Premium one-upmanship continues.
First there was Upper Deck SP. The end of baseball season has brought Topps' Baseball's Finest and Fleer Flair, Ltd.
Topps limited Baseball's Finest to 4,000 cases, and Baltimore-area dealers have seen prices as high as $23 a pack for this relatively rare issue.
Fleer says it has made 15 percent less Flair than it made of Ultra. Dealers have found it more plentiful than Baseball's Finest, and can still be found near Fleer's suggested price of $4.49 for a boxed pack of 10.
The set contains 300 cards plus a popular 20-card insert set called "Wave of the Future," featuring top rookies such as Tim Salmon, Jeffrey Hammonds, Mike Piazza, Rondell White and Aaron Sele. Cards are double-thick and have two photos on the front.
"They love it," says Robbie Davis at Robbie's First Base in Timonium. "Because Topps' Finest was so short, the kids couldn't afford it."
Mike Tanner of Baseball Card Outlet in Dundalk says he sold 10 boxes at a recent card show and many of his regular customers also like it. "They really like it or they're not happy with the company for making a third card," he says.
At Doubleplay Sportscards in Severna Park, customers also have been slow to warm to the new cards.
Chuck Hoffman says he's sold more packs than boxes and that collectors seem put off by the thick cards that don't fit conventional sleeves or pockets. "It just takes awhile for something like that to catch on," he says. Hoffman has been selling more Topps' Baseball Finest than Flair.
Once collectors got past the $5 price, Tom Blair at Jay's Sports Connection in Towson says they have been buying them. "They like the player selection because of the Wave of the Future," he says. "I think people like [the box]. . . . They've got their own container right there."
At All Star Cards in Baltimore, new owner Harry Beach sold his first two boxes quickly. "They loved them," he says, "the quality, the case and the classy look."
Beach bought All Star Cards from longtime dealer Don Bevans, taking over Oct. 1. . . . Bob Fickus' Baseball Unlimited in Baltimore has gone out of business.
Fleer is ending the baseball season with a 300-card Final Edition boxed set. It includes cards of roster players of the expansion Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies, veterans who changed teams after Fleer's second series cards were printed and more than 100 rookies, including the Orioles' Hammonds. There is also a 10-card subset saluting retiring stars Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Carlton Fisk and Robin Yount. Card design is that of the first two series.
Basketball tapes and cards
David Robinson fans and basketball history buffs will have something in common if they buy the two-cassette video, "The Story of a Game." Collectors can get three limited-edition SkyBox Robinson cards if they get the two-volume version. The video also will be released in separate volumes, each with a Robinson card. The 140-minute video from Strand Home Video, narrated by Baltimore native Jim McKay, covers the history of basketball -- from James Naismith to the Dream Team. Since the video is sanctioned by FIBA, the international governing body, there is a good deal of European and Olympic footage. There is footage of Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan and Bob Cousy as well as a segment on the 1972 men's Olympic final.
Pinnacle is looking ahead with a 30-card set of players it thinks have the potential to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The premium Cooperstown Card set includes Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount, Rickey Henderson, Kirby Puckett, Frank Thomas, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken.
Today, card show, Harundale Mall (expected signers include Hoyt Wilhelm, Don Buford and Harold Baines), noon to 5 p.m., (410) 766-7246.
Nov. 7, card show, Cromwell Bridge Holiday Inn, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (410) 239-7446.
Nov. 12, All-Star memorabilia auction to benefit Orioles Children's Charities (items include autographed All-Star baseballs, locker nameplates and Orioles jerseys with All-Star patches), Oriole Park at Camden Yards, preview at 6 p.m., auction at 7:30 p.m. Admission charge. (410) 547-6140.
CARD OF THE WEEK
Joe DiMaggio has autographed 9,000 cards for inclusion in Pinnacle's set featuring the Hall of Fame outfielder. Sets available from hobby dealers also include 30 cards made from photos from DiMaggio's collection. The set, which comes in a tin, also will be available without the autographed card.