10 Things I Love about Card Collecting

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My collecting friends appreciated the last post, no one complained about the content, and I need a short breather from urging us all to care so I can recharge. Remember as you read this that my collecting experience is a solitary activity in community with a bunch of other crazies like (and unlike) me; I don’t think I would enjoy collecting as I do if I weren’t part of OBC. Also, I define “card” collecting very broadly.

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10. I get to relive being a kid, every day, in a way that harms virtually no one.

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When I was 10, in 1978, the Yankees and Red Sox played a one-game playoff, Game 163 of the season, fondly (or less fondly) known as “the Bucky Dent Game.” If you don’t care, you know nothing about this; if you do care, you know exactly what I’m talking about and the details. That game started at 2:30 PM East Coast time, I have no idea why. School got out at 3:30, Midwest time. That day, I parked my bike illegally against the outside wall of the school right nearest to the doors so I could sprint from class (also illegal), jump on my bike, and peddle home on my black Huffy as fast as my 10-year-old legs could carry me. I got there in the 5th inning, with the Red Sox up 1-0. They went up 2-0 in the 6th. Then, wonderful things happened. Alone in my home, I went absolutely, hysterically out of my mind with joy.

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I don’t re-experience quite this level of elation every single time I see a Bucky Dent card…but close enough.


9. Collecting cards (and other stuff) is like putting together a million piece puzzle with the pieces scattered all over the world and it’s also a treasure hunt and barter faire to find them. Oh, and the picture changes sometimes, too.

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6When I started collecting, I did strictly vintage (1980 and before) baseball cards and only main Topps sets. Then I discovered old Bowman cards, my true love. Then I started a few of the oddball and insert sets. Then I realized that since I love Star Wars cards, it would be fun to start some other non-sports sets for nostalgia, e.g. Bionic Woman, Batman (the “Biff! Pow!” version), Planet of the Apes…Oh, and autographs are fun…and…

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When I say “I decided/discovered/started/realized…” what I really mean is some wonderful person in OBC gave or sent me a few or more and got me started. In OBC, if you have one, it’s a typecard; two means you’re collecting the set.

8. Star Wars cards.

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Image result for 1977 star wars cards luke han leia
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Period.

7. Collecting cards is both learning history and having history in your hands. It also recalls a time before millionaire players, steroids, etc,.

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As I described last time, I’m fascinated with who might have owned these cards, what 10-year-old 1948 counterpart of my 10-year-old self, who pedaled home from school to hear the one-game Indians-Red Sox playoff game on a Zenith or Philco radio, owned my 1948 Bowman Yogi Berra rookie card…or the 48B Stan Musial I’m still hoping to get?

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I don’t believe in the Myth of the Innocent Past, and anytime we gather people together we have issues (the New Testament church was neither perfect nor pure). Baseball has a racist past, drug issues before steroids, etc. Oh, and the 1919 Black Sox. Nonetheless, it’s enjoyable to gather old cards and read about how Stan Musial sold Christmas trees in the off-season and Lou Brock ran a florist shop. And Yogi Berra sold hardware for Sears-Roebuck.

14. 1936 Berlin Olympics, Jesse Owens (top right)

6. Giving is as much fun as receiving.

You may believe this already. You may enjoy giving more than receiving. Or you may be with the host of children on Christmas morning who roll their eyes at that statement . One of my very favorite parts of collecting is that moment when I realize one of my friends needs a single card to complete a long-worked upon set…and I have that card to send! In OBC lingo, we call that killing a set and I put a notch on my card collecting cabinet every time I get one. Just kidding about that last part. But honestly, it’s incredibly satisfying to bring that kind of (ridiculous, child-like) joy to a fellow collector.

5. Mail!

Remember that “Mail Time” song from Blue’s Clues? We have a very active group and we send one another cards all the time. Every day going to the

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mailbox is like that for me. I don’t receive cards in the mail every day, but I do receive them off enough to enjoy the anticipation each time I open the box.

4. As I described in my previous post, OBC is a community of sharing.

It gives me hope for the world that a group this diverse (and weird) can sustain this level of mutual care and generosity. It really does astound me. The generosity I’ve personally experienced blows my mind.

16. My friend Mike giving me my final 1965 Topps Embossed card (Clemente), a set affectionately known as “the Golden Uglies.”

On one level, you could say it’s no big deal because how important are cards, really? But you know how I feel about cynicism. You don’t come to my blog for that. We’ve somehow gathered a group of 100+ guys who really like to share and enjoy helping one another as much as we enjoy collecting, to the point that for most of us the two have become inextricable. We’ve had OBC going in some form since 1991, coming up on thirty years. Believe me, the world would be a better place if the OBC mentality could spread to many other aspects of life.

3. One thing that makes our collecting group unusual is that we have a mutual understand that cards can be beautiful in any condition. Put another way, we often collect beaters. We also collect really nice cards, but for most of us it isn’t about the money, the worth of the cards, investing, speculating, or getting the best of someone else in a deal. One of the group mottos is “Better a hole in the card than a hole in my set.”

You’d have to know a little about the sportscard collecting industry to understand how off-the-beaten path this approach is. We have quite a few card dealers who put aside their “OBC specials” for us…because they want to help us out and because almost no one else wants to buy those cards.

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We raise this idiosyncrasy to the level of an art form. One of our members, nicknamed Guru, has his own grading system and will grade and “slab” (enclose and seal in a plastic holder) cards for us. While other grading companies consider a “Mint 10” a pristine, flawless example of a card, getting a GGS Mint means something slightly different.

In practice, this means, for nearly all my sets, I have a mixture of really nice cards and extremely real, well-loved cards (in the Velveteen Rabbit sense). Over time, I may upgrade. I may not. Though these things are always relative, I’m not spending a fortune on perfect cards. It means I have been able to get some cards that I never could if I had to have them in nicer condition.

2.Beyond the general nostalgia and reliving the better parts of my childhood, my cards have always felt like a connection with Dad. I hope we all have these remaining connections, in some manner, with our late parents. Sports in general and sportscards are one of the strongest I have and I won’t find a new one.

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He taught me about Jackie Robinson. He told me Roberto Clemente died in a plane on New Year’s Eve trying to help Nicaraguans. We treasure these connections because they’re all we have; I’m not making more memories with Dad.* He would love my collection. I can’t imagine how many hours we–he!–would talk about it. In fairness, I give him partial credit that it’s so disorganized creatively organized. That’s definitely a reflection of him, as well. I wish I could talk with him about all the cards and hear his stories again. But I still hear him telling me about Stan the Man and Bobby Feller in my head. That makes this connection unspeakably precious to me.

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1. I’m friends with people whom, were it not for our mutual hobby, I certainly would not be.

I mean this two ways. Geographically, I wouldn’t randomly have these 150 friends spread out across the U.S., Canada, and Glasgow, Scotland.

But more importantly to me, card collecting has helped us cross some socio-economic and personality lines that we would not have otherwise–and I number some of these people among my closest friends. They aren’t my best friends because we all collect cards; we became friends because we all collect cards and now we have become that close. The power of Jesus’ Gospel is that it breaks down dividing lines and walls between us, one another, and between us and God. In my view, anything that helps us do that–anything that helps us become friends with people we would otherwise reject–has an aspect of grace to it.

I don’t imagine this one is unique to card collecting. I think any sub-culture, hobby, or gathering point of community can do this. I’ve had a similar, yet very different experience of this with ultimate. Cards and ultimate happens to be where I’ve found a connecting point, but I still I look at our group photos and think it’s nearly miraculous: “These guys love each other…and there’s no way that would’ve happened without the cards!”

Let me put that another way: a bunch of these guys love me, more than I deserve, and find creative ways to show it with and without cardboard. That happened because of our mutual interest in these silly little cards. And for that, I am deeply grateful.

By the way, did you know Bucky Dent was also MVP of the World Series in 1978? Thought you’d want to know.

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*As if to drive home this point, in searching for a picture for this post, I realized I don’t have any photos of me with my father. I barely have any of him period, even fewer of him after my birth, and seemingly no digital ones of the two of us, period. I’ll have to look some more.

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Featured Image: 1956 Topps Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron

  1. 1978 Topps Reggie Jackson
  2. Cambridge Youth Baseball Team, circa…yeah, I’m not gonna say. Loved having those guys for teammates.
  3. 1978 Topps Bucky Dent
  4. 1953 Bowman Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer and Mickey Mantle
  5. 1953 Bowman Pee Wee Reese
  6. 1966 Topps Batman Black Bats
  7. 1978 Wonder Bread Star Wars
  8. 1978 Topps Star Wars Yellow (3rd) Series
  9. 1978 Topps Star Wars Blue (1st) Series
  10. 1953 Bowman Mickey Mantle
  11. 1947-66 Exhibits W461 Joe Dimaggio
  12. 1948 Bowman Yogi Berra
  13. 1911 T3 Turkey Red Jordan & Herzog At First
  14. Reemtsma Cigarettenfabrik (translated to cigarette factory) Olympia 1936 Jesse Owens
  15. Steve from Blues Clues
  16. 1965 Topps Embossed Roberto Clemente
  17. 1965 Topps Tony Kubek (GGS 5)
  18. 1955 Bowman Jack Collum (GGS 10)
  19. 1953 Bowman Lou Kretlow (GGS 6)
  20. 1956 Topps Jackie Robinson (back)
  21. 1973 Topps Roberto Clemente (back)
  22. 1978 Kellogg’s Bucky Dent
  23. 1975 Magnavox Color Photo Hank Aaron (was complimentary with TV purchase)
  24. 1948 New York Yankees Picture Pack: Joe Dimaggio, Yogi Berra

For those who are interested, here is the back of the 1936 Jesse Owens Olympic card:

In answer to the unspoken question, yes, I have all these cards…except the 1978 Kellogg’s Dent (and Steve from Blue’s Clues)

One thought on “10 Things I Love about Card Collecting

  1. Jim Allyn

    In my youth I used to get Beatles cards with packages of gum, and I had quite a few of them. I loaned them to a friend, who threw them away because her mother told her, “The Beatles do nasty things to girls.”* I don’t hold a grudge against that friend, but I sure wish I had those cards back!

    * My guess would be that all those “nasty things” were entirely consensual, and that the Beatles probably felt encouraged by all the girls who would take off their bras or panties and throw them up on the stage during their concerts.

    PS: I also had a few baseball cards, but honestly, I was more interested in the Beatles than in baseball.

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