The sports trading card business is growing in many ways -- and directions.
There are more companies issuing more cards -- in more sports -- than ever. Card shows and sports hobby dealers proliferate.
And there are a lot of card-related publications.
The two biggest publishers of hobby periodicals are Beckett and Krause.
Beckett covers the major team sports' cards in four magazines -- Beckett's Baseball Card Monthly, Beckett's Basketball Monthly, Football Monthly and Beckett's Hockey Monthly.
Krause weighs in with Baseball Cards, Baseball Card Price Guide, Baseball Card Weekly, Football Card Price Guide, Sports Collectors Digest (a hefty weekly aimed primarily at dealers) and Football, Basketball and Hockey Collector.
Other well-known magazines in the field are Tuff Stuff, Baseball Hobby News and Sports Card Traders.
Although they deal with pretty much the same material (new issues, investment tips, features on the athletes on the cards, letters to the editor, questions), the treatment differs widely.
For identification and price guides (remember these are only guides to card values; how much you pay depends on how much your dealer paid for the card, demand and other factors), Beckett and Krause again are the leaders.
Beckett publishes the ubiquitous Sport Americana price guides. They are available for baseball cards (a standard guide, an alphabetical guide and a team checklist), football cards, basketball and hockey cards, baseball collectibles and non-sports cards. It also publishes a baseball address book.
Krause's entry is "Standard Baseball Card Price Guide."
These magazines and books are available at many card dealers
and shows and at some news dealers.
For the past four seasons, Pacific Trading Cards has issued Major Soccer League sets, 110 cards for the first three and a 220-card set this season. The cards are a popular concession item at Baltimore Blast games, but they get a mixed reception at local card dealers. Some dealers do not stock them, citing lack of customer interest. Those who carry them say it is a specialized area of collecting, and most of the people they see prefer baseball cards.
"Some people come in exclusively for that," says Tom Blair of Jay's Sports Connection in Towson, which stocks the MSL sets. He adds that some customers are baseball fans and Blast fans and collect both kinds of cards.
Many of the best customers for soccer cards appear to be soccer players.
Extra Inning in Glen Burnie carries MSL packs. "Mainly the kids who play soccer are the biggest fans of those," says Anna Willoughby.
In the traditional soccer hotbed of Highlandtown, young soccer players and Blast fans buy packs from Bill Wilke of Bill's Baseball Cards.
In Dundalk, Mike Tanner at Baseball Card Outlet says lack of a price guide could be keeping interest low. Again, young players are the prime customers. "The parents bring [the players] in, and they're still wearing their soccer uniforms," he says.
Chuck Hoffman at Doubleplay Sportscards in Pasadena has had the opposite experience. "They sell occasionally in packs," he says. "I expected to sell a lot more. . . because this is a soccer area."
All Star Cards in Baltimore no longer carries them. Don Bevans says most of his soccer-card sales were to members of a Parkville soccer club. Sales in the cards fell off after the club disbanded.
There seems to be a good supply of packs and sets in the Baltimore area, although the 1988-89 set is in shortest supply nationwide. That was the season the league nearly folded, and Pacific produced fewer cards.
Saturday, baseball card show, Freedom Community Center, Route 32, 1/2 -mile south of Route 26, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 549-6269.
Saturday, baseball card show, Howard County Fairgrounds, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8892.
April 6, baseball card show, Towson Sheraton, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8892.
March 30, baseball card show, Cromwell Bridge Holiday Inn,
Beltway Exit 29A, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 893-0013.
April 7, baseball card show, Freedom District Fire Hall, Sykesville, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8366.
April 14, baseball card show, Glen Burnie Elks Hall, Severn, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8366.