Bonds with athletes become gold for memorabilia dealer

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 13, 2014 - 8:55 AM

Shaun Hagglund’s world is a sports fan’s dream in which he is both dream maker and old-fashioned sports hustler.

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Wild goaltender Josh Harding, left, partnered with broker Shaun Hagglund of Fan HQ for an autograph session earlier this month at Ridgedale.

Photo: JERRY HOLT • jerry.holt@startribune.com,

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Ricky Rubio’s sports management company was e-mailing from Los Angeles.

The Timberwolves guard would agree to a minimum of 300 autographs and posed pictures, giving him $6,000 guaranteed. Rubio would get $20 per autograph, plus $12.50 for a personal message on a basketball.

And just like that the deal was done and Shaun Hagglund had another pro athlete in the fold — and another moneymaker. Rubio made out well, too, signing autographs at Hagglund’s store in Minnetonka. Afterward, his sports marketing representative said Rubio made more than $10,000 for a little more than an hour’s worth of signing.

Hagglund’s world is a sports fan’s dream in which he is both dream maker and old-fashioned sports hustler. To his biggest fans Hagglund has taken the world of sports collectibles, which has seen more downs than ups, to new and unique levels.

Want to watch “Monday Night Football” with the Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph? Hagglund has made it happen. How about an exclusive party with the Twins’ Darin Mastroianni as the celebrity bartender? Been there, done that. Up for a game of touch football with Vikings graybeard quarterback Tommy Kramer? You already missed it.

It all started from humble beginnings. Hagglund was 8 years old when his dad took him to Vikings training camp, and he posed for a photo with Kramer. Hagglund was a corporate buyer of entertainment action figures for the old Musicland and Suncoast stores. He met the Twins’ Justin Morneau, who introduced him to then-Twins Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain and Michael Cuddyer. He soon was doing their fan websites.

He opened a store in late 2009 at Ridgedale Center — and immediately cashed in on the “insanity” over Brett Favre’s signing to play with the Vikings.

“Sales really took off right away,” Hagglund said of his business.

Mike Hauglie, an assistant grocery store manager in Elk River, paid almost $400 to watch football with Rudolph. He also paid to play darts with the Vikings’ Harrison Smith — another event put on by Hagglund, a mop-topped 44-year-old.

“The darts one was pretty cool,” Hauglie said.

Hagglund again will take things a step further again in March, bringing together legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant with Grant Hart of punk band Hüsker Dü in a “Rock ‘N Jock” event in New Hope. Last year, more than 500 people attended and watched the movie “Miracle” — and sat with players from the gold medal-winning 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team whom the movie was about.

‘Understands the crowd’

At last month’s TwinsFest, the annual mid-winter Twins baseball festival, Hagglund stood in the hallway and seemed to know everyone.

“Hey, how you doing?” asked Twins infielder Brian Dozier, who paused to shake hands with Hagglund. Former Twin Corey Koskie walked by, tapped Hagglund on the shoulder and smiled. Hagglund brought a gift for Trevor Plouffe — a framed Led Zeppelin vinyl record.

“I rarely talk to them about [their] sports,” Hagglund said of his relationships with players. “It’s all trust. These guys get hit from so many different sides.”

Some fans at TwinsFest stopped by to compliment Hagglund on his latest idea: Buying a truckload of old Metrodome seat backs and then selling them to fans for $25 to use to get autographs. Seat backs bearing the No. 14 — worn by former Twin Kent Hrbek — cost a bit extra, of course.

“Shaun understands the crowd,” said Tommy Dehler, a longtime friend and occasional business partner.

Morneau, now with the Colorado Rockies, swears by Hagglund, who in November helped Morneau with his charity winter coat drive.

“He seemed to understand the line between obsessive and respectful,” Morneau said in an e-mail. Too many times, added Morneau, people “get involved with autograph signings or athletes as a way to try to work their way into their personal life and can become very clingy.”

When the Wild’s Josh Harding agreed to an autograph session, Hagglund — knowing of Harding’s struggles with multiple sclerosis — sat his own mother, who also suffers from MS, at the autograph table with him. “Because [of] Josh and his MS, [Shaun thought] we would hit it off,” Pat Hagglund said.

Hagglund’s mother said her son will also send baby gifts when an athlete has a child.

When Harding again agreed to sign autographs outside Hagglund’s store earlier this month, Hagglund sold “MVP tickets” for $37. The price guaranteed a fan two autographs, two certificates of authenticity, a posed photo with Harding — and a chance to bump to the front of the line.

For those who could not make it, he offered a “drop off service” where fans could leave the item they wanted autographed, including instructions of what they wanted Harding to write.

Hagglund is vague when asked how much money this all makes him, but there are clues. Two weeks after the Rubio autograph signing, in which the Wolves star by contract agreed to sign items for Hagglund to resell, Hagglund offered a signed Rubio jersey for $125.

No Mauer

In New York, Sean Mahoney of Steiner Sports said he turned to Hagglund when Zach Parise signed with the Wild.

“We looked to match up Zach [with Minnesota companies] to continue building his brand,” said Mahoney, a Steiner executive vice president. “We liked him,” Mahoney said of Hagglund. “We got a level of comfortability with him.”

Steiner Sports, one of the nation’s biggest sports marketing agencies, represents hundreds of athletes, and even offered — for a hefty price — private pitching lessons from former Yankee Mariano Rivera. For $7,500, Steiner is now offering fans two tickets to a Brooklyn Nets game, a pre-game courtside visit for the players’ shootaround and a game-used ball — from the game — that the fan gets while the game is being played.

Sports memorabilia, said Mahoney, is “definitely moving toward more of that type of experience stuff as opposed to [sitting] behind a table and signing for fans.”

Austin Lyman of Athletes First, another California-based sports marketing company, said he was sitting in Rudolph’s home when the Vikings drafted the tight end three years ago. Lyman said he immediately told Rudolph, “Dude, I’m going to go out there” and find a Minnesota sports collectibles contact. The journey led to Hagglund.

Lyman said it was Hagglund’s idea to host a “Tweet-and-Greet” with another Athletes First client, Vikings punter Jeff Locke. Hagglund would tweet clues to fans, who could buy discounted tickets without yet knowing for sure what athlete would be there. In this case, the event turned out to be bowling with Locke — roughly 75 people attended.

“It’s just really neat,” said Lyman.

There have been disappointments.

Despite several attempts, Hagglund has been unable to cut a deal with Joe Mauer, the Twins’ most popular player. Though other players at TwinsFest greeted Hagglund, Mauer walked by without saying a word.

“He’s handled by a huge agency,” he said of Mauer. “They’re working with Wal-Mart and Head&Shoulders.”

Former Viking Percy Harvin also was out of reach.

“I thought Percy Harvin was a done deal, and that fell through,” he said.

Hagglund said his own memorabilia collection is relatively small.

“I work around it all day, and I don’t need to see it back at home,” he said. But he said he does collect “baseballs signed by rock stars” and someday hopes to get a picture of him with rocker Jack White of the White Stripes.

When Harding had another signing at Hagglund’s Fan HQ store on Super Bowl Sunday — it was billed as “Super Goal Sunday” — an estimated 250 fans waited inside Ridgedale at 10:30 in the morning while most of the mall’s stores were still closed. With assembly-line precision, Hagglund took photos of those who paid to have a posed photo with Harding.

“Here we go guys — one, two, three,” he said as he took a picture.

Bruce Moberg, a retired fourth-grade teacher from Blaine, had Harding autograph his own goalie pads, which Moberg had earlier purchased. Harding, somewhat startled, recognized the pads before signing them.

“Now I got to find somehow to get [Harding’s] mask,” Moberg said.

 

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  • Shaun Hagglund, owner of Fan HQ, photographed fans of Wild goalie Josh Harding as they lined up near the Fan HQ store in Ridgedale Mall for his autograph recently.

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