To assess the size and condition of the sports card market, Action Packed again commissioned a national survey. NPD Group of Park Ridge, Ill., polled its 45,000 sample households, and concluded that there were fewer people spending less money on trading cards.
Joe Bosley of The Old Ball Game in Reisterstown says, for the price of a phone call, he could have told Action Packed the same thing. "Most card dealers will tell you their business is off from a year ago," he says.
This is Action Packed's third survey. The initial look was in June 1991. The second, in December 1991, showed a sharp increase in six months in the number of collectors and the money they spent. The year-after survey shows a contracting market with defections by heavy spenders.
According to the survey, the number of collectors dropped by about 7 percent in the past year to 16.7 million. Spending declined by about 9 percent to $1.8 billion from 1991. Baseball cards remain the collectors' favorite, but the number of collectors declined. Only basketball showed an increase in popularity.
Three of the Baltimore-Washington area's oldest dealers -- who have long-standing contacts nationwide in sports collectibles -- see the same trend. Bosley, Jay Finglass of Jay's Sports Connection in Towson and Bill Huggins of House of Cards in Wheaton say the big spenders who drove the boom have disappeared. Bosley and Finglass find business slower, but Huggins says business has bottomed out and is on the rise again.
"There's been a significant reduction in the number of people buying cards and memorabilia," says Bosley. "And I'm not saying that's bad.
"Back in the late '80s, we had people buying . . . in bulk . . . because they thought it was a good investment. Of course, what happened is the manufacturers produced many times more product than could be absorbed into the marketplace. . . . [The cards] decreased significantly in value. . . ."
All three men say collectors are becoming more selective, concentrating on a player, a brand or a sport instead of trying to get everything.
A card for charity
Collectors who contribute $20 to the Frank Thomas Charitable Foundation (P.O. Box 125, Morgantown, Pa. 19543) will receive one of 50,000 numbered limited-edition Frank Thomas cards. Proceeds benefit the Leukemia Society of America. Thomas had a sister who died of leukemia.
The spring issue of Topps Magazine looks at collecting expansion-team memorabilia, a collector specializing in Joe DiMaggio and features on Dave Winfield, Joe Morgan and
rookies Wil Cordero, Tim Salmon, Bret Boone and Al Martin.
CARD OF THE WEEK
Donruss' Triple Play is back and still priced for the collector on a budget. The 264-card set includes nine special cards, one of which shows President Clinton throwing out the first ball at a game. Cards include trivia questions and player quotes.