Buying a box of baseball cards

When I was about seven and used to get a dollar a week for allowance, I remember once saving a few months to buy a box of baseball cards. I had started buying packs of Topps, Donruss, and Fleer maybe a year before, a pack or two at a time from the grocery store or card shop, and the idea of getting a few dozen packs at once enthralled me. I saved with resolve, my nylon wallet increasingly stuffed with ones even during times I wanted to break and buy a pack. It felt like Christmas when I got that box (1991 Fleer), and the last of the packs couldn’t have gone unopened more than a few hours.

That scene repeated itself a few times the rest of my childhood until I grew out of spending my allowance on trading cards. I’m 27 now and haven’t collected since middle school, but last Friday, I got a reminder of the past. I have been working as a delivery driver the past few months, and on my San Jose route last week, I spotted a sign for a baseball card store near one of my stops. Intrigue, plus desire for a quick break, got me in– one simply does not see many pure baseball card stores anymore, since the bottom for the market fell out around the time I hit adolescence. Even my old card shop in Sacramento had to start holding Magic card contests at the shop, the sports cards tucked almost apologetically into a corner of the display cases.

The San Jose shop was pretty barren, and I was somewhat amazed it was still in business and relatively free of Magic, which I never got into. There was a pretty good selection of vintage cards, with the likes of Mantle, Mays, and Koufax available if one was willing to hand over at least $100. I don’t make that kind of money, and I get leery of buying counterfeits. But behind the case of Hall of Famers were a few boxes of cards, including a 36-pack box of 1990 Score for $10, which I bought along with a July 4, 1983 copy of Sports Illustrated with Dale Murphy on the cover.

The nice thing about the card market having collapsed is that I can pay the same price now that I would have paid in second grade. In fact, with inflation, it’s probably cheaper. One might say the cards don’t have any value. That’s true in a literal sense, but I’m reminded of a series of Calvin & Hobbes strips where the family house is burglarized, and a distraught Calvin can’t find Hobbes (who he simply misplaced.) Calvin’s mom tells him Hobbes wouldn’t have any value to thieves, but a tearful Calvin remarks, “I think he has value.”

Back in the car, I opened maybe 10 or 15 packs before going on with my delivery route. I’ve opened most of the remainder, moving at a curiously slower pace than I would have 20 years ago. I’ve been enjoying getting players who were once icons to me: Will Clark, Ken Griffey Jr, Nolan Ryan, so many others. I’m not sure what their value is today, but it was worth ten bucks for the blast from the past. Would if I could, I’d reach back in time, and give the box to the seven-year-old version of me.

6 Replies to “Buying a box of baseball cards”

  1. It is amazing how far your dollar will take you these days on ebay for baseball cards. All you have to do is type in baseball card lot or box of baseball cards and there is anything you could ever want.

  2. I know this old guy that told me that you should try to complete two sets of cards. One from the year you were born and one from the year you graduated from high school. At one time I had every Topps set complete or within 50 cards from completion every year from 1957 to 1992. Then my wife had a set of twins and I got nailed with a big co-insurance bill of over $3000 so I sold the cards to pay the bill. Last year I bought a few 1962 Topps to start on the year I was born set and found that I really didn’t like the card design and the costs was a little unsettling. So now I am working on the graduation set, 1981 Topps and I really like the cards and actually remember most of the players. The cards I used to really like were from about 1972 to 1984 Topps. My first year of collecting were the 1969 Topps football and basketball cards.

  3. Grahman, can’t thank you enough for the link to my first cards. I remember buying these cards in college, a very neat set indeed!

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