SALISBURY — A big merger happened recently that failed to make the 5 o’clock news.
The Sports Illustrated magazines Steve Thackery had saved as a teenager joined those collected by his own son, Scott, years later. Together they have about 1,000.
“I don’t know what to do with them, to be honest with you,” Steve Thackery says.
Steve’s magazines came down from his native Ohio, where his mother had kept them in her home all these decades.
In fits of cleaning and making more space, many other moms from Steve’s generation did dastardly things such as throw away their children’s baseball cards, record albums or magazines once the kids had left the nest.
But not Steve’s. So even though he hadn’t looked at his Sports Illustrateds for 40-plus years, he still thought they were worth keeping and making the long haul to North Carolina.
Steve figures he has about 450, while Scott’s more recent collection numbers about 550. The magazines are now together under one roof at Steve and Martha Thackery’s house in Oakview Commons.
The Thackerys’ magazines have been kept dry and out of sunlight, so they are in pretty good condition. Steve and Scott have talked about selling them, but aren’t sure what they are worth. They suspect, for example, that collectors are more interested in specific magazines rather than entire years.
Theirs is a haphazard type of collection, too, with the decades of the 1970s and 1980s completely missing.
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As you might guess, there are more serious SI collectors than the Thackerys.
In 2009, Scott Smith of Pompton Plains, N.J., listed his whole collection of Sports Illustrateds — he had 10,000 copies — on eBay for $2 million.
What made Smith’s collection so valuable was that each of his copies was signed by the person on his Sports Illustrated covers.
Collectors say Sports Illustrated editions with athletes such as Mickey Mantle, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali are the most sought after, especially the earliest ones.
The magazine’s first edition, which came out Aug. 16, 1954, and featured Braves slugger Eddie Matthews on the cover, sells for $150 to $200 in mint condition.
That’s one of the higher prices for a single edition. Collectors also like all swimsuit editions, Texas Western’s victory over Kentucky in basketball (March 28, 1966), distance runner Steve Prefontaine (June 15, 1970), Secretariat (June 11, 1973) and Hank Aaron’s 715th home run (April 15, 1974 edition).
Likewise, the few editions without sports figures on the covers are valuable, such as Bob Hope, Ernest Hemingway and John F. Kennedy.
The magazine’s swimsuit edition, which continues to draw attention annually, started back in January 1964.
Because of all those moms who cleaned out bedrooms, basements and attics long ago, Sports Illustrated issues from the 1950s and 1960s are a lot more difficult to find today.
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When Steve Thackery was 14 and a big Cincinnati Reds fan in Ohio, his father bought him a subscription to Sports Illustrated. Steve came to love the magazine’s quality photographs and writing, and each issue was something to look forward to in the mail every week.
The magazine chronicled American sports, and from the beginning, Steve saved each issue.
His first Sports Illustrated from March 8, 1965, featured American skier Billy Kidd on the cover and sold on the newsstands for 35 cents a copy. One internet price guide puts the value of that particular issue, if it is of highest quality, at $5.
Thackery would keep receiving Sports Illustrated through the 1960s until he was drafted into the Army in 1970.
“I decided to remain in the Army and did not subscribe due to moving and changing addresses every 18 months,” Thackery says. He was still able to read Sports Illustrated when he wanted to in Army libraries and company day rooms.
Steve Thackery met Martha in the Army, and he stayed in the service for 21 years, retiring as a first sergeant. The Thackerys first lived in Rowan County in the late 1970s, when Steve was an Army recruiter here.
The couple bought a house in Rowan County and rented it out after they transferred away. They moved back 20 years ago once Steve was retired from the service.
Thackery, 62, works today in child support enforcement for Rowan County Social Services.
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Scott Thackery, 31, came with his parents to Rowan County in the third grade and graduated from North Rowan High in 2000. He’s an Atlanta Braves fan and works at Food Lion’s cold storage warehouse.
Scott started subscribing to Sports Illustrated while he was in high school in the late 1990s. As his dad had, he saved each issue.
Except for a subscription lapse in 2003-2004, Scott kept receiving the magazine every week through Dec. 28, 2008. That last edition featured a story about football star Michael Vick’s dog-fighting days.
Scott says he was living in a three-bedroom house at the time and realized one room was devoted to storing all of his saved copies of Sports Illustrated.
“Finally, I decided that was enough,” he says.
When Steve or Scott sift through their old SIs, they can’t help but linger over some of the photographs and stories.
“They’re cool to look through,” Scott says. “You forget things.”
Scott adds that with every issue he could find at least one article he enjoyed. Steve said he always was attracted to the “Faces in the Crowd” section near the front and the good sports columns in the back.
The merged collections of Steve’s and Scott’s are stored in various-sized Rubbermaid containers. They don’t necessarily have as much sentimental value now as they once did.
“Now we just kind of got them and don’t know what to do with them,” Scott says.
If they do offer the SIs for sale, on eBay or wherever, there’s another small thing that affect the magazines’ value — the address label on the front cover of each one.
“Who wants a thousand magazines with someone else’s name on them?” Scott asks.
The Thackerys can be reached by email at either email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or email@example.com.