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Signature Collection

Ton-dulkar's a money spinner

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SPORTING INVESTMENT: Only 50 pieces of the Century of Centuries Signature Collection showcase (left) are available and the shoes with the special Sachin crest might be up for auction soon

When Sachin Tendulkar ended the agonising wait for ton No 100 on March 16, he didn't just set a record. The master blaster also set off a new trend in pricey memorabilia merchandising in India.

Soon after the century, the Tendulkar Century of Centuries Signature Collection was launched for those with a deep love of cricket but deeper pockets. Worth £4. 2 million or more than Rs 33 crore, it comprises 100 of Tendulkar's bats, 500 of his India jerseys, 100 platinum prints, 2, 000 gold prints and showcases which have a full kit including a bat, pads, shirt, helmet, gloves, identical to the ones he wore when he scored his 100th century, and a ball.

A framed jersey signed by the cricketer is available for £2, 000 pounds or Rs 1. 6 lakh. Each signed bat costs Rs 2. 8 lakh and the showcase a cool Rs 1. 2 crore.

Hamilton Bland, an old hand at selling memorabilia and owner of UK-based Autograph of the World which launched the collection along with an Indian venture, says the price isn't high.

"It's targeted at a certain customer who is a wealthy collector. Sachin wanted people to be able to display these pieces. He was very closely involved in choosing the items that have eventually gone on sale. No one ever again will accomplish this feat, " he says.

Getting Tendulkar to sign on the dotted line wasn't an easy task for Bland, who is the official representative of the England and Wales Cricket Board. "When I first approached Sachin, his response was 'I don't want to think about doing anything like this till I get the century' but I didn't take no for an answer. " That's when Bland hit another roadblock.

The rights to sell any memorabilia related to Tendulkar lies solely with Universal Collectabilia and Bland had to convince them of the potential of the venture.

The two soon arrived at an arrangement that lets the UK firm sell the memorabilia all over the world except in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Designs for the collection were finalised in November 2011 but the launch was held to coincide with the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League. The response, according to the chatty Bland, has been "terrific. "

"There's a lot of interest from Australia. Our website already has over a million clicks but surprisingly the biggest response has been from the UAE, " he says.

The Indian company refused to divulge details or numbers. But there is little doubt that Brand Tendulkar sells - from credit cards to clothing, from companies to cola.

So it's not surprising that Coca Cola India chose to mark the century of centuries with a special can priced at Rs 20. About 7. 2 lakh golden cans with regular Coke inside found their way into the market and hardly any would've been thrown in the dustbin.

The can I bought, now empty, sits pretty on my dining table.

The milestone inspired more rollouts. Adidas India created a limited edition 'Adidas-ST Cricket' shoes. This range of shoes, striped in red and gold, have a special Sachin crest with a century number adorning the side. Not everyone can get their hands on a pair. There are only just 100 such shoes - 98 actually, since pair number one and 100 have been gifted to the Master Blaster - and they're only available in size 8. The shoes are expected to be put up for auction on eBay.

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