If you're a baseball card collector, be forewarned: It doesn't pay to follow your hometown heroes.
At Arundel Cards and Coins, on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard in Glen Burnie, a 1992 Topps card for Minnesota Twins left-hander Denny Neagle -- a 1986 Arundel High grad -- will run you 50 cents.
Not that 50 cents is all that much; heck, a half-dollar won't even buy you a soda in most places anymore. But it is considerably more than you'd pay for that card anyplace not within home-run distance ofNeagle's hometown.
According to Beckett's baseball card price guide -- the standard used by just about every card collector -- Neagle's card is worth 12 cents.
So why the surcharge?
"Any of the local players -- I don't care if it's Cal Ripken or who it is -- they always go for higher than the book," says Bob Perkins, an employee at Arundel Cards and Coins.
Ripken, of course, has the triple disadvantage of being an Oriole, a future Hall-of-Famer and a native Marylander. Imagine what his card must sell for in his hometown of Aberdeen. Hoo boy!
OK, sure, Ripken's worth every penny. But Denny Neagle? Granted, he won 20 games as a minor leaguer in 1990 -- an almost unheard-of accomplishment -- but the guy was 0-1 for the Twins last year, pitching 20 innings to a 4.05 ERA.
"He is popular," Perkins says simply.
Perkins also says the practice doesn't stop with Neagle. Odenton's own John Stefero also benefits from the hometown advantage. His 1987 Fleer card, which books for 75 cents, sports a $3 price tag.
Annapolis' Craig Wilson, however, who has achieved a degree of success as a 10th man for the St. Louis Cardinals, gets no special treatment.
Naptown, after all, is all the way at the other end of Ritchie Highway.
CAPTION: Arundel High graduate Denny Neagle's 1992 Topps card sells for 50 cents at a local card shop, four times its "book value."
HOME HEATING OIL: PUT IT ON THE SHELF
What a shame home heating oil doesn't go alongside eggs and toast, or mix well with Cheerios. You could save a bundle.
At least that's how it looks from figures provided by the Better Home Heat Council, which says the price of heating oil continues to fall as costs rise for other consumer goods like fruits and vegetables, stamps and frozen orange juice.
Of course, you can't bake it into a pie, maila letter with it or mix it with cheap champagne for a mimosa, but that doesn't mean the Better Home Heat Council can't make the comparison. And for what it's worth, the council has released comparisons between heating oil and other familiar liquids, such as bottled water, gasoline, soda, whole milk and cider.
To illustrate, the council hasincluded drawings of gallon bottles representing familiar liquids, showing the cost of each. While the other liquids range in price from $1.85 a gallon for bottled water to $3.99 for a gallon of cider (hardor soft not specified), a consumer still pays just $1 per gallon forheating oil.
"There aren't many other products that cost essentially the same as they did 10 years ago," said Lock Wills, chairman of the Better Home Heat Council. "And, when you compare the cost of a gallon of heating oil to the cost of a gallon of milk or other liquids,it is relatively inexpensive."
Wills is probably right.
But for anyone who remains unconvinced, the home heat council does offer the following comparisons: Over the past 10 years, utility-piped gas increased 44.7 percent and electricity by 51.5 percent, while the cost of staying warm with oil heat rose by 0.3 percent.
If only it didn't taste so bad.