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Hard-to-find Packers knit caps have fans scrambling

MILWAUKEE -- Brett Favre probably didn't do much to score one. But tons of Green Bay Packers fans are scrambling to find the gold-and-white knit caps he and other players have been wearing on the sideline in recent weeks.

Scrambling so much that the team keeps selling out. That's leaving a lot of Packers fans out in the cold hunting for the sideline cap as a holiday gift. While the caps sell in stores for $17.95 -- if you can find it -- sellers on the online auction site eBay are asking as much as $150.

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The Packers haven't seen an item become so popular in years, said Kate Hogan, the team's director of retail operations. The caps - which are made by Reebok for all NFL teams - may be new, she said, but their popularity is heightened by the team's momentum. The Packers are 12-2 and have made the playoffs for the first time since the 2004 season.

It doesn't hurt that quarterback Favre, a three-time league MVP, wears them too.

"There's just a feel around not just the town, but the state and with Packers fans across the country, that they haven't had in probably 10 years," Hogan said. "It's definitely exciting. It's a great problem to have."

Unless you're someone like Patti Klemm, from Medford in northern Wisconsin. She has been trying to find a cap for her 10-year-old son Trent for weeks, since he saw Favre wearing one and decided he wanted it. She's been to about five stores, looked online and finally put in a bid on eBay. But her top bid of $40 was nearly doubled. She figures her son will understand. He's got plenty of other Packers gear -- like a new Brett Favre replica jersey -- awaiting him for Christmas.

"I'm not going to go that crazy but I'm sure there will be people that will," said Klemm, 43.

Each year, the NFL has a different line of apparel that players and coaches wear on the sidelines, said league spokesman Brian McCarthy. Some years more than others, the items can be a big hit.

According to -- the NFL's online retailer -- there are a few other teams with hard-to-find caps. The New England Patriots version won't ship for four to five weeks, just like the Packers. But if you want, say, the Pittsburgh Steelers or Buffalo Bills versions - there's only an one-week wait.

"With the success of the Packers on the field it translates to success off the field. Fans see these players wear them on Sunday," McCarthy said of the caps, "which means they're going to buy them on Monday."

The Packers continually rank in the top 10 teams for merchandise sales, which range from $3 billion to $3.5 billion a year for all teams, McCarthy said. He wouldn't break out numbers by teams or say how many caps have been sold.

Favre's jersey ranked fifth in total sales from April through the end of November, with Tony Romo first and Peyton Manning second. McCarthy said that's impressive considering Favre is in his 16th season as a Packer, so fans have had plenty of time to buy his jersey.

There's even pressure to get this month's Sports Illustrated from when Favre was the magazine's 2007 Sportsman of the Year. The issue was in such high demand that Sports Illustrated had to do a reprint -- the first time that's happened since NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt died in 2001, said Karen Dmochowsky, magazine spokeswoman. Circulation is about 3.2 million, and they printed 50,000 extra copies for the Favre issue, she said. All were shipped to Wisconsin.

Hogan, with the Packers, said the team's retail shop sold 1,000 magazines within a day and a half. They got 1,500 more last week. Fans can also bid for the magazine on eBay, though they have to pay $30 or $40 a copy.

The hats are fetching about twice that online. Fans are turning there after coming up short in stores.

Hogan said they've been turning away many would-be buyers at the Pro Shop, which regularly sees half a million people a year.

The Packers originally ordered 2,600 caps, figuring that would be enough, she said.

But the first order, and subsequent ones have been selling out quickly, both online and at Lambeau Field.

A final shipment of about 700 is expected in the next few weeks, with the team expecting to sell 6,500 caps this season. That's on par with their best-selling item, the foam cheesehead, which sells between 6,000 and 7,000 each year for $17.95.

Jennifer Zook, 26, of Chicago, scored a Packers sideline cap online for $75, buying it outright on eBay and avoiding an auction. She had told herself even $70 was too much for a cap for her Wisconsin-native boyfriend. But then she found the $75 deal and jumped.

"It's getting close to Christmas so I figure I better get it now," she said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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