Friday, February 24, 2012
Surviving the hobby
We were all kids at one point.
I'm sure baseball cards were a large part of our childhoods as well, as I don't know of many people who all of a sudden dove into the hobby in their twenties or thirties.
Nope, most of our interest in baseball cards go all the way back to our preteen years. Perhaps we even have a few cards left from those "glory days".
I've said it before, but each generation of card collecting has those few "iconic" cards that come to represent the era.
For many of my fellow bloggers who have a few years on me, I'm sure that this Kurt Bevacqua card is one of those. Bevacqua was a marginal player in the '70s, at best.
But a whole generation of baseball card collectors came to know who he was, and perhaps laugh whenever they heard his name or saw this card.
"He's the guy who won that bubble gum contest!"
Ah, the simple pleasures of being a kid.
As far as my collecting history goes, this card stands above all.
This is the first really "cool" card I can remember getting. At the time, I didn't know this card had some value to it or that it was highly sought after.
It was just a cool, old card.
My grandma became a big Steve Garvey fan when she moved to San Diego in the '80s. Over the years, she's assembled a few pieces of Garvey memorabilia. She's been nice enough to hand a few of these memoirs to me over the years.
The first one I remember getting was this '71 Topps Garvey, his rookie card. I remember it was in one of those screw-down holders when she gave it to me, although I've since removed it.
I couldn't have been more than ten or eleven years old when I got this card.
Because of my grandma, I've begun a small Steve Garvey collection in the last few years, all built around this card.
Another all-too-common tale I've heard from many other collectors is the famous "teenage collecting hiatus".
In the past, it might have been because your parents threw your cards out. But for one reason or another, most collectors stopped collecting cards altogether during their high school and/or college years.
Which is understandable, due to everything else that goes on in one's life during their adolescent years and early-twenties. Plus, money can get tight once you're on your own, with not a lot left over for any luxuries like baseball cards.
When Joe Nuxhall made his major-league debut, he was just 15 years old. The more I think about it, the more fascinating it is. The guy pitched against Stan Musial when he was just fifteen years old!
When I was fifteen, there weren't many things that I knew for certain. As we all know, the four years in high school can be life-altering, for good and bad.
However, when I was fifteen, I knew that I still wanted to collect baseball cards. Unlike many other collectors I've heard from, I still collected with as much enthusiasm as my younger days during those four great years of high school.
I've often asked myself one question:
Why didn't I get bored with it? Why did baseball cards still find a special place in my life during those crazy years?
To tell you the truth, I don't know. Maybe it's because I needed that one constant presence with all the new people I was meeting and all the things changing around me.
Maybe it kept me occupied in my spare time and out of getting into some bad things that a lot of high school kids manage to fall into during their adolescence.
Or maybe it's just because I love baseball that much.
I like to think it's that last one.
That's not to say that my collection didn't change in high school.
Night Owl said some gracious things about me and my blog in one of his recent posts, which are much appreciated by this "dime box" collector.
One of things he mentioned is that you'd think that a collector as young as me would want the big "mojo" hit, instead of a bunch of dime cards.
Well, I was that kind of a collector for a short period of time early on in high school.
At card shows, I'd come back with mostly game used and autograph cards, not eight hundred dime cards as I do now. I knew about dime boxes then, but I didn't think they were worth the time. Just look, I can get an actual piece of a guy's jersey for a couple bucks! And here's another one! And another one...
The most tragic thing is that I totally ignored vintage cards during that time. What was I thinking?
Thankfully, it was just a phase.
I still think cards like the Josh Phelps patch/auto card at the top of this section are cool, and they still hold a special place in my collection.
But I'm just not that type of collector anymore.
I enjoy the stories behind baseball cards, not a piece of fabric that they may or may not have actually worn.
I've found that it's the better collecting path.
The main thing that changed me into the low-end collector I am today is the local flea market, which I've brought up many times on this blog. (It re-opens April 1st!)
I'd been there a few times as a kid, maybe once a year. I can't remember going at all during my GU/Auto collecting years.
A couple summers ago, my mom and I decided that we should check it out again. I couldn't believe how great it was. I remember one of the guys that first week had a gigantic 25/$1 box with a bunch of early-'80s Topps cards in it.
I had a blast looking through that box. My mom and I were regular attendees from that point on.
I found myself more interested in dime cards than those three-dollar pieces of fabric after a while. But there was still one thing missing.
I still didn't have much interest in vintage. The flea market also changed that.
One week, one of the vendors put out a box of low-grade '60s and '70s vintage cards for a quarter a piece. I figured at a quarter a piece, why not at least take a look?
It must've hit me when I started to look through that box. I'm holding pieces of baseball history here. Look, it's Hank Aaron's brother! Look, it's Tony Oliva! Look, it's "Yaz"!
After I got done drooling over that box, I had a newfound passion for vintage.
That vendor was always there with that quarter vintage box, filled with a different stack of cards each week.
And I'm still a regular at the flea market, buying stuff from the same vendors each time I go. They know me by now and always knock a couple bucks off the final price.
It really is a great way to spend a sunny summer afternoon.
These days, my collection is still going strong.
I still get excited over the new sets. I love going to card shows. I love trading online. I love writing for this blog. I love reading other's people's blogs. I love it all.
I firmly believe that everyone should have a hobby that they're genuinely interested in.
These days, the "hip" hobby to have among people my age is video games or cars or "Facebooking" or something.
For me, it's baseball cards, and it always has been. My collection has certainly taken on many shapes and forms over the years, but I've always had a collection to admire.
I still love baseball cards.