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Pasco has deal: home, 1952 Chevy & sports cards for $280K

Gary Bower has some collectible sports cards he would like to sell. Among them are Olympian Jim Thorpe's 1933 rookie card and a similar vintage Red Grange football card. The athletes are sports legends.

But they are just two of an estimated 2 million cards for players in baseball, football, hockey and basketball stashed in the basement of Bower's Pasco home.

But Bower isn't just looking to cash in on his lifetime collection of sports memorabilia.

He's selling it all.

House and all.

Whoever comes up with $280,000 can have the cards and his five-bedroom home with a finished 1,300-square-foot basement.

And to sweeten the deal, he will throw in his 1952 customized Chevrolet two-door Bel Air hardtop.

"I just lost interest after my wife died," said the 76-year-old former Hanford pipefitter and construction worker.

Gary and Sallee Bower were married 43 years when she died in 2003. She did not share his passion for collecting sports cards, he said.

And Bower's four grown children aren't interested in having the collection either, he said.

The Professional Sports Authenticator site lists a range of prices for the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings cards, depending on their condition. A mint condition Grange card could fetch $12,500 and the Thorpe $32,500. Rounded corners, creases in the card and any surface markings can significantly downgrade the book value.

Bower started collecting sports cards in the '70s, adding steadily over the years. "At 10 cents each, I figure I've got $200,000 in cards here," he said.

And that doesn't include the dozens of sports cards he has framed on the walls.

One large display shows a newspaper article about the 1972 death of Hall of Fame right fielder Roberto Clemente, with his collectible card and related memorabilia. The card alone is worth $200, Bower said.

He stores his best stuff in a 5-foot-tall safe, but 209 boxes, each filled with 7,000 carefully organized cards, are stacked high in several rooms.

In a single closet are thousands more sports cards still in their unopened boxes -- untouched treasures waiting to be discovered.

And then there are the other sports-related collectibles -- the Wheaties "Breakfast of Champions" cereal boxes with famous sports greats such as Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton, unopened soda and soup cans bearing images of athletes like baseball slugger Jason Giambi, and an empty milk carton with a picture of Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Monk.

And, yes, there are rookie cards for baseball's Mark McGwire, quarterback John Elway and ice hockey goaltender Ken Dryden.

Want a piece of pitcher Nolan Ryan's jersey and his autograph? Bower has it.

"There's going to be quite a deal for whoever buys it," he said.

"I was a rookie collector, so that's what I went after. Most of what I have are rookie cards," he said.

Bower hasn't listed his house with a real estate agent, but the home should sell for about $175,000, he said.

The county assessor puts the value at $169,000.

And the Chevrolet Bel Air would bring about $18,500 to $20,000, he said.

And to the right buyer, there's one more surprise, albeit a nonsports collectible -- an original centerfold of Marilyn Monroe on red velvet from the early '50s.

Bower said serious prospective buyers can call him at 628-7399.

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