Strikes take toll on card business

MEMORABILIA

April 30, 1995|By Ruth Sadler | Ruth Sadler,Sun Staff Writer

Stories in newspapers and in the hobby press have offered anecdotal evidence that labor disputes that disrupted the baseball and hockey seasons hurt the trading card business.

Dealers complained late last summer that with no baseball games -- and players making news in them -- few people wanted cards. When a player gets hot or does something spectacular, demand for his cards tends to rise -- even if only for a few days. Sales were reported to be flat during the holiday season, too, when companies brought out the first 1995s -- and there was no season in the offing.

According to the Sports Card Manufacturers Association, perception was reality, but that didn't put too much of a dent in overall sales for 1994.

SCMA (comprised of Donruss, Fleer, Pinnacle, Topps and Upper Deck) says 1994 combined net sales of major sports cards were 6.7 percent lower than in 1993. It says net sales were $658 million, down from $706 million.

However, says SCMA president William L. MacMillan, "The figures for the first three quarters of 1994 were stronger than those for the first three quarters of 1993, but the fourth quarter of 1994 was off significantly compared to 1993, indicating that the two work stoppages were responsible for the annual minor decrease in sales."

The figures were for baseball, NFL, NBA and NHL cards sold by SCMA members. Not counted are niche players SkyBox (which was bought by Fleer's parent company in March) and Action Packed (whose assets were recently purchased by Pinnacle) or auto racing cards, a fast-growing segment of the industry.

Of course, SCMA is only talking about new cards, the ones its members make money from.

One of the benchmark cards is Topps' 1952 Mickey Mantle. It often fetches five figures in top condition. But all Topps gets now for this valuable card is publicity. Current sellers -- collectors and dealers -- make the money.

Managers are signing

TC

Former Orioles managers Hank Bauer and Earl Weaver will be the featured signers at the sixth annual Babe Ruth Museum baseball card show, May 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Marriott Inner Harbor. Bauer and Weaver will sign from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and autographs are $4 each. The show is part of Babe Ruth Centennial Weekend II. Orioles memorabilia, including the 1983 World Series trophy, will be on display.

Think CFL

Colts Corral No. 27 in Severna Park is selling 1995 Grey Cup merchandise and is taking orders for 1995 Jogo CFL cards. Call Marc Lombardi at (410) 544-8240.

Assets Racing

Classic and Finish Line have teamed to produce Assets Racing. The set has 50 regular cards. Insert cards include facsimile signature cards, phone cards and preview cards of Racing Images, a set due in July. A phone card (values from one minute to $1,000) is promised in every pack.

Racing medallions

Enviromint will issue a line of medallions featuring top stock car drivers. Seven-time Winston Cup champions Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty are on the first coins. There will be silver ($29.95) and 24-karat select ($49.95) coins and matched-number sets ($82.95 and $135). Call (800) 299-MINT.

Finest Hockey

Topps is bringing its Finest line to hockey with a 165-card set in May. There will be a 54-card World Juniors subset and 85 insert cards. Bowman's Best inserts feature 20 star veterans, 20 star rookies and five that pair a veteran and a rookie. Other inserts spotlight players with two or more Stanley Cup rings and top players in each division.

Coming events

Saturday-next Sunday, card show, Towson Marketplace (expected signers are Paul Blair Saturday, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.; and Tippy Martinez, next Sunday, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.), mall hours.

May 13, card show to benefit Babe Ruth Museum (expected signers are Hank Bauer and Earl Weaver), Marriott Inner Harbor, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 727-1539.

May 19-21, Hall of Fame Weekend card show, Essex Community College (expected signers are Hoyt Wilhelm, Bob Feller, Harmon Killebrew, Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews and Monte Irvin); May 19, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; May 20, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; May 21, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.May 19-21, Tuff Stuff's seventh annual Summer Classic Card Show (expected signers include Sandy Koufax, Earl Morrall, Willie Stargell), State Fairgrounds at Strawberry Hill, Richmond, Va.; May 19, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.; May 20, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; May 21, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

CARD OF THE WEEK

The stars of World Championship Wrestling are featured in a 100-card set from CARDZ, due in early May. Packs have eight cards each. Subsets feature managers, announcers, newcomers, famous holds and reigning champions. (Shown is Sting.)

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