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By CHRIS CHANCELLOR
Todays youth still belts out Take Me Out to the Ballgame, but they sing it in front of the TV while setting up their dream teams in major league baseball games on Playstation 2 and X-box.
Meanwhile, a trend that inspired kids to sing those same lyrics as they rode their bikes to local card shops for decades slowly is dying in a technology-dominated time, collecting playing cards has lost its luster with kids.
Greg Lawrence, who works at First Base Trading Cards and Comics in Port Orchard, said there are two main areas of interest for playing cards these days: older cards from the 1960s and brand new merchandise of current players.
He said he no longer sees young kids just buying cards to collect them.
They switched from sports cards to game cards like Pokemon, he said. You wont see involvement from kids until theyre 13 or 14 years old now. It used to be 6 or 7 year olds.
Bud Holler, owner of Play Ball in Bremerton, said when he opened his store in 1987, the majority of customers were boys between 8 and 15 years old.
The reason for that is card companies had made their product lean in that direction, he said, adding that card packs in the 1980s usually were about 50 cents.
Holler said when Upper Deck began producing cards in 1989, he knew times were changing. The suggested price for a pack of cards was 99 cents; about double what collectors were used to paying. But, he said, with the price also came an increase in the cards quality.
When Upper Deck came up, we and other store owners knew that (customers interests) would change in a year or two, he said.
Holler said Upper Decks promotions helped it gain quick popularity. The inaugural set featured Ken Griffey Jr. as the No. 1 card in the set and when the former Seattle Mariner gained momentum on the field around the same time, people scrambled to purchase the new cards.
That made a big difference, he said. They were forced to change the quality too.
Holler said continual increases in card price and quality makes his clientele lean toward adults males between 25 and 49 years old are the most common customers. He added that he does not think this demographic will change as costs continue to rise.
The bad side is that we dont get as many kids, he said. I dont blame parents for not wanting to spend three to five dollars for a pack of cards. Thats the difference between now and 17 years ago the money aspect took over.
Holler said he understands collectors concern about the price of cards, regardless of the quality. A standard pack of cards costs about $5 today.
I dont know if it justifies the price, he said. Were taking the backbone of what the hobby was about kids. Weve taken a large section that literally was our customer base and basically said goodbye.
I think its terrible. The people who grew up doing this now are the big spenders. But once they have kids, theyre going to cut back and then where are our collectors going to come from?
Lawrence disagreed, saying he thinks there is a place for everyone in card collecting, even as technology continues to give kids other outlets for their hobbies.
They definitely have a price range where kids can afford the packs, he said.
Devin Stein, a 16-year-old student at Central Kitsap High, said card prices arent the only problem, though.