Johnson's plight spurs big demand for cards of him

November 17, 1991|By Ruth Sadler b

Basketball cards are traditionally a hard sell in the Baltimore area. Most dealers carry new packs and some recent sets and individual cards, but baseball cards still power the market.

However, the public's card-buying reaction to Magic Johnson's retirement because he had tested HIV-positive was to seek his cards.

Johnson's rookie card is the 1980-81 Topps card, an all-star itself because he shares it with Julius Erving and Larry Bird. Its most recent book value is $250.

The only older cards Bob Fickus at Baseball Unlimited in Baltimore stocks are those of Michael Jordan, because "that's all we really sell" in the way of NBA cards. He had one Johnson rookie card and sold it Nov. 1, the day after Johnson's announcement. "I had it a year and couldn't give it away," Fickus says.

At Robbie's First Base in Timonium, Joe Davis found a lot of interest in Johnson cards from non-collectors who were buying "almost any Magic Johnson cards they could find." He had some rookie cards before the announcement and sold the last Nov. 2 for $250.

"People are asking for Magic Johnson cards," says Carroll Williams, at Bud's Starting Lineup in Baltimore, noting that he sees little demand for the rookie card. "They just want a Magic Johnson card and don't mind spending a dollar."

Chuck Hoffman at Doubleplay Sportscards in Pasadena says he sold 35 to 40 Johnson cards last weekend and older Johnson-related merchandise such as Beckett guides and Starting Lineup figurines. "We had people coming in that don't collect any type of basketball card," he says. "It reminded me of the same type of craze when Bo Jackson got hurt." He has three rookie cards priced at $300 each, but "when you get up in the $300 range, people don't buy."

Don Bevans at All Star Cards in Baltimore had no rookie cards and only a few cards from 1988, '89 and '90, but "they went really quickly." He normally sells few basketball cards, but says on Nov. 1, "between calls from the Ripken Winterfest and Magic Johnson, that consumed our day."

On the other hand, things have been quiet at Baseball Card Outlet in Dundalk. "I got all his cards pulled out in case somebody wanted them," says Mike Tanner. "People come in and talk about him, but they're not buying his cards. . . . Maybe we should change our name from Baseball Card Outlet to Sports Card Outlet."

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Michigan Tech's second set of ice hockey cards will be available Feb. 1. There will be 36 cards, including one honoring former Huskies coach John MacInness. A bonus is that NHL cards autographed by members of the Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings will be randomly inserted in sets. The 1990-91 set, produced by Capt. John Anderson of the school's Air Force ROTC program, was a sellout. "I get five to eight letters a day from all over the country wanting to buy '90-91 sets," says Anderson, who has been transferred to AFROTC headquarters in Alabama and is coordinating the 1991-92 set production from there. Collectors can order 1991-92 sets by sending a check or money order for $9.50 per set (plus $2.50 shipping for one to three sets; Michigan residents must add 4 percent sales tax) to MTU Hockey Cards, Huskies Hockey Office, Student Development Complex, c/o Capt. John Anderson Coach Martel, Michigan Tech University, Houghton, Mich. 49931.

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Upcoming events:

Today, baseball card show to benefit Dundalk Community College baseball team, Dundalk CC, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (410) 285-6980.

Saturday, baseball card show, Security Holiday Inn, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8366.

Saturday-Sunday, Cal Ripken Jr. Winterfest for Literacy '91, baseball card-memorabilia-autograph show, Festival Hall, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (410) 254-2729.

Nov. 30, baseball card show, English Consul Volunteer Fire Hall (I-695, Exit 6A), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 922-8366.

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