Fading obsession

Smell the cardboard. Flip the plastic pages. Dust off the old memories. Collecting baseball cards used to be an obsession. The craze hit a high point during the mid-1980s, when the business turned into a multi-billion dollar industry. Since then, however, the old pasteboards are wasting space in many closets across the nation. When the baseball card craze of the 1980s exploded, other companies joined the bandwagon. As a result, billions of cards were mass produced, and the value of collecting was severely diminished. Now, memorabilia from that era are generally disregarded. “In the old days, it was just basic cards,” says Bob Ferri, a card collector. “Then in the late ’80s, there were insert cards, holograms, all different types of things. People started chasing that.” The craze took off, and the value dropped. Recent studies by long-time card researchers such as Beckett have proven that interest in baseball cards have dropped over the past decade. “Very few kids….They got too many electronics to play with,” claimed Mike Gordon, owner of a card shop. Over twenty years ago, Gordon started a weekly card show which could attract hundreds or thousands of spectators and buyers. These days, however, the card shows are lucky to welcome a few middle-aged men. Still, the tradition hasn’t died with some grown-up kids. Alan Rosen, nicknamed “Mr. Mint,” has been collecting cards for thirty-five years. “In 1989, I had my biggest year. I think I made $8.7 million in sales. Just one guy!” However, like the rest of the business, Mr. Rosen’s personal success has faltered. “Right now,” he stated, “I get about twenty or thirty calls a day. Back then, I would get over one hundred.” What’s the cause of this downward trend? “The grandfather’s dead, the father doesn’t have any money to spend, and the son has not really enjoyed the business because he’s in to computers and girls.” However, other people blame the trend on mass production and overplayed hands. In the 1990s alone, billions of cards were supposedly printed by various companies, including Topps, Fleer, and Bowman. Compounded with the baseball strike of 1994, the business officially took a turn for the worse. Still, these companies continue to print cards and attempt to sell them to the public through whatever means. Whether they’re sold at ball games, checkout lanes, or hobby shops, baseball cards still hold a special place in many “kids'” hearts.