A pricey stroll down memory lane

Harvard's Jeremy Lin keeps the ball away from Harvard's Jeremy Lin keeps the ball away from Michigan's Manny Harris in the second half of a basketball game. (Dec. 1, 2007) Photo Credit: AP

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Jim Baumbach Newsday columnist Jim Baumbach

Jim Baumbach is an investigative / enterprise sports reporter for Newsday. A Long Island native, he started working

Perhaps the first true sign that the Jeremy Lin craze quickly was headed for previously unseen heights came last month when someone posted a yearbook from his middle school on eBay. The asking price was $4,800.

The reason for the lofty minimum bid, according to the seller's description: The yearbook not only was from when Lin was a seventh-grader but was signed by the Knicks' new point guard. His autograph came with this personal inscription: "Thanks for being my friend. Have a wonderful summer."

The item never sold, but it did mark the beginning of a trend. For the past few weeks, various Lin school yearbooks have been consistently appearing -- and successfully selling -- on the popular online auction site.

Don Chin, 48, of Eureka, Calif., said he sold a Palo Alto High School yearbook from Lin's junior year for $450 and his freshman-year Harvard yearbook for $400. He said they were purchased on the same day, providing a nice infusion of cash to the real estate broker.

"I just bought some groceries and gas," Chin said, "and I thank Jeremy for that."

Chin said he's been buying and selling sports memorabilia on eBay for more than a decade but never thought about trying to move a school yearbook until he came across an article last month that mentioned the $4,800 listing.

"I thought that was a pretty high asking price,'' he said, "but it made me go hmmm."

So he looked around online for Lin's yearbooks, finding one on the online retailer Amazon.com and another on eBay. He said he bought both of them from listings that did not include the fact that Lin was in them, allowing him to get them for relative bargains. He said he paid about $100 for the two. Then he turned around and put them right back online, hoping he would cash in.

"I was just crossing my fingers and hoping that Lin-sanity would continue for another week and someone might bid and I would make at least double what I paid," he said.

He did better than that, of course. Within a few days, Chin said both yearbooks had been sold -- to the same person, no less.

Doug Rippey, 43, from a Virginia suburb of Washington, knows the adrenaline rush Chin must have felt when the books were sold. A management consultant in the human resources industry, Rippey has been buying celebrity yearbooks online and selling them for a profit during the last decade. He cashed in on the Lin craze, too.

About two weeks into Lin's run, Rippey started looking on eBay to see if he could find his high school yearbook.

There are a few companies that stock a massive amount of yearbooks, hoping to attract people who have lost theirs over the years and are willing to pay a premium to replace it. And much to his surprise, the Palo Alto High School class of 2006 yearbook was for sale for $85, with no mention that this was Lin's senior class.

Although $85 was more than he usually would pay, Rippey said, he figured it was worth the gamble because "the senior year yearbook for collectors is like the Holy Grail."

"I listed it for $100 knowing that at least if somebody bid that high, I would make a little on it," Rippey said. "I put the Buy-It-Now for $500, and within a day, someone had bought it for that much."

(In case you're wondering, Rippey said that in the yearbook, Lin was not "Most Likely to Succeed." He was the runner-up in the categories "Most Innocent" and "Best Friends.")

EBay seller John Glascon, 39, of San Diego, can only hope he has the same success as Chin and Rippey. Glascon has a Palo Alto yearbook from Lin's junior year on sale right now on eBay, but his asking price is considerably higher -- $399 opening bid with a buy-it-now price of $1,000.

"I'm not trying to be some guy that's going to rip somebody off," he said, "but I figure if someone wants it and they're willing to pay for it, then great. Because there's a market out there for this kind of stuff."

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