Fun is in the cards

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Vern Jensen is one of the lucky ones.

Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Vern Jensen is one of the lucky ones. He has been able to turn a longtime hobby into a post-retirement job.

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&uot;I wanted to make the most of the time I had left,&uot; the owner of Nellie’s Sports Card Shop in Albert Lea said.

Jensen has been collecting sports cards off and on since 1955. When his son started collecting seriously in the early 1980s, he came back to it as well, eventually turning a portion of his home into a sports card and memorabilia store.

&uot;It started with a rummage sale actually,&uot; he said. &uot;I’d been collecting for years. You just wouldn’t believe the traffic we got for cards.&uot;

So in 1984 Jensen and his wife Nellie started to sell cards out of an upstairs bedroom. After a year of people trekking through their home, they separated a portion of the house, devoting it solely to the business.

&uot;I’ve often thought about adding a new room for this,&uot; Jensen said. &uot;But for now I think I’ll stick with what I’ve got.&uot;

The lifelong sports fan said he has seen a lot of changes in the business. Years ago baseball cards ruled the industry. Now it’s football. There used to be only a few brand names; now there are countless card makers. Kids used to make up the majority of his clientele and now it’s adults.

A lot of these changes, he believes, stem from the increasing cost of cards and how the hobby is viewed. It is no longer acceptable to carry around an Alex Rodriguez rookie card in your back pocket. It must be preserved in a protective cover to keep its value.

Another difference is that the business aspect is changing. With the introduction of the Internet and Web sites like eBay selling everything from bent-wood rockers to the kitchen sink, sports cards abound on the Web.