This might be a baseball card season to remember -- and one to make collectors think twice.
Donruss and Topps have upgraded their products, and both are selling briskly. Fleer looks better for '92, and Score and Upper Deck have winners again. Add Ultra, Leaf and a probable Pinnacle baseball issue, and the baseball collector who likes one of each is going to need a bigger budget and more storage space -- or a new way of collecting.
There are several possibilities. A collector can cut down on the number of new sets per year, picking one or more, but not all. Another option is to concentrate on older cards. They're not as plentiful as new material and not as well-known by most collectors, but they can provide a challenge. Collections also can be built around a team, a player or a theme.
Topical collecting is popular among stamp collectors, who look for stamps (from any country, any era) of a theme such as seashells or medicine. A baseball card theme collection could feature Marylanders. There are six native Marylanders in the Baseball Hall of Fame -- Frank Baker (Trappe), Jimmie Foxx (Sudlersville), Lefty Grove (Lonaconing), Judy Johnson (Snow Hill), Al Kaline (Baltimore) and Babe Ruth (Baltimore). All but Johnson and Kaline are available on the 1960 and 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats sets, which are relatively inexpensive. Some digging could turn up early gum and tobacco cards. Remember that Hall of Famers' cards can command a premium.
There are many other Marylanders who played major-league baseball, among them Tom Phoebus, Tommy Byrne, Moose Haas, Charlie "King Kong" Keller, Ron Swoboda, Gene Hiser and Phil Linz. The current generation of Marylanders includes Cal and Bill Ripken, Mike Bielecki, Dave Johnson, Harold Baines and Denny Neagle. Once you've decided who you'd like to collect, you might want to refer to "The Sport Americana Alphabetical Baseball Card Checklist" by Jim Beckett, which lists players' card numbers in major sets.
Vote for the gold: Collectors can vote for Action Packed's 1992 Solid Gold Team. There will be 26 18k solid gold cards, each of a different player, and certificates for the gold cards will be randomly inserted in foil packs. In 1991, the 26 solid gold
cards were all of Randall Cunningham. Fans should send their 26 picks (in order of preference) to Solid Gold Team, P.O. Box 546, Villa Park, Ill. 60181-0546 by March 1. The 1992 Action Packed set will have 290 cards. There also will be randomly inserted Braille cards, as well as 24k gold-leaf stamped cards of 42 players.
Free Bullets cards: The Washington Bullets will be distributing perforated sheets of 12 NBA Hoops cards at the Capital Centre on Saturday and March 3.
Knowing the sign: Score's Joe DiMaggio cards come in two varieties, machine signed and personally signed. There is a difference. The machine-signed cards have a special logo under the picture, and the signature appears at the right. Those signed by DiMaggio have a white, numbered box under the picture in which the signature appears.
Miscellaneous: Upper Deck has become a sponsor of and the official trading card of USA Hockey. . . . Washington Redskins running back Ricky Ervins is one of the six finalists for Pro Set's Rookie of the Year. The others are Denver Broncos linebacker Mike Croel, New England Patriots offensive tackle Pat Harlow, Patriots running back Leonard Russell, Tampa Bay Buccaneers side receiver Lawrence Dawsey and Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mike Pritchard. The winner, to be chosen by a panel of former Rookies of the Year, will be announced Jan. 25 on TNT's Super Bowl special.
Today, baseball card show, Montgomery County Fairgrounds, Gaithersburg (I-270, Exit 11), Jan. 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Jan. 12 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 329-2188.
Today, baseball card show, Security Holiday Inn (I-695, Exit 17), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 922-8366.
Saturday, baseball card show to benefit International Rett Syndrome Association, Crossland High School (6901 Temple Hills Road, Temple Hills) 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (301) 894-6616.
Saturday-Sunday, Bird Expo '92, baseball card and memorabilia show, some proceeds benefit Johns Hopkins Children's Fund, Pikesville Armory, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (410) 796-1905 or (410) 574-7059.
Sunday, baseball card show, Martin's Ballroom North Point (I-695, Exit 40S), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 922-8366.
Jan. 25, baseball card show to benefit Joppatowne High School Athletic Boosters, Joppatowne High School, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.Jan. 25, baseball card show, Towson Sheraton (I-695, Exit 27A), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 922-8366.
Feb. 1, baseball card show, Comfort Inn-Airport (I-695, Exit 6A), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 922-8366.
Feb. 2, baseball card show, Towson Quality Inn (I-695, Exit 26 S), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (410) 239-7446.
Feb. 8, baseball card show to benefit Arundel High baseball team, Arundel High (1001 Annapolis Road, Gambrills), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 674-6500 x252.
Feb. 8, baseball card show to benefit Running Brook Elementary School PTA, Running Brook Elementary School (5215 W. Running Brook, Columbia), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 964-0870.