Lifelong Interest Fuels Anthony Smith’s WVU Collection
It’s not uncommon for passionate sports fans to display memorabilia in their bedrooms, living rooms and family rooms.
Those with an extensive collection sometimes dedicate an entire room or floor of their home and dub it a “man cave” or “fan cave.” Anthony Smith, a life long Mountaineer fan, falls into this category, but those terms hardly do his collection justice.
Smith, who resides in St. Albans, has converted a 12′ x 22′ room in his basement into what can be best described as a Mountaineer museum. Within his treasure trove of West Virginia goods (which can be seen in the video below) are hundreds of signed jerseys, gloves, shoes, footballs, basketballs and much more.
— Anthony Smith (@BigAWVU) August 31, 2016
The funny thing is that Smith never truly planned on stockpiling so much memorabilia, and up until 2004 he was simply a card collecting enthusiast.
“I always liked to collect baseball cards growing up,” he recalled. “By the time I was working I could afford the hobby and that’s when game used cards started coming out – around 1997. I really got hooked for a few years doing that. I had a couple of Jerry West cards, but they weren’t autographed so I was always chasing an autographed West card. I remember I had a (Jeff) Hostetler card too, so I started focusing on getting other West Virginia cards to begin with.”
And then one day in 2004, everything changed – Smith got his hands on a game used West Virginia football helmet.
“That’s when it really all started. It morphed from trying to get West Virginia player cards into trying to get memorabilia. It was a lot of luck and being in the right place at the right time. I started accruing stuff right before West Virginia blew up.”
Smith is of course referring to the golden years of the Rich Rodriguez era (2005-2007). Prior to the 2005 season, Smith recalled attending West Virginia’s fan day and he brought his old Chris Henry and Rasheed Marshall jerseys to get signed by two relatively unknown players – Darius Reynaud and Pat White.
“Before the 2005 season it didn’t seem like many people were excited,” said Smith. “I remember being at fan day and there weren’t a ton of people there. I had a number two jersey and a number five jersey and I got (Darius) Reynaud and Pat White to sign them. I remember when White signed the jersey. I said, ‘you know I like this guy and the way Rich (Rodriguez) talked about him the year before’, but I didn’t know he was going to turn into anything, I just knew he had a chance to play.”
It’s safe to say that Smith got a decent return on investment from those signings and that only added to his thrill of collecting signed gear. Over the next several years his collection started to take off, as he showed up hours early at gear sales and fan days and took advantage of online auction sites such as eBay.
Twelve years later Smith’s collection is so large that he quit taking an inventory of how many items he owned. While he can tell you a little bit about each item in his collection, he just knows that the number is somewhere in the hundreds. He also considers each piece of memorabilia to be priceless, but if you press him on which is his favorite, he has a pretty good answer.
“To me everything is priceless, whether it be a Riddell mini helmet or a game used helmet or a game worn jersey,” said Smith. “But I would say that my favorite thing I have is a 2007 Fiesta bowl ring.”
Smith currently has the ring in a case that is signed by a former Mountaineer who started on the Fiesta Bowl winning team in 2007, a team he considers to be the best in 125 years of West Virginia football.
“In my opinion that was the best team that West Virginia has ever had. I know the 1988 team played in the national championship and the 1993 team was undefeated, but they don’t hold a candle to the ’07 team.”
While that statement is debatable, you can’t debate Smith’s love for West Virginia University athletics. And until proven otherwise, you will have a hard time finding a better collection of WVU gear as well.