My kid has shown an interest in cards!

“Dad, it’s like real cardboard …”

For a parent card collector these words coming from the mouth of your offspring are priceless, especially when you’ve just introduced them to their first true vintage addition to their fledgling card collection.

I’ve been a baseball card guy for more than three decades, having begun my card adventure when I was just seven years old, shortly after moving to the suburbs from the Big City. And I now have two children, the oldest pushing 10 years, and the other having just turned 8.

I always envisioned that one day my card collecting habits would one day rub off on my children, and up to this point there has been very little interest. Kids these days don’t know what it’s like to not be able to get information or entertainment at the blink of an eye or the touch of a screen. Collectors from my generation and those before know the struggle all too well, having to buy and handle newsprint, and in some cases using baseball cards as our method of learning and remember statistics and even historic events.

I introduced my kids to cards many years ago. They’ve both opened packs; attended shows and shops with me, and often see me rummaging through my boxes and piles. But until recently, there had been very little real interest. I’ve given my kids packs, especially my son, who in many ways is my Mini Me. But he hasn’t truly enjoyed then; he’s busy, swiping and button mashing.

And then just a few days ago, without my prompting, he walked over to the bookshelf, took out his binder of cards – many of which are 2016 Topps Bunt, the last product that he and I really broke together, and he started flipping through his pages.

Like many starting to collect, my son had placed every card he owns into 9-pocket sheets and in a binder with no regard for organization. His baseball cards were next to his football ones, and even some random basketball and Olympics cards sprinkled in.

I watched him from a distance and then he comes over to me and says, “Dad, I’m going to sort these by sport.” The later he brings the binder to me and says, “Can you tell me if any of these are good.”

The question as to whether or not a card is good is very subjective. I know for a fact that none of his cards at the time carried any sort of premium, or really any desire outside of his own. But I am not in the business of crushing budding collector’s souls with a statement like that. And so we flipped through, page by page, and I called out every All Star, every Hall of Famer and every Red Sox, Athletics or Giants card we saw. I wanted him to appreciate what he has, not be so concerned with what the cards are worth.

My son continued to look at his cards for a bit; and I even gave him a larger Collector D-Ring binder, all while teaching him the importance of moving the entire stack of sheets to the flat side of the D-Ring before closing the cover.

My son and daughter went to stay with their mother for a few days and when they returned, I told my son that I had a new card for him, one that I had picked up from a Local Card Shop, one that I never owned as a kid collector. It was a 1995 Pinnacle Ken Griffey Jr., an iconic card showing The Kid being a kid, blowing a massive bubble with his gun. It was my generation’s version of the iconic 1976 Kurt Bevacqua card. I got the card for $1.

I presented the card to my kid and his response was “What the heck?! He and his sister giggled about the large bubble Ken blew in the image. I had succeeded; they cared about the card.

And so I began thinking about items I could gift to my son, cards that he could add to his collection, items that had some sort of meeting, and not just run-of-the-mill commons I had sitting around. I looked through stacks on my desk and found two cards that I thought would be nice additions. The first was a Lonzo Ball Hoops rookie card. Both of my kids know who Ball is because he made an appearance on Fuller House on Netflix, a show the kids watch and re-watch just like I used to watch re-runs of The Wonder Years. They laughed when I showed it to them.

The second card? The aforementioned vintage card, a 1972 Topps World Series Game 4 Highlights card of Roberto Clemente. But before I showed them the card, I told them the story of Clemente, about his baseball skill and his true heroism, his fatal humanitarian effort in Nicaragua.

The kids were astonished by the story. And then I presented the Clemente to my son so he could put it in his binder. The card isn’t worth a ton of money, but it was the kind of card that served as a teaching point, one that I hope he’ll remember forever.

I handed him the card in a penny sleeve and top loader, and he surveyed it and then removed it – By the way, I taught him how to smack the palms of his hands together to insert and remove cards from Top Loaders – so he could place it in his binder next to the aforementioned Griffey card. His words were priceless.

“Dad, it’s like real cardboard…”

I then told him that’s how baseball cards used to be. I pointed to the showcase on the wall and explained that that’s how cards used to made, and every single one of the cards in the case were made the same way, only they were now living inside a plastic Beckett Grading Services slab inside the showcase.

I don’t know if my son will end up loving cards in a week, in a year, in a decade, or if he cares that the cards I’ve accumulated will end up being the possessions of him and his sister at some point. But these last few weeks have been promising; perhaps one day he will understand completely my passion for this hobby, even if it drags me down at times.

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