I made a brief Target run late last night to grab some necessities and made the obligatory stop in the card aisle. There wasn’t anything “new” to buy, but there was a Fairfield repack 20-pack box that intrigued me. There were a handful of 2014 Prizm Draft Picks packs inside, some 2015 Topps Series 2 packs (Think Kris Bryant rookies) and what was clearly two 1991 Stadium Club packs, along with other stuff.
I’ve opened my fair share of 1991 Stadium Club, but I was still feeling nostalgic about cards at the time. You see this week I think I finally got my son into the hobby; earlier in the day we went to the card shop and he had a blast. (*Side note: A big thank you to Kevin at Stevens Creek Sports Cards for the stack of free commons you gave to my son. He loved them.) I digress.
The Prizm packs, the jumbo 2015 Heritage and Topps Series 2 packs seemed to make the box worth the price, but the two 25-year-old packs really set the hook in me.
For the uninitiated, 1991 Stadium Club was quite possibly one of the finest card sets released in it’s time. Sure, we remember 1989 Upper Deck for the premium Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card. And we recall 1990 Leaf for having another iconic rookie card in Frank Thomas, as well as dozens of other rookie cards of stars from the time. But 1991 Stadium Club was THE premium baseball card. Every card featured full-bleed photographs, gold foil and high gloss that got you high (read:not really, but if you opened this stuff as a kid, the scent is one you’ll never forget. Packs were several dollars each upon release and star cards — not rookies — were in high demand. Griffey and Thomas were each well over $20 for a while.
My guy at the time was Roger Clemens, the flame-throwing perennial Cy Young award candidate. I couldn’t afford these packs when I was a kid, but I distinctly asking my dad for $5 and then riding three miles on my bike to the local card shop to buy one card — the Roger Clemens 1991 Stadium Club that had been sitting in the show case of Brian’s Books in Santa Clara, Calif.
Flash forward to last night. I worked late and then made said Target run. When I got home I took the above photo, opened all of the packs save for two — the 1991 Stadium Club. Whatever lurked inside these packs was surely worth nothing more than a few pennies. But the nostalgia is everything and that can be priceless. I tore opened the first pack, flipped card by card and then it happened — the second last card:
There is Clemens is all his glory. That pose. That glove. That spring training uniform. Just like I remember it. True, I could probably get a brick of 500 of this exact card for like $10 because no one cares about him or this card anymore, but none of those would be as valuable as just this one card, for at last I had pulled something I could only dream of as a kid.
Someone asked me recently: WHY do you collect baseball cards?
This is why.
It’s not really about the money. It’s not really an investment because cards rarely appreciate with time under normal circumstances.
It’s about the memories. It’s about how in an instant single worthless card can transport you back a quarter of a century to the moment when you asked a parent for money and trekked clear across town to buy a card of your childhood sports hero.
I have other reasons for collecting what I do. And sometimes I can’t fully explain it. But THIS is probably the strongest reason why.