Autographed items, sets top wish list for holidays

MEMORABILIA

December 19, 1993|By Ruth Sadler | Ruth Sadler,Staff Writer

There doesn't seem to be any sports collectible equivalent of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, one item that every collector seems to want and few can find.

Hobby stores report an upturn in sales and shoppers with wish lists as well as regular customers.

Upper Deck and Topps 1993 factory baseball sets are popular, as are newly arrived 1994 Donruss baseball cards. Basketball cards have been selling well all season.

Two dealers have noticed a shift away from cards.

Mike Tanner, at Baseball Card Outlet in Eastwood, says more collectors are buying autographed items, especially those of Cal Ripken. He says other Ripken items are popular, especially offbeat ones, such as a huge Japanese poster featuring Ripken and Eddie Murray.

Tim Collins, at Larry Beck's in Baltimore, is also seeing collectors turn from cards to autographed items. He's selling a lot of balls and glossy photos autographed by current Orioles.

At Doubleplay Sportscards in Severna Park, shoppers are looking for items usually just beyond the reach of the collectors on their list, says Chuck Hoffman. They're buying single cards of Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey "that the kids couldn't afford." Topps Finest is also popular. "At $20 a pack, it's more like a Christmas present . . . than something they can afford," he says.

Again this year, Bud Williams, at Bud's Starting Line-up in Baltimore, is making up stockings filled with trading cards, which noncollectors seem to enjoy giving. But shoppers often go beyond the packaged: "Usually at Christmas, if it's not nailed down, they'll buy it, especially in a neighborhood store like this," says Williams.

Older cards are popular at The Old Ball Game in Reisterstown. "There's been an interest in Hall of Fame players from the '60s and '50s," says Joe Bosley. He also has noticed a surge in sales of Orioles autographed balls and programs. "It's definitely a Christmas present," he says.

The hot item among auto racing collectors is shot glasses, says Sharon Knecht at Pit Stop Souvenirs in Catonsville. "They're new," she says, "but it amazes me how many people collect shot glasses." She says Dale Earnhardt fans are buying championship steins. Also popular are Wheels Racing's Rookie Thunder cards (profiling drivers in their rookie seasons) and items featuring the late Alan Kulwicki and Davey Allison.

At the Babe Ruth Museum, T-shirts and books are best sellers. "If they're from out of town, they want Babe Ruth," says Debbie Kemp. "If they're from here, it's Orioles." Lois Matthews adds that books on Ripken, Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson are popular, as well as mugs, photo balls, plaques and mini-bats.

The Palmeiro report

In the first few days after the Orioles' signing of Rafael Palmeiro, collector enthusiasm was mixed.

"The last two days, they've [Palmeiro cards] been flying out of here," said Don Betz at Jay's Sports Connection in Towson on Tuesday.

Robbie Davis of Robbie's First Base in Timonium said he has had a lot of interest, what he called a typical reaction to the signing of a big-name player. Bosley of The Old Ball Game said he got five requests for autographed balls Tuesday.

On the other hand, said Williams of Bud's Starting Line-up, "Most of the people said, 'I want to wait until he's in an Orioles uniform.' "

Baseball Card Outlet's Tanner said he has sold five or 10 rookie cards, but that's fewer than he used to sell when the Orioles got a new player. And Larry Beck's Collins said he put a lot of Palmeiro material aside and was waiting for buyers.

Jordan's back

Michael Jordan returns -- in Upper Deck's NBA Series Two. He is featured in a 10-card insert set highlighting the Chicago Bulls' three straight championships. Other insert cards show team Most Valuable Players, top rookies, quotable players (available in Locker Packs only) and a Bulls championship card. Among the 225 cards in Series Two are rookies Chris Webber, Anfernee Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn and Isaiah Rider. There will be no Series One cards in Series Two packs.

Topps baseball

Nolan Ryan is making another appearance in Topps baseball cards -- on a randomly inserted tribute card. For 1994, Topps is coating its cards and issuing them in two 396-card series. Series II is due in late March. One ToppsGold card will again be found in each 12-card pack, and the rarer ToppsBlackGold cards also have been produced again. Series I subsets feature All-Stars, future stars (one from each team), draft picks (one from each team) and top prospects from all levels of the minor leagues.

Coming events

Jan. 15, card show to benefit Babe Ruth Museum, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, (410) 727-1539.

Feb. 4, exhibit on Sheriff Fowble opens, Babe Ruth Museum, 216 Emory St., (410) 727-1539.

CARD OF THE WEEK

Classic's third Four Sport Draft Pick Collection has 325 cards. It includes top picks Chris Webber (NBA), Drew Bledsoe (NFL), Alex Rodriguez (baseball, shown) and Alexandre Daigle (NHL), as well as former Dunbar standout Sam Cassell and ex-Maryland star Evers Burns. There are 30,000 randomly inserted autographed cards. Among the insert cards are perforated cards featuring three players and 12 cards that interlock to spell "rookie class."

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