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Bonds collectibles collecting dust Future home run king's souvenirs are anything but a huge seller around town

If you haven't jumped aboard the Barry Bonds bandwagon yet, don't sweat it. There's still plenty of room.

Baseball's soon-to-be career home run king is more like a serf, at least according to those who make their living selling sports memorabilia.

"His stuff is poison," said Mike Lewandowski, owner of First 'N Goal Sports Cards and Comics in Amherst. "And I have a lot of his stuff, more than I'd like to have. There's no demand. None. Nobody likes him. Nobody wants to buy any of it."

Even as Bonds closes in on Hank Aaron's record of 755 homers, there's been no rush to acquire keepsakes.

When Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa took aim at Roger Maris' single-season home run record in 1998, McGwire's rookie card was selling for as much as $400 -- about 10 times what it's worth today.

As for Bonds' rookie cards?

"You'd think there would be a call for them right now, but there's none at all," said Paul Szczesek, owner of Bases Loaded Sports Collectibles in Cheektowaga. "I had one customer come in and buy two or three Bonds rookies in anticipation of the record. It's not like Bonds is Mr. Outgoing, at least personality wise. If he were, then there might be more of a demand for his stuff."

Ungraded Bonds' rookie cards can be had for as little as $5 to $10 at eBay's on-line auction site.

Even his rookie cards in the most pristine condition generally sell for no more than $40 or so.

OK, maybe baseball cards aren't where it's at these days. What about other Bonds items?

"We haven't stocked any of his jerseys, the only thing we had was a [blank] black San Francisco Giants jersey," said Joe Eckl, manager of Laux Sporting Goods' store in the Boulevard Mall. "And if there's a call for it, we'll get it. But really no, I don't expect that to happen at all. I don't know why a person would want it. Because of his steroid use, there's just such a negative light on him right now."

The Laux store in the Galleria Mall displays Curt Schilling, David Wright, Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Paul Posluszny and Adrian Peterson jerseys in its windows. But no Bonds jerseys.

You can purchase a Don Mattingly jersey at the Finish Line in Galleria Mall, but not a Bonds jersey. Mattingly, the New York Yankees' bench coach, has been retired as a player since 1995.

"At one time we had some Bonds jerseys in kids sizes," said R.J. Mahoney, assistant manager of Champs Sports in the Boulevard Mall. "We couldn't sell them at all. They sat around for about a year and we sent them back. Yankees, Red Sox and Mets are pretty much the three teams people care about around here when it comes to jersey sales."

At First 'N Goal, you can purchase a mini-batting helmet or a baseball autographed by Bonds for $250. They're not exactly jumping off the shelves.

"I can sell 100 Jeters before I sell one Bonds," Lewandowski said. "I have hundreds of types of Bonds cards and I'm lucky if I sell one card a month. That would be amazing."

At the BC Sports Collectibles store in Galleria Mall, a baseball autographed by Bonds sells for $299 -- that's $100 less than one autographed by Jeter and $50.99 less than a Roger Clemens-signed ball.

"His stuff has been pretty stagnant during the last year," said Jay Mock, the BC Sports store manager. "I'm sure our California stores carry and sell a lot more Bonds stuff but our chain sells his baseballs throughout the country. But here, people are still asking for Sabres stuff. When it comes to baseball items, it's pretty much just Yankees and Red Sox."

You won't find any Bonds items at the Dave & Adam's Card World store in the town of Tonawanda. About the best you could hope for is finding one of his cards in an unopened box.

"Once he hits it maybe we'll get some people will come in or call looking for his items," said Chris Volpe, store manager. "I'm normally surprised when something big is going on and nobody seems interested in it."

Said Adam Martin, co-owner of Dave & Adam's: "We're pretty quick to adapt and if there were demand for Barry Bonds rookies we'd have them there. We can't get enough Ryan Miller cards, but Barry, no. I think a lot of people would like to see him intentionally walked every time."

Lewandowski, a 49-year-old who has played organized baseball since he was 5, is passionate about the game and has strong feelings regarding Bonds.

"There's a right way and a wrong way to do things and because of the way he conducts himself, his stuff is really tough to sell," said the former Kenmore West varsity player.

"He doesn't talk to people and he gives nothing back. He's close enough now that people would be buying [his collectibles] if they were interested."

Asked if he has any plans to add a Bonds jersey to his wall display, Lewandowski couldn't hide a snicker.

"That would be death, a total waste of money," he said, shaking his head. "Like throwing my dollars right down the toilet."

e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com

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