Selling a Card in Hopes of a Family

After a lifetime as a baseball card collector, Houston trading cards dealer Todd Nelkin is preparing to give up a part of his past to ensure what he hopes will be a significant part of his future.

Nelkin, whose family has owned a sports collectibles store in Houston for more than 30 years, and his wife, Ula, hope to auction a trading card signed by Hall of Fame running backs Walter Payton and Barry Sanders. The couple plans to use the proceeds to pay for the in vitro fertilization procedure that they hope will bring them their first child.

“We’ve tried in vitro twice, both times without success,” Nelkin said. “The second time, Ula had to undergo emergency surgery after an ectopic pregnancy. So the third time will be our last, and best, attempt to have a family of our own.”

Family and baseball cards have been a significant part of Nelkin’s life and career. The family has owned HLT&T Sports in Houston since the 1970s. Nelkin also repackages cards from the 1970s through the 2000s for sale at MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL arenas and stadiums around the country.

The Payton-Sanders card was produced in 1999 by Donruss (now called Panini America), and is the only one to be graded a perfect 10 by Beckett Grading Card Services.

The card will be listed on eBay in October under the seller ID “Nelkinbaby.”
“I hate to part with the card,” Nelkin said, “but there is nothing in the world more important to me then to have the chance to be a father. I grew up hearing stories from my father, and I would like the chance to pass his stories – and mine – to our child. Both Ula and I want our parents to see their grandchildren.”

Nelkin estimates the card could be worth as much as $15,000 to $20,000. For one lucky collector, the Payton/Sanders card represents a chance to own a piece of football history. For the Nelkins, it’s a chance to pass along their love, and their love of sports, to a new generation.

“The card is a piece of American art, but it’s just cardboard,” he said. “We hope it can bring us someone we can spend the rest of our lives worrying about, someone who will act out in public, talk too much on the phone, be ashamed of us in front of their friends – and also make us so proud as a happy, healthy American teenager and young adult. To have a child who will remember us when we’re gone is more than any collectible.”

To contact Nelkin, call (713) 728-3111 or e-mail hlttemail@aol.com.

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