Knife company revved up by new line

MEMORABILIA

June 11, 1995|By Ruth Sadler | Ruth Sadler,Sun Staff Writer

This is for collectors who want to be on the cutting edge. Really.

A seven-year friendship between Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt and knife collector and seller Jim Frost has led to a line of knives featuring Earnhardt.

Earnhardt fans have their choice of pocket and bowie knives and framed set with a small lithograph. Some are meant to be used, while others come in display boxes, obviously meant for show. Some show Earnhardt alone; others include Richard Petty, the other seven-time Winston Cup champion, as part of their "7 & 7" merchandise campaign. The more-expensive knives are limited editions.

Frost Cutlery began selling racing-themed knives in 1988 after Earnhardt crew chief Harry Hyde introduced the men. Frost, who was a NASCAR fan, "has become more of a fan," according to company spokesman Steve Chattin, and Earnhardt is a knife collector. "I think he's started picking up knives of other drivers," Chattin said.

Traditionally Frost, based in Chattanooga, Tenn., has advertised knife and outdoors magazines. The Earnhardt knives are advertised in NASCAR race programs and in Beckett's auto racing magazine.

"When we first started, we were more geared to the knife collector," said Chattin. "We're now appealing to the mass-market NASCAR scene."

Chattin said only 10 percent of Frost's line is commemorative, bringing in about $2 1/2 million of last year's sales, which reached between $12 million and $13 million. Ninety percent of the line is usable, and some commemoratives also are usable.

The company has sold a line of pocket knives featuring baseball Hall of Famers, all licensed by Curtis Management, for the past three years. It has had a Babe Ruth knife since the mid-1980s.

"The others [including Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Dizzy Dean] don't do as well as the Babe Ruth," said Chattin. "He's kind of like Earnhardt is with racing. . . . There was a perceived market for it."

The company's sports interests extend to softball. It sponsors youth fast-pitch teams and a college Division I tournament.

Ripken, bronzed

Highland Mint is putting Cal Ripken on a bronze medallion. One side has Ripken's likeness, name, signature and uniform number, and the other side has the players association logo. Suggested price is $9.99. Call (800) 544-6135.

Select, as in limited

Select baseball returns as a 250-card set with production limited to 4,950 cases and remains a hobby-only product. Inserts include a parallel set called Artist's Proof, 10 top draft picks and -- 12 rising stars.

Flair baseball

Fleer's super-premium Flair baseball cards feature horizontal fronts on the 216 basic cards of Series I as well as etched foil. There are three insert sets totaling 32 cards. Look for Series II in August.

Coming events

Today, second annual Olympic Memorabilia Show, New Weave Building, Historic Savage Mill, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., (410) 290-7953.

Friday-next Sunday, card show, Eastpoint Mall (expected signers include Brooks Robinson on Friday and Russell Awkward and Gordon Hopkins on Saturday), mall hours, (410) 682-4375.

CARD OF THE WEEK

Pacific Trading Cards is making its small (100 cards) NFL set big with 3 1/2 x 5 cards. NFL Pure Gridiron features a large front photo and a lengthy description of the play on the back. Hobby version cards have blue foil, and retail version cards are in red. (Shown is Towson State graduate David Meggett.)

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