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There’s a lot of money in that ‘unique’ cricket memorabilia

I have a sports memorabilia idea for Tony Greig.

It was the golden summer of 1993-94 and while recovering from a knee scrape, I had my orthopedic brace signed by a young, psychologically traumatised Daryll Cullinan.

Cullinan. Not coping again.

This was the era before SMS, and so Shane Warne’s fingers were undistracted from the task of bowling deliveries of a quality we may never see in this country again.

Certainly, the record books suggest that Cullinan didn’t see them that well the first time, and when I held the foam brace over the mid-wicket fence at Adelaide he’d batted five times for 26 runs at 5.20.

Daryll signed with the blank stare of a man who had seen too much horror. Appropriately, the “i” in Cullinan was dotted with a big round “O”.

My proposal to Greig and others at Wide World of Sports is that for this, the 10th anniversary, we frame the brace and below it a photo of a bewildered Cullinan padding up to a straight one.

Beneath that, we splash the famous Warne quote, “I could bowl to him for a living”, and then call the whole thing – “Lame Duck”.

Beautiful. In the words of another famous Darryl: “That is going straight to the pool room.”

Obviously one “Lame Duck” is not particularly lucrative, so I propose we contact Cullinan and get him to sign 519 more foam braces. If he wants a fee, we pay it. If he asks too many questions, they’re for a polio charity in India.

Then we unleash “Lame Duck” on to an eager public. Limited edition of just 520 (his average without the decimal point). Unit price – $1499? An extra hundred perhaps if we can’t get the braces second-hand.

Some readers might argue that “Lame Duck” is flawed; that nobody would be interested in an orthopedic brace that has never been a part of Shane Warne’s career and was only a part of Cullinan’s for the few fleeting moments it grazed his signing hand in early 1994.

They might argue that for memorabilia to obtain any value, it needs to have been touched by the stars, sweated on by champions. That simply put, my right knee hasn’t done enough.

These people clearly haven’t been watching the cricket the past few summers. The graze of a signing wrist is the new way in sports memorabilia.

Take a mounted shirt signed by Mark Waugh that has been continually flogged by the Channel Nine commentators this summer. They talk about the deluxe showcase, the signature and the PricewaterhouseCoopers certificate of authenticity. They mention the fact that this offer will never occur again. They express surprise at the low, low amount payable each month, without particularly talking about the total purchase price, which just happens to be $2055.00.

And there are 349 of the bastards, in all their pristine, lily white glory. Greig and the other WWOS spruikers do always take care to state the edition number (for example, “this is one of just 349 on offer”), but equal care seems to be taken to avoid the words “replica” or “copy”.

From the sheer numbers, we assume that they are replicas, for even a punter as notorious as Mark Waugh is unlikely to lose his shirt 348 times in a summer, but the language is confusing. Take this description on the ninemsn website: “Mark Waugh’s Australian Test match (sic) is now available to collectors. The Test shirt features the number 349 beneath the ACB Coat of Arms which is Mark Waugh’s unique cricketing ‘fingerprint’.

“The Test match shirt is fashioned by Fila Sport, the official uniform supplier and is the exact same shirt and size as worn by Mark Waugh in Tests complete with sponsor markings and the distinctive signifying marks introduced by the ACB in the 2001/02 season.

“Now collectors can acquire the Test shirt of one of the team’s batting mainstays of the past decade. By special arrangement with Mark Waugh and the ACB, this is the ONLY release of Mark Waugh’s Test match shirt to be offered.”

Nine Network lawyers have obviously OK’d this, and decided that “Mark Waugh’s Test match shirt” is not a misleading and deceptive description for a shirt that was never worn in a Test match by Mark Waugh. Equally, “the exact same shirt and size as worn by Mark Waugh” was deemed to be within the bounds of the Trade Practices Act. If all 349 sell, gross revenue will be $717, 195.

The Mark Waugh shirt is just one of thousands of items in the WWOS Sports Shop. The similarly misleading “Nathan Buckley Brownlow Jersey” could gross $311,250. A small battalion of Matthew Hayden “On Top of the World” signed bats did gross $583,300.

My first question is whether I can have a cut. I’m also wondering whether the commentary team’s loudest salesman, Tony Greig, gets one. His is the face on the sports shop website. He’s “proud to recommend these limited edition collector items”.

Certainly, money must be flowing to the player (the trend now is only to sign a full name for paid gigs) the ACB, and the Nine Network, but whether Greig spruiks on the commentary as an employee of Nine or as an interested party is difficult to determine.

Is it Greig’s business being given respectability by the Nine name, or is it Nine employing Greig to endorse a range of products that might just take some of the shine off that respectability? Either way, the WWOS Sports Shop is just the next trough that has been set up by Kerry Packer to thank Greig for lending the legitimacy of the England captaincy to World Series Cricket following a handshake at Bellevue Hill way back in 1976.

I wish I had 1976 stunning Pro Hart prints of that handshake.