NEW YORK (Associated Press) — When camp counselor Ally Tarantino was browsing a magazine years ago, he spotted a familiar name: Mark Zuckerberg. He was rummaging through boxes of memorabilia in his basement, running his fingers over old photos, newspapers and bus maps before finding a baseball card showing a young Zuckerberg in a red shirt and holding a bat.
Three decades later, Tarantino hopes a baseball card signed by one of the world’s richest men will fetch a fortune when it is auctioned next month.
“It’s like my version of a midlife crisis. I’m 50 – what am I going to do with this?” joked Tarantino.
Tarantino—who still works summers at camp at Elmwood Day in Westchester, New York—also told Zuckerberg, who was 8 or 9 years old, the card he had printed out as a parting gift at the end of camp 30 years ago.
“As someone who collects stuff, it’s always really hard to let go of whatever you have in your collection. But I’m always weirdly curious about how the audience reacts to something like this and it’s such a weird mix of pop culture and memorabilia,” he said.
The card will also be auctioned off as a digital collector’s item – the so-called NFT, or non-fungible token, which has become a popular way to own memorabilia.
Zuckerberg posted about the auction Thursday on Instagram, in part as a way to promote NFT technology in general, but also to help promote NFT across his company’s platforms.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, recently launched support for digital collectibles.
“We will auction the card for an NFT that is unique to the card,” said Stephen Fischler, founder of ComicConnect, which auctions off items.
It has been dubbed a “virtual steel cage match,” with the physical card being bid in USD and NFT in the Ethereum blockchain.
Fischler said he was unsure of the value of the items, considering that they were not the usual types of memorabilia offered for auction.
In recent years, there has been a lot of interest in collector items that athletes take part in. Rare baseball cards have gone for millions of dollars. Mickey Mantle’s mini baseball card is expected to fetch $10 million, and possibly more, when sold at auction later this month.
Tarantino, now a fifth-grade teacher in Connecticut, grabbed a Zuckerberg baseball card, not knowing when he sent it away in his basement that the kid would one day become a household name and be responsible for one of the biggest technological advances — or time wasters — in social networks.
“I’m emotional at heart. When people give me something, I stick to it, I’ve always been that way,” Tarantino said Wednesday night.
“He was definitely a kid you know and remember. I was that kind of kid who blended into the background. He wasn’t one of those kids,” he said.
Tarantino said Zuckerberg was already larger than life. “On the back of his card, he put a batting average of 0.920 – which is impossible in baseball. So even as a young kid, he was hugely ambitious.”
Bobby Kayna Calvan, The Associated Press