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Sharapova Cards are Now in High Demand

by Paul Angilly
July 13, 2004

Maria Sharapovaís unexpected victory at the 2004 Wimbledon Championships created an instant celebrity -- and instant demand for all cards and collectibles bearing the blonde Russian modelís image.

One auction for a Sharapova poster sold at Wimbledon, bearing the official tournament logo and showing her blowing a kiss to the crowd, sold for $204.50. Other auctions for copies of the same poster finished at $108 and $65.

Much of the demand for that particular item can be attributed to the fact that itís one of the few officially-licensed collectibles of her available. But that didnít stop literally hundreds of unlicensed cards from being offered for sale, in some cases fetching tidy sums of money.

The most common cards of Sharapova offered for sale are from either All Sports Magazine or Sports Card Investor (SCI) Magazine.

Both magazines have very short publishing histories: All Sports "a Canadian Venture Collectable Magazine," according to its website, apparently has only made two issues; Sports Card Investor has released four issues. A similar magazine, Rookie Review, has five different issues available.

Usually in order to sell images of professional athletes in any form (posters, trading cards, coffee mugs, etc.), manufacturers must obtain a license -- usually involving a hefty fee -- from the individual players (for sports such as tennis or golf) or the team or leagues they play for (for team sports). However, an exception is made for newspapers or magazines that provide legitimate editorial content.

Thatís the loophole that magazines such as All Sports, SCI and Rookie Review seem to be taking advantage of. Each of those magazines includes editorial content, but each also appears more geared toward creating trading cards (in perforated sheets included inside the magazine) of the hottest young athletes.

By comparison, Sports Illustrated for Kids has been including trading card sheets as part of the magazine since 1989, but that magazine rarely, if ever, promotes itself based upon the trading cards found inside. All Sports, SCI and Rookie Review all promote whoís featured on the trading card sheets much more than any editorial content they contain.

Also, Beckett Grading Services (BGS) and Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) -- two of the most respected grading services in the hobby -- will refuse to grade most magazine cards, but each will grade Sports Illustrated for Kids cards.

That said, such magazines do fill a void by creating cards of athletes like Sharapova, Lance Armstrong and various college and womenís sports stars that might not otherwise have such cards available.

Itís important to remember, however, that despite what any sellers on eBay might claim, such cards have never retained any real value in the past. If you like them, buy them -- but donít pay too much or youíre sure to regret it.

A quick look at whatís available for Sharapova: All Sports Magazine regular (limited to 1,750 copies), gold (200 copies), and platinum (50 copies) versions; and Sports Card Investor regular (gold), platinum (2,000 copies) and ruby (100 copies) versions. Also available are All Sports promos limited to 75 copies and gold promos limited to five copies (two of which sold for more than $126 last week); plus SCI ruby promos limited to 500 copies.

Collectors should also beware of any other cards they see offered on eBay not produced by a licensed card manufacturer. In many cases, these are homemade cards created on and printed out from a home computer -- and no matter how nice they might look, they are totally worthless. Still, winning bids on some such cards has passed the $25 mark.

Unfortunately, NetPro -- the only licensed maker of tennis cards in the USA -- has not included Sharapova in any of its card sets to date.

However, Wimbledon menís champion Roger Federer has been featured on cards made by the company, with his authentic match-worn apparel bonus card from the special-edition 2003 NetPro Elite Star Series set, limited to just 25 copies made, fetched more than $140 in an auction that ended on July 4. Yet his regular cards have seen little demand, with a 100-card lot of his 2003 NetPro rookie issue selling for just $26.

Collectors may also want to keep an eye out for cards from the ongoing Stadion series issued in the Czech Republic. The set now totals more than 600 different cards of athletes from many different sports, including more than 30 different tennis players. The most recent series included cards of both Federer and Sharapova.

Keep an eye out for other foreign issues, too. Tennis players are popular subjects for card sets made in England and other European countries, and with the worldwide popularity of eBay such cards are no longer impossible to find.

Donít be surprised to see Sharapova and/or Federer on a Sports Illustrated for Kids card sometime soon, either -- the magazine often features athletes that have recently won championships.

Okafor Inks Deal with Topps: The Topps Company announced recently that it has signed an exclusive endorsement deal with UConn alum Emeka Okafor, the second overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft.

The deal grants Topps exclusive rights within the NBA trading card category for autographed cards, game-worn memorabilia cards, special cards and subsets, and the use of Okaforís image on packaging and advertising.

Okaforís exclusive autographed and game-worn memorabilia cards will appear in upcoming Topps basketball products, including Topps (releases Aug. 16), Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects (fall release), Bowman Signature (fall release) and others.

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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