Over the last month or so, fellow blogger Fuji has provided some great questions pertaining to the hobby as part of his latest contest.
Judging from what I've heard, this isn't the first time he's done this type of contest. I can see why it gets the blogosphere so excited. Sure, the prizes are nice, but talking about the hobby with fellow collectors is just as good.
Fuji recently asked his readers to ask him any sports or hobby-related question.
It didn't take me long to come up with mine. For as long as I've read posts from the blogosphere, I've been interested in how each blogger first found his or her way into this hobby. The diversity of the "entry stories" is immense. Much like fingerprints or snowflakes, no two are the same.
Specifically, my question was as follows:
"How did you first decide to collect sports cards, and when?"
As luck would have it, Fuji decided to use my question for his latest contest post. So in a Fight Club-like post, here I am providing an answer my own question.
Some people can remember the first pack they ever opened, or the first card they ever owned.
I envy them.
As much as I've tried, I can't remember anything from my earliest days in the hobby. It had to have been around 1999 or 2000, as I know I was still in my "minor league" years of Little League at the time.
There were probably a few factors as to how I first decided to collect sports cards.
For one thing, I'm pretty sure a few of my friends were doing it at the time. It was only natural that I'd pick it up as well. My third-grade teacher was nice enough to let us bring our cards in so we could trade during recess.
I'm also betting that my dad made a big contribution into my first days as a collector. As a kid, he opened pack after pack of baseball cards in the '70s, so it's very likely that he played a major role in introducing me to the glorious world of baseball cards.
I've often said that my "collecting DNA" comes from him.
As far as exact, specific memories go, one of the earliest is tied to this 2001 Upper Deck Ichiro rookie. (Quite possibly the first of my 400-plus Ichiro cards.)
I vividly remember sitting in the backseat of my mom's car, tearing open a brand new pack. My eyes widened as I saw it. An Ichiro rookie card!
Since I've always kept up with baseball, I knew who Ichiro was at the time, even though his big-league career was probably in its newborn stages then.
I didn't care that it was a "hot" card to have when I was nine years old. It's as "well-loved" as any of my other cards that go that far back, as you might be able to tell from the scan.
In that regard, I haven't changed much.
While I never collected them as "baseball cards", the MLB Showdown card game played a major role in fully introducing me to the meaning of being a "collector".
I probably started playing MLB Showdown around the same time I pulled that Ichiro rookie in '01. Showdown's first set came in 2000 (which is when this Alan Embree card is from), although it didn't hit full stride until about two years later.
At the time, I was still buying whatever baseball cards I could get my hands on. Packs of 1990 Donruss for a quarter each, big boxes of 1989 Topps commons for a buck at garage sales, etc. Literally everything in sight.
My MLB Showdown collection was quite the opposite. I only wanted the best cards, the ones that could make the roster of my hallowed "big league" team. The one I brought with me to daycare each day to try and take down my opponents. (Otherwise known as my friends.)
In hindsight, I probably spent way more money on MLB Showdown packs than I should have. A lot of them didn't have anything new for me. But finding that one great card made it all worth it.
Somewhere along the line, I realized that I couldn't just buy all the baseball cards I saw. That's the makings of a hoarder, not a collector.
Over time, I managed to trim my collection down. If you think I collect a lot of different things today, you should've seen my collection ten years ago.
I realized that it wasn't about the quantity. It was the quality that mattered.
Just like with my MLB Showdown cards, finding that one great card in a pack of baseball cards is really what it's all about.
When I first started collecting, I never thought it would be a permanent thing.
As is the case with almost every other kid in the history of mankind, I dabbled in a lot of different hobbies when I was younger. Beanie Babies, Hot Wheels, and Crazy Bones were just a few of the many different interests I had as a young boy.
I'm not into any of that stuff anymore, yet I've never turned my back on baseball cards.
The one thing that shaped me into a "collecting lifer" was a small little card shop a few miles from my house, an insignificant little store to almost any other passerby.
One of my first blog posts was devoted to this little shop. It was there that I was introduced to my first taste of what this hobby is really all about.
Sure, the shop had their pricier "glass case" cards, as does all others. As a kid, I couldn't dream of coughing up that kind of money.
Besides, I always thought the cheaper cards were much "cooler". They had dime boxes, discounted vintage, and pretty much anything else you'd want in a local card shop. The people that ran it were extremely nice. Because my dad and I stopped in there so often, we got to know them pretty well.
If there's one place that I can trace my love for discount bins back to, it's there.
Sadly, the shop decided to close its doors about six years ago. One of my biggest regrets in life is related to the final trip I made there.
The shop closed smack dab in the middle of my year-long hockey card collecting phase. As a result, almost all the cards I bought during that final trip were hockey-related items.
At the time, I had no idea that the shop was nearing its final days in business.
Had I known that, I definitely would've dug into the baseball cards a little more, for old time's sake. Even so, I still bought a few baseball cards that night.
The one I remember most is the '83 Donruss Julio Franco rookie card I nabbed from their 6/$1 bin. Not only is it a "one-year card", as I still like to call them, it was an ever-so-rare "one-year rookie card". It's still the only card I own of Franco as a Phillie. (I don't think there's any others out there.)
In a way, this blog is a bit of an homage to that great little shop.
Had it not existed, I don't know that I'd still be in this hobby, much less had my current love for dime boxes.
There were probably a lot of factors that lured me into this hobby, but the ones I've mentioned in this post are the ones that stand out most in my memory.
It's because of those things that I am still a member of this great hobby. It's because of those things that I can still get excited over a seemingly insignificant piece of cardboard, like a new card for my Casey Kotchman collection.
It's been an interesting ride, to say the least.