Considering the current recession, Baltimore-area card dealers are finding that the Christmas sales season is better than expected.
Many dealers experienced slow sales during the fall but report business has picked up since Thanksgiving and gotten heavier in the past week.
"A lot of moms and dads come in trying to fill their lists," says Chuck Hoffman of Doubleplay Cards in Pasadena. "Sometimes they don't realize that some of the boxes are over $100. . . . The lists are quite extensive, and it's up to us to help them. "I sold
three [Cal] Ripken rookies [Monday]," he says. "I asked the people if they [the purchases] were for gifts, and two were."
Hoffman says his best sellers are 1991 Upper Deck sets -- "Everyone has a factory set of Upper Deck on their list."
At Jay's Sports Connection in Towson, owner Jay Finglass and his staff see lists, too. "The kids are asking for the moon," he says, "and the parents are compromising."
The most popular gifts are single cards costing more than $50 "that they would never buy except for Christmas" and sets from the mid-'80s and before that go for $100 and up. Finglass says the best bargains right now are in wax boxes from the past three years, available for $10 and less.
Joe Bosley, at The Old Ball Game in Reisterstown, says, "Business has picked up for the holidays," but "it's not as good as last year." He's seeing fewer buyers of single cards than in the past, but sales are strong for Upper Deck sets and late '70s and early '80s sets.
Don Bevans of All Star Cards in Baltimore reports strong demand for top rookie cards -- Kirby Puckett, Roger Clemens, Frank Thomas, Dwight Gooden, Ryan Sandberg and Ripken -- and boxes of '92 Donruss baseball. "They don't seem to hold back on Christmas at all," he says. "There doesn't seem to be a recession in our store." Bevans says there's strong demand for Stadium Club cards and for Cal Ripken Winterfest for Literacy posters, T-shirts and lithographs.
At Bud's Starting Lineup in Baltimore, Carroll Williams is selling a Clot of Upper Deck sets, gift certificates, single cards in the $15- $25 range and Christmas stockings containing about 15 recent cards of one player. "It's a nice gift for five or six dollars," he says.
In Aberdeen at Hit & Run Baseball Cards, Jerry Schweiger finds cautious shoppers beginning to buy and a number of grandparents getting the card version of sticker shock when they try to fill wish lists. "You have to explain why the cards cost so much," he says. He's selling a lot of '91 sets, gift certificates and '92 Donruss wax packs.
For Mike Tanner at Baseball Card Outlet in Dundalk and Bob Fickus of Baseball Unlimited in Baltimore, their second holiday shopping seasons are stronger because they've established a customer base. Tanner's customers are looking for the higher-priced rookie cards of the early '80s, wish lists of cards of young collectors' favorite players and new Donruss. Fickus sees demand for Upper Deck, '92 Donruss and Ripken rookie cards.
Pro Line Portraits has produced a limited-edition card showing Santa in a classic running back pose toting a bag of toys. All proceeds from the sale of the 15,000 Santa cards will go to Variety Clubs International. Collectors can get them by sending $10 and 1 Pro Line Portrait wrapper or 10 wrappers to: Pro Line Portraits Santa Card Offer, 1215 Harrison Ave., Kearny, N.J. 07032. . . . The Washington Redskins' season has been sterling, and their NFC East title is being honored with a 1-troy-ounce silver commemorative coin. Chicagoland Processing Corp. has struck 5,000 numbered coins which feature the team's logo on one side and the words "1991 NFC Eastern Division Champions" on the other. Coins cost $29.95 each plus $5 shipping and can be ordered by calling (800) 765-0123.
Tuesday, baseball card show, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Plaza Bingo Hall (2401 North Point Road), (410) 563-9032.
Dec. 29, baseball card show to benefit Loch Raven Recreation Council Baseball League, Loch Raven Optimist Bingo Hall (Loch Raven Boulevard and Taylor Avenue), (410) 931-4881.