Friday, June 21, 2013

Cross One Off The Ol' Card Bucket List

One of the perks of working in the hospitality business is that I get to wear a nametag at work.  On that piece of plastic, right beneath my full name is something that I’m “connected to”.  In my case, it’s “Baltimore Baseball”.  The goal is to generate a discussion with the guest while we’re checking them in. And it works, although I spend most of the time explaining that I don’t actually know anyone in the organization, I’m just a fan. 

As a fan who collects and blogs about cards you would think that it’s a no-brainer that I had one of the most iconic cards in Orioles history in my collection:

"Bob Bonner. Beloit. Accounts. Can I get you some coffee?"

Yet, until about a week ago I never owned the Topps Ripken rookie.  I’m not really sure why not. Sure, when I was younger and he was still playing it was a little out of my price range.  Then again, any card that was more than $5.00 was pretty much out of my price range.  However, you would think, now that I’m a grown-ass man with a real job I could plunk down the equivalent of two tickets to the movies to own THE CARD. Heck I’ve spent more at Starbucks then what I paid for the card.

I just never quite got around to it for some reason.  OK, so maybe it was because I’m easily distracted by other things.  Collecting a copy of every Floyd Rayford card isn’t something that happens overnight, you know.  Then (suddenly!) I found myself perusing eBay the other night with some money in my PayPal account.  I was actually looking for something totally unrelated to cards, probably a new lens for my camera that I can’t afford, but when on eBay it’s never too long before I start searching for cards.

A search for Lecavalier cards turned into a search for Murray cards which turned into a search for Machado rookie cards which then ultimately left me clicking on the “Buy it Now” button for the card you see above. 
Did I pay too much for it?  Maybe (but I got free shipping!) Yet, the price I paid was still way less then what it went for back in the late 80s and early 90s. That made me a little sad.  So I was happy/sad (hapsad?).  

Happy that I filled in a missing hole in my collection, but sad that the rookie card of a hall of fame shortstop could be had for less than half of what kids today pay for some player that hasn’t done half of what Ripken did in his career.

I was also feeling a bit nostalgic (as I tend to do after a couple of PBRs) about collecting. The 1982 set represents to me a different era of collecting. There really was no such thing as an “insert”. The only special cards were the all star cards or “In Action” cards.  Yet both of those were part of the base set.  There were really only a couple of ways to collect back then.  Either you were trying to build the set or you were trying to stockpile as many cards of your favorite player or team as possible. 

Not to get all old fogey on you, but it was definitely a simpler time for collecting.  There were three brands (Topps, Donruss and Fleer), and each basically had a base set and maybe an update or traded series.  The packs were considerably cheaper and seemingly more readily available for purchase. There were no endless parallels, meaningless 1-of-1s or overpriced, short printed gimmicks.  Rookie cards were easy to figure out. If it was the first time the manufacturer made that players card, chances are it was a rookie card.

Perhaps the simplicity was part of the reason there were more casual collectors back then. It was an easy hobby to figure out. You plunked down your twenty-five cents and opened the pack. No redemptions or figuring the difference between SP, SPx or SP Authentic required.

While collecting was simpler it was also much more limited.  If you were a player collector you had, at most, six or seven cards of your guy that you could find for the entire year.  Heck there are some sets these days that have different cards of the same player in just one set! There were no hand-signed cards or memorabilia cars.  While there might be a bit of overkill in those areas these days, it’s still pretty cool to own a piece of the action.

Back in the old days trading was done face to face.  You actually had to have friends or know people that collected cards.  Then you had to hope they had different interests than you did.  Trust me, in the mid-80s there weren’t many kids in Baltimore that were collecting Red Sox cards.  So we all tended to overvalue our 

Lenn Sakata or Joe Nolan cards while not giving a damn about Dave Winfield or Robin Yount.
Now, with the internet, there are seemingly endless trading partners.  Most of whom have a different focus than I do.  Although, when I think about it, there seems to be an inordinate amount of Orioles collectors in our blogospehere.  Even still I have no problem unloading my Red Sox or Braves cards now.

So much like the facts of life, you had the good and you had the bad.  It’s nice to remember those times, but I think I’m happier being a collector these days.  I’m also happier because I crossed another card off of my personal top 10.