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STARTUP COMPANY Political savvy is in the cards



Published: Fri, June 24, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Who wants to swap a Specter for a Santorum?

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Who knew that U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum started his political career as a campaign volunteer? Or that Allegheny County's high-profile coroner is an accomplished concert violinist?

These and other fun facts can be found in a pack of political trading cards produced and distributed by the Pittsburgh startup company CivicCards Inc.

The founders of CivicCards, Catherine and Rifat Qureshi, hope the glossy, colorful cards featuring the photos and biographical information of various elected officials will inspire schoolchildren to trade an Arlen Specter for a Mike Doyle, just as they would swap a Sammy Sosa for an Alex Rodriguez.

"I like to think of these people as our team," said Rifat Qureshi, the president of CivicCards.

Merging two loves

Catherine Qureshi, a project management director for the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, came up with the idea when she combined her childhood love of trading baseball cards with her adult interest in civics.

Her husband, Rifat, shaped the idea into a business, recruiting two students at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh to design the cards.

A recent $9,400 grant from the Pittsburgh-based Sprout Fund helped CivicCards hire a local printer to manufacture a limited number of the cards. The Qureshis hope to start selling them on CivicCards' Web site next month.

CivicCards started by creating a set of 60 cards featuring elected officials who serve Pittsburgh on the federal, state, judicial, county, municipal and school levels.

The Qureshis hope to later branch out, creating sets for other cities or cards featuring the president and other federal officials. Of course, CivicCards will have to update the sets after each election.

Rifat Qureshi wouldn't say how many cards the company has printed so far because he hopes they will be a collectors' item and an educational tool. It's hard to say whether the cards will be valuable in the future, said Robert Rouse of the American Political Items Collectors' Chicago chapter.

Although Rouse hasn't encountered trading cards during his collecting, most collectors are interested in campaign materials or items associated with a politician's death.




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