Cousin wanted out of the hobby so I acquired his collection

This is a bittersweet post to write but I feel I should document it properly and not just in a series of Tweets.

My cousin and I are five years apart in age. We really came into eachother’s consciousness when I was about 10 years old. He’d always been around but he was living with our grandfather (Lolo) whom I didn’t spend much time with at my age. But around 1990/1991 our lives intersected more.

Our family dynamic was changing. My mom and dad had split and as a result I wound up spending more time at Lolo’s house and with my cousin, JR. I wasn’t sure on what level we would connect given the age gap, but we happened to bond over trading cards and wrestling.

One of the first card adventures I had with JR involved us walking alone — which in hindsight is batshit crazy considering he was 5! — to the nearest 7-Eleven where they had packs of 1990-91 Hoops and Skybox for sale. We bought some snacks and packs and we were off to the races.

I didn’t know how large a part of my life trading cards would be. I didn’t know that my “hobby” would basically consume me. I struggle with this notion even at the age of 41 — I swear there is a bit of guilt for being an adult who loves something folks still associate with something kids do, but I know I shouldnt feel bad for loving what I do.

I digress. My cousin — whether he actually enjoyed it or not I still am not entirely sure— came along with me on this journey. We ripped, ripped and ripped some more. We played poker for cards; we swapped our favorite players. Our grandfather would often take us to the card shop (Brian’s Books) and the arcade (Keystone) and give us a $20 to split. We’d spend some on cards, some on video games. And every now and again we’d even have a few bucks left over for the Ice Cream truck which always — ALWAYS! — had those WWF Ice Cream Bars that also contained a card on the package.

By the mid 1990s the hobby became central to our relationship. We’d pick him up from his house on a Friday night and he’d stay with me at my mom’s house all weekend. We’d sort cards, play cards, wrestle — I’m still sorry for the black eye you got when I whipped you into the “turnbuckle” that was the corner of the bed — and when things were really good, we’d stay up late at night watching “Shop At Home” as Don West and Eddie Lewis sold trading cards to the world.

By the late 1990s, I was changing and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I started dating a person — who’d eventually become my wife, the mother of my children, and then my ex-wife — and suddenly hanging out with my younger cousin was no longer a priority. Don’t get me wrong, we still got along great and we did card stuff. Hell, years 1998 and 1999 were awesome after I got my driver’s license. My cousin and I would often drive out to the 24-hour Walmart at 10 pm in search of the latest retail product. Remember, I was 18/19 at the time and he was 13/14 – I’m pretty sure his mom thought we were up to no good, but really it was just cards.

As I entered college we grew apart a bit mostly because our interests had changed and we were in different stages of our lives. He was entering high school and was doing his thing, and I was on my way to earning a degree. Needless to say the overnights ceased, as did much of our bonding time.

I kept collecting, and he kept most of his stuff and I’d later find out he bought quite a bit for himself once he was able to get his own eBay account. But again, our collecting ways we’re going different paths. Cards have been my life; and cards were merely a part of his.

Over the years our conversations would revolve more around real life than the hobby, but every now and again I’d inquire about his collection. And then seemingly out of nowhere he reached out to me about a year ago asking if I could help him sell his collection — the time had come to move on for good.

He hadn’t really collected cards for more than 15 years, but he knew the hobby saw an upswing again. Also, life dictated a situation where he needed to make some space. So he turned to me for the assist.

I immediately helped by taking possession of everything he could immediate find, but he knew there were a few pieces he couldn’t locate, including his 1996-97 SP Kobe Bryant rookie. Nonetheless I said I’d go through it and figure things out for him.

Over the last eight months or so his collection sat relatively stagnant in my closet as my own life has seen many changes over the last year and my desire to go through his stuff whilst thinning out my own collection just wasn’t there. But yesterday I grabbed one of his boxes, took another look and spoke to him again. I Confirmed he wanted to move everything as a whole and we came to an agreement for me to acquire the lot.

An outsider looking at the collection would likely latch onto the 1986-87 Fleer Charles Barkley Rookie PSA 6 as the key item, or even the Charles Woodson 1998 SP Authentic rookie card. But for me, the prize of this acquisition is a 1998 Ultra Randy Moss rookie card.

In 1998 rookie cards were hotter than they had been in years for two reasons: They were often short printed then, seeded at 1:4 packs; Also the 1998 NFL Draft Class was amazing. I pulled the Peyton Manning from Ultra that year; my cousin pulled this Moss and that card was always the object of my affection. True I owned better Moss cards, but the Ultra one was always a card I had my eyes on. And even though I was five years older than my cousin I never took advantage of him in any deals — I always encouraged him to keep the good things he pulled.

Needless to say the Moss is one card from this collection that will be staying with me and remain in the family. There are many cards in this collection, a few hundred of which I think I will send to COMC and a few thousand that I will need to move onto other collectors to enjoy.

There are a few dozen more cards that I’ll be holding onto from JR’s collection as his hobby journey comes to an end and he moves into bigger things. But perhaps I’ll show some cards here from time to time to keep open that chapter of my — our — hobby history. Love you.

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