Mike Rinke started collecting baseball cards in 1982. For reasons he's not even sure of, soon after he began his hobby he shifted his focus from newer cards to older cards.
Especially older cards of Nolan Ryan.
"I got a couple of Nolan Ryans in the first couple of packs that I bought," he said. "I decided by chance to start collecting his card. From then on I just idolized him."
Rinke's admiration has paid off. Perched inside a case he reserves for his most treasured cards sits a 1968 Nolan Ryan rookie card. The card, Rinke said, is worth $1500.
"It would be hard to get rid of that card," said Rinke, a Kansas University sophomore from Lawrence. "But this is helping me pay my way through school."
RINKE NORMALLY keeps his Ryan rookie card in a safe deposit box along with dozens of other highly valued cards. But he removed the cards a couple of weeks ago to get them ready for a display at the Sports Collectors Show, to be held Sunday at the Holcom Park Community Center, 2700 W. 27th.
The show, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is the first-ever at the community center, said Lee Ice, special events and activities supervisor.
"It is my hope that we can make it an annual event," he said. "There's interest out there to have an event of this nature. What interested me was the fact that we could get kids involved out here."
The show costs $1 and the proceeds will support youth activities and special events sponsored by the city's Parks and Recreation Department.
EIGHT TO 10 collectors will fill 18 tables with a variety of sports mementos, he said, and Scott Lucas, a sports artist from Lecompton, will display his work.
Participants will be buying and selling, Ice said, as well as displaying their wares.
California Angels first basemen Lee Stevens, a 1986 graduate of Lawrence High School, and Buddy Biancalana, former Kansas City Royals shortstop, also will sign autographs.
Although football and basketball memorabilia exist, Ice said, baseball paraphernalia would dominate the tables at this show.
"Baseball is our national pastime and everything as far as memorabilia stemmed from there," he said. "Basketball and football are limited. It's kind of hard to collect shoulder pads."
Nonetheless, Rinke, who attends about 10 such shows a year, plans on toting his sparse collection of football, basketball and hockey cards to the show, he said. He started collecting baseball cards in 1982 and the other sports cards a few years later. Now the value of those cards is beginning to increase, he said.
ANDY VIGNA, a Kansas University junior also from Lawrence, plans to display his card collection as well. Vigna started collecting cards a few years after Rinke. Now the two travel to shows together.
Like Rinke, Vigna uses the proceeds from the sales of his cards for school expenses. Unlike Rinke, Vigna concentrates on scouting out current cards rather than older cards.
"The players I try to get are the established players that are still playing future hall-of-famers," he said. "I collect a lot of guys that I like and that people really want like (Seattle Mariners outfielder) Ken Griffey Jr."
Although buying and selling playing cards can be big business, Rinke and Vigna focus on having fun, the reason the two began their hobbies.
When they attend shows, they said, they try to pass that attitude on to younger collectors.
"When I started in 1982, packs of cards were 35 cents," Rinke said. "Now it costs more than a dollar for the premium (special, high-value) packs. I try to make a lot of cards available for a buck or less because it's hard for a kid to get involved in collecting now."
Yet, Rinke also recognizes the business aspect and it doesn't fail to give him a thrill.
"Now when someone pays me for one of my cards, I smile because I know what I paid for it," he said.