updated 12/03/1979 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/03/1979 AT 01:00 AM EST
Dan Desario, 26, has been collecting baseball cards for 20 years. Now, as a second-year student at West Los Angeles University Law School, he has turned his hobby into a profitable mailorder business that is supporting his wife, Ellen, three children and his education. His first card was Jim Gentile, the first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, back in 1959. "I paid a penny for his card, and it came with a stick of Topps bubblegum," Dan recalls. At 15 he became bored and threw out cards worth an estimated $7,000. "I made a big mistake," he laments. It took him six years to replace that cache. Today Dan buys un-sorted lots of 12,000 cards from the Topps Company (without gum), and his family helps him sort them into 726-card sets that Dan retails at $14.25 each. In the past two years he has made $40,000, but admits, "I couldn't do it without my wife." Their clothes are kept in green trash bags, but the collection, now more than two million, is neatly boxed in closets in his L.A. apartment. He has branched out into cards from other sports, as well as uniforms, posters and autographed baseballs. After he receives his degree, Dan plans to get into the legal end of sports and entertainment. "Then," he smiles, "I can associate with the players I'm collecting."