Klein’s Korner: Women in the Hobby Catch-Up – Many years ago I wrote an article for Sports Collectors Daily about some women in the hobby. Nearly a decade later we’ll do some catching up and also mention some people not featured in the original article.
To begin we’ll update on Mary Houston. Sadly, we lost Mary a couple of years ago and when I posted the information about her passing everyone to the Beckett Alumni group on Facebook many of her teammates remembered and honored her passion towards the hobby. I wish I had not last total contact for the final 25 years of so of her life but from reading the obituary it does appear she had a nice final few years with her family. Her Minor League Monthly Price Guide magazine still holds up pretty well more than 30 years later.
And on a happier note, next up is a lady who was in the upper management of Beckett for many years but never lost touch with how she started and worked her way up the corporate ladder.
We were very fortunate to have Margaret Steele as one of our leaders and after she left Beckett she transitioned to a leading figure in healthcare consulting. She was featured in a 50 people to watch list in the Journal of Healthcare Contracting. Margaret was always able to do whatever was needed to be done. At the 2000 National, Beckett Grading got swamped beyond anything which had previously been expected. The story I heard was Margaret ended up sitting on the floor and folding labels to put into the graded card holders. Certainly not a glamourous role one expects upper management to perform but one which needed to be done and she did that job very well.
I asked her recently about how her Beckett experience helped prepare her for what she is doing today. She responded:
“I learned so much at Beckett. I still reflect on most of my 17 years at Beckett as one of the biggest blessings in my life.
First, I was given the opportunity to work in almost every department something most never experience in a large organization. I fondly remember being part of the team that helped launch our internet presence back in 1996ish. This again, was an incredible experience that will likely never be replicated. When it came to leadership, I learned from Dr. Beckett what it meant to truly know and care about your employees and their families.
Hands down, Jeff Amano and Beth Harwell are still some of the best leaders I have ever worked for, teaching me the importance of Completed Staff Work, Appropriate Excellence, embracing an entrepreneurial spirit and stepping out of your comfort zone. I would be remiss not to mention Mark Harwell. He was a unique individual who taught me several life lessons.
Starting at Beckett at 23 meant that my time there really helped shape who I was later in life. I also learned what it meant to understand your customers and their needs. I remember profiling card collectors, dealer shops, online retailers, and newsstands to be sure we always kept their interests in mind as we shaped our business. At the time, I did not realize that some of the more difficult days would simply prepare me to handle future challenges.
I have drawn on those experiences many times to help address the problems before me. I learned how to approach things and certainly how not to approach them.”
COMC has always employed a significant number of women and I’ll start with co-founder Julia Getsch. Julia taken an even more significant role in the day-to-day activities over the past couple years. Since COMC has had much success the past couple of years her executive decisions played a significant role in the recent explosion.
Heather Hollander was among the very first COIMC employees. She left about a year ago but the story went that at one point, when COMC switched locations, she was able to claim she was the only person ever to move by themselves the entire COMC inventory. Heather was at COMC for more than a decade and was always a leading light in whatever she did.
Chee Liew is one of my favorite people at COMC. First, she is amazing at fostering a family atmosphere and I hear she usually wins the Chili cook-offs to boot. And she handles many of the technical aspects of getting cards ready to ID with a true understanding of the whole process and appreciation for what is needed. And she created an answer to some of my requests which went above and beyond the basics which really helped me whenever I have to review an issue with how a card was scanned.
And finally there is Angela Taylor who is a top-notch card IDer. Angela is probably in the top five all-time in total cards ID’d at COMC and she has a passion for excellence in doing this work which is very appreciated. Doing ID work is truly an extremely skilled position which takes a lifetime to learn and I’d be happy to have Angela as a teammate.
Now to focus on a couple of people I have had more contact with and they are both currently in customer service but do have far reaching interests in the hobby.
First up is Laura Don Diego. I actually met Laura at the most recent Dallas Card show as she was chasing Pokemon cards. This was an outgrowth of reading her blog about Pokemon cards and the depth of knowledge of a subject she brings. It’s good to see not only a young lady who is passionate about collecting but is willing to travel to find deals and work on her collecting.
Laura currently resides in New Jersey. We had a nice chat when she came by to visit and she is truly passionate about collecting. But anyone who is willing to get on a plane and fly several hours to a show is someone who truly loves the hobby and I have faith in her continuing to share her knowledge as she did in a recent COMC blog.
Next up is Angela Loeffler. I’m kind of prejudiced about Angela since I basically hired her for COMC. Her husband, Stephan had already been hired and as she was involved in the hobby when there was an opening I explained she could hit the group running in ID and she certainly did. The best part for the team was she liked challenges and doing ID on subjects many of us avoided assiduously. I knew them because they had both been very active in the DFW hobby and are part of the next generation of collectors. They both understand old-school collecting as well as the modern ways of communication.
Finally I want to give a shout out to Etta Hersh, the head of the dealer board for the NSCC. Etta has done a great job in working with the dealers for the past 20 years or so and it’s hard to imagine the NSCC without her fair but firm hands in working with dealers on the floor. We dealers can be a tough bunch; however, Etta with her long experience as a show vendor understands what dealers want and need. Sadly in recent years she has lost both her husband Jerry and her son Michael. Personally I always felt I was part of her family and always enjoyed spending time with her and her family behind their NSCC tables over the past couple of decades.