"Houston`s first sports collectible store " est.1979
Sports collectibles of houston
Longknown for it`s inventory of older cards, SCOH also supplies authentic autographed memorabilia to the hobby with it`s public and private signings. In a time where the autograph segment of collecting has grown weary of fakes in the market, Sports Collectibles of Houston guarantees every autograph they sell. Collectors can purchase with confidence
Larry put on the first Superstar Collector Show in Houston in 1983 with special guest Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson.
Sports Collectibles Of Houston schedules 3 major shows a year in Houston. With Reasonable autograph prices, quality dealers from all of over the United States, and an enjoyable atmosphere that collectors expect.
Sports Collectibles Of Houston has not only established itself as a leader in promoting memorabilia shows in the Houston area, they have promoted shows in Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Beaumont and as far as Louisiana.
Larry Dluhy, who in 1979 opened what was considered to be Houston's first full-time sports trading cards store, was standing in line at a recent memorabilia show when he heard a bystander reminiscing about the old days of card collecting.
"He was talking about how he used to go to a store on West Bellfort and buy cards when he was a kid," Dluhy said. "And then he said, 'I'm not sure what happened to the guy who ran it. I think he died.'"
Dluhy, laughing, informed the man that he was, in fact, still alive and kicking.
His store, however, is going away.
This week, Dluhy will close the final outpost of Sports Collectibles of Houston, which at one point included five stores in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. Dluhy's business mirrors the ups and downs of the baseball card industry. He was among the first of a handful of entrepreneurs who set up shops in the late 1970s and early 1980s as the hobby grew from a rite of passage for kids into a billion-dollar industry.
By the early 1990s, according to some industry estimates, Houston had between 75 and 100 full-time trading card dealers. Now, there are no more than one or two in the Houston metropolitan area.
"The shops are disappearing," said Dave Jamieson, author of the book "Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession." "When I was growing up, every little town had its own card shop, and some had more. Now, you're lucky to find one in a county. The industry has contracted, and the card shops have contracted, too."
Business 'a killer'
As with other aspects of retail, eBay and other online retailers now command many of the customers who used to walk into stores like Sports Collectibles of Houston and other retail outlets.
"I'll miss the one-on-one contact with people. That will be the hardest thing," said Dluhy, 67, who will retain his personal collection of cards and memorabilia and continue his eBay outpost. "But this business is a killer if you depend on business that walks through the door."
For years, though, Dluhy and his counterparts made a good living on cardboard. Dluhy grew up in Rosenberg as a collector and kept his cards, as did other Houston collectors who bought and sold cards in the 1970s at John's Treasure Chest, a coin store in the Meyerland area, and at shows sponsored by collectors Tom Kennedy, a longtime reporter with the Houston Post, and Tom Koppa.
Dluhy, who worked from 1972 until 1987 as an advertising salesman for the Post, opened his first Sports Collectibles store in November 1979.
"I had met (Oilers quarterback) Dan Pastorini and (Astros pitcher) Joe Niekro and started doing auctions and things," he said. "People were opening stores around the country, and I told my wife, Betsy, that cards may end up like hula hoops, but wouldn't it be fun to have the first trading cards store in Houston."
He began sponsoring shows in the 1980s, based on relationships with Pastorini, Niekro, Nolan Ryan and others, and expanded from weekends only to full-time business at a time when the once-staid card industry began to pick up steam with the expansion of major league licenses from Topps, the longtime industry standard, to Fleer, Donruss and others.
"It became a bonanza," he said. "I was making money and having a good time. We opened two more stores in Houston and stores in Alief and Clear Lake. 1989, when Upper Deck came on board, was the all-time high, and then it started to level out."
The 1989 launch of Upper Deck, coupled with the mergers-and-acquisitions mania of the 1990s, may have helped spell the doom of the 1980s boom.
Investors began to speculate in large blocks of individual cards of star players like Cardinals infielder Vince Coleman who turned out not to be stars in the long run. Increased prices and the promise of quick profits prompted oversupply, with large print runs by companies like Dallas-based Pro Set and others, which eventually diluted values.
"People couldn't get their hands on Upper Deck fast enough, and Topps and the other companies came out with new products to keep up," Dluhy said. "They kept trying to outdo each other and come up with more ways to sell things."
'A rat in the woodpile'
At the height of the rookie card craze in the early 1990s, Dluhy said he received a call from a distributor offering him a group of Jeff Bagwell rookie cards from Upper Deck.
"He told me that I had to buy them all, and when I asked how many there were, he told me he had 10,000 of them," Dluhy said. "That's when I told my wife, 'There's a rat in the woodpile here.' "
At the height of the gold rush, in 1992, the investor Ron Perelman paid $82.5 million to buy Marvel Entertainment, the parent company of the comic books chain. He subsequently spent $265 million to purchase Fleer, a longtime card manufacturer, and $150 million on SkyBox, which focused on NBA cards.
Marvel, of course, continues today as one of the prime movers of the entertainment industry. But Fleer and SkyBox are no more, as are the long-ago pipe dreams of quick money through cardboard.
"A lot of people got burned when they bought a 1989 Score factory set and then a few years later found it listed as being worth $12," Dluhy said. "The companies made you buy huge allotments each year, and we figured we could put it all in the warehouse and in 10 years it would be worth more."
By 2000, only a dozen card shops remained in Houston, and many collectors began a greater emphasis on pre-1980 cards and on autographs and other memorabilia. Among the primary movers in the latter category is Houston-based Tri-Star, headed by Jeff Rosenberg, who was one of Dluhy's most loyal customers in the 1980s, and Bobby Mintz.
"Larry and the other stores were so important to us. It was what we did on the weekends," Rosenberg said. "They helped establish card collecting that was something that was more than just a hobby - something that can be a mainstream business."
Dluhy said he expanded his brick-and-mortar operation to eBay, and online sales eventually accounted for about half of his business.
Pete Williams, whose book "Card Sharks" tracked the Upper Deck-fueled boom years, said a lot of hobby shops have turned to gaming products such as "Magic: The Gathering," "Pokemon" and other products. Other promoters have moved into the comic books industry and the Comic-Con craze.
There are a few holdouts such as Howard Lau, whose Houston Sports Connection store in west Houston has been in business for 27 years and may be the last full-line sports card store in Houston.
"I still come to work like a kid in a candy store," Lau said. "I wish there were more stores. It would be better for the hobby. But the Internet is tough to beat. You have to adapt, change your business and give your customers what they want."
Dluhy said his store remained profitable, but his wife's death five years ago and other aspects convinced him that it's time to get out of the retail business.
"One of the guys I had helping me is ready to go on cruises and enjoy his grandkids, and I'm ready to do the same," Dluhy said. "I may still get a boothat some of the shows so I can talk and visit with people.
"I think the industry, with all its ups and downs, will continue. It always has."
A sports collectibles store becomes a part of Houston memorabilia.
By David Barron
Reporter, Houston Chronicle
I want to offer a special Thank You to DAVID and All of my customers that have become life long friends, thank you for 34 great years. Please enjoy this story written by David.
From The Houston Chronicle February 26, 2015
We have been in the sports collecting business for over 50 years.
Sports Collectibles Of Houston was owned and operated by pioneer hobbyist Larry Dluhy.
Buying and Selling older cards, vintage items and quality autographs. Call Larry at (713)728-9170 for an appointment