Sunday, November 26, 2006

quest for the best

Some 23 years ago, I did the unfathomable. I sold my baseball card collection. Well, most of it anyway. I kept the handful of cards that I had gotten autographed, and the five cards that I had identified as being my favorites. But the rest of the 40,000+ cards I had accumulated were sold to an insurance agent for only $350. It still makes me sick to think about how I allowed him to rip me off, but I really needed the cash for food while I was in college. At least I lived to learn.

Interestingly, the fella who bought my cards was arrested several years later for breaking into his clients’ homes and stealing their valuables while they were on vacation.

The vast majority of my cards were purchased one pack at a time from Mr. Burcham’s candy display case at the Sunoco gas station on Main Street in Toulon, Illinois. I traded with buddies to build complete sets and even managed to squirrel away a few unopened packs each year. Those alone would have been worth a small fortune today. I also traded “new” cards to older kids who no longer bought cards, but where still interested in collecting cards of players from their favorite teams.

My wife recently asked me how I got my hands on money when I was a kid. I would use money I received for my birthday, and would go around the neighborhood offering to shovel snow, rake leaves, or performing other odd jobs to raise baseball card funds.

I clearly remember the afternoon that Bob Bent caught me smashing pop bottles against the side of a shelter in the “city” park. Bob made me pick up the glass and carry it to a nearby trashcan. After I dumped the glass, Bob pulled a couple of whole bottles out of the trash and handed them to me. Then he marched me across the street and into the grocery store. As if out of some Hollywood movie, the storeowner gave me a nickel for each bottle. I was stunned! My first lesson in economics was as complete as it had been unexpected. I wondered why they didn’t teach us interesting stuff like that in school. Real life was much more exciting. As it turns out, that was the day that I began walking around looking for “stuff.” After that, I began finding money on a regular basis.

At any rate, I’ve been kicking myself in the ass since the day I sold my cards. With that in mind, I’ve decided that the thing I need to do is to begin recollecting the cards of my youth. And what better way to get started than by working on my favorite set… the 1975 Topps MLB cards? Rather than buying a set outright, I imagine I will go about it by picking up small lots and actually building the set myself. To quote Bruce Springsteen, “That’s where the fun is.”

Given the high cost of such an undertaking, I’ve also decided that the best approach would be to sell items of less personal significance than those I am interested in acquiring. Thus, I have listed my first item for sale on eBay in nearly two years… a complete 84-card set of Disabled American Veterans major league baseball cards.

While waiting to see how much fundage that set will bring (if anything), I will pull out the small stack of 75 Topps cards that I already have and work on creating a checklist to add to my updated baseball cards “want list.”

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