It's the law of supply and demand in action -- with a grisly twist.
When NASCAR driver Davey Allison died July 13 from injuries received in a helicopter crash, demand for his memorabilia went up. So did prices. And the supply, except for some memorial items, is unlikely to expand.
It had happened in April, when Winston Cup points champion Alan Kulwicki was killed in a plane crash. The experience wasn't lost on Sharon Knecht of Pit Stop in Catonsville.
"Tuesday [the day of Allison's death], I didn't sell anything," said Knecht. "I pulled everything [of Allison] off the shelves out of respect. . . . Wednesday, there were 30 people waiting for me to open."
She limited customers to one each of all Allison items, something she hadn't done with Kulwicki souvenirs. She said she wanted people to be able to buy something to remember Allison by but not to be able to profit from his death.
Knecht said that Wednesday was the busiest day in the three years she has been open. By the beginning of this week, she had some haulers, die-cast cars, key chains, 1992 Texaco cards and medium T-shirts left.
"It's been good for business," she said, "but I don't like to do business like this."
Knecht said some customers have been regulars, others she has never seen before. "There are some Allison fans [coming in]," she said. "You won't buy everything at once."
Allison items tended to be priced a little higher than those of many other drivers, Knecht said, because he had had a 'f successful year. For example, she said, a 1990 Matchbox hauler that had sold for $12 was $85 in the latest price list before his death.
Although she didn't raise prices on clothing items, Knecht said she raised them on some other items, such as die-cast cars, from $5 to $8. She heard from customers and other dealers that some Ertl cars that had been selling for $25 to $30 had jumped to $70 and that banks that had cost $20 at Texaco stations were commanding $65 or more on the secondary market.
Another item Knecht thought might increase substantially in value is Finish Line's hologram honoring Allison as its 1992 Driver of the Year. Only 5,000 were produced.
Action Packed's second series of NASCAR cards includes a subset featuring the Allison family. The series had been selling well before Allison's death.
Jay's Sports Connection in Towson has been carrying wax packs of auto racing cards for the past year, said Tom Blair, but boxes are not broken down for singles.
Blair said that people had been asking about Allison cards and that some had bought packs in hopes of finding them. He said other collectors had been looking for the Action Packed racing promo card featuring Allison; it had been randomly inserted in packs of Basketball Hall of Fame cards.
Laurie Goldberg of Action Packed said there will be an Allison commemorative card in the third series, to be released in September.
Goldberg, who worked with the Allison family when the subset was being developed, said Allison's fans might be partial to cards in that subset, especially the card showing him with his children.
"Series 2 celebrates him with his family," Goldberg said. "And that's how he'd like to be remembered."
Cards under cover
Putting baseball cards with boys briefs "offers something for everyone," says Mike Sherlock of Fruit of the Loom. He forgets that there are girls who probably wouldn't mind finding cards packaged with their underwear. Fleer produced 65 cards for Fruit of the Loom that come six per three-pack.
Not a full house
For the collector who has everything, there are unused All-Star Game tickets. Robbie Davis of Robbie's First Base in Timonium says he has sold 42 unused game tickets at $50 apiece.
For younger collectors
Upper Deck is introducing Fun Packs, a 225-card set plus 15 insert cards designed for youngsters. There are 145 player cards plus top rookies, photos of six players as boys, comic-style cards, foldout cards, restickable cards that glow and cards giving advice on baseball skills.
Through Oct. 31, exhibit "The Babe, The Birds and Baltimore: An All-Star Tradition" and exhibit on Rex Barney's 50-year sports career, with memorabilia from his Brooklyn Dodgers days, Babe Ruth Museum, (410) 727-1539.
Saturday, signing, Robbie's First Base, 9B West Ridgely Road, Timonium, (expected signers include Al Bumbry and two Red Sox players), (410) 560-3200.
CARD OF THE WEEK
Joe Gibbs may be out of the NFL, but he's still in trading !! cards -- No. 18 in the 180-card Finish Line Winston Cup set. There are also silver-foil versions of each card and 5,000 randomly inserted Davey Allison holograms. Finish Line is the new name of Pro Set's racing line.