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March 07, 2000|LARRY STEWART

What: Pinheads

Price: $3.99

On the Web:

No, today's Hot Corner topic is not about those who have been screaming for Steve Lavin's ouster. It's about lapel pins with an artist's renderings of popular professional athletes from baseball, football and NASCAR. Even professional wrestlers.

The creators of Pinheads, entrepreneur Alan Zoltie, partner Michael Shillan and sports-entertainment artist Paul Trevillion, are calling their pins the "trading cards of the next generation." That may be a little strong, but the three may have something here. And sales in the troubled sports trading-card industry have been dropping drastically. Some reports have sales going from $1.2 billion in 1995 to $300,000 last year.

Pinheads feature colorful, lifelike illustrations of such athletes as Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr. and Bill Goldberg by Trevillion, who has a pretty good pedigree. In 1966, Mark McCormick, the founder of the "Big Three" television series featuring Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, commissioned Trevillion to illustrate the popular Gary Player golf strip for newspaper comic sections throughout the world.

Trevillion, born and raised in England, also is known for his portraits of World Cup soccer heroes Pele and England's Gary Lineker.

Zoltie and Shillan came up with the technology to put Trevillion's art work on lapel pins--they call it "quadrachrome etching"--and formed a company, Pinheads Promotions, in Woodland Hills.

The first Pinheads collection came out in April 1999 and consisted of 30 baseball players. There are now five sets. Besides baseball, the sets include NFL, NASCAR, wrestlers and entertainers Ricky Martin and the Backstreet Boys. The company has sold more than 500,000 pins since April, and it projects sales of 4 million this year.

The pins carry a suggested retail price of $3.99. There also are key chains that sell for $2.99. The pins can be worn on hats, caps, backpacks and clothing, or displayed in a case. They are available at Wal-Mart, 7-Eleven, Target, sports specialty stores, stadiums, toy stores and novelty stores or can be ordered online.

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