Many collectors have discovered Cal Ripken this season.
As he adds to his games streak and compiles MVP batting statistics, his rookie and second-year cards are getting more popular.
Longtime Ripken fans didn't wait for this year. They've been gathering Ripken material for years.
One of the Baltimore Orioles shortstop's more dedicated fans is Bill Haelig of Reading, Pa.
His note paper has a picture of Cal, Bill and Cal Ripken Sr. and contains the legend, "The Ripkens' Biggest Fan." His envelopes carry a picture of the shortstop at bat and the words "Cal Ripken Jr.'s Biggest Fan."
For the past six years, Haelig has been compiling a list of all cards, posters and other material on which any of the Ripkens has appeared.
The latest checklist is 22 pages. He calls it a "labor of love."
"During the season, I update it weekly and at least monthly during the winter months," says Haelig.
When he was in college, Haelig read about a man who collected anything relating to Henry Aaron and considered starting one on his favorite Oriole, Brooks Robinson.
"Unfortunately, I was a recent college grad [in 1983] not making a whole lot of money and saw how much money it would take to put together a Brooks Robinson collection," he says. "I then thought that it might be better to start with someone new, and that's how I landed on Cal Jr. . . . As time passed, it just seemed to be a natural progression to include both Cal Sr. and Billy."
Haelig says that he owns all items on the checklist. But the list is not an inventory of his collection. That also includes ticket stubs to milestone games in Cal Ripken's career and game-used equipment.
"By far the most difficult, and expensive, card of Cal is from 1980 issued by the Charlotte [N.C.] police department," says Haelig. The card was one of a set of 25.
"It took me almost three years and countless phone calls, but I finally located a set in late '87," he says. "I would estimate that less than 100 cards still exist, and since it's traded so infrequently that it's hard to put a value on it. The last set I am aware of sold in mid-1990 for $1,100. Compare that to an '82 Topps Traded."
Collectors who would like a copy of the checklist should send eight loose 29-cent stamps to Bill Haelig, 735 Tamarack Trail, Reading, Pa. 19607.