Earlier this month, former Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr posted a photograph of his Topps "Inception" trading card on social media. The card, which includes a patch from a jersey Carr has worn, features his sweeping autograph in blue ink pen.
With the picture, Carr wrote: "So strange to see yourself on a trading card!"
It might be strange, but Carr joins the growing world of Fresno athletes who are part of the sports collectibles world where autographs, trading cards, jerseys, bobbleheads, programs and other items get snatched up by fans who want a tangible connection to local sports. Or who see the items as a way to make money.
Whatever the reason, Gene Webster, owner of Webster's Sports Cards at 3215 E. Tulare St. in Fresno, says fans react as soon as collectibles are released for local athletes. Carr is the hot property now, but he's just the latest in a long string of local athletes who have caught the attention of sports collectors.
"I have been doing this since back in the day of Tom Goodwin," says Webster of the Fresno baseball player who played for six major league teams from 1991-2004. "And if a local athlete has a trading card, everyone wants it. There's always a demand."
That passion comes with a price. Unlike many shops that deal in single packages of trading cards, Webster generally sells full boxes that can contain as many as 36 packs. Even at $85 to $500 a box, they sell quickly just on the chance a local athlete will be featured.
Owning a bit of a local sports star is as easy as going online or to a local store. The only question is how much you are willing to spend.
Let's say you're a Derek Carr fan. Last week, there were 88 autographed items by the Oakland Raiders rookie for sale on eBay that ranged from a few dollars to hundreds. A Bowman autographed printing plate of Carr's rookie card — the only one made — cost almost $650. There were also 37 items featuring the signature of Derek's brother David Carr. The top-priced item was $59.99 for David Carr's 2003 Donruss Classics No. 39 autographed card.
The two-Carr barrage of quarterbacking brothers aren't alone. You can buy such locally connected sports items as:
Fresno City College's Danny Boitano's 1979 TCMA Vancouver Canadians trading card.
The 1967 Diablo Valley vs. Fresno City College Football program.
Fresno State Bulldogs metal wall parking sign.
Fresno State Bulldogs kids' watch.
Fresno State Bulldogs Softball rally towel.
Nick Watney-signed Torrey Pines scorecard.
Fresno High's Tom Seaver's New York Mets rookie card.
The 1962 Fresno State College spring sports roster calendar for baseball.
There's even a political connection to one local sports figure. A card featuring Carlos Brown, better known as former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry, as a Green Bay Packer will cost you between $5 and $10.
You don't have to go online to find items. Several local shops sell trading cards and sports collectibles, and the college and Fresno Grizzlies gift shops have large selections.
Matt Mossette, owner of Mossette's Sports Cards at 1744 W. Bullard Ave. in Fresno, always has trading cards of local athletes. Right now, the big draw is Derek Carr. But he's gotten requests for cards — or autographed baseballs — for Tom Seaver, Matt Garza, Rex Hudler and Jason Donald.
"I had a guy come in looking for a Dutch Leonard card. It's a card from the early 19th century and it was a lot of fun to go looking for it," Mossette says.
Hubert Benjamin "Dutch" Leonard pitched for the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers from 1913 to 1925. The Ohio native worked as a fruit farmer and winemaker in the central San Joaquin valley until his death in 1952.
Mossette always notices an increase in interest in any San Francisco Giants player who ends up with the Fresno Grizzlies during a rehabilitation stint. Sales went up dramatically for cards featuring Angel Pagan, who was sent to the Grizzlies while recovering from a back injury.
There was also a lot of interest for Bobby Cox cards. The former MLB manager, a Selma High graduate, was recently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
As far as big sellers go, Mossette sold a Derek Carr Upper Deck SPX with a four-color patch and his autograph for $50.
If there is any doubt about whether Carr actually signed one of his Upper Deck cards, ask Chris or Marc Gooboian, co-owners of Fresno's Bases Loaded Baseball Cards & Collectibles at 3225 W. Shaw Ave. in Fresno. They've been hired by the card company to be a third-party witness to make sure athletes actually sign hundreds of trading cards. They were on hand to watch when the Bulldogs' Davante Adams and Derek Carr created the autograph cards that often command big bucks.
The long list of star athletes who have passed through Fresno State — the Carrs, Laura Berg, Trent Dilfer, Terry Pendleton, Stephen Abas, Ryan Mathews, and others — have made the university a prime attraction for sports collectors.
One place to pick up Fresno State items is the Bulldog Shop. The store created a stir recently with a bobblehead honoring Derek Carr. It was the first time such a collectible had been offered.
"We had a herd of people in and out buying them," says Diane Brock, the Bulldog Shop manager. Enough bobbleheads were sold that more are being made.
Another big draw is the Fresno Grizzlies.
Not only does the Triple-A baseball franchise have a gift shop full of items, the team also schedules a series of promotional events with specialty items, such as bobbleheads and themed jerseys. A recent "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" event was so popular the organization had to order a second batch of shirts.
There was so much interest in the Turtles/Grizzlies cross collectible that the team's gift shop set a one-day record with more than $25,000 in sales in a five-hour period.
Ryan Young, the Grizzlies media relations coordinator, says there's a bump in attendance of 2,000 to 3,000 when the Grizzlies have a special promotion like a bobblehead doll or a specialized jersey. Those aren't just additional local fans looking to pick up a collectible. Some collectors drive in from Los Angeles or Sacramento.
Young expects a huge amount of interest in a jersey auction scheduled for Aug. 30. The Grizzlies will be selling their white home jerseys.
Because those jerseys have been used in multiple seasons, they may have been worn by any one of the former Grizzlies who now play in the major leagues.