Archive for the Memory Lane Category

Cousin wanted out of the hobby so I acquired his collection

Posted in Memory Lane with tags , , , , , on February 11, 2022 by Cardboard Icons

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.

Baseball cards continue to mark the timeline of my life

Posted in Memory Lane with tags , , , , , on June 29, 2021 by Cardboard Icons

From a young age I found that baseball cards in some ways acted as hash marks on the timeline of my life. I can remember certain cards associated with events of my life, both good and bad. And this weekend, they certainly found their way into my timeline as we celebrated the life of my grandmother.

Trips to grandmother’s house, which was about 70 minutes away from where I grew up, almost certainly involved me asking, begging and pleading with my mom to take me to a card shop, or anywhere I could purchase new cards. Sure, I grew up (ages 7-10) directly across the street from a card shop, but trips out of my neighborhood always presented new opportunities to see new shops. And so each trip to Fairfield, California, involved me finding cards somewhere. At times it was packs of 1989 Topps at Target; 1989 Donruss at the local corner store, 1990 Topps at 7-Eleven; packs of 1991 Classic Best Minor League or Donruss from some car shop.

I have lots of memories bringing baseball cards to grandma’s house and spending hours sorting them while the adults talked, argued, and laughed.

Grandma passed away in February of this year due to health reasons, she was 81. Grandma lived in Fairfield from the early 1980s through 2002 when she and her husband uprooted and moved to North Carolina, where pace of life was much more to their liking as they grew older. Since then her trips to California have only been for major events, a few weddings and graduations, but in recent year it was deaths. In 2017 her first husband died; then in 2018 her husband passed — I called both men “grandpa.” She came to visit again in 2019 to see her husband’s tombstone and to celebrate her 80th birthday with family. Then COVID came and stopped all plans for a 2020 visit. I last spoke to her during Christmas of 2020, she was so happy to hear from me. She laughed and cried; as did I as I could tell her memory was starting to fade. The came the call in February that she had been admitted to the hospital and then passed rather suddenly from non-Covid related health issues.

We’ve had a few months to process the passing, but we knew we as a family would gather again here in California when restrictions loosened so that we could have her ashes buried with those of her husband. And that’s how and why we all ended up near Fairfield again this weekend. And as luck or fate would have it, there just so happened to be a card show at Solano Town Center IN Fairfield. I knew I had to make it happen even if it was just for an hour or two with my son.

We went and it was the first real show my son had been to in almost two years; it was my first since March 2020 — literally as the country began to freak out over COVID. I remember it vividly because all autograph guests canceled their appearances over growing health and travel convcerns.

Anyhow, my son and I went to the Fairfield show and I had no expectations other than to find at least one card that I could use to memorialize this weekend; also to watch my son again dig through boxes and find something he enjoyed. I’ll probably post the small haul in a different post because I want to dedicate the rest of this space today to the one card I found.

We dug through a few bargain boxes and in one of the boxes I located this 1991 Score “Bo Breaker” card and it made me stop immediately. I knew I had found THE card for the weekend. Here’s the story.

In 1991 my family took a trip to Fairfield and my cousin and I visited a shop called “Batter Up.” To my recollection this was the second location for the store, but I recall it being larger than the ones I frequented in my hometown. They houses a dozen oshowcases with lots of singles, and for 1991 they seemed to have every pack one could want. During one trip I remember taking a few dollars and buying a fistful of 1991 Score Series 2 packs looking for a certain card — the “Bo Breaker.” The card features black borders and showcases Bo Jackson snapping a bat over his leg after striking out in a game. The reverse shows Bo finishing his swing with a broken bat in his hand. It’s sort of silly, but at the time it was a big deal. Anyhow, as luck would have it I pulled the Bo! But it didn’t leave the card shop with me.

You see, I didn’t get a ton of money for cards as a kid, but I loved opening packs. Every now and again my mom would give me a few dollars, but more times then not I earned my card money by raiding garbage bins for cans and bottles to recycle. So when I pulled this Bo, I asked how much the shop could give me in trade and the guy offered $3, which meant I could rip six more packs of 1991 Score baseball! (Insert eyeroll emoji here)

In the genius state of my 11-year-old mind this deal made total sense so I took it and then walked away with six more packs of Score figuring I’d pull another and just enjoy the extra stuff as well. Of course those new six packs did NOT contain another Bo Breaker and I went home with a stack of commons, which I still enjoyed (I later built the set with them) but certainly didn’t celebrate them the way I did or would have with Bo Breaker in my collection at the time.

I’ve owned a few Bo Breaker cards over the years, and have a few at home at the moment. But this particular copy feels extra special. I realize not everyone gets sentimental over their cards. But for me, it seems certain ones have been placed in front of me, just for me in that moment. And to find this card in the same city where we used to visit grandma, in the same city where the aforementioned transaction occurred 30 years ago, feels like the workings of something from beyond. And now THIS copy is going home with me to mark this occasion, this weekend. Love you, Grandma. Rest easy.

“Hey, I brought the binder…”

Posted in Memory Lane with tags , on December 18, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

About three months ago a co-worker asked if I could evaluate some cards he had since childhood. It’s COVID Time so we did what everyone else does: He shared pictures of what he had.

Only the binder pages were visible, and for the most part the binder had some basketball cards from mid 1990s, but no Jordans and none of the snazzy inserts. I broke the news to him that they weren’t worth but maybe $5-$10. He said I could have them if I wanted. I accepted the verbal invitation, adding I’d give them to my son.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. No cards were brought to work. I’m not the guy who is going to hound anyone for a freebie. Really it was no big deal; it didn’t change my opinion of him at all.

Then today he sees me in the parking lot.

“Hey, I brought the binder!” He says.

We walk to his car and from the back seat he presents me with this classic Topps binder; original crusty Topps branded pages and all.

I geeked out.

“Oh damn, you didn’t tell me it was THAT binder.” I said, overly joyed to be giving this a new home.

The content of the binder hadn’t changed – there was no baseball within. And there were some basketball Hal of fame players so it’s a perfect addition for my son.

But the binder? That is a treasure. It needs to be cleaned up a bit and is usable, but at this point its days are best suited as a display piece. I mean look at all those glorious cards in the cover.

Funny note I added one of these to my collection five years ago after finding it in thrift store for $19.99. (see Thrift Treasures 93).

Thanks, Greg for the awesomeness. It will present will among my collections

Card show bargain bin find brings back a fond memory

Posted in Memory Lane with tags , , , , , on March 10, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

Last week I managed to make it to the first night of the annual GT Sports Marketing show in Santa Clara, California. One of my favorite things to do it dig through the bargain boxes while everyone else is clamoring over the newest, shiny cards in the show cases.

As I dug through one dealer’s dollar box, I stopped dead in my tracks when I came to a stack of Frank Thomas cards because there in my hands was a copy of a card that I honestly called the second best card — second only to my my 1993 Elite Eddie Murray — I had ever pulled to that point in my life.

In 1994, I was a freshman in high school and my parents had been separated for about five years. My father was living with his girlfriend in a city about 15 miles away and on the weekends I would go to his house and spent time fishing and just hanging out. In that small town there was a card shop run by a gentleman who smoked cigars while customers browsed the shelves and showcase.

That year 1994 Score caught my attention because for the first time the brand had created parallel cards (Gold Rush) that were seeded one per pack and at the time that was a big deal. I bought a fair amount of Series One and completed a base set and had a partial set, so when Series Two was released I was excited.

I had no money, but my cousin — who is a year younger than I — had $10 and said I could borrow it if I promised to pay her back. You know I was down for that deal, and so she gave it to me and I plunked the cash down on the counter and asked for nine packs of 1994 Score Series Two — it would have been 10 packs if not for taxes.

I ripped pack after pack and somewhere in the middle of the session came out a 1994 Score “The Cycle” Frank Thomas card. It was one of 20 cards on the checklist, and the cards were seeded 1:72 packs, which was a common ratio for rare inserts of the time. And Frank Thomas was no slouch — his popularity in the hobby was on par with Ken Griffey Jr. at the time; they often traded top positions as the top player on the Beckett Baseball’s monthly hot player list.

When the cards were priced in Beckett, that Thomas — and the Griffey — were listed at $75. The Thomas I owned went right into a four-screw, 1/4-inch screw case for maximum protection — sans penny sleeve of course.

That Thomas stoked a great passion of mine to chase that entire set. I spent much of the fall trading various football rookies — Heath Shuler and Trent Dilfer to be specific — for various cards on the checklist, mostly the lower end guys. Dealers were more than happy to take the hot quarterback rookies for these inserts.

I never did finish the set as a kid, but it is something I have half completed at present time and intend to finish at some point.

Although I already owned a copy of this Frank Thomas card — it’s not available even for $75 — I could not pass on the chance to obtain another at such a low price. It’s not that I needed the card for my collection, but I needed it for my collecting soul and so that I could revisit that story and share it with you.