There was a time when only boys collected baseball cards.
They collected them because they loved the game
Kids and Baseball
Kids collected them because baseball players were their heroes, heroes who got to run around on grassy fields and hit home runs, make diving catches in the outfield, wore cool uniforms and lived lives that one day they hope they could copy if they kept practising and playing.
In the time before Cable TV and the 24-Hour Sports cycle they didn’t know who their favourite players were dating, what their political opinions were or anything about their bat speed or launch angles.
And they honestly didn’t care.
They only occasionally got to watch their team play on TV because there were only 3 channels. They played pick-up games all day in someone’s backyard as soon as the weather warmed up. They mimicked their favourite players when it was their turn to hit, Big Willie Stargell whipping the bat around or Joe Morgan cranking his arm up and down or sometimes bending over into a crouch like Pete Rose.
They played on Little League teams and, after a certain age, on school teams. Maybe, if they were lucky, they could go on college or university teams. Baseball, to those young boys, was Life. And some did go on to play in the big league.
Kids and Baseball Cards
Sometimes their dad’s would bring home a pack of Topps baseball cards from the grocery store or the drug store. It was like Christmas for these kids. And one of the best parts of Christmas is sharing. They would race over to my friend’s house and open them together. And perhaps sometimes they would crack the hard piece of gum in half to share. They would always hope that there would be a card inside to help complete their favourite team collection, or maybe a duplicate Reggie Jackson to trade for a Carlton Fisk.
The joy of not knowing is always the best part of opening a new pack of baseball cards.
Most kids grew out of baseball card collecting as they got older. Eventually, like so many other young men of their generation, their mothers threw out the shoeboxes full of cards hidden under the bed after leaving home. Which would make today’s collectors miserable for months.
The grown-up kids would often be disappointed, but not upset when they found out. After all, collecting baseball cards was the pastime of boys, not men.
Baseball Cards and Money
It wasn’t until the early to mid 1990s, just as the junk wax era was winding down, that baseball card collecting evolved from the happy hobby of boys to a money-making enterprise for adults.
Older men back then became obsessed with baseball cards as a business investment – thinking of them as a commodity like soybeans or hog futures – not as a pleasurable pursuit driven by a love of the game. They would buy boxes and boxes full of cards from companies like Upper Deck, Fleer, Donruss, Score and others. Some of them opened, always hoping to uncover some Holy Grail card inside. You can imagine him muttering the name Ken Griffey Jr. over and over again as he searched. They always seemed certain that they were only one box or one pack away from some SuperCard that would propel him to a land of untold wealth and retirement splendour.
They think they are making wise investments for their future. Most real collectors think it’s sad.
The problem with baseball card collecting today has everything to do with money – and nothing to do with love for the game.
Like the older men back then, many collectors are in hot pursuit of that elusive “chase” card or that 1:10,000 card or that 1 of 1 card.
There have always been stars and there will continue to be stars, and their cards will always be more desirable than “commons.” It’s always been that way.
The Simple Life
The difference is that many kids back then would stick the “commons” in the spokes of their bicycle wheels, or trade a stack of them for a Vida Blue card if they could pull off the con with the poor sap down the street who didn’t know the difference between a Rod Carew and a Luis Tiant.
The problem with baseball card collecting is motivation. Collect because you enjoy it and because you love the game. If your cards appreciate over time, consider that a bonus of collecting baseball cards.
There are 4 other posts on Baseball Card collecting, links to them are below.
Sportscard investors: Are they killing the baseball card collecting hobby
Beginners Guide to Collecting Baseball Cards Part 1
Beginners Guide to Collecting Baseball Cards Part 2
and also a personal collection post by Jon Mattias
My Tony Gywnn Baseball Card Collection