Store a clash of cultures, but collectors can have a Merry Christmas - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Store a clash of cultures, but collectors can have a Merry Christmas

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Posted: Saturday, November 30, 2013 10:45 am

It’s a place where cultures clash but also where sports and comic memorabilia collectors can converge.

And for shoppers looking for an inexpensive or hard-to-find sports or comics and television/movies-related gifts this holiday season, Big Kid’s Collectibles — a seasonal shop inside Mesa’s Superstition Springs Mall — just might be the place where you can find it.

The two men behind the counter of the shop each come from different backgrounds, but they each share more than a few things in common:

Real estate agent Al Gordon and full-time memorabilia dealer Neil Kotler, both of Phoenix, are big kids who love the passion and chase of those hard-to-find items in the sports memorabilia, comic book and toy collector’s world.

It is the same shop that was at Chandler Fashion Center last year, but Gordon and Kotler landed a space inside Superstition Springs for the fifth year as a seasonal shop inside a Valley mall.

The 2,100-square-foot store, located on the first floor of Superstition Springs Mall across from the Sears entrance, opened on Oct. 15, and will remain open until Jan. 15.

“This is a place where jocks and nerds co-exist,” Gordon, 58, said. “It’s nice to have a little bit of something for everybody. “Mine and Neil’s stuff compliments each others.’ If you’ve been looking for a certain item, we just might have it.”

Big Kid’s is filling a niché left empty-handed by the closing of Atomic Comics in Chandler Fashion Mall two years ago and is serving a market ranging from Baby Boomers to those 1980s-somethings from an era of Star Wars and black Trans Ams.

Bracing for Black Friday, Gordon and Kotler talked about shoppers’ hunger for the nostalgia and trying to recover the collectibles they once had as kids.

Gordon, 58, who oversees the sports memorabilia end of the business and a native New Yorker, admits he thanks his mother for throwing away that shoebox full of baseball cards he left behind inside his bedroom closet.

“It’s the mothers of the world who created the craze for this stuff and made it more scarce and valuable,” said Gordon who honed his mathematics skills checking batting averages and adding up statistics on the back of baseball cards. “Everyone wanted what they didn’t have anymore, and they’re trying to recover it. With me, it was a passion that got out of hand, but it’s the fun of the chase in seeing what you can find or what someone brings into the shop to sell.”

Big Kid’s provides customers and those searching for gifts related to their favorite sports teams — especially the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Coyotes, the Phoenix Suns and Arizona State University.

The shop gives off a museum-like appearance with the items displayed on shelves and from the ceiling throughout the store, a contrast to what has happened to most mom-and-pop memorabilia stores that went out of business due to memorabilia dealers selling their items on the Internet in recent years.

Among some of the eye-catching items in the store are: a framed autographed Luis Gonzalez Diamondbacks jersey, a hockey stick autographed by Wayne Gretzky from 1999 ($169), an official Major League bat signed by Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson ($250), a 2008 Phoenix Suns Bobblehead set ($50), a limited-edition Bank One Ballpark seat from the Inaugural D-Backs’ season ($525) and gift items related to most sports teams.

“You know what’s really hot right now?” Gordon surprisingly said. “Hockey. A lot of hockey items are popular — not just the legends, but current players, too. There’s more hockey fans in the desert than people realized, and that’s a big positive likely from the Phoenix Coyotes staying in town.”

Kotler, who also offers a wide variety of Hot Wheels, NASCAR and G.I Joe items in the store, also runs AZ Collectors Marketplace, a mall consisting of numerous memorabilia dealers at 1945 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix.

The hours of Big Kids’ Collectibles: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Mall holidays hours begin on Dec. 7, and the store will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, contact Gordon at (602) 692-3520 or Kotler at (480) 442-1117.

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