Chicago Tribune

Baseball-card collecting goes digital to reconnect with kids

CHICAGO - Elite Sports Cards and Comics has been in the same simple storefront in Chicago's Ravenswood neighborhood for 23 years. Owner John Merkel has seen baseball stars come and go: Sammy Sosa and Mark Grace, Mark Buehrle and Paul Konerko. And he's watched as his competitors have closed, one by one.

In 1995, when his store opened, Merkel thinks there about 10 card stores in Chicago, maybe more. Today, Merkel estimates there are just two shops dedicated to baseball card collecting left in Chicago. A number still exist in the suburbs; many sales - perhaps most - are done online.

Another thing's missing these days too: "You don't have kids any longer. Kids just don't collect," Merkel said. "Could be lack of interest. Could be for other activities. Could be price point."

Baseball card collecting, once a popular hobby for people of a certain vintage, has changed. It's no longer the domain of shoebox-toting adolescents looking to trade cards with friends. It's become a

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