Over the past decade or so, sports card stores have become part of the hobby and shopping landscape. Collectors have come to expect their hobby destinations to be free-standing shops or in malls or strip centers.
But sometimes they find them in unusual places. In the Baltimore area, that can mean at a gasoline station or inside a variety store.
Doug Sunday's Crown station on York Road in Timonium looks like a standard filling station with minimart. However, inside, baseball cards compete for space with the usual array of drinks and snacks.
Crown put in the store in March 1990, and Sunday originally had a line of health and beauty aids behind the counter where the expensive cards are now. But, with a supermarket nearby, they didn't move.
"A candy man suggested we put out some baseball cards," Sunday says. He tried two boxes. They sold quickly, and customers asked for more.
His customers are motorists who pump gas outside and find the cards inside, youngsters whose parents are pumping gas or shopping at the supermarket and neighborhood kids on their bikes.
Last season, he sold 75 cases of Crown's promotional Orioles cards, which are listed in Beckett for $35 a set. "I was buying 'em from Crown dealers who didn't sell them," he says.
Sunday does card shows when he is able to leave the 24-hour station. That gives him the opportunity to deal in single cards, which he doesn't have room for at the station, although he does buy them from his customers.
Unless they saw the sign in the pickup truck in the parking lot, shoppers at the York Road McCrory's are surprised to see a baseball card shop at the end of the Kleenex and carpets.
Ron White's card store is also in a high-traffic area. He began leasing space from McCrory's Jan. 27 under the company's concession program and pays a portion of his profits in rent. He is open as long as the store is, and since that is daily, he gets help from his son, David.
When his construction business "dried up," he got into cards by doing shows. Now his business is strictly in the store.
"I'm putting out a little bit of everything to see what people want," he says. So far, it's been basketball, Orioles and supplies.
"It was either this or open up a shop," he says. "You've always got a new customer coming along."
Stadium lithograph: Fans who want a home park at home can order a color lithograph of Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It is the 19th aerial photo shot by Michael Gustafson, who also captured the final game at Memorial Stadium from a helicopter. The lithographs are $25 plus shipping and can be ordered at (800) 554-0153.
Mystery no longer: SkyBox, which features cards of the 10 NBA players chosen to the U.S. Olympic team, is getting ready for No. 11. Christian Laettner and Clyde Drexler were selected to the last two spots on the squad, and since Drexler is from the NBA, SkyBox will give him an Olympic card. Collectors can obtain this future card, limited to one per customer, by sending $1 and a proof of purchase from SkyBox 1991-92 Series I or II packs to USA Basketball Mystery Card, P.O. Box 2651, Salisbury, Md. 21802.
Today, baseball card show, Comfort Inn-Airport (I-695, Exit 6A), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 922-8366.
Today, baseball card show, Hunt Valley Mall, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday, baseball card show, Towson Sheraton (I-695, Exit 27A), 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., (410) 922-8366.
Saturday, baseball card show to benefit Johns Hopkins Children's Center, White Marsh Mall, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., (410) 879-4651.
Saturday-Monday, baseball card show, Mall at Columbia, May 23-24 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., May 25 noon to 5 p.m., (410) 329-2188.
Sunday, baseball card show, Towson Quality Inn (I-695, Exit 26 S), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (410) 239-7446.