Mike Cramer of Pacific Trading Cards is a hands-on kind of CEO.
One of the things he has his hands on is a camera -- nearly every Sunday during football season, taking pictures for cards.
This is actually Cramer's second go-round as a card photographer.
"I started making minor-league baseball cards in 1975," he says. "The only way to get the photos was to take them."
He stopped taking pictures in 1984. Last fall, when the Seattle Seahawks (his hometown team) were forced outdoors for home games while the Kingdome was being repaired, Cramer got the urge to grab his camera.
"It was a lot of fun, so I'm there every weekend," says Cramer. Actually, he stays away from the Kingdome. He tries to shoot games in Oakland, San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix and Denver -- places he can fly to in 2 1/2 hours. "You just don't get the quality [photographs] inside the dome."
His game-day equipment is three 35mm camera bodies and an assortment of lenses. Cramer quickly learned that shooting fast-moving football players was not the same as posing baseball players. "It's like the difference between walking and driving a car," he says.
He estimates that his pictures are used on 50 to 60 percent of Pacific's NFL cards, depending on the set. He has input in card design and sometimes submits sketches to the design staff. He also helps select the photos, but "I never insist on a particular picture. . . . The kind of format determines what we choose."
NFL games take up a good chunk of Cramer's weekends, and, as CEO, he can hire people to take pictures. But the bottom line is "I'm doing it because it's fun."
For the end of the 1995 baseball season, Pinnacle is upgrading its Select line for a final series called Certified. The 135 cards are thicker and all-metallic, and there is a gold-foil parallel set. Cal Ripken's 2,131st game and Eddie Murray's 3,000th hit are commemorated on tribute cards. The product is hobby-only, and there are three insert sets.
Donruss, whose trading card production had been limited to baseball and hockey, has been licensed by NFL Properties and NFL Players Inc. to produce an interactive card game. Red Zone, developed by NXT Games, is available in a deluxe starter set (160 cards and scoring wheel), a single pack starter set (80 cards and scoring grid) and 12-card booster packs. Donruss and NXT Games also have produced a baseball game, Top of the Order, available in the same pack configurations as Red Zone.
Ultra early baseball
Fleer's super-premium Ultra baseball Series I is getting an early rollout, Dec. 1. Insert sets get a new look, with cards on wood and "crystal" and cards embossed to feel like leather. There are 300 basic cards and a gold-foil embossed parallel set.
Metal cards and coins
Highland Mint's November offerings include metal cards of Bobby Hull, Jerry Rice, Paul Kariya and Rashaan Salaam and medallions of Frank Thomas, Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy, Chipper Jones and Troy Aikman.
Coming in December are a gold medallion of Dan Marino and a set of baseball coins including Albert Belle, Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Tony Gwynn, Chipper Jones, Hideo Nomo, Kirby Puckett and Ozzie Smith.
Today, card show, Talbot Community Center (Route 50, Easton), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 437-9927.
Friday-next Sunday, card show, Hunt Valley Mall (I-83, Exit 20A), (expected signer is Boog Powell, Saturday 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.), (410) 529-1624.
Next Sunday, Greg Zaun will sign autographs (free with museum admission) from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Babe Ruth Museum, 216 Emory St., (410) 727-1539.
Next Sunday-Jan. 2, card show, Golden Ring Mall (I-695, Exit 34), mall hours.
Dec. 8-10, card show, Essex CC (expected signers include Robin Roberts, Rich Ashburn, Rollie Fingers and George Kell), Dec. 8 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Dec. 9 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Dec. 10 10 am. to 5 p.m., (800) 542-3976.
Dec. 8-10, card show, State Farm Show Complex East Building, Harrisburg, Pa. (I-83, Exit 23), (expected signers include Jim Edmonds, Mo Vaughn and Rich Ashburn), Dec. 8 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., Dec. 9-10 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., (717) 939-1075.
Dec. 9, card show, Earleigh Heights Fire Hall, Severna Park, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 672-5859.
Jan. 12-14, card show, Pikesville Armory (expected signers include Lou Brock and Joe Morgan).
Card of the week
Pinnacle elevates its auto racing cards with a premium set, Zenith Racing. There are 83 basic cards plus four insert sets, including a two-card tribute to Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt (shown on a promo card).