Sports card collecting still popular

Not seen for many years, a new store in Oakhurst has brought back baseball cards - and much more.

Villains Collectibles, owned by Yosemite High graduates Sean McCullough, 32, and Charles Carl, 34, carries baseball cards, board games, collectible vinyl figures (Disney, Star Wars, Marvel, Funko POP!), and provides free appraisals for sports and entertainment memorabilia.

Both McCullough and Carl have been fans of all sports since they were youngsters, and the two high school buddies kept in touch after graduation. Recently the pair decided to combine their passions for sports, sports cards, and other collectables, and open the store on Enterprise Drive.

“We were sick of traveling to Fresno to purchase items,” Carl said. “We knew a card shop once operated in Oakhurst some time ago, but cards are completely different now, and we’re hoping to bring the Mountain Area up to date with collectable sports cards and other memorabilia. This is our passion, not just a hobby.”

“We’re here to provide the best quality product for a reasonable price, and personal customer service,” McCullough, an Army veteran, said. “We also strive to to keep bringing products to Oakhurst that you would normally drive to Fresno to get.”

Baseball cards have been made and collected since the late 1870s - long before Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, or Joe Dimaggio were even born - with companies using the popularity of baseball players to sell their products. Nearly all baseball cards originally contained some form of advertising, and many cards were given away for free to promote a business or product. In the early 20th Century some cards were sold in packs of cigarettes or candy. Early cards have promoted the sale of nearly everything from cheese to dog food to beer.

Most middle-agers remember buying Topps baseball cards as youngsters - packaged with bubble gum in the 1950s to 70s. Villains carries the traditional Topps and Upper Deck cards, but also a whole new level of cards for the serious collectors.

“Traditional sports cards were just pieces of cardboard with a photograph and some stats on the back,” said McCullough. “In the 90s they were mass produced in the millions making most of them almost worthless in today’s market. But jump to 2015, and many cards now have autographs of your favorite athletes, and companies like Topps and Upper Deck purchase game-worn jerseys from athletes, cut them into small pieces, and insert them into cards. Some baseball cards come with a silver of the player’s actual wooden bat.”

Villains carries a range of sports cards from a $2 Topps pack of 10 cards, to high-end cards for serious collectors like an autographed Peyton Manning for $300, or an autographed Kobe Bryant card for $250.

And for the highest of the ‘high-end’ collector, Villains carries “National Treasures,” a set of eight Panini baseball cards for $500 - What makes the set special is that four of the cards are autographed, and four are ‘short print’ cards. And unlike a stick of stale bubble gum, randomly packaged in these sets are cards valued at $10,000.

They also have a collection of miniature baseball “Golden Gloves” produced by Historic Autographs. For $117 the buyer is guaranteed to get a glove with the authentic autograph of a major league player who has won the Golden Glove award - players such as Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Brooks Robinson, Pete Rose, or Ozzie Smith.

Entertainment themed board games at the store include the popular “Dr. Who” and “Walking Dead” monopoly games.

The store offers Ebay services for a percentage of the sale for monitoring the listing and handling shipping, for those who wish to sell old cards, action figures, or other sports and entertainment memorabilia. The store also takes items on consignment, and also purchases items.

“Of course, a lot of memorabilia is not worth a whole lot, but we are happy look at what someone has and tell them about what’s it worth,” Carl said. “There is no charge for a quick appraisal, and customers can call us to set up an appointment to evaluate their items.”

Carl said if someone has an autographed item without a ‘certificate of authenticity,’ they use a well-known and reputable company, Professional Sports Authenticator in Newport Beach, to verify autographs and to grade cards.

Carl said prices for older sports collectables are recovering and rising to the highest prices since the early 90s.

“Extremely rare autographs and unique relics from players like Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan have been known to pull thousands of dollars at auction, and we now offer collectors a chance to have a shot at some of these high end and unique items,” Carl said.

Brenin Anderson, a Yosemite High School student, visits the store often to see the latest in magic cards.

“This place is great ... I don’t have to go to Fresno anymore to get cards,” Anderson said. “The store has an outstanding selection with amazing prices compared to shops in Fresno, and Sean and Carl are very knowledgeable.”

The store hosts special events including 6 p.m. Thursday night sports card box breaks, and Friday evening “Magic, the Gathering,” where gaming enthusiasts come together to compete against each other.

McCullough and Carl will have a booth at this weekend’s Coarsegold Peddler’s Fair.

Details: Villains Collectibles, 40156 Enterprise Drive, Suite C (behind All American Glass). Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, noon - 8 p.m., (559) 641-5443, 10% off for students with student body card.