When I was a kid, I remember walking into the local gas station. And when I say gas station, I mean old-school. We’re talking something straight out of the 1950s here.
The old pumps, people who actually pumped your gas and all that good stuff.
In my town, it was Maxwell’s. This place was heaven for kids, especially those who walked to school. You could get penny candy and things like that. But for a bunch of us, it was the best place in the world for baseball cards.
Maxwell’s always had baseball cards.
This is in the 80s though, back when baseball cards were wax packs with 15 or so cards, a piece of stale gum and a pack cost about 25 cents. That’s way different than today, when packs cost several dollars, even the cheap ones.
We’d buy several packs and open them on the way to school, or scamper somewhere on a Saturday afternoon and go open, trade, flip or whatever.
Opening those wax packs were a ton of fun. So much fun, in fact, that it sometimes didn’t matter what was in the pack. We’d get crappy cards or maybe we’d get a bunch from our favorite team. And then there was that awful gum. Back then, though, we seemed to like it.
Ahhh, the memories.
After a while, I grew away from baseball cards. It wasn’t any special reason other than I didn’t find as much fun in it anymore. I still have boxes of those older cards, too. They aren’t worth much, that’s for sure.
The hobby, however, has come a long way since those days.
Besides the cost going way up, cards have changed. No longer is it Topps, Fleer and Donruss. Now there are more companies, some of whom can’t produce cards with team logos and such. Why? Because there are massive contracts for companies to secure, enabling them to have the rights to do the cards.
Other companies get around this by signing athletes and just can’t show them with team logos and such.
Collecting cards is no longer a kids activity. It’s a serious business for some. Autographed cards. Game-used memorabilia on the cards. Whatever else. Some prized rookies go for insane amounts of money in online auctions.
A few years ago, when I was still on the beat with a local minor league team, I heard some of the players talking about being signed to companies. They had authentic autographs and such. So I looked things up and was amazed at the things I found. These players — who I was covering — had baseball cards. Autographs. Game-used stuff. It was absolutely insane. I’ll touch on that in another installment of this series.
That piqued my interest in the hobby again.
If there were cards of these guys, what about all my other favorites? Phillies and such? I started looking and was amazed at what I was finding. I became a big fan of e-Bay. So I started getting some cards and such. I’d buy some individuals and some Phillies and, at times, I’d buy a pack or three. It wasn’t the same as ripping open those wax packs all those years ago, but it was still fun.
Then, a few years ago, a few of us starting hitting up this massive card show in White Plains. It’s there every three months or so and features hundreds of tables and usually several big names signing autographs (and they charge big-name money, too). When we go, I usually don’t have one thing in mind I want to get. I’m usually completely the opposite. I go looking for something fun to grab and add to my collection.
My collection is quite a variety. It’s mostly filled with autographs and game-used stuff. And, it’s also mainly players I’ve covered, those on the Phillies or some of my other favorites.
I also have what I like to refer to as “gems.”
These are cards I stumbled upon for a good price, whether it’s a player I’m seeking or just something that really screamed out to me to buy it.
In January, two of us ventured to White Plains. I was on a limited budget, of course. But I wanted to see what I could find and maybe find a few things worth blogging about.
This trip looked like it was going to be normal in that it was going to get one or two cards and split a box to open with a friend. But before leaving, we came across a place that had auto and game-used cards for $2 each.
After going through things, I had a good 8-10 cards, but only wanted to spend $6 or so. That made me trim away some of the ones I didn’t need.
My favorite, though, was the Ramon Nivar card. Nivar, who saw time in the major leagues from 2003-05, had some crazy inscriptions on his card. We were trying to figure it out when we finally agreed that it said “John 3:16; I love Jesus; Ramon Nivar.” Now, his chicken-scratch writing could say something different. But that’s what we thought it said.
So we went with it.
I also bought a card of Cutter Dykstra, a son of former Phillie Lenny Dykstra (of whom I also have an autographed card or two in my collection) and one of Doug Glanville.
The Cutter card is a really sweet one. I like the photo and the autograph. The one of Glanville I debated, only because I wondered if I had it already. But I decided it was too good of a card not to grab, especially at $2, and especially for a Phillies fan.
I walked away with a few other cards, but one of them — a Pete Rose one — I’ll tackle in a future edition of this series. Pete’s one of my favorites, so it’s always nice to find a cool card of his at a pretty decent price.
I look forward to visiting this show again because I always seem to uncover some fun stuff. This is what collecting is all about for me. It’s not quite the same as ripping open a few wax packs, but when you can leaf through boxes and boxes of autographed and game-used cards, looking for those “gems,” the fun factor is definitely still there.
Adventures in card collecting is a series of stories about collecting sports cards. These stories will run on this blog periodically and will cover a variety of topics about the hobby.
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