Interview with Ball Dome Inventor John Weldon

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One of the coolest new inventions unveiled during this year’s National and one of the most talked about items around the sports memorabilia blogosphere has to be the Ball Dome.  Inventor/Collector John Weldon of The Memorabilia Factory has revolutionized the way collectors store their collectible baseballs.  Recently I caught up with Mr. Weldon and asked him a few questions about his invention and collecting.

  • What inspired you to create the Ball Dome?

A few years ago I designed a holder for 8×10 wire photos.  The baseball holder came later.  While I was designing the 8×10 wire photo holder I would tell each person that I knew in the hobby what I was working on, many responded, “we need a baseball holder.”  The final push was from Jimmy Spence. I had talked to Jimmy about the 8×10 photo holder at dinner one night and he told me I should make a baseball holder.  So even though I finished the design for the 8” x 10” wire photo holder, I put it aside and proceeded designing the Ball Dome.

  • How long did it take to develop the final product and what was the most difficult part of the design process?

It took over a year to come up with a design of the Ball Dome.  This was the most difficult process.  We have many designs, but only this one met all the requirements that we needed to actually slab a baseball.

  • What kind of response from consumers did you get during the 30th National?

We had a tremendous response.  We sold around 750 holders and around 260 holders with baseballs inside.

We had various dealers that bought 48, 24, or 12 packs to try in their stores.  We spoke with many of the larger companies about using the Ball Dome in the future to slab the baseball like baseball cards.  We are currently working with one company and we are in contact with their production manager to begin testing.

  • From the start, did you want the Ball Dome to bounce off the ground to show its durability or was that some type of accident you thought might attract customers?

Yes, this was intentional from the beginning.  We started with several types of materials during the material selection stage of the project.  It started when we tested various cubes for durability.  We would throw the cube on the floor to see if it would crack or shatter.  Of course, they did shatter and crack.  We wanted to make sure that if someone had a valuable baseball in our holders and it fell off a shelf that it would not get damaged.

One material we tested withstood the strongest employee in the plant.  He would hit the top of the dome with 20 pound sledge hammer. He hit is 20 times before it dented. However, we decided not to use this material.

At the show, Dave Chronister who works in production took the ball and bounced it on the ground to mimic what he did in the injection plant.  He did this for one of our first visitors at the booth.  He wanted to demonstrate the strength of the Ball Dome.  After we saw the reaction of the first potential customer, we knew we had to include this demonstration during the education process of the product.  Every time we sent it crashing to the concrete floor, shivers shot down the spines of all the vendors that were around our booth. We just could not resist. It got the person’s attention and made them curious about the product.  It was fun.  We did give a free Ball Dome to each of the surrounding vendors for putting up with us throwing it on the concrete floor.

  • Do you plan on making holders like the Ball Dome for other sports?

Yes, the patent application covers other types of Ball Dome holders.  We are working on a design for a tennis ball that we hope to have done very soon.  We are hoping to roll out a full line by next year.

  • Standard cube holders allow the collector to stack their baseballs.  What do you have planned to help collectors stack/display baseballs stored in the Ball Dome?

I did design a great way for the Ball Dome to stack.  I like it better than the Cube.  The problem with stacking the cube is that you have to un-stack everything on top to get to the cube on the bottom.  With the cube, there is risk of causing the entire stack to fall over. The other problem is that once you move the cube, there is always the potential that the ball will move and you will have to open the cube and reset the baseball.  This transfers more hand acid on the ball, plus you always have the risk of the ball falling out of the holder.  Most of the time, I had my cubes taped so they could not accidentally open when I picked them up.  If the ball moved I would have to cut the tape, reset the ball and tape it up again.  For me this was a lot of work to retrieve a baseball at the bottom of the stack, so most of the time I just would not remove it.

I will be announcing the new stacking product on our website www.balldome.com in a couple of weeks.  This new stacking product will allow customers to retrieve any of the Ball Domes from the stack without unstacking the rest of the baseballs.  I am glad I did not roll my first design at the show, because I came up with this better design while I was there.

  • Do you have a personal collection?  If so, what do you collect and what is your favorite piece?

I have collected many types of memorabilia over the years: baseball, football, boxing, movie memorabilia and pin back buttons.  I have collected so much that I keep it offsite in a temperature controlled secured storage area.  Like most collectors, I have so many favorite pieces that it is hard to come up with just one.  I wish I could say a baseball is my favorite piece, but my personal favorite comes from the boxing world.  It may not be the most expensive item that I own but it has sentimental value.

The item is a piece of boxing history.  It is the mink gloves that Sony Liston gave Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay at the time) during a press release of their first fight.  As the story goes, Clay was being his usual witty self.  Liston had never experienced anyone like Clay and he was upstaged at every press conference.  Liston however struck back at Clay during a press conference right before the fight.  Liston had someone take a pair of his sparring gloves and sent them out to be mink covered.  He then surprised Clay by announcing to the press that he was going to use the mink gloves on Clay during the fight, so when he was knocked out, Clay he would not mess up his pretty face.  He then gave the gloves to Clay, Clay was speechless; he was shocked that Liston could come back and upstage him.  I have those gloves along with the original Sports Illustrated 11×14 press photos showing the entire sequence of that event.  Clay has his mouth wide open in amazement. This was the first piece of memorabilia that I really spent what I considered at that time a lot of money. More than the price of the glove, my Dad was with me when I bought them.  I bought them at one of the Boxing Hall of Fame inductions some years ago.  I took him on the trip so it was just him and I.  We had a blast together. That’s what makes the piece special.

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One Response

  1. great story ross

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