MOORHEAD – Tony Elinger sat on a stool flipping through a catalog recently at Cardboard Kings, a new sports trading card shop in Moorhead. Two years ago, thieves broke into Elinger's apartment and stole a safe with close to $10,000 worth of cards inside. He has been rebuilding his collection ever since. Toward the top of his wishlist is a Michael Jordan rookie baseball card he hopes to acquire from Jeremy Hulderman, the store's owner.
Hulderman has accumulated several million trading cards since he began collecting in 1982.
When his wife recently encouraged him to thin out his collection, he decided to open a small hobby shop in Moorhead.
While he acknowledges that many people buy and sell online today, he chose to open a brick-and-mortar store in hopes of engaging young kids in the hobby.
"When I was a kid, that was kind of the cool thing to do-collect baseball cards. I don't know hardly any kids that collect baseball cards now. The majority of people who come in my store are probably 50-plus," he said.
Hulderman believes the hobby helps kids develop a certain drive and focus.
"I believe it's really something that is good for kids. If you were to poll most card collectors-Tony would be one-most of us are prior military. We're teachers, lawyers, executives. People who are really into this, this is kind of their life's passion," he said.
Trading card value
Collecting baseball cards is a family tradition for Hulderman.
"When I was a kid, I got my dad's baseball cards and some of his dad's baseball cards. I had cards dating back to the late 1800s. Those are valuable because there weren't so many collected back then," he said. "We (kids his age) were collecting baseball cards thinking ours would be worth the same one day as well, but the 1980s and early '90s cards are completely worthless."
Hulderman explained that a card's value is based on a number of factors. In addition to the condition of the card and the popularity of the player, cards are also valued based on the number produced.
Prior to the 1980s, there were only a few sports trading card manufacturers doing business. By the hobby's peak in 1989, the market was flooded with manufacturers and trading cards. Stores like Wal-Mart were devoting entire aisles in the toy section to trading cards.
Only a few of the top manufacturers remain in business today. Big-box stores still sell trading cards, but customers have to search the checkout aisles to find them. Most visit hobby shops like Cardboard Kings or buy online.
Hulderman said it's more common today for kids to collect Pokeman or Yu-Gi-Oh! cards.
"If you ask me personally how I feel about that, I'm torn because a Ken Griffey Jr. baseball card's value is directly tied to his performance and who he is as a person," he said. "For those, it's some executive deciding the value."
Carson Wentz cards
There is one sports trading card that has been garnering local interest recently from young and old people alike. Hulderman said many customers have inquired about Carson Wentz rookie cards. The former NDSU quarterback is expected to be an early NFL draft pick this year.
Hulderman has many, including six "1 of 1" cards, which means only one card was issued.
"I have the largest collection of Carson Wentz cards in the nation," Hulderman said. "He has really driven business."
What: Cardboard Kings
Where: 200 S. 5th St. #301, Moorhead
Contact: (701) 412-4278 or email KingsofCardboard@gmail.com
Hours: noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday