LINCOLN SQUARE — The owner of Elite Sports Cards & Comics in Lincoln Square is asking for the public’s help in recovering $100,000 worth of rare cards stolen from his business during a carefully planned, early morning heist.
Elite owner Ronnie Holloway amassed a valuable card collection over the years that included rookie cards of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Mickey Mantle, he said.
“It took 30 years to build it, and it was gone in three and a half minutes,” Holloway said.
Around 3:45 a.m. May 31, a man used tools to remove the bricks around a rear window at Elite, 2028 W. Montrose Ave., police and Holloway said.
After cutting off several pieces of brick from the building, the thief removed the bars protecting the rear window and broke the glass to get inside, Holloway said.
“He actually knew where to go, what to grab and then run out,” Holloway said.
Holloway’s surveillance system captured video of the man as he was behind the counter quickly filling his backpack with baseball cards.
After stealing the cards, the man ran away in an unknown direction, police said.
No one is in custody and detectives were still investigating as of Tuesday, said Steve Rusanov, a police spokesman.
Police sad the man was wearing a light-colored, hooded sweatshirt, a face mask, gloves and carrying a backpack.
Elite has been around for 30 years. Holloway bought the business from the previous owner when he decided to retire about four years ago, Holloway said.
Holloway grew up in Gladstone Park, where he developed a passion for sports memorabilia and history.
Before the break-in, he enjoyed having neighbors come by with their kids to talk and ask questions about the rare and vintage cards he kept behind the glass counter, he said.
“They’d come in and show their kids a Mickey Mantle rookie card that you’ll never really get to see unless it’s on TV or something. It was almost like a museum,” Holloway said. “The history, I love talking about it. This is my passion and my full-time job. To see it go away in three and half minutes, I’m hurting right now. It’s just horrible.”
Holloway had a previous burglary in October when someone smashed his front door’s glass to gain entry but the items stolen weren’t as valuable as what was stolen in May, he said.
The most recent burglary appears to be much more thought out, Holloway said.
“He definitely had help. As he was exiting, he had a two-way radio you can see with an earpiece,” Holloway said. “It was well planned because it was Memorial Day and there’s no one living upstairs because it’s being renovated. It ended up being the perfect storm.”
Since the break-in, Holloway has been trying to get his insurance to cover the theft but has run into problems because the company claims their policy doesn’t cover the theft, he said.
He’s also been reaching out to the collecting community, in-person sports card shows and online marketplaces like eBay asking them to keep an eye out for his stolen cards, he said.
He’s also reached out to PSA, an authentication and grading service, to have his cards flagged as stolen, he said.
“I’m just trying to get the word out because if someone’s buying and not realizing the card is stolen, then if it gets recovered, that person also loses out on whatever they paid for it,” Holloway said.
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