Behind the cards, sighs of relief

MEMORABILIA

April 09, 1995|By Ruth Sadler | Ruth Sadler,Sun Staff Writer

They put players' faces -- not always smiling -- on trading cards. And last week major-league baseball players put smiles on the card companies' faces when they ended their 7 1/2 -month strike and began training camp.

The early issues are out, and manufacturers say the low production numbers are final. They won't be running off any more of those sets.

"As a fan, I'm excited. As a businessman with a license, it makes my job easier," says Marty Cramer, director of operations of Pacific Trading Cards (and a Seattle Mariners season-ticket holder).

"We're pretty happy," he says. "I don't think there's any secret that baseball-licensed products were not flying off the shelves during the strike."

Cramer says that customers placed smaller than usual orders for 1995 cards and that orders have picked up since the strike ended. He says Pacific has no plans for any new sets but will be photographing players in spring training for its 1996 cards.

According to Kurt Iverson, the end of the strike is giving some definition to Pinnacle's Series Two sets. He says Pinnacle had been "just putting it off."

"We're real happy," Iverson says. "We can go ahead with the Series Two products. We know there'll be games, so we can shoot the new uniforms.

"Just having the game and having people talk about it is what helps sell baseball cards," says Iverson, a former baseball reporter. "Because of where we're based [suburban Dallas-Fort Worth], and with the All-Star Game coming here, there's probably more excitement than other places."

"We're all baseball fans," says Topps' Marty Appel. "We're having our own internal euphoria here. . . . Everybody gets a second chance. . . . This is clearly good news for business."

Cards coming off the Topps presses will be scheduled new releases -- Finest, Embossed, Bowman, Archives and "a couple of surprise products" due this summer.

"I think the interest will definitely pick up" once fans see players on television, says Rich Bradley of Upper Deck. He says the large number of free agents likely to change teams could also spark interest. Those free agents also mean that Upper Deck will be scrambling to produce Collector's Choice, due in May.

"We will be doing something to make that set as current as we vTC can," says Bradley. He says photographers will be at spring training taking pictures for SP and Upper Deck Series II. Representatives from Donruss and Fleer did not return phone calls.

Late-season hockey

Upper Deck will release two series of hockey cards as the NHL season nears the playoffs. Series Two is a 300-card sequel to Series One, which was issued in December. Highlights are World Junior Championships, NHL players who played in Europe or the minor leagues during the lockout and 15 top Calder Trophy candidates. A 90-card SP insert set continues the one from Series One. Super premium SP comes out as a full-fledged set in late May, with a design distinct from the SP insert set. There are 175 basic cards and a 40-card insert set called Premiere SP marking the debut of Upper Deck's "Absolute Art" technology.

Nostalgia for the walls

It's still day games and green grass at Bill Goff Inc., which welcomes spring with four new baseball prints: Babe Ruth's 60th home run in 1927, Connie Mack Stadium, Carl Yastrzemski clinching the triple crown in 1967 and a still life featuring Mickey Mantle's jersey. Call (800) 321-4633.

Coming events

Today, card show, State Farm Show Complex, Harrisburg, Pa. (I-81, Exit 23; expected signers include Kevin Greene and Bam Morris), April 7 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., April 8-9 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (717)

939-1075.

Wednesday, card show and memorabilia auction, Holiday Inn-Cromwell Bridge (I-695, Exit 29), preview 6 p.m. (410) 795-0033.

Saturday, card show (expected signer is Phil Chenier), Days Inn-Timonium (I-83, exit 17), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 561-0945.

April 19, card show and memorabilia auction, Holiday Inn-Glen Burnie, preview 6 p.m. (410) 795-0033.

April 22, card show, Wicomico Civic Center, Salisbury, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 437-9927.

April 22-23, card show to benefit National Negro League Players Association (expected signers include Buck Leonard, Monte Irvin, Gino Marchetti, Jim Parker, Lenny Moore), Carrolltown Center Mall, Eldersburg (Route 26, 1 mile east of Route 32), April 22 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., April 23 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., (410) 781-6648.

CARD OF THE WEEK

Leaf baseball returns with a new logo and lots of foil in mid-April with 200 regular cards in Series 1. There are also seven insert sets. Cal Ripken (shown) appears in two insert sets (Statistical Standouts, a hobby-only insert, and Slideshow).

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