Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Card Show Here Stacking Deck for Casual Collector

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Card Show Here Stacking Deck for Casual Collector

Article excerpt

For a decade, the baseball card business has mimicked the sport itself.

What was once a naive pastime became big business run amok.

The cardboard market turned into a mini stock market, with kids as pint-sized brokers and speculators.

In the rush for quick profits, by young and old collectors, the joy and camaraderie of collecting was often lost in the rustle of dollar bills.

After a giddy boom, greed drove baseball and its card market into a hard tumble. Mercenary overload led to fan apathy and disgust.

Bill Goodwin, a St. Louis County car dealer turned card dealer, remembers and misses the good old days. He's betting that you do too.

Goodwin, 48, is co-promoting the 16th National Sports Collectors Convention July 24-30 at America's Center. This is the showcase of an industry that still calls itself "the hobby."

He and his partner, 30-year-old Jeff Rosenberg of Houston, have radical notions about card shows:

1. Fans should not pay for autographs, especially from snotty stars.

2. Collecting should be a relaxed family activity, not a hard-sell hustle.

3. Anti-baseball fever hasn't killed fan interest in sports or collecting.

4. An admission ticket should buy more than a chance to buy cardboard at row after row of dealer tables.

The National's 750 dealers are not spending a week here to avoid profit.

But Goodwin said, "We were looking at taking the money angle out of it and putting the fun back in. We weren't looking at the serious collector. We were looking at the casual fan. The emphasis is on fun and the family. The emphasis before was on dealer tables and autographs."

Rosenberg said, "We did not want to do just another card show. This is an interactive sports festival."

Like the Olympic Festival competition here last year, this National is hard to grasp in the abstract. They split top billing between family values and family value.

Hard-core collectors can pay extra for a Night of Stars dinner, a Celebration at Union Station charity auction or a sneak preview.

But tickets for the three main weekend dates, July 28-30, are $8.50 per day. "That's the same price it was three years ago," Goodwin said.

Each customer gets a free goodie bag of card packs and rare promotional cards, plus freebies at most of the 150 manufacturers' booths. …

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