Monday, March 14, 2016

Cardboard Gold

Like many other children of the 50's, my dad collected baseball cards. Legends with names like, Mantle, Maris, Koufax, and Aaron, were neatly arranged and sorted in cardboard boxes. Time is the great separator, and my father lost track of his collection, cast away like many other aspects of childhood. Those cards were worth hundreds of dollars in the 1980's. He often lamented that fact and it wasn't lost on me.

My meager allowance earned from dishes, dusting, vacuuming, mowing, and shoveling was divided into two piles. The first fed a savings account, which back in the 80's could actually earn you some money. I would take the rest of my earnings, jump on my Huffy bike (no GT or Haro for me), and pedal my way to our local card shop, Extra Innings.

It wasn't hard to fall in love with collecting cards and it didn't hurt that the home team won two world series (87 and 91) and that the steroid era wasn't in full swing yet. You opened the door to that cramped card shop and the bell would jingle to life as you beheld a glorious view of boxes, stacks, and packs of cards. I didn't know it at the time, but my entrance into the baseball card collecting arena was ill-timed.

Topps, Fleer, and Donruss were the big three card companies. I was mostly a Topps man, but dabbled in the other two. An upstart company called Upper Deck came along in the late 80's and created premium cards and soon birthed the modern card that every kid wanted:

Behold the 1989 Ken Griffey Jr rookie card

This card rocketed in price and soared over a $100.00! That was mind-blowing to me as a kid.I was buying packs of cards with a stick of gum in them for $0.50, hoping to get a $1.25 Mattingly. I never nabbed this unicorn, but did collect thousands of cards (including a few Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards in other sets). With the lessons of my father and the example of the KG card, I knew I had cardboard gold sitting in those plastic sleeves and boxes.

Turns out, I should have sold all of my cards back then. Nearly 30 years later and they still aren't worth what they peaked at. Companies saturated the markets with more and more cards. The bottom fell out shortly after I stopped collecting. My card collection ended up selling on Ebay for less than $100.00.

It's funny how one generational truth unravels into mere myth. If I had a child collecting sport cards, my message to him would not mirror my father's. I was witness to this phenomenon a second time when purchasing a condo near the height of the market. Ten years later, I still can't get what I purchased it for

That gets my wheels spinning. I got an idea for a new novel on the back burner and this theme of generational truths might get baked into writing. Hmmmmm.

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