Mr. Mom is now Mr. Memorabilia Specialty as dealer is sports items

June 11, 1993|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Contributing Writer

Robert Urban started out as a "Mr. Mom," self-employed so he could stay at home with the children while his wife worked.

He ended up as "Mr. Memorabilia," collector, auctioneer and radio talk show host.

The garage of his Eldersburg home is filled with baseball cards, sports uniforms, Indian blankets, antique scales and bubble-gum machines, bow and arrow sets, a saddle and other odds and ends. His phone, with seven lines coming in, rings almost continuously.

"I promote baseball card shows, sports, antiques and collectibles auctions, and represent different players for their memorabilia," he said.

Among his clients, he names former Baltimore Colt players Raymond Berry and Lenny Moore and former Orioles Jim Gentile and Gene Woodling.

Memorabilia and collectibles have gotten to be big business, he said. Football and baseball jerseys of popular players have gone for $8,000 and more. A single baseball card can bring hundreds, or even thousands of dollars.

L "Collectibles are very big money, very big," Mr. Urban said.

They're so big that he is kept busy several days a week with auctions and flea markets, including a flea market and craft show from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow at the Sykesville-Freedom District fire grounds on Route 32. Spaces are available for anyone thinking about cleaning out the garage or attic tonight.

Spaces are $20 except for nonprofit organizations -- Mr. Memorabilia gives them free space.

The 41-year-old collector started out some years ago as an artist and antiques businessman. He switched to collectibles after seeing the popularity of baseball cards at a show he visited with his daughter in 1988.

"I didn't really like cards that much, they were boring," he said. "I was more fascinated with the memorabilia -- the uniforms they wore and the equipment -- because it was harder to get and more interesting."

That was when people started calling him Mr. Mom and later Mr. Memorabilia.

He's married to Marsha Maloff, the director of the Central Laundry Camp in Sykesville. The couple has two children, Alexandra, 5, and Cara, 2.

Last December, Mr. Urban's business expanded into a radio talk show on WCBM-AM from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays.

"I had been a guest on other talk shows and there was such a nice response, the phone lines lit up, so we started the Mr. Memorabilia Sport Collector Show," Mr. Urban said.

But the show is not all sports; his guests now include experts in other areas such as antiques and other collectibles.

"I give free information to people who call wanting to know what their stuff is worth, and then each week I ask for a certain item and people call me with stuff to sell," he explained. "We expanded the format to include other collectibles to offer information to people who have had a hard time getting an accurate figure on what their stuff is worth."

Mr. Urban will either buy an item straight out or on consignment for a 20 percent fee. In addition, he buys businesses that are folding or estates.

He also arranges private autograph signings -- for a fee, of course.

Also an artist, he does some dealing in art works. He has done the settings for two wax museums as well as murals for corporate buildings.

How does he do so much in so many areas?

"I have a photographic memory, what I see I remember," Mr. Urban said. "I was a free-lance artist all my life. I'm very visually oriented."

Information: Mr. Urban, 795-0033.

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