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Not so long ago, preteen baseball fans flipped, traded, and scaled Topps trading cards with their friends. Their obsession was their team, their favorite players, the game itself. Today’s baseball-card collectors are not interested in the Joe Shlabotniks of the world: When they look at cards, they see market value. In Card Sharks: How Upper Deck Turned a Child’s Hobby Into a High-Stakes, Billion-Dollar Business (Macmillan), Alexandria resident Pete Williams chronicles collecting’s transformation into the kind of speculative, bottom-line-driven struggle that major-league baseball itself has become. “I’ve seen kids open up a pack, and if there isn’t an insert card, just throw them away,” says Williams. While writing Baseball Weekly‘s “Collectibles Beat” column from 1992-94, Williams learned about not only card manufacturer Upper Deck’s cynical marketing shift from kid to adult collectors, but about such shady dealings as leaking low estimates of print runs to create the illusion of scarcity, and reprinting valuable cards for use by company executives. “That’s what people who traffic in this merchandise find most appalling,” says Williams. But it’s no more appalling than the cynicism of the entire industry.