Well, that settles it. No mom will ever be able to throw away her kid’s baseball card collection again.
I mean, how could she — after the news broke yesterday of a trove of rare cards, from the early 20th century and found in an Ohio attic, that could fetch up to $3 million?
The news reports brought back memories of what I, and every kid I knew, said when we moved out of our parents’ house after high school: “Don’t throw away my baseball cards! They might be worth a lot of money some day!”
(An interlude here, one that has nothing to do with baseball cards: if you’re under 30, your jaw probably just hit the floor. But you read right: when I was a kid we actually moved out of our parents’ house – not just down to the basement – after high school: to go to college, to join the Army, or to otherwise strike out on our own. And not only did we move out, we did so willingly. And not only did we do so willingly: we couldn’t WAIT to leave.)
Back to the cards, with a confession: we only threw in that last part, about our collection being worth a bunch of money some day, to show off our nascent adult sense of responsibility. We didn’t really know if the cards would be worth a lot of money some day; what’s more, we didn’t care.
We didn’t collect baseball cards as an investment. Nor did we plunk down our nickel for the long, flat, sweet-smelling stick of pink gum that came with each pack – a mere afterthought to the true treasure, really; even a distraction. (Little did we know, or care, that early baseball cards were designed to advertise cigarettes and other tobacco products, and often were included in a pack of smokes.)
We collected baseball cards because they were close-up pictures of our heroes, sometimes in cheesy pseudo-action poses. We collected them for the baseball stats and fun facts on the back, sometimes accompanied by goofy little drawings. We collected them because you could insert an unwanted card (either a duplicate or a player you didn’t care much about) in the spokes of your bike to make a cool flapping sound as you rode around the neighborhood. We collected them to set up marathon trading sessions, an early lesson in supply and demand – and the art of negotiation.
And most of all, we collected them because they made us feel intimately connected to the game we loved – as an active participant, not just a passive fan. The cards found in the Ohio attic may bring in millions of cold, hard cash, but 45 years ago my friends and I would have told you that our collections were priceless.
Come to think of it, they still are.