Throughout the 1980s it seemed Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs were inextricably linked. Both made batting titles seem commonplace and both seemed destined to reach 3,000 hits.

However, Boggs usually received top billing. He won five batting titles in the '80s to Gwynn's four. He had a higher batting average five times to Gwynn's three.

Things were no different in the sports memorabilia hobby. Both had rookie cards in the 1983 Topps, Donruss and Fleer sets. And Boggs' cards routinely were valued at higher prices.

But things have changed quite a bit in the 1990s.

While both are expected to reach the 3,000-hit milestone in 1999, Gwynn is doing it while still near the top of his game. Boggs, meanwhile, is limping toward the mark.

The sports memorabilia market has seen a similar turnaround. These days one can almost buy three '83 Topps Boggs rookies for the price of one Gwynn, which is listed at $65 in the July edition of Beckett Baseball Card Monthly.

Although prices for Gwynn cards and collectibles have increased steadily throughout his career, don't expect a big leap in value overnight because he reaches 3,000 hits.

"It's not the reaching of 3,000 hits that has the impact, it's the approaching of 3,000 hits," said Rich Klein, price guide analyst for Beckett. "In other words, the anticipation of him reaching 3,000 hits."

Although Boggs also is expected to reach 3,000 this year, it hasn't been quite the same. Boggs has struggled in numerous seasons during the 1990s. While injuries have affected both, they have taken a bigger toll on Boggs' performance.

"Gwynn's (reaching 3,000) while hitting better than Boggs," Klein said. "If Boggs were hitting .360 or .380 and Gwynn were hitting .280 there would be more interest in Boggs. And Gwynn is spending his whole career with one team. We're seeing that that helps."

While Gwynn cards are expected to continue to appreciate, their value will pale in comparison to some of the items associated with his 3,000th hit.

Of course, collectors will not have an opportunity to get the ball or any equipment from No. 3,000, barring a home run into the stands for the milestone hit.

At the urging of Padres owner John Moores, Gwynn began collecting the baseballs from every hit as he has closed in on the magical mark. He gave Moores Nos. 2,900-2,949 and he gave his wife 2,950-2,985 to use in her business to market and sell. But the final 15 to 3,000 will belong to Gwynn.

"(Collectors) can have an opportunity to get some of this stuff if they want it (through his wife's business)," Gwynn said. "At the same time, I have the opportunity to do what I want with it and that's kind of a kick because when it's all said and done I'll have the jersey, the pants I wore, the batting gloves and wrist bands I wore and the bat I used. ...

"For me, it's nice to know whatever I got on for 3,000, it'll be in my house somewhere in a trophy case. That'll be a kick because I'll always have that for my kids and my grandkids."

Eric Breier is a staff writer for the North County Times in Escondido, Calif. He covers a variety of sports events and topics, including a monthly sports collectibles feature.