Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen will seemingly test that old bromide about there being “no such thing as bad publicity.” The man who was once portrayed as himself in an Archie comic book now finds himself featured – in a fashion – in a major motion picture starring Matthew Broderick, Virginia Madsen and Alan Alda.
Mr. Mint (shown at right) is reserving judgment on the artistic merits of the film – he hasn’t seen it yet, since it hasn’t had wide national release – but he is offering a hearty “thumbs down” to the depiction of a certain fictional card dealer in the movie who rips off the Alan Alda character by buying an enormously valuable T206-like card for a mere $500.
“Diminished Capacity,” which may be one of the lamest movie titles ever conceived, opened over the July 4th weekend at a handful of theatres in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. It’s the presumably heart-warming story of a Chicago journalist suffering from memory loss (Broderick) who takes some time off and ends up all warm and fuzzy with an old flame from high school (Madsen) and an uncle wrestling with more ominous diminished capacity in the form of Alzheimer’s disease.
Bear in mind that what little I know about this movie comes from the theatrical trailer on the Internets (it’s fun to use the plural form), but the Alda character (Uncle Rollie) turns up a gem mint Wildfire Schulte card that the trailer makes clear is worth many thousands of dollars. Casual viewers might note that the card looks similar in style to the famed T206 Honus Wagner card; serious hobbyists will recongize it as a reprint of the actual T206 Schulte card, in this instance the one showing his back. One presumes that the script explains why the card of a non-Hall of Famer would be so valuable.
Enter Mr. Mint, or in this case, The Mint-Mint Man, played by Bobby Cannavale, an easily reconizable actor from film and television. Calling his film character a thinly disguised version of Rosen would be charitable; describing it as a shameless ripoff would be more to the point.
The real Mr. Mint was none to thrilled with the reel one, particularly because the movie version essentially swindles Uncle Rollie by giving him just $500 for his treasured card. Rosen was so mad he called lawyers, but ultimately wasn’t encouraged by their assessments of his chances in court.
“A guy used my character to make a movie. Let him get his own. I do care about my 30 years in the hobby and the millions of dollars I’ve spent on branding,” Rosen told me in an interview a couple of days ago.
“How dare they use my name! If that’s not an obvious ripoff, I don’t know what is,” he added. Only days before, he made his case to Michael O’Keeffe of the New York Daily News, whom hobbyists will remember as the co-author, with Teri Thompson, of The Card, the book detailing the history of the legendary T206 Honus Wagner card, the one that sold for $2.8 million at auction a year ago.
Rosen’s beef with the film was thusly recorded in the New York City tabloid on July 5 and 6. Director Terry Kinney told the Daily News that The Mint-Mint Man’s sign and nickname were inspired by a research trip to a card show, where he saw Rosen’s “Mr. Mint” booth and his trademark wads-of-dough portrait (the Mint-Mint Man’s show display features a photo of him fanning out a wad of cash, similar to images Rosen has used for years to promote himself at shows).
“They portray the character as dishonest and that bothers me,” Rosen says. “I am 100 percent honest. I don’t take advantage of old men like the guy in the movie. I’m a huckster, but I’m also an honest guy.”
Though it’s hardly needed, I can vouch for that, having been with Rosen on a dozen or more of his famed buying trips. I don’t make any pretense of being impartial in these instances: I co-authored the book True Mint with Rosen a dozen years ago, and have known him more than 25 years dating back to the old EPSCC shows at Willow Grove outside of Philadelphia.
I figure it’s not a conflict of interest if you clearly state the nature of any dealings with someone mentioned in one of my columns. Speaking of which, I will offer more detail on this odd entanglement with the film industry in my Out of Left Field column in the Aug. 1 issue of SCD, along with an in-depth look at what happens at a Mr. Mint buying trip, from the knock on the front door to the doling out of those $100 bills at the finish. It was nothing more than coincidence that the New Jersey dealer happened to be in Wisconsin to buy a collection at the same time he was trying to nudge his lawyers into action on the movie front. My young colleague, Chris Nerat, even recorded much of it on video, which you can access on his blog, Gavel Chat.
I can assure you the seller got a whole lot more than $500 (160 times more, actually), and there wasn’t a Wildfire Schulte card to be found anywhere. Not even a Renata Galasso reprint of it, either.
And if you’re wondering why I call “Diminished Capacity” the dumbest movie title ever devised, it’s because I can’t seem to remember it for more than a couple of minutes at a time.
The irony of that hasn’t escaped me.