In the late 1970s, collecting baseball cards was still a hobby in its infancy – that is, until Alan Rosen came along. The owner of a copy machine and antique business in New Jersey, Rosen gave up these pursuits in 1982 and went into selling sports cards full-time. Today he is noted as the person who brought the hobby “out of the closet” and onto the front pages of newspaper sports sections across the country.
It all started in 1978, when Rosen attended a small baseball card show and instantly knew this was the business for him. As he browsed the booths, he continuously spotted cards that were sacred to him as a child growing up in Paterson, N.J. He soon acquired the nickname “Mr. Mint” because he instinctively recognized the fundamental qualities of a perfect sports card, such as centering or print dots, long before these issues were of concern to most collectors.
Mr. Mint has always let it be known that while other dealers pay by check for collections, he will happily pay in cash. Rosen is known to carry his briefcase filled with up to $100,000 in $100 bills to weekend shows across the country, eager to purchase collections on a moment’s notice.
Rosen’s greatest contribution to the industry may be in his finds of pristine cards, which have infused the hobby with new mint material over the years. Some of his most significant trades over the years have included:
• Purchasing the Lowell, Mass., 1952 Topps Find, which included more than 6,000 “Gem Mint” high numbers of which there were 65 Mickey Mantle rookies. Sotheby’s Auction House called it, “The greatest find of baseball cards ever.” The current market value of this case is more than $25 million!
• Purchasing the Paris, Tenn., find that amounted to more than 500 unopened wax boxes of 1954 and 1955 Topps and Bowman baseball cards. In addition, there were more than 250 1954 and 1955 Bowman football unopened wax boxes and more than 100 mint-condition 1955 Bowman baseball sets. Current market value of this find is estimated at $7 million!
• Purchasing the Kansas City, Kan., 1951-53 Bowman find of more than 11,000 uncirculated cards, including 32 1951 Mickey Mantle Bowman rookie cards and 40 1952 Mickey Mantle second-year Bowman cards. Estimated worth of this grouping today is $4.5 million!
Rosen estimates that in his 31 years in the sports memorabilia field he has bought and sold more than $200 million worth of collectibles.
While sports cards constitute Rosen’s livelihood, his personal interests include collecting much different items, including presidential documents, autographs of signers of the Declaration of Independence, and an extensive collection of pristine Japanese robots, circa 1954-1979.
Rosen’s current robot collection numbers 610, with 600 of them in their original boxes. He is currently running advertisements seeking other robots in the original boxes and the missing boxes for his eight robots still missing them.
“When you’re an obsessive collector like I am, you try and get the ultimate collection, you want it all,” said Rosen.
His theatre room includes signed photos and autographs of Laurel and Hardy, Daniel Boone, Harry Houdini, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Humphrey Bogart, Alfred Hitchcock and Abbot and Costello, his personal favorites.
“Baseball cards are how I make my living, but this is what I do for fun,” said Rosen. “Collecting is really a way of recapturing your youth, you sort of go back in time to the things you enjoyed as a child.”
These robots make up a small percentage of the 610 mint-condition examples Rosen has in his collection – but he’s still looking for more: “I have an obsession to have every robot in a box ever made,” said Rosen.