If you think the hottest-selling set of bubble-gum cards is the '90 Topps baseball set, guess again. The barn burner in the card world is the very unlikely set of cards from the old "Andy Griffith Show," the '60s sitcom now seen on Nickelodeon and other cable networks, and the No. 1 card is Sheriff Andy Taylor himself.
The Pacific Trading Card Co. of Lyndale, Wash., can't begin to fill orders for the "Andy Griffith Show" card sets. They are selling better than 300 sets a day from coast to coast, with a heavy concentration in the South, and there is no sign of a slowdown.
The 110-card set (mostly black and white, some color) costs $9.95. Individual wax packs of 10 cards each sell for 50 cents. They can be purchased in candy stores, hobby stores or directly from the company. They are not yet available in this area.
Cards in the set include scenes in the lives of Sheriff Taylor, Aunt Bee, Gomer Pyle, Goober, Opie, Helen Crump, Ernest T. Bass, Floyd the barber, Thelma Lou, Howard Sprague and, of course, that fierce arm of the law himself, Deputy Barney Fife.
"They are not only outselling every non-sport card set, but all of our most popular baseball sets, too," said Anne Hicks, VP for marketing of Pacific Trading Cards.
The company produced the set because its president, Michael Cramer, grew up on the "Andy Griffith Show" as a kid, loves it and can stillsee every home and lane in Mayberry, N.C., every time he closes his eyes.
Pacific also had great success with its rerun "Leave It to Beaver" set, which sold out quickly in 1985.
Mr. Griffith and his show have always been wildly popular. There is an "Andy Griffith Rerun Club" in Texas with 20,000 members. There is a fan club newspaper about the show, "Mayberry Gazette," whichhas a circulation of 10,000. People in North Carolina celebrate everything about the show (this year is the 30th anniversary of the very first show).
But until now, Mr. Griffith himself refused all efforts to license anything connected to the show for commercial use. Last year, Viacom Communications bought the rights to the show and agreed to a card set license.
Why should Sheriff Taylor, Deputy Fife and their neighbors outsell the great sports stars who dominate the headlines? How many home runs did Goober hit?
"I think people -- young and old -- always had a great affection for the Sheriff Taylor character," said Ms. Hicks. "He's a good, honest man, a loving father and a man of great friendship and principles. There's nothing slick about him, nothing underhanded. The other people on the show are beautifully drawn characters. I think, too, that many Americans wish they could live in a little town like Mayberry and have good people like these for friends."
Experts in the field would like to see more sets like it. "Most entertainment and sports cards on the market are aimed at kids and today's events, but there's a huge baby boomer market out there, people who grew up on '50s shows, and that market would love card sets like Griffith," said Roxanne Toser, publisher of Non Sport Update, a trade card magazine.
Just imagine the swaps: "Trade you two Aunt Bees for four Don Mattinglys and a Joe Montana."