tampabay.com

Sports card fans rejoice: A better box is born

By ERNEST HOOPER
Published June 22, 2007


Bill Kull's immersion into the $1.51-billion trading card industry began as a teenager in the 1980s, when he saved money to collect the cards of favorite players like Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr.

Now the passion that drove the former Florida Southern College baseball player to chase down cards at shows and do late-night Internet may become a profitable business venture.

Kull, 40, of Valrico has created a new storage box for trading cards that does a better job of protecting the corners - a must to maintain value. He launched Mint Corners in April, and the boxes, which prevent the corners from touching the edges of the box, already have been featured in one of the trading-card industry's top magazines.

Over breakfast at the Brunchery, Bill and his wife, Kim, told how they hatched the idea to create a better sports-card box.

Pull up a chair and join us.

 

ERNEST: What's driving people to collect cards?

BILL: It's still the thrill of collecting your favorite player, your favorite team. A lot of the companies' packs now offer a chance at an autograph or a piece of jersey.

I read a lot about the million-dollar Honus Wagner cards. Is it possible to buy a card today that will be worth that much years from now?

BILL: Probably not that valuable, but the average price of cards has gone up tremendously. You might be able to get a $10, 000 card. An Albert Pujols rookie card could be in the $10, 000 range if you hold on to it for several years and it's in perfect condition.

What are the top cards in your collection?

BILL: I have a Hank Aaron rookie card. It's my pride and joy. There are some cards that Kim and I picked out together that I won't sell for anything because they have sentimental value. She bought me a Dave Winfield rookie card and an Al Kaline that's a really beautiful card. I wouldn't give those up. I have a Roger Staubach rookie card that's in perfect condition. In the back yard, I was Roger Staubach.

Will the Aaron card decrease in value if Barry Bonds breaks the home run record?

BILL: I don't think so. Actually, I think it's increasing in value because people are realizing how great Hank Aaron really was because of his approach and all the positive and negative publicity Bonds is getting. I think people realize Hank Aaron did it the right way. So he's actually being more admired now than he was back then.

How did you come up with the idea for Mint Corners?

BILL: I went to sell sets of cards on eBay. I sold a 1985 Donruss, which has Roger Clemens and Kirby Puckett rookie cards. Those were two of the most valuable, so I put them in individual card holders, packaged the whole set in an old-style box and sent it off to my customer. He told me later that he was disappointed by the cards' condition. He said the corners were dinged and banged up. The two nice ones came through okay. So I told him to send the cards back for a refund. Since the two individual cards came back okay, I thought there has to be a way to protect a bunch of cards not only for shipping, but for storage.

So how have the new boxes been received?

BILL: The response has been tremendous. Nobody has come up with a way to make it better. There have been many improvements to individual card holders, but for the serious collector who has hundreds of thousands of cards, it's been the same box for decades.

Kim, I guess it helps that you're understanding about Bill's hobby?

KIM: I understand it, and I feel like I go beyond understanding it, because I love sports, too. I'm patient, because we have a lot in common, and that's important because it's a lot to put up with. But it's okay. He's following his dream, and I want him to do well.

DESSERT: A postscript from Ernest

Kim, a stay-at-home mom to four kids, also did a lot of the legwork that went into creating the Mint Corner boxes. While Bill worked his regular job as a merchandise planner for Champs Sporting Goods in Bradenton, Kim contacted packaging manufacturers and made other calls.

If there's one card Bill would love to have, it would be of himself. He had a brief minor-league career with the Cleveland Indians, but it didn't last long enough for him to be immortalized on a card.

Ernest Hooper also writes a column for Tampa & State. Contact him at hooper@sptimes.com or 226-3406.