By Rich Klein
I’ve had pretty steady email conversations with long-time dealer/store owner/show promoter Bill Hedin recently. Bill, a popular New England collecting figure, has battled some health and personal issues in recent years. He is encouraged by the improvement in his health and the upcoming anniversary of his wife’s surprise and sudden passing and while her memory will always be strong; he realizes that he is still here and can’t always live in the past although he enjoys our forays back into the olden hobby days when shows and stores were major methods of buying and selling cards.
Bill told me some nice tales about his early hobby days being a major distributor for Mark Lewis and Warren Karp’s Card Prices Update magazine. From 1979 through 1984 CPU as it was then called, was the dominant monthly publication for dealers to use in buying and selling cards. A competitor publication, Card Values Review did a far better job of listing prices and gathering information but never gained the same traction in the hobby as CPU.
Bill told me he could sell upwards of 500 issues a month of CPU and in those cheaper days for hobby stores, 500 copies in a month could almost pay for your rent and utilities in a storefront. After Dr. Beckett won his lawsuit with CPU in 1984, the east coast became served by Current Card Prices better known as CCP. One of the few things I wish I had been able to keep was the “final” issue that the editor sent out in which he asserted his children were governmental pets amongst other issues. We thought that was the funniest (and most delusional issue) ever issued in the hobby.
To me, that ranks right up there with this story.
One Sunday Morning circa 1986 or 87, long-time dealer Tom Reid calls me up and says he needs help unloading a truck and asked when I could be there. Well, as we have discussed over the years when Tom said jump I usually responded “how high?” Well, I get to Tom’s door and help him unload the truck and as we are going through the items later he tells me this is Dave Zimmerman’s Tom Seaver collection/inventory.
The one item I wish I had been able to keep or should have asked about was a folder in which Seaver in his distinctive and perfect handwriting wrote “Please don’t send me any more material to sign” but he did sign as well every item inside the folders. That and I had some Post Cereal cards with the Buck Barker notation on the back. Those cards came from the best deal I ever got from Tom. Through a variety of sources, Tom had ended up with a large part of Buck’s modern card collection and I ended up with much of the non -superstar cards. That deal cost me $1200 but with everything involved actually catapulted me from being a nice regional dealer to a dealer with national quality merchandise in terms of breadth and depth.
The other great deal I got from Tom was a deal in which I bought a large quantity of 1959 through 1961 commons, minor stars and slightly harder numbers at the price of eight cents each. Most of those cards I sold for a quarter each or more and to me anything I could triple my money on was always a good deal.
During our chat, Bill also asked me about Gary Sawatzski and I thought I had remembered seeing his obit and a check online confirmed that Gary passed on back in 2009. Gary and this card partner Jim Justus were able to purchase all the 1984 Topps Nestle uncut sheets and for years used the sets and singles they created to trade for merchandise they needed for their inventory. They were incredibly easy to deal with and are amongst the many dealers of the past I will be missing at the 2013 National.
One comment Dr. Beckett always shares with me and I do agree is that each year when he goes to the National there almost always a couple of people who were at last year’s show but aren’t around due to passing, illness or just hobby retirement. Shoot, even Pat Quinn now uses a scooter to get around the National floor.
We all have our tipping points when it comes to people we miss at a National and I remember circa 1998 asking John Rumirez if he was going to miss Don Steinbach as a running partner during the show and he said yes that was a big loss for him just as Steve Gold is still a big loss for me especially in Chicago. For about 30 years I always (or almost always) had dinner with a Gold family member when possible during a show trip and without Steve I have one person I will be missing. And while I won’t be hanging out with him outside the show floor to me something major will be missing when I do not see Mike Hersh this year. His passing at such a young age is something that has shaken almost all of us who knew and appreciated him for all his talents. For once, when I see Jerry and Etta, I will not know what to say and will hope I say the right things since parents should never have to bury their children.
Seeing people like Mike and Steve no longer with us always make me appreciate who is still here and like the time we spend together. With my new work position, I’ve not been able to do the “hobby lunches” I had been doing with Leon Luckey of Net 54 but will love the yearly dinner members of that forum enjoy at the National. To me, that dinner is the closest thing the National has to a hospitality room and is reminiscent of times gone by in the hobby. If you know of any other groups doing evenings like that, or even close, please let me know and we’ll try to attend and enjoy.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]