I decided to write a little bit here about my hobby of collecting trading cards. Maybe this will turn into something of interest to the Internet, or at least my kids will have some background info on me when I move along.
The first time I remember receiving cards as a gift was the Christmas of 1983. We were at a neighbor’s house - the boy who lived there was in my brother’s class - and Santa was giving out 1983 Donruss rack packs. The most interesting thing about this is that Santa was either related to or was Vinegar Bend Mizell, a former major leaguer.
But it wasn’t until 1986 that I remember purchasing cards for myself. My mom took us to Thornberry’s in Bashford Manor mall. They had rows of 1986 rack packs, so we picked up one (I’m pretty sure my brother and I just split one since it had 45 cards in it). We used these cards plus the ‘83 Donruss plus a few other random cards that came from somewhere to create teams for Atari baseball.
Later that year, we went to an actual baseball card shop, called Triple Play. The shop was located right next to a sporting goods shop, so we must have found out about it on a trip there to pick up trophies. I still remember most of the shop layout - the main counter and display cases were right in front of you, slightly to the left. If you took a couple of steps forward from the front door and went right, there were a couple of steps that led to shelves of packs and boxes. Initially we bought packs - mostly ‘86 Topps, but occasionally we would pick up an ‘81 or ‘82 pack, generally of Fleer or Donruss since they were cheaper. The sticker price on ‘86 Topps was 35 cents, and we preferred quantity over quality at that point. Occasionally we would splurge for something else, like a ‘84 pack of Donruss that was $2! Mostly we tried either going for the current year and possibly trying to pull Cal Ripken out of the ‘82 packs.
We would generally look in the cases but rarely bought anything. The only items I remember purchasing at this location were a Dwight Evans ‘73 Topps and an Eddie Murray ‘78 Topps. Both rookies, neither in great shape, but we didn’t care that much about condition at this point.
The game plan seemed to stay roughly the same for ‘87, although we picked up a few more Donruss cards. I don’t think we actually bought an entire wax box until ‘88. Could we have picked a worse year to buy more packs? The card shop moved to a new location in ‘90, and, lo and behold, we actually moved to within walking distance of the shop. We didn’t go there every day, and thinking back, maybe we should have gone more often so that they could have stayed in business!
By far and away our favorite item at Triple Play was the Christmas packs they sold only for a week or two in December. Each pack had about 100 cards of older cards in pretty terrible condition. The packs were originally $2 and later went up to either $2.50 or $3. The best card we ever pulled from these was a ‘69 Mickey Mantle, but we also pulled second-year cards of Rod Carew and Tom Seaver. Given the value of these cards today, it’s a little weird that they sold them so cheaply. In fact, one of the last memories I have of the Christmas packs was an exchange between the shop owner and a customer.
“How many Christmas packs do you have left?” the customer said.
“I think around 20,” the shop owner said.
“OK, I’ll take all of them.”
Fortunately we had already purchased as many as we could with our allowance (probably two apiece).
I’m not sure exactly when the shop closed, but that seemed to coincide with us not collecting as much, which started in ‘94. We at least did collect in ‘93 - long enough to add a couple of Derek Jeter cards to our collection.
I plan to write more about our experiences collecting cards, but I also want to use this space to highlight some of the favorite items I have in my collection. Hopefully I’ll remember to actually write about it occasionally.