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MR. MINT
Dan Geringer
July 04, 1988
Alan Rosen is the King of Cards, the Duke of Dough, in the high-stakes baseball card game
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July 04, 1988

Mr. Mint

Alan Rosen is the King of Cards, the Duke of Dough, in the high-stakes baseball card game

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A GALLERY OF GOOD INVESTMENTS
In today's booming card market, you can put a nice price on sentiment

1952

MANTLE

$8,500

1933

RUTH

$3,500

1934

GEHRIG

$2,500

1975

BRETT

$40

1984

MATTINGLY

$35

1985

MCGWIRE

$15

1984

STRAWBERRY

$10

1915

JOHNSON

$2,500

1952

ROBINSON

$1,100

1954

BANKS

$450

1954

WILLIAMS

$300

1985

GOODEN

$10

1987

CANSECO

$3

1987

JACKSON

$2

1987

CLARK

$1

A guy named Don in Greenwich, Conn., calls Mr. Mint in Montvale, N.J., and says he's got 3,000 to 5,000 baseball cards from 1949 to '52, mostly mint. Mr. Mint purrs, "Hmmm...."

"Mostly mint" is music to Mr. Mint's ears, which is why they call him Mr. Mint instead of Alan Rosen. But his past eight years of dealing mint '52 Mantles at up to $9,000 per Mickey have taught him to channel that first surge of excitement directly from his brain to his feet, which he does now, pacing back and forth at an aerobically beneficial tempo while keeping his voice as calm as that of a dentist preparing a skittish patient for root canal. "That's a lotta cards from the '50s," he tells Don, friendly, not too anxious. "Your mother didn't throw yours away, huh? So you're, like, an obsessive collector, huh? I understand."

Enough small talk. "Here's my story, Don," Mr. Mint says. "I spend $4 million a year buying baseball cards. I am the leading dealer in the world—for mint condition. I pay 100% of the current retail price for pre-1968 sets and 70% for sets after 1968."

Mr. Mint pauses discreetly to let Don ponder the thrill of dealing with the King of Cards, the Duke of Dough, the Sultan of Scratch, the Baron of Big Bucks, the Crowned Head of Lettuce, the Marquis de Wad—Mr. Mint. The Mint Man has emerged as a figure of near mythic proportions in a world suddenly gone mad over soaring baseball card prices. While shares of IBM have more or less sulked on the Big Board since the Oct. 19 stock market crash, august journals like The New York Times have reported the birth of a new blue-collar, blue-jeaned Wall Street, complete with its own Dow Jones-style industrial average, in '52 Topps Mickey Mantles (currently holding at $8,500) and '63 Pete Roses ($550), and its own volatile rookie card futures market in '83 Topps Darryl Strawberrys ($21-$28), '84 Fleer Dwight Goodens ($30-$60) and '87 Donruss Mark McGwires ($5-$8).

An estimated 100,000 serious investors and millions of child arbitrageurs are pouring more than $200 million annually into baseball cards, autographs and assorted collectibles. In an ad in the May Baseball Cards magazine, Dave's Sportscards of Providence, R.I., advises the risk-tolerant investor to take a substantial position in $11.50 minor league 1980 Syracuse Chiefs card sets—"vastly underpriced and a great long term investment." Say what?

Literally dozens of baseball card and autograph shows are now held every weekend throughout the country. Corporal punishment in the form of hand slapping has lately succeeded in eradicating the innocent childhood practice of flipping baseball cards to beat the other guy out of his stash. A damaged corner is fatal to the card's market value. Kills your growth portfolio like that. Any eight-year-old knows this.

Guys in their 40's are suddenly rushing to their attics, digging out their old Jackie Robinsons and wondering how best to cash them in. Enter Mr. Mint, the nation's premier card maven. If this guy were any smoother, he'd be a lube job.

Having given Don sufficient time to reflect, Mr. Mint tells him, "I would come to your place with a guidebook and a briefcase full of cash, Don. No credit. No checks. Cash. Remember, I need your cards more than you need my money. Prices are going wild right now. They're the highest they've ever been. Now is not the time to buy. Now is the time to sell."

He pauses again. Somewhere inside Mr. Mint's head is the fastest pocket calculator in the world. "If your cards are near-mint to mint, Don, you're sitting on more than $25,000. I'll come up there with $35,000 in a briefcase. Hundred-dollar bills. You're laughing. You think I'm kidding you. I'm not kidding you. Give me 24 hours to get the money together. No one gets cheated. Everything is done in a businesslike manner."

At the other end of the phone line Don stops laughing and suddenly talks sentiment with Mr. Mint. He talks baseball cards as his link to childhood, stuff like that. Something changes in Mr. Mint's face. He is no longer dealing. He's giving up on the guy. He's protecting himself against the heartfelt pain of a wimp-out, a deal gone south due to sentiment. "They're your cards," he says paternally, "and I understand you're attached to them." He stops pacing. He sits. He looks weary.

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