June 27th is a day that always stands out on the calendar for me, and this past Saturday it jumped out to me more than normal. Fifteen years ago on that day, I started college. It’s a weird date for me to remember because I wasn’t really excited to start college, but that date has just stuck with me for some reason. You might be wondering how my starting college relates to baseball cards. It’s because on June 27th, 2005, I packed my car up with all of my important things – and left my baseball cards behind at my parents’ house.
The funny thing is, I don’t even remember agonizing over the decision to bring my cards or not. I don’t even think the idea to bring them ever crossed my mind. I started collecting in 1996 and was selling on eBay in 1999, which gave me extra money to buy baseball cards. But by my senior year of high school, I was sort of falling out of collecting. Baseball cards were kind of nerdy, and being nerdy wasn’t mainstream the way it is today. I also had other things preoccupying my time; I was playing in three bands, prepping for college, hanging out with my friends, and bowling. My closest local card shop closed, and the only two friends I had who collected had also stopped collecting. I still looked at my cards, enjoyed them, and occasionally bought new ones, but by the time June 26th rolled around, I knew it didn’t make sense for me to pack my collection in the car the next day.
I didn’t miss my cards. I missed home and I missed my friends but I can’t say I ever really thought about my cards. My time on eBay and trading sites dwindled. I got really into music and movies. I went home over winter break and I looked at a few of the new cards I had actually bought on ebay and had shipped to my parents’ house, but that was it. I didn’t bring my cards back with me in January.
In February, through a stroke of luck, I was up late one Saturday night watching TV because my roommate was out of town. There was a commercial for a sports card and memorabilia store about 15 minutes away from campus. I didn’t have a lot going on that weekend, so I decided to check it out the next day. I headed over to the shop in the early afternoon expecting to just look around for a few minutes and then head back. When I got there I was greeted by the owner, who was (and is) just about the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet. I discovered he loved baseball as much as I did. Since it had been nearly a year since I’d been to a shop, he showed me some new products that had come out the previous year. I told him I was putting together a 1971 Topps set, and he showed me the 1971 Thurman Munson 1/1 relic buyback he had pulled from 2005 Topps Rookie Cup. I bought a box of Rookie Cup right there on the spot. 2006 Topps Series 1 came out the next week, and I went back and bought a box, followed by several boxes of 2006 Bazooka upon release a few weeks later. Next I bought some cardboard storage boxes and toploaders and began storing them under my dorm room bed. During spring break I gathered some cards and brought them back to school with me. I was back in the game.
I started selling on ebay again little by little, and buying on ebay more often. I went to trading days at the shop. I also started going to another shop in town, and driving out of town for card shows from time to time. At the shop, I met two baseball-obsessed brothers who were from South Florida like I was, and soon we were spending 12 hour days watching baseball at a sports bar, going to college baseball games, and joining online forums together to trade cards with other folks around the country. A few years later I set up at my first card show with the shop owner, and we began doing shows fairly regularly together. All the while, I ramped up selling on ebay to help supplement my income during the two years I was a freelancer without company benefits, and I’ve kept up the volume since.
So what has the hobby I once almost left behind given me?
Card shops and shows have given me friendships I cherish with people I speak to nearly every day. From the aforementioned college town card shop owner to the other dealers I met setting up at shows when I lived in North Carolina, from the brothers I met at the shop in 2006 to the folks I met at Big League when I moved back to Florida in 2015, I have been connected with so many wonderful people through this hobby who I’m proud to call my friends.
Putting together sets has taught me patience and perseverance, and, at times, has also taught me the valuable skill of when to walk away from something before it consumes you.
Selling on ebay and at shows has given me discretionary income, money I’ve used over the years to help buy a new computer and a new car and a new house. Selling at shows has also given me the opportunity to meet and talk to amazing people who have some incredible stories about collecting, baseball, and life in general.
Buying and selling collections has taught me negotiation skills, as well as how to understand financial risk vs. reward.
Collecting cards has given me a sense of purpose. It is a huge part of my identity. Every day I do something involving baseball cards, whether it’s buying, selling, organizing, or just admiring them. It brings me enjoyment and fulfillment.
As I look at the current landscape of the hobby, I see so many new collectors joining the fray. I see lapsed collectors getting back into collecting after time off, like I had back in 2005. I see kids collecting with their parents. I see folks brand new to the hobby who are caught up in the excitement and thrill of cards just like every collector was at the beginning of their own odyssey. For all of these new collectors, I hope the hobby gives you as much as it has given me.