September 17, 1990 12:00 PM

With sports card collecting still a growth industry, there’s a bull market that makes anything unusual a potential bonanza. So the first Braille football card, invented by John Bosworth, 65, and John Scalice, 48, of Hi-Pro Marketing in Fort Lee, N.J., is a marketing gambit for their regular card line as well as a philanthropic gesture.

The two men tried a test run of cards last year as a sideline to their cosmetic package-design business. This year they’re selling a 280-card NFL set and scrambling for attention. One Hi-Pro card is partly in Ibo—native language of Nigeria-born Christian Okoye of the Kansas City Chiefs.

All their cards are embossed, and last year Bosworth joked that one of them was “so good, a blind person could read it.” Thus inspired, he and Scalice designed a card of ex-quarterback Jim Plunkett, son of blind parents and a volunteer with blind groups in San Francisco. It has an embossed picture on one side, Braille on the other. (The rest of the Hi-Pro set is all ordinary cards.)

How will the blind react to the Braille card? Bosworth says they can feel and understand the embossed picture. But Fran Libowitz, supervisor of the Braille department of the New York Lighthouse for the Blind, says, “I don’t think a blind person can get a real feel of what the picture is all about.” And unlike most sports cards, the Braille card has little data on the flip side; because of size limitations, its message says only “Raiders Win Super Bowl XV-Jim Plunkett named MVP.”

Hi-Pro may produce more Braille materials, including a card series on U.S. Presidents. For now, says Bosworth. “We just want to help. We think it would be great if blind people could say, ‘Hey, there’s a sports card for me.’ ” The company won’t object, though, if some sighted collectors are saying, “Hey, there’s a sports card for my portfolio.” According to one collectors journal, even before the season started, the Braille cards were trading for up to $45 apiece.

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