A Collector's Passion Brings Freedom Documents to the Foreground


Mykalai Kontilai And Baseball's Biggest Contract

By Charles Karel Bouley II

"They're really more Freedom Documents than contracts," entrepreneur and founder of Collector's Cafe Mykalai Kontilai told me as he eagerly awaited another milestone in the long list of his career.

"We are going down to the center of the world, to Times Square, and we are going to announce not only the international brand of Collector's Cafe, but we are going to show the world documents that have not been on display for almost seven decades, documents that really changed the world," Kontilai continued.

The documents are Jackie Robinson's 1947 contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers and the 1945 Montreal Royals contract; documents that not only broke the color barrier in baseball, but just like President Obama breaking the ceiling for the presidency, it's a barrier that would forever be torn down. They have been hailed as the sporting equivalent of the Emancipation Proclamation, and Kontilai found them in 2013 using their unveiling to launch his auction adventure, Collector's Cafe.

Jackie Robinson Photo: Jackie Robinson Foundation

The documents have been estimated at over $35 million dollars; Robinson was paid $5000 for the season. 10 percent of the proceeds from any sale of the documents will go to the Jackie Robinson Foundation (neither the Foundation nor Rachel Robinson reportedly have seen the documents which Robinson himself parted with over 50 years ago).

Seth Kaller, who has authenticated documents signed by Lincoln, Jefferson and others, told ESPN, "Their effect on American history, and even the world, transcends the bounds of sports," Kaller wrote in his valuation.

The moment is a crowning point for Kontilai, who realized his passion for collecting early in life, but like many kept it a serious hobby. His passions are shared by millions, as collecting generates over a quarter-of-a-trillion, yes. $250 billion, annually throughout the world; with most collectors being amateurs.

Kontilia could be called a media mogul. He was the first individual to ever solely own a public broadcasting news and affairs brand, the Nightly Business Report on PBS. He sold that company in 2011 and is now going head long in to collecting. Outside of Collector's Cafe, he has established Authenticity Insurance backed by some of the biggest insurance brands in the world.

"We want to make sure that people that love collecting are not victims of fraud, which runs rampant in the community," Kontilai continued. "This insurance is based on the reputation of those in-the-know, the people that authenticate items. We work with them and the insurance companies to make sure collectors are getting the genuine items."

Kontilai seen with Larry King at a filming of his show.

Genuine items indeed, when it comes to the Robinson contracts, Kontilai cannot contain himself.

"When I heard these were coming up for acquisition, and after we had three outside people confirm their authenticity, I became overwhelmed. "When King gave his 'Dream Speech,' Robinson and his family were there. King himself said of Robinson that he is, 'a pilgrim that walked in the lonesome byways toward the high road of Freedom. He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.' To see the actual contracts that paved the way for history to be made, the signatures that made it real, well, in a time of such division, it's so powerful to see documents that broke the color barriers and brought people together," Kontilai added.

That brought up the matter of responsibility: what responsibility do collectors have to put documents like these on display for the public?

"At a time of iPads, iPhones, Blogs, digital photos and so much more, it's important to see something real, something physical, and something that actually changed history. That's why every collector does have some responsibility to share their important finds with the world. Before anything, these documents will be going on tour, so to speak, traveling to Robinson's home town, to stadiums where he played and to important stops along the way. We want people to come out, to discover history, to see a living testament to progress and to perhaps, learn to love collecting," he added.

And while Kontilai's interests are far from purely altruistic (if Collector's Cafe taps in to the marketplace in a major way and Authenticity Insurance is a hit he stands to add another stellar success to his list) there can be no doubt this is a man who passionately collects things that excite him.

So what's the difference between a collector and a hoarder?

CONTINUED: Find out the answers plus what would Kontilai like to get next AND hear the exclusive interview at ReallyKarel.com NOW CLICK HERE


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