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Fans race to snap up Earnhardt memorabilia

February 19, 2001

Fans race to snap up Earnhardt memorabilia



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Earnhardt fansCLEAR SPRING - Every NASCAR race Sunday, Philip Paul honored his favorite driver by raising a Dale Earnhardt flag.

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That flag will no longer fly in front of Paul's Clear Spring home, he said.

Known to his fans as The Intimidator, seven-time Winston Cup champion Earnhardt died of head trauma Sunday in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500 in Florida. His death left a legion of fans in mourning.

"I think a really big part of NASCAR is gone forever," Paul said.

He plans to retire his Intimidator flag, folding it with the number 3 showing and displaying it among his many other Earnhardt collectibles.

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"It takes on a whole different significance now," Paul said. "Now it's a memorial."

Although Earnhardt memorabilia is expected to increase in value in the wake of the driver's death, some of The Intimidator's loyal fans flocked to area NASCAR shops to buy more Earnhardt mementos for collections they said they will never sell.

"I don't know too many sentimental collectors who would sell," said Hagerstown resident Garth Coe, an Earnhardt collector who attended the Daytona 500 with his wife, Linda.

In general, death significantly increases the value of the deceased's memorabilia, said Perry Gosnell, who owns Valley Collectibles at Valley Mall in Hagerstown.

Earnhardt's popularity will add even more value to the worth of his collectibles, Gosnell said.

Everything Earnhardt - from number 3 stickers and die-cast cars to Intimidator baseball caps and T-shirts - was flying off the shelves Monday at A.C. Bain, a NASCAR, automotive & motorcycle apparel and collectibles store in Hagerstown.

"People are just buying whatever they can possibly find," said store owner A.C. Bain.

Still stunned by the driver's death, store customer Mike Larkin wanted to add to his collection before Earnhardt memorabilia became too tough to find, he said.

The Hagerstown native purchased die-cast replicas of three Earnhardt race cars, including K-2, the 1956 Ford Victoria behind the wheel of which Earnhardt started his career.

"The value will go up, but I won't sell," Larkin said.

Hagerstown residents Karen and Brad Gordan also went to A.C. Bain to buy more Earnhardt collectibles. The couple had already boxed their large Earnhardt collection so it wouldn't get damaged, Karen Gordan said.

Although the collection's value will increase, "I'd never consider selling," she said.

A mix of Earnhardt fans and collectors scooped up merchandise at Valley Collectibles as prices started climbing on the Internet, but neither Gosnell nor nearby Hat World Assistant Manager William Bittinger raised their prices to take advantage of the demand for Earnhardt merchandise, they said.

Bittinger said he had only about six Earnhardt hats in stock Sunday evening when news broke of the racer's death. The hats were sold by Monday morning, when about 40 people stopped by to ask what was left, he said.

Bittinger said he could tell a lot of the customers were big fans because they were wearing their Earnhardt jackets and shirts.

Karen Gordan held the Earnhardt memorabilia she bought at A.C. Bain against her Intimidator jacket.

"I'll wear this coat 'til it falls off of me," she said.

Staff writer Julie E. Greene contributed to this story.

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