As a child, Matt George collected baseball cards. He attended games with his father, arriving early enough to get the players to autograph his cards. Most recently, what started as a childhood hobby has blossomed into a sports memorabilia and autograph business for George, who also serves as executive director of the Cancer Center for Healthy Living. Working with Dan Doerr, owner of St. Pauli’s and Alley Cats Eatery, he recently opened the doors of MGeorge Sports on Pioneer Parkway in Peoria.
A cousin of former NFL and Fighting Illini quarterback Jeff George, Matt George found that many doors were opened to him when he ran the Jeff George Foundation. “Running his foundation like I did for many years, I got to meet a lot of the athletes and made the connections with all the right people associated with those athletes and decided to turn it into a business,” reported George. After nearly two decades of using those connections to facilitate sales of memorabilia, autographs and cards to private collectors, he decided that now was the time to open a storefront.
MGeorge Sports offers just about anything that’s collectible from the world of sports and entertainment—pictures, posters, balls, bats, jerseys, lithographs, cards, helmets and more. “It’s really just knowing what people want,” said George, “and having an inventory with a wide variety of items is always key.” Everything he sells is accompanied by a letter of authenticity and a 100-percent guarantee. To enhance his items’ credibility, he often has photos taken of himself with the athletes during signings.
George gets most of his inventory from these signings—it’s the fun part of the business, he noted. He doesn’t often purchase items from the public for resale, but if someone approached him with something really unique, such as a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth (worth about $20,000), he’ll take a look. He also gets some merchandise through athletes’ foundations, which sell autographed items to benefit their favorite charities.
» MGeorge Sports
1301 W. Pioneer Pkwy. #125
The actual amount charged by an athlete or entertainer at a signing, in addition to his or her popularity, helps to determine the price of any given item in George’s store. These prices can also fluctuate based on the player’s performance. An autographed football from an athlete whose performance has tanked in the middle of the season will not sell for nearly as much as when the player was doing well. In order to make it in this business, said George, you have to stay ahead of the curve and know what people want.
Over the years, George has acquired some unique and valuable items: a bat autographed by Stan Musial, a lithograph of Red Grange, and jerseys signed by Joe Montana and most of the Chicago Bears’ 1985 Super Bowl team. On the entertainment side, George said his most valuable item is probably a poster signed by the stars of The Godfather. “The fun part of collecting,” he said, “is being able to know what’s worth something and what’s going to be worth something down the road, and someday being able to hand it off to your family or your kids.”
While most people who walk into MGeorge Sports are there to add to their own collections, George enjoys it when someone comes in to buy a present for a friend or loved one. “When you’re buying for yourself, people look at it as either a love or an investment, but when you’re buying it for somebody else, there’s that excitement that they know they’re getting a gift that’s unique,” he said. “People love this stuff, and the interesting thing about it is that even if you don’t, it’s one of those stores that you just want to look around in.” And if you can’t find what you are looking for, George specializes in fulfilling special requests—he’s got a 98 percent success rate.
So the next time you need a gift to delight the sports fan in your life—or if you are a collector yourself—stop over at MGeorge Sports and check out the selection. You might be amazed at what you’ll be able to score! iBi