Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Hair Raising Hobby-Baseball Card Collecting

Collecting baseball cards used to be a passion of mine. Last year I gave my nephew a complete Topps set from 1990 (I think). Space becomes more of a problem these days than accumulating. Collecting cards started with the Monkees. I still have a few of those cards. Much like the Mod Squad cards I also collected, you could flip them over to reveal a piece of the puzzle, which was usually formed a larger than life size head of Julie Barnes. From there, I went to baseball cards

In the 5th grade Sr Pat took all my cards because I was flipping them in the school yard. Her archaic reasoning was that girls don't play with baseball cards. She proceeded to give my cards to the boys. Thank God this was my only encounter with what has gone down in legend as the wrath of the nuns. Never got a ruler across my knuckles, nor did I ever see that happen.

Fearing that their market is ever shrinking, trading card companies are now offering prizes in the packages of baseball cards. Like most industries and baseball itself, they are appealing to those with money. (note: adults with money get hooked as kids, so don't forget kids in the equation) According to today's WSJ: The industry has since streamlined, but "the good old days of building a set, one 15-card pack at a time, are pretty much over," Mr. Kelnhofer [editor of Card Trade, an industry monthly] says. While cheaper packs today go for around $2, he says, "the card makers' survival is predicated on attracting and keeping the collectors who make the big-ticket purchases."

Don't be surprised in your next package if you find a scratch off card letting you know you won a lock of Abraham Lincoln's hair . Topps starting offering DNA packs last year. You could win a lock of George Washington's hair. Does this mean in the future these winners will have in their hands the building blocks of cloning Pres Washington and Lincoln? The article points out that the hair is authenticated, but there is always room for a fake. There is also the issue of who owns the image of that person and for how long, which apparently varies from state to state.

There is a creepy element to these promotions. Most winners get rid of their spoils. The man who won Jackie Kennedy's hair sold it for $201. He thought he'd get more. The woman who wound up with Lincoln's hair accepted $24,000 for it. She's planning on donating some of the money to cancer research and maybe buying more cards with the rest. I'd love to know if including these hidden prizes actually accelerates the purchase of cards. I bought tons of cards to get one Tommie Agee. I'm happy to still have my Tommie Agee cards.

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