Monday, April 23, 2012

A special day for cards

If anyone out there in the blogosphere has an interest in vinyl records, you might be aware that this past Saturday was "National Record Store Day".

My dad is as much into records as I am with baseball cards. I'm fairly certain I got the "collecting gene" from him.

Naturally, he was ecstatic about the arrival of "Record Store Day" this year. When I met him for lunch on Saturday, he had a big bag of records, his personal "finds" of the day. (It reminds me a lot of the semi-yearly card shows I attend.)

In talking with my dad and simply observing the way he collects records, I've noticed that there's a lot of similarities between the two hobbies. For one thing, there are certainly your high-end record collectors that seem to get all the publicity. But the majority of the record collectors out there are your everyday people who simply collect what they like. (My dad says he'll sometimes buy a single if he simply likes the label.)

Up until a few years ago, I could proudly say that both had special "days" devoted to them, on one special day each year.

I can't say that anymore.

Looking back, "National Baseball Card Day" may have just been a marketing ploy on the part of card companies. But it certainly grabbed my attention at the time.

I'm fairly certain that 2006 was the initial celebration of the card "holiday". That happened to be the first year I collected solely baseball cards, and I was still searching for some local card shops to frequent.

I first became aware of the "day" from an ad in one of my Beckett magazines, which listed the card shops that were participating in the promotion. Luckily, I found that one of them was just a short bus ride from my house, a small shop called "Zeke's Baseball Cards".

Before that ad, I never even knew it existed.

Part of the promotion was that each participating card store would give away special packs that contained specially-made inserts. An example is the David Wright card at the top of this post.

I don't remember exactly what I pulled from that pack.

All I know is that I had found a great new card shop, which was all I could ever really ask for.

In that sense, I came to appreciate "National Baseball Card Day".

Flash-forward a couple years.

While the "day" took a hiatus in 2007, it came back with a vengeance in '08. This time, card shops would again be giving away special packs. Only this time, they'd be filled with random Topps/Upper Deck cards.

Plus, one out of every five packs had an autograph card inside. (I specifically remember that for some reason.)

"Zeke's" was once again participating in the promotion. Since I was a frequent customer by this time, the store owner was nice enough to give me two packs, even though I'm pretty sure they were supposed to be limited to one per customer.

Ironically, the extra pack held one of the greatest cards I've ever pulled.

Had anyone else pulled this Bud Smith autograph, it would probably have just been tossed to the side and forgotten about.

But I was the lucky one that became the proud owner of the above card. Bud Smith just happens to be one of those obscure guys that I collect. He threw a no-hitter as a rookie with the Cardinals in '01, then faded away, going 1-5 with a 6.94 ERA in 2002.

He never pitched in the majors again.

Like Bud Smith, my world of baseball cards rapidly faded after a strong year or two.

Zeke's closed down a couple months later. And "National Baseball Card Day" never returned. Apparently, it wasn't the resounding success that "Record Store Day" is today. (My dad tells me that much of the vinyl collector's world revolves around that "day".)

While it was a good idea, it just didn't work. I don't think there were enough card shops to keep the promotion going. Plus, I don't think something like that could all of a sudden attract new people to the hobby. It takes a lot more than a couple free packs of cards.

But one good thing came out of the failure of the baseball card "holiday" (besides my Bud Smith autograph, of course).

I realized that I didn't need a special day telling me to appreciate baseball cards. I can do that anytime I want, regardless if it's in a Beckett magazine or whatnot. Not a day goes by where I don't appreciate my baseball cards in some way, shape, or form.

In my life, every day is "National Baseball Card Day".

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