Ripken in the Minors
October 2009: Interview with Mike Aronstein
RITM: How was the name "TCMA" originated? Who was the "TC" in TCMA? What brought you together?
Mike Aronstein: Tom Collier and I were card collectors in the 1960s and we would see each other at various times over the years, we became friends and we talked about getting together in business. I made an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of old cards in color and put our initials on it, TCMA. Tom came up with the name, The Card Memorabilia Associates. We incorporated using that name in 1972. I bought Tom out in '73 or '74. In fact now that I think about it I may have bought him out before we incorporated. So, Tom had nothing to do with the minor league cards.
RITM: Do you still communicate with Tom Collier?
Mike Aronstein: Sorry to say, Tom died about 2 years ago. I had not seen or spoken to him in more than 20 years.
RITM: Why did you begin printing TCMA cards?
Mike Aronstein: The original reason for printing the cards was to make money to support my baseball card collecting. My uncle, Myron Aronstein was a traveling salesman and an artist and a huge sports fan. He drew the
original cards we sold under the Sports Cards for Collectors name. Some of the cards were drawn by my aunt Margie Aronstein. After awhile they dropped out because they couldn't keep up with the demand for drawings. I found other things to print- such as old glass negatives and photos. SCFC became TCMA when I met Tom.
RITM: Were the 1981 minor league team sets printed one team set per sheet? Were they shrink wrapped?
Mike Aronstein: All of our cards were printed 90 up. That was the size of the sheet that fit our printers press and was most economical. We didn't shrink wrap the cards we usually sold them with rubber bands around them.
RITM: How were the TCMA cards distributed?
Mike Aronstein: If I remember correctly we gave each team 500 sets if they were black & white and 1000 if they were color. The rest would be sold by us, either individually or as part of a subscription, somethings at shows. We also sold wholesale to dealers. Out press runs were usually 1000 for b & w and 3000 to 5000 for color.
RITM: When you say that you gave 500/1000 sets to the teams do you mean that the teams were given to sell for you or did you have to give the team sets as part of your contract with them?
Mike Aronstein: 500 or 1000 sets is what I gave the team for permission to print and sell the remaining cards.
RITM: Can you explain the process of putting together the Rochester set? Did you have to get rights from the team? Did you do the photography?
Mike Aronstein: All the photos for the International League were shot by Jeff Morey who lived in Syracuse. He shot each team as it passed through. We had a contract with each team.
RITM: Over how many years were the TCMA cards printed? Did you print just minor league cards?
Mike Aronstein: From about 1972 to 1984 (last 2 years with CMC- Collectors Marketing Corp.) We also printed old timers, '30s thru '60s and reprinted some old sets.
RITM: Recently an uncut sheet of TCMA cards appeared online that included the Rochester team set. Can you recall how many sheets were left uncut?
Mike Aronstein: I would say very few. We only kept one for our files.
RITM: Of Cal Ripken, Jr's, 4 solo minor league cards, the 1981 Rochester TCMA and the 1980 Charlotte O's Police are currently the only 2 without a known counterfeit. Have you ever heard of attempted counterfeits of the 1981 TCMA card? If so, what were the signs it was a fake?
Mike Aronstein: I have never heard of any but it would not surprise me. I lost track of all the old negatives we used, our printer went out of business and his building burned down.
RITM: The producer of the 1981 WTF Rochester cards had to deal with allegations that he reprinted his set and/or gave someone else permission to reprint the cards. Was there ever a second printing of the '81 TCMA Rochester cards?
Mike Aronstein: I never gave anyone permission to reprint any TCMA sets. And I really can't remember if we ever reprinted any minor league sets, If we did it would have only been during the same season. When I was with CMC we did do a sample sheet that went into collecting kits, it wasn't a team just assorted players.
RITM: When the sets were printed, did an entire run of 3,000+ sets get printed at one time?
Mike Aronstein: Yes, It wasn't economical to print less.
RITM: Where were the TCMA cards printed and how much did a team set cost initially?
Mike Aronstein: The cards were printed in Peekskill, NY, by Mill Printing and I think we charged $3.00 to 4.00 per set and less if you had a subscription.
RITM: In October 2009 “1981 Ripken Rochester Promo Cards” started appearing online. Are the cards a scam?
Mike Aronstein: Not even a good scam.
RITM: Did TCMA produce any promotional cards of Cal Ripken, Jr., in a minor league uniform?
Mike Aronstein: No.
RITM: 2. Was the image of Cal from the 1981 TCMA card ever used for another TCMA card?
Mike Aronstein: No.
RITM: Did TCMA ever grant permission for anyone else to use Cal's 1981 Rochester picture for any other use?
Mike Aronstein: As far as I can remember TCMA did not own the image. It's possible that photos were made from the negative. TCMA never made any photos (of the Ripken image) but that is the form that we started with. Jeff would send us a 4x6 print and we would do a "paste up" of 45 photos so that we could shoot two large color separations per sheet of 90 cards. It was much cheaper to shoot two large separations than strip 90 little separations together. Those were the days before digital photography when humans could actually do things.
RITM: Where did life take you after the days of printing the TCMA cards?
Mike Aronstein: I stayed in sports collecting until 2006 when I was bought out by Photo File for the 2nd time. TCMA Ltd. is still a corporation. After TCMA Ltd. I worked with CMC and then I founded Photo File. I was the executive VP of Photo File for about 10 years and they bought me out. I then went back to them with the idea to sell the USPS postmarked sports collectibles. The idea was a huge success and lasted for another ten years and I was bought out again. I now divide by time between NY & NM. I've been married for 45 years, have 3 children and 5 grand children.
RITM: What does it feel like to have such a special place in collecting history?
Mike Aronstein: It's been an unbelievable ride. Almost everything I produced I did out of a love for collecting and sports history. It never felt like work.
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