Al Rosen: 1980’s Card Icon

al-rosen-headshot-264x300Late last month Al Rosen lost a long-term battle with leukemia. He was 71 years old and although two decades past his peak as a card dealer, much of his influence remains in the sports card and memorabilia business. Since I lived less than a half hour from Al, I would see him quite frequently at local New Jersey/New York events and seeing him in action was a site to behold. Many collectors and dealers both bought and sold from Al over the years. I did a few small deals with him and every one was handled very professionally.

He could be abrasive to people who offended him in some ways and, as arguably the most powerful card dealer of the 1980’s, when Al spoke the card collecting community listened. But I prefer to think of the positive aspects of his personality. If you had a chance to talk to Al, as I did, without the benefit of a large crowd at a show or when he felt he had to perform, you talked to a man who understood his business and his role within the card collecting community.  I knew I was seeing the real Al Rosen when we sat next to each other flying home from the National Convention in 1985, 1986 and 1987. This ended in 1988 when the National was in Atlantic City, a drivable distance.

During his peak, Al would get so many calls and letters that he was constantly on-the-go buying and  selling. I know members of his coterie who would finally get home for a day of rest and be called to go back on the road. Al never seemed to tire of looking at new collections as each deal truly excited him.

How did he know what to pay for collections? It all came down to the simplest terms he once imparted on me nearly 35 years ago. The most important aspect of this business is knowing what to pay for material. That simple sentence is pure genius. Why? Because if you pay correctly for an item, even if the value (real or perceived) goes down, you still have room to make a profit. And if you are a dealer, knowing how much room you have into an “piece” allows you to make a deal which may seem equitable for both buyers and sellers but also allows you to put money into your pocket. Sounds simple, but in actuality, it is the hardest thing for most dealers who are collectors to understand because they get smitten by seeing additions to their collections.

Rich Klein is a catalog maintenance expert for COMC and lives in Plano, TX with his wife and two dogs.






So you want to be a full-time sports card dealer?

The net 54 message board has been my go-to site for story ideas for years. In the past 15 years or so, many leading hobbyists have posted and often they have the best thoughts about this card collecting hobby.

This is an adaptation of one of the threads and discusses what you do when you are working full-time in the card-collecting business. At this point, we should stipulate there are more ways of being full-time in this business than as a card dealer. Those positions include helping to run a show such as the National, being involved in working at a grading company such as BGS or PSA, working for a card company or even working as a PR rep or other card-related position at an auction house.

But for approximately 99 percent of us, when we discuss being full-time in this business, we mean as a full-time card dealer. And frankly, what could seemingly be more fun that playing with, sorting, cataloging and selling sports cards on a day to day basis? Who among us would not want to be our own boss and set our own hours? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but in reality, the existence is nothing like the dream.

Here are some of the aspects one has to consider in today’s world: Make sure you are active on eBay and prepare properly and ship all packages almost immediately. Make sure you are reasonably into technology so that you can scan those cards for posting.  Make sure you get financial advice from a trusted accountant or bookkeeper about keeping track of your finances.  Also remember, unless you live in a few selected areas such as New York, there are not many chances of setting up almost every weekend at a trade show.

To people such as me, one reason I loved starting the shows I run in Dallas-Fort Worth is being “old-school” — there is nothing quite as much fun as interpersonal communication in buying, selling or trading cards. And there is something special about building a rapport with people buying from you who share your interest.  I frankly enjoy discussing things like: What can you discover about 1960’s cards from tracing all the Cleveland Indians, or which Rangers player do you think has the best chance of becoming a Hall of Famer.

meyerAh, but nearly 30 years ago, the world was much different. In New Jersey, where I was at the time, there seemed to be a show or an auction almost every single day. I knew of at least 4-5 auction houses and a few dealers who ran weekday shows,  and there were a plethora of shows on most weekends.  In addition, the standard way of introducing yourself to potential mail-order customers was through publications such as Sports Collectors Digest (SCD) or Baseball Hobby News (BHN).

And. in those days, the definition of a “hit” was certainly different than today. In those days. our hits were usually the key Rookie Cards and if you opened 1985 or 1987 packs you were almost guaranteed of walking into a profit. Remember all those great rookies in those years? Heck, even rookie cards of people such as Mike Dunne or Joey Meyer had their day in the sun. So in those days, there were a lot more people in contact than there are 30 years later.

While I could write a lot more, the basic premise is that being full-time is an interesting proposition but not for everyone, especially those who prefer having a guaranteed income. No income is ever guaranteed when you run your own business so unless you are willing to take a risk, then just staying as a part-timer is the best way to go.

Rich Klein lives in Plano TX with his wife and 2 dogs and can be reached at
















A tribute to Bob Lemke

Sport card catalogers and historians everywhere began 2017 with a great deal of sadness as Bob Lemke, who helped launch Baseball Cards magazine and was the founding editor of the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, passed away on January 3.

I met Bob only in passing and we only talked on the phone once or twice but in many ways, we were exactly the same in our passions. Both of us enjoyed the challenge of finding new items to catalog and both of us enjoyed the research involved in getting the information into collector’s hands. We were also fortunate to have company owners who appreciated the need for increased hobby knowledge and were willing to spend some capital to garner all the data both old and new.

When I left Beckett in 2007, Bob posted the following on the Net 54 boards: “Rich, sorry to hear your association with Beckett has come to an end. I always thought you were a positive force in the hobby and more of a colleague than a competitor. Maybe you and I ought to offer our services as a package deal to somebody in the hobby/industry who wants to compete with the Standard Catalog and Almanac! Good luck, buddy.” Sadly, I was so in shock about leaving Beckett I never took Bob up on that offer but I should have and we would have had a good time.

By the end of our times editing our respective publications, we had codes we used to indicate we knew the other person had a more comprehensive checklist. I would write something like: “We believe there might be more cards in the set so any additions would be greatly appreciated.”  That was my code to indicate that I knew Bob had a better checklist and I was not going to add information until I had proof from a second source. The other aspect of Bob’s work was his creations of cards that never were. I truly appreciate cards which should or could have been made but were not. To me, some cards which could have been printed include (and these will all be Topps cards): 1964 Stan Musial, 1957 Jackie Robinson, 1974 Willie Mays and 1980 Thurman Munson. Bob did excellent work on the fronts and the backs to truly produce cards which would fit in with the original release.

A couple of quick points I wish to make after reading some of the follow up comments on the Net 54 message boards. This is from a poster on the board: “I know he was frustrated after he left SCD that no one there really had the passion to pick up or gather info to update the catalog. I know I tried to give info to SCD a few times with seemingly no interest. When I turned to him he sort of threw his hands up and said time had passed for him to do it. I mentioned he could at least mention things in his blog which he did do a few times.”

There any many of us with the passion to add and update catalogs but as mentioned, unless you get ownership or management to agree, all the passion in the world is not going to get you are new listings on Vassar sweater cards. Today, everything comes down to: does a new listing benefit the bottom line.

So. as a hobby, we can all appreciate the terrific work Bob did while at Krause Publications in truly making the Standard Catalog a hobby staple and we can only hope someday we can make hobby cataloging great again.

Rich Klein is a free lance writer living in Plano TX with his wife and 2 dogs.














A valuable proposition

To me, one of the most nebulous words in the sports collecting hobby is “value”. Is value something akin to those halcyon days in the late 1980’s when just opening a pack seemed to guarantee you a profit? Or is value something that you think you can sell for more than the cost of the pack or box on EBay? Or is value the sheer enjoyment of opening a pack or a box and enjoying the contents?

shoppingDepending on who you are, any of those scenarios or countless others seem to indicate value to the end user. Why am I writing about value? Well, you see, I recently opened some “retail” boxes of both Topps Holiday baseball as well as the holiday version of Topps Archives baseball.  The Topps Holiday box promised one relic, autograph or autograph relic card for a $19.95 cost while the Topps Archives box promised one autograph for a $24.95 cost.

Having opened countless review boxes during my time at both Beckett and Sports Collectors Daily, one great aspect was in almost every case one received whatever was promised in the box. In my seven years of writing reviews, only twice did I not receive what was promised and both times Topps Chrome Football was involved. I don’t know why I was jinxed on that issue.  Both times the issue was rectified but it made for some interesting give and take.

So, we will continue with the premise of receiving what is promised in a box with the caveat we know it is possible to miss the promised goal. I don’t know about you but in today’s hobby world one is rarely guaranteed four hits in their $80 box. Now, products such as Topps Heritage which is $74.25 at my local card store promises exactly one hit per box. Now, I grant you there are other goodies in each hobby box such as tough series, variations and inserts but still one hit is far less than four.

shopping-1And I can not think of any product from a major manufacturer which guarantees four autographs for an $100 bill.  Yes, I get that you might get better players from a hobby box but that is not a guarantee. I remember with the review of one Allen and Ginter box, some poster on Facebook lamented how Rich never got anything good. Well, that specific box had two Alex Avila relic cards and some other similar player for a real world value of $5 or so. But I did receive what was promised so the chance for money value was there and Allen and Ginter always has some great quirks and interesting cards so I did not feel so bad about what I received.

But for value, what would rather receive. the enjoyment of opening a box and seeing what interesting cards and players are inside or hoping you get the latest Mike Trout autograph card serial numbered to 25 or less. I don’t know about you, but as long as I receive what is promised, I’m happy with the value of the cards out of the packs.  However, the beauty of the hobby is there is room for me and room for those people who only care about money and even those collectors who only want base cards because they are happy building inexpensive sets. We’d love to hear what your preference is.

Rich Klein is a free lance writer based in Plano Texas and can be reached at

















Card Shows as a Promoter

white-plainsJust to give a quick background on me, I worked at Beckett Media (nee Beckett Publications) for nearly two decades and also wrote a very popular column for Sports Collectors Daily called Rich Klein’s Ramblings. for about five years.. While I was at Beckett, I edited the first 12 editions of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Cards and Collectibles which, by the time I left Beckett, had a data base of over 25,000 sets to keep track of. I had to know about cards from 1869 to the present day and knowing baseball history was always a big help in cataloguing and pricing those sets in the data base
Due to personal family reasons — my continuing to run card shows in the DFW area and some issues with my wife’s health — I have taken an hiatus from writing. In addition, frankly I was pretty burned out feeling the need to keep adding content every few days. The good news is going forward I may contribute some content as I feel like it for this fine blog but not feel I have to create an article on a daily or weekly basis.
What you are about to see is an adaption of notes from comments I made on the Blowout Card message board in relation to someone wishing to run their own show. These notes are what I felt interesting in commenting on when people set up their shows. This is based not only on my nearly three years of running shows but nearly 40 years of attending shows.

Promote, Promote, Promote — anything less than your full effort leads to disappointment. If there are any stores near you see if you can co-opt them for help. One great step is to see if they will let you put out flyers. Many card stores today know their customers are tuned into the hobby and realize EBay is a bigger competitor than any shows. We received free cards to give away to kids at the last 3 shows of the year that way. All it cost them was dead inventory and a few business cards. And who can complain if potential customers are coming in the door.

MONEY: Stay within your budget. Don’t shoot for the moon — take the single and be happy before going for the gusto. We all want the show where hundreds of people walk through the door but I will tell you we average between 76-100 people each month at the Comfort Inn show I run. Our low is 45 and our high is 154 paid.

wssca4Admission charges:  I charge $1 as much for head count purposes as to make any money on the customers. Since I keep track of attendees, believe it or not our lowest head count with the one exception of the 45 people (because there was a big competing show that weekend) has been our December shows where we have FREE admission. Yep, less people
Door Prizes — DO SOMETHING. One of the major frustrations I have as an attendee is there is a local promoter who runs “bigger” shows twice a year with a $5 admission charge. If you are gong to charge that much money, give away something, even if it is 1988 Topps or Donruss packs.
Signs: Make sure you are legally able to put out promotional signs. If you are, then it helps for you or someone you delegate to put out those signs where people can see them. One local DFW promoter has a big sign he puts on his truck on a heavily traveled street and that does at times bring in new customers.
Food at the shows: That depends on your location — at the Comfort Inn we are not allowed to have anyone sell food and the hotel does not offer. However, I can bring in Bagels for breakfast or Pizza for Lunch for the dealers and that is perfectly fine. Check with your venue on this one.
At Adat  Chaverim — because of religious dietary laws, we do provide food but we also let vendors bring in food as long as there is no pork or shellfish products.
Tables with cloths: Cloths can be cheap — don’t be afraid to go to Party City if your venue does not have cloths.
Showcase rentals — Only at a huge show. There is no reason for the promoter to be in charge of this unless they wish. If there is a vendor who has extra showcases, then that is who should run this part of the show for you. And yes, that is their business, not the promoter’s business.
Customer and Dealer comfort:. Well yes, this is a bigger issue. I think a better way to say this is to ensure there is enough space for customers to walk around. This is a very delicate balance as you do not want so much room that the room appears empty You also do not want so little room that dealers have to crawl under their tables to walk around or for customers to literally have to “bump” each other to walk around. A great way to ensure your venue works is to have them do a mock set up for you. That way you are not surprised come show day. I always ask for a mock set up so I can see how the room works. We have now three options at the Comfort Inn and they are now familiar with our various options as they took photos of each option so the room can be set up accurately each month.
Tax id # verifications. Make sure YOU as the promoter have one. It’s up to your dealers to have this for themselves but if tax people show up — the dealers must comply or leave the show. Since that is all part of being a dealer, in case that occurs, it’s up to you as to refunding the money for their tables. That is, if they refuse to sign up for the tax ID.


Clean up after the show (people will leave trash on the floor) — Yes and make sure you have garbage pails in the room. See if you have to do that or if your place has help on this front. Most places have some staff to handle this but yes it is worth checking out. If a hotel, then they will have staff to handle this. I have actually been to shows with no garbage pails in the room. If there is no wax dealer this is not usually that bad but then you have to guarantee you have a garbage bag to clean up if people eat lunch in the room.

Light outlets, charge stations — Depends on the room. You have no control over certain parts of the room. It’s nice to have this but you have no control over what the venue already has extant.

Fliers to promote your next show. YES something tangible is always good. Heck, if you are wiling to spend the money each month one of the very best promotional tools is to send out a postcard each month to everyone’s home address.

Hand stamp for reentry, and Name Tags for dealers: At my Comfort Inn show I don’t usually need these but at the Adat Chaverim show because of the set-up I make sure all the dealers have name tags.

Staff to take admission; Believe it or not, I can handle this. I do lose a few cards this way but nothing tragic.  And if you have a pretty young lady to take admission, that is an extra win for all concerned. There is a promoter in St. Louis who actually used a Playboy Playmate from the 1990’s to be the admission taker and to sign autographs herself. At the Adat Chaverim show, because of everything we do — there is a dedicated person at the front to take admission and sell our goodie bags.

Have a Beckett, supply and wax dealer: even if you have to do it yourself.  In my case, there is a store within 3 minutes of the show and his prices on supplies are very fair. It’s easier for me to send people to his store for supplies and wax. And if they live slightly west, we send them to Nick’s which is about 15 minutes southwest of the show.. I can usually tell how good or average the show was, but seeing how many magazines I sold. it’s remarkably consistent. And if a local player is on the cover of the magazines, order more and sell those back issues. At my last show I sold more Beckett FB magazines with Dak Prescott on the cover than I did of the current magazine. And yes, the prices of the 2 magazines were the same. Plus, they have a full return policy which you can follow so there is little risk on this

cardsPromote on all the websites you can: blowout, net54, psa boards, Beckett’s calendar, Facebook groups (social media), and local papers/message boards. Start your own Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, youtube, yelp, live blog, etc. Especially when you begin, the promotion is super important. I have a good friend who tried to run a show about 18 months ago. When we discussed the show, I informed him that to begin a show he had to spend most of the next two months focusing on promoting, promoting, promoting. Despite having Beckett raw card review available and a very nice autograph guest, he has run exactly one show and shows no inclination of going for a second show.

Be nice to everyone – this can be difficult! For the life of me I can not understand the attitudes of people at shows. Make sure to greet as many customers as possible. Its better for them to have a positive experience with the show’s promoter to offset any other issues they may have. That is one reason I like to greet the people at the door and even check when possible on the way out to see if they purchased anything. Now there are a few customers who occasionally come looking for things they likely won’t find (a Mark Teixeira master collector, a 19th century collector) but it never hurts to see what they want.

The other thing is NOT to be a pushover, if you are charging admission — honor that. There are reasonable exceptions. Kids and significant others I usually let in for free. Kids because it’s fun and the significant others are not usually there to purchase cards. But you never know when they come back to buy gifts. I sold a card a few months ago at a local show to a spouse who saw her husband going through my cards and she mentally noted which ones he wanted. But as a promoter do not be a pushover at the door. If you think someone is trying to take advantage of your admission, then feel free to charge them. I had a situation where in our previous location, someone waltzed in, and when I checked for admission he said I can buy everything cheaper on line and left. His wife was very willing to pay the $1 admission for each of them. Really sad in that case.

Get as many dealers as you can but remember everyone. Give priority to dealers that customers like, sell hard to find cards, are nice people, or those that bring in customers. Believe it or not, one thing I do with my dealers — and it’s a reasonably small room is first come, first severed (FOR THE MOST PART). I have a few dealers I like to have as anchors but move others around so the room looks different each time. If you end up with a core of dealers, most of that will take care of itself.We’ll also eventually revisit some ideas for customers and dealers at shows as well.

Rich Klein has been an active hobbyist since his first show as a dealer in 1979