Known in collectors' circles as "Mr. Mint," Alan Rosen wants your baseball cards — and he'll travel anywhere to get them.Got a shoe box of old baseball cards gathering mold in the basement? Have a bunch stashed away in a climate-controlled vault built deep into a mountain on a remote island? Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen — the nickname refers to his propensity to traffic predominantly in mint-condition cards — would like you to call him at your earliest convenience.
In fact, do so the moment the flight attendant clears you to resume using your cellphone. He’s reachable at (201) 307-0700. He generally returns calls within the hour.
No, really; do this. He wants to hear from you. Heck, he’d probably be OK with hearing from you even if you don’t have anything to sell — if you’re a collector attempting to suss out the value of your collection, for example, or a kid thinking about getting into the business. Because that’s the kind of guy Alan Rosen is, and that’s the way he goes about his business: the old-fashioned way, via the phone or in person (he’s traveled to Alaska twice in the interest of assessing and buying a private collection). Even as most of the baseball-collectible trade has migrated to the Internet, Rosen, 67, still goes on the road for days at a time, sleeping in two-bit motels, pursuing his next big score. And that makes him more or less the last of his kind.
The call waiting beeps and Rosen excuses himself. Minutes later, he’s back on the line: “I just made 600 bucks,” he says, his voice a cackle. A man he met at a collectibles show in Chicago is eager to sell a set of Hartland statues, a circa-early-1960s set of 18 figurines depicting the era’s best players, and Rosen’s already got a buyer in mind. Despite the presence of legendary names like Mantle and Berra and Mays, Rosen is eager to get his hands on the lesser-known figures, specifically Dick Groat and Rocky Colavito. “Those are the ones that are worth the money,” Rosen says. A call is made, dollar figures are exchanged and a deal is consummated. That makes today a good day.
Rosen’s career has seen many of them. A ninth-grade dropout, Rosen returned from four years in the military to find himself rudderless. He took a job selling copy machines and calculators door to door, eventually starting a business of his own. Aside from a monthlong stint selling insurance — “I was terrible. I need something tangible to sell.” — he labored in the job for nearly a decade before professional rot set in. “When you hate something, it’s hard to be positive about it,” he says.
Salvation came in the form of a friend’s invitation to a baseball-card convention in early 1978. Rosen, a baseball fan and onetime collector — whose collection, ironically, met the same trash-can fate as so many others that were stored in a parent’s basement or attic — took to it immediately. Starting with only a salesman’s bravado and the belief that he “knew baseball from the beginning of time,” Rosen proved a quick study.