AUTO RACING PACKAGE: Old Championship Tires Find New Uses On Trading Cards
Feb. 21, 1996
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Sterling Marlin is not an overly sentimental guy.
Granted he keeps all the uniforms he's worn in winning races. But he's not one to hang onto every tire he used in winning back-to-back Daytona 500s.
Still, he would like to have had one.
``They got away from me,'' he said.
Now, fans can have a piece of history even Marlin doesn't have: A slice of one of the tires used in his 1995 Daytona 500 victory.
A silver dollar-sized piece of rubber is part of every trading card from the Burning Rubber series produced by Dallas-based Press Pass, featuring tires used by seven champions.
The cards are limited edition _ only 400 of each driver _ and represent the first time race-used equipment has been used on trading cards.
Only on the market since January, the cards already are commanding hefty prices from dealers.
The Marlin card is one of the least expensive, selling for $45 to $75, according to Eddie Kelly, a price guide analyst at Beckett Racing Monthly.
The cards featuring burned rubber from Jeff Gordon's Winston Select win May 20 and Dale Earnhardt's second-place finish at the UAW-GM Quality 500 on Oct. 8 are going for $125 to $200. Though Earnhardt did not win that race, he gained the most positions of the 1995 Winston Cup season, starting in 43rd place.
``That's a lot for a half-dollar sized piece of rubber,'' Kelly said.
But he expects the cards to be able to maintain their value because they are so scarce. Only one Burning Rubber card comes per case; that's one in 480 packs, one in 3,840 cards. A case sells for a minimum of $650, Kelly said.
The cards are among five different types of insert cards being marketed by Press Pass in addition to the 120 standard 1996 cards. But the Burning Rubber series is attracting the most attention, by far.
The idea of combining race-used equipment with trading cards was developed by Victor Shaffer, president of Press Pass, which opened just 3 1/2 years ago.
In a 1994 promotion, one insert card could be redeemed for Rusty Wallace's race-used lugnuts.
``It sounds hokey, but race fans are rabid and we had a lot of those redeemed,'' said Rod Ulrich, marketing manager of Press Pass.
The company took that concept a step further in 1995, collecting tires donated by the champions for the cards. Each card is individually numbered and authenticated, Ulrich said.
``We just didn't want a tire,'' Ulrich said. ``We wanted a winning tire. As these guys were winning races, I was just in contact and Victor Shaffer was just in contact with the people that help them out. It's a real collectors' piece.''
And there's no question it's authentic: The cards reek of burned rubber.
The distinctive smell actually posed a problem for Press Pass. Employees had to ensure the insert cards are in the middle of the packs and wrapped tightly so the odor of rubber would not tip off consumers to the valuable pack.
Marlin said he did not know one of his tires was being used for the cards until a television interviewer mentioned it during Speedweeks at Daytona. He was pleased as he looked at card No. 107.
``There's a lot of good memories,'' Marlin said, running his thumb over the rubber from his Goodyear Eagles.
During race week at Daytona, Marlin and his crew use 10 to 12 sets of tires, including five or six sets in the race. That makes for a potential 48 tires slipping through his grasp last year.
Maybe he could collect all 400 cards with the pieces of his tire?
``Put them all together,'' he said, smiling, ``that would be an expensive tire.''
Mike McFayden, of Rockwell, N.C., has been collecting race cards since 1988 and was intrigued by the Burning Rubber series. Though he hadn't been able get one yet, he was looking _ even if he is leery of what the new trend in cards could mean.
``I don't know where it's going to keep going,'' he said. ``Now they've gone to car parts. Maybe they'll go to parts of uniforms next.''
End advance for Thursday, Feb. 22