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Card collectors striking out too

The baseball strike has had a profound effect not only on the people directly involved in the game, but those who rely on player performances to make a living in the baseball card hobby.

The 1994 season was taking shape as one that promised to rank among the best in recent memory as far as individual achievements are concerned. Combine that with playoff exposure in October and it's easy to see why this year might have left marked impressions in the hobby.

With the likes of Frank Thomas, Matt Williams, Ken Griffey and Greg Maddux reaching for statistical greatness, collectors were quick to respond by buying key cards of such players. The pace was such that already expensive cards escalated in value even more rapidly. For example, Thomas' 1990 Leaf rookie card was $60 in April and reached $80 by August. That's an incredible pace for a card that was only four years old. But that is the type of quick turnover and quick profit dealers nationwide were banking on.

Now, card store owners have been faced with a huge lull in business. If Thomas is not hitting home runs and Kenny Lofton is not doing his thing to help Cleveland, it's hard to justify buying cards when there is little to no chance of them moving on the market.

"That's the key point behind all of this," said Southern California shop owner Frank Hurtado.

Fortunately, the strike occurred at a time when football was heating up. But that still does not make up for the huge gap in business.

"Football (sales) has been decent and people are starting to ask for hockey," Hurtado said. "But baseball is No. 1 and the strike has hurt the hobby. Many dealers are panic-selling their product just to get some cash back."

If the strike goes beyond 1994 and into spring training, it would be hard for collectors to get motivated about new 1995 issues. It would be especially hard to showcase many key rookies when there were not any September callups the previous season of players who showed promise. All this may lead to frustration among collectors.

"The kids that used to buy a lot of baseball cards have not been coming around lately," said Pennsylvania dealer Mike Azzarano.

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