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LIKE MILLIONS of other Americans, our family tuned in to the Miss America Pageant on TV to see one of the most watched annual shows in the country. That in spite of the fact that two of my sons walked into the room asking the same question, word-for-word: "This is the one for talent, isn't it?"

We don't usually come even close to guessing the winner, but this time we correctly singled out Miss Florida, Leanza Cornett, as an early favorite, even though we were afraid her petite 5-foot-3, 105-pound frame might disqualify her.Lucky for us - what can I say?

She was attractive, an excellent singer and a charismatic, verbal personality. She handled Regis Philbin's questions at least as skillfully as Kathie Lee Gifford. We thought it was interesting that the five finalists were all attractive, talented, relaxed, verbal women.

Also - that all five of them had made a virtual career for years of entering pageants as preparation for this climactic day. Let's face it - the contest - whether you approve of it or protest it as sexist in an era when we ought to encourage women to be doctors and lawyers - is a huge success.

In fact, several of the contestants were either doctors or lawyers or planning on such careers.

No wonder then that the organizers of the pageant have added a new wrinkle to the Miss America festivities. This year, Cypher Entertainment, in conjunction with the Miss America Pageant, has produced what they call a "first-ever keepsake trading card collection," including official portrait shots and detailed information about each contestant.

In fact, I have in my possession a trading card for Jennifer Ward, Miss Utah 1992. On the back you can read about her personal characteristics the same way you read about those of sports figures on their trading cards.

It also notes in the bottom corner that this is a "First Edition" card. The organizers say this is a "new, collectible dimension for Miss America fans and card collectors alike."

Leonard Horn, chief executive officer of the Miss America Organization, said, "This is just another exciting opportunity for America to become acquainted with the caliber of women associated with the Miss America scholarship program."

Oh, I forgot this is really a "scholarship pageant," and I almost forgot that Horn is the same guy who fired Bert Parks after he had become an institution. When a series of emcees failed in turn, he selected for the past two years in a row the incomparable Regis and Kathie Lee - who actually do a good job.

Harry Eaby, president of Cypher Entertainment, made a bizaare comment of his own: "Miss America is a tremendous role model for preteen girls and young women. However, we feel these cards will have a collectible appeal to women of all ages . . . and men as well."

My guess is that is a little too optimistic. But Cypher has added "20 randomly packed special bonus cards" inside the first-edition boxed sets for the "lucky bearer to receive an uncut, numbered press sheet of all 50 contestants, personally autographed by the newly crowned Miss America 1993."

The first edition is limited to 10,000 sets. If you want to get in on the ground floor - and make "the magical moments" of this year's pageant "yours to cherish for years to come," you can write to 1992 Miss America Pageant Cards, P.O. Box 1992, 28 Englehard Drive, Cranbury, NJ 08512 and enclose $8.95 plus $3.00 for postage and handling - or call toll free: 1-800-335-8440.

If you keep collecting, chances are good that by 2050 you will be sitting pretty - financially I mean.

I do think they should have included cards for Regis and Kathie.

Dennis Lythgoe's column is published on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.