Welcome to the heady, high stakes world of bubble gum trading cards -- Capitol style.
Instead of sports figures, these "American Leader Cards" feature the proud, smiling faces of members of Congress, complete with such facts and figures as committees, last election results, previous offices and biographical information.
Jim Warlick, owner of several political memorabilia shops in Washington, came up with the cards as a way to interest young people in politics. "Most kids can recite vital statistics about their favorite baseball players but can't even name their congressman," he says.
So far, only eight members of Congress -- those willing to pay $750 for 2,500 cards of their own for use at public appearances -- are celebrated on the colorful trading cards. (There were no takers among the Maryland delegation.)
Collectors can buy any of the eight cards individually -- $1 a piece (and no bubble gum) -- at Mr. Warlick's Political Americana shops at Union Station and in downtown Washington. Mr. Warlick says he's been receiving scores of phone calls from political collectors and is hoping to find a company to print the entire set of 535.
The big seller so far is the Joe Kennedy card. (The Massachusetts Congressman autographs cards for his contributors.) "Everyone wants to buy his card," says Mr. Warlick. "There's a chance he may run for governor. And anything with Kennedy on it is valuable. Can you imagine what a freshman card of John F. Kennedy would be worth today?"
Mr. Warlick, who plans to issue a new set each session of Congress, believes those members in leadership positions will be the most valuable -- perhaps second only to members who are indicted.