Business Matters: Papa Hawk’s Compiles History, Millions of Sports Cards
Step inside Papa Hawk’s Sports Collectibles in Golden Valley and sports fans will be hard-pressed not to find something that doesn’t catch their attention. It’s a place where kids can be kids and adults can become kids again. Owner Mark Hockstaetter showed us one of his favorite collections.
“That is my 500 home run baseball collection. It’s got the original 500 or more home run hitters minus the steroids,” said Hochstaetter, whose nickname is “Hawk.”
That collection is minus a Babe Ruth baseball.
“If we had a Babe Ruth, we’d have to have an armed guard standing here,” said Hochstaetter.
From late 1800s baseball gloves to a 1920s football helmet, sports history is everywhere here.
“The oldest thing I’ve got right now goes back to 1865,” he said, referring to a pair boxing gloves when boxers first started using them.
Papa Hawk’s Collects Millions of Sports Cards
Papa Hawk’s also has plenty of sports cards. Hochstaetter, who opened the store in his retirement, says he has between 16 and 17 million of them.
“I’ve been collecting since I was about 4 years old,” Hockstaetter said. “I was one of the ones who didn’t put it in my bike spokes, and I saved every card that I ever got.
Hochstaetter says he’s about 150 baseball cards away from finishing sets from the 1960s.
Then there’s hundreds of autographed jerseys, bats and balls in the store. Hochstaetter pointed out one of his favorites.
“That’s a Kirby Puckett autographed jersey from ’85. One of my personal favorites.”
It’s one of the lone pieces of merchandise in the store that’s not for sale.
“It’s the Chase”
So what is it that makes collecting so fun?
“It’s the chase, it’s always the chase in collecting,” he said.
It’s also a chase that has changed.
“Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, everybody was collecting,” he said.
It was the high point in the baseball card industry. Companies worked 24/7 producing 81 billion cards a year for about 15 years. Then Hochstaetter says people from that era grew up. They said farewell to their cards.
“They’ve become very not valuable. Basically worthless,” said Hochstaetter, referring to the glut of cards from that era.
Back in the 80s and 90s, Hochstaetter estimated 65-75 sports card shops in the Twin Cities. Today, he can count six. And it’s not as much the kids chasing the cards these days as it is the grown-ups.
“They have the money,” he said.
From Local Dealer to Worldwide Seller
Hochstaetter’s Golden Valley business has shifted from being a local dealer to a worldwide seller.
“I think we’re up to 42 countries, where we’ve had customers either in the store or purchased from us on eBay or our website. And we’ve got all but two states that have actually been in the store,” he said.
A customer from Australia visited the store last week, Hochstaetter said. The only two states yet to visit are residents of Maine and Connecticut.
The internet has certainly changed the business, but there’s one part of the job that stays the same.
“The best part of my job is seeing a smile on the 10, 11, 12-year-old kid that walks in, gets a pack of cards and gets his favorite player when he opens the pack. That is the best feeling in the world.”
Hochstaetter is holding a fundraiser this Saturday, Nov. 2, for his grandson, Patrick, who was diagnosed this month with epilepsy. Twenty percent of all sales will help his grandson’s medical costs.