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It Was in the Cards

All you used to do with sports cards was stick them in your bicycle spokes. Today, Red Barnes makes millions with 'em.

This story appears in the November 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Having just hit 40, Red Barnes can pretty much say he'sreaped the best of life. His sales manager, Alex Payton, expectsBarnes' Norfolk, Virginia-based Baseline SportsInc., a master distributor of trading cards, die-castcollectibles and supplies, to hit 2000 sales of $24 million. Lastyear's $19.5 million mark was accomplished without strain. Andsomehow, with all that money, Barnes, his wife Darlene, andtwentysomething sons Bret and Blane, manage to live modestly,remaining active in their community. Heck, Red still drives apickup.

Good-Luck Charm

Pickups are lucky for Red. It was in his '63 Ford that hehauled a shed-full of trading cards he'd bought in Fresno,California, with a $500 bank loan. The year was 1987, and the Navyhad just moved him from Hawaii to Lemoore, a small California town"with about 12,000 people and one traffic light," saysRed. Bret and Blane had gotten into card collecting back in Hawaii,and Red, looking for a way to bond with the boys, began collectingas well. By the time the family arrived on the mainland, they allhad the bug. Too bad there was nowhere to go to add to their sets."We were searching for card shops in the area," says Red,"but you'd have to drive an hour, and the guys weren'tfriendly."

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