scope, as well as on the University
level. I started with jerseys and game equipment I found through catalogs and
elsewhere, and over the years I've amased a pretty nice collection."
Safran takes pride in knowing that much of the memorabilia is reflective of the
history of the University's sports program and on two occasions he has hosted
what he calls Gamecock Galas in Columbia to let the public see it. The events
also feature former standout athletes on hand to sign autographs and pose for
photos with fans. "It was fun to let people see that somebody was saving some of
these things because nobody else was doing it," he said.
In that vein, Safran, who is a board member of the South Carolina Sports Hall
of Fame, would like to see the University open a sports museum where it would
display trophies, retired jerseys, game balls, and other noteworthy items from
Carolina's athletic past. Such a facility, he said, would honor USC's athletic
heritage and promote the kind of pride that is part of every winning program.
This story appeared in the University of South Carolina's Alumni Association
newsletter REMEMBER on September 1997.