Two million sports cards, 49,000 comic books, 10,000 autographed items -- including 500 signed baseballs and 250 signed baseball bats. All of these things John Arcand has found space for in his home. And he keeps on buying more.
The Elgin man and his wife, Debby, have been collectors for almost 30 years. She prefers Disney collectibles, especially Snow White, and he leans toward sports memorabilia with a special interest in athletic pioneers.
At one point the couple owned five sports memorabilia shops throughout the region, though they closed all but one in Antioch in April 2011. Much to his wife's dismay, John Arcand has not slowed down in his collector purchases since they stopped having all but a few shelves to stock.
Arcand estimates about 4,500 square feet of his 5,400-square-foot home is filled with collectibles. But he goes to trade shows to sell certain items and is booked for an August sports memorabilia show in Baltimore.
"Sooner or later you accumulate so much stuff; you have to find an avenue to retrieve your finances," Arcand said.
The shows also let Arcand clear some inventory to replace with new finds. His months are filled with weekend flea market trips -- the first weekend of the month is reserved for the Kane County market, then Lake County on the second weekend and DuPage County on the third.
During the week, he runs UVD Industries Inc., an electrical manufacturer's representatives company.
"On weekends, we're treasure hunters; on weekdays, we build hospitals and high rises and schools," Arcand said.
One of his latest treasures is a trove of documents from the Riverview Motordrome circa 1912. The Chicago motorcycle racing venue hosted some of the greats, including several stars who died in racing accidents in their early 20s.
Arcand found the collection at the Kane County Flea Market, but didn't realize its significance the first weekend he looked at the score sheets, pay stubs and receipts signed by the riders. It took him three months of return trips to the market and a ton of research about the sport to find out he had struck gold.
Arcand has a pay slip signed by A.G. Chapple, who went on to be the first person to win a race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He has a signature of Eddie Hasha, a young talent who died in a horrific accident at the New Jersey Motordrome in 1912. The wooden track never reopened after his race that also killed five spectators and another rider.
Then there's Charles Balke, who won the first major motorcycle road race in the country in Elgin in 1913 and was a top rider at the Riverview Motordrome. Arcand's latest find also includes paperwork with Balke's signatures from before the racer died in 1914 while practicing on a dirt track near Chicago.
The hunt for collectibles is always a game of searching for something a little rarer than the previous find. Arcand, who is a co-founder of the Northern Illinois Hobby Retailers, said historical value factors into his search, but so does sentimental value. He enjoys finding "Americana" items -- an eclectic mix of mainstream cultural pieces from the 1950s and later, including board games, toys and advertising products. Often when he makes a purchase, he already has a buyer in mind.
"I try to relate to people's youth; a time that was a little easier way of life," Arcand said. " ... Stuff that puts a smile on people's faces."
In the meantime, it also puts a smile on his.