going, going, …. gone

When i was around 6 years old, i remember going to the drug store with a nickel in hand, and buying a pack of happiness — baseball cards. It kind of turned into a hobby pretty soon, and my brother and i would often eagerly await dad coming home to see if he had bot us a new pack of cards. Sometimes he would make a treasure hunt out of it, making directions running all over the farm to the pine tree in the corner by the fence, read the next directions to walk west 100 paces, find another paper saying to turn north and walk 75 paces, etc. until finally the resting place was found. What excitement!

There was a game included with the 1968 cards, and we played, and played and played that game forever it seemed. We collected more of the 1969 cards, and lots of 1970, 1971, and 1972 also. By 1972 my brother was 17 years old, too old for this stuff. He was still extremely kind, and made up a whole season schedule of games for me for the “year”, but without him playing with me, it just wasn’t so much fun. That proved to be the last year for the cards, with only a pack or two bot in the years up to 1981.

In 1981, in college, one of my best friends was a card collector, and the bug hit me again, but this time – to make lots of money. I bot full sets of cards straight from Topps, Donruss, and Fleer for years 1981 and 1982. To keep the condition nice, i bot some plastic holders, and put most of the “stars” in them, and almost completed whole sets for 1970-1972. Then i graduated from college in 1983, and never collected cards again.

I moved to Japan in 1989, but the cards stayed at my folks’ house in Tennessee. After they died and we sold the property in 1998, i packed up all the cards and took them to my sister’s, who graciously allowed me to store them in the shed for awhile until i got anxious about the mildew, so they were kept in the basement until just last week when i took them out to sell them off. Somewhere along the way, within the last 12 years, many of the nice cards “developed legs”. I know i had 6 rookie Nolan Ryan cards, which at one time in the early ’90s were selling for over 600usd/each. And there were around 300 1968 cards, and more 1969 cards. They probably all developed the same legs, as they are all gone. What was left was just about 10 stars each from 1968 and 1969, then the 3 almost complete sets from 1970-1972 (without any duplicates), and a whole bunch of cards (1000?) from 1982.

In looking on ebay, i could see where asking price for a 1972 set was 1,800, and some of the other cards were quite high too. So i was hoping for at least some offers when i went to the Atlanta baseball card show today, but i did know already that the big companies i had contacted on the internet were not interested in anything after 1969…ut oh.

The first dealer i approached said “How much you want?” when i proffered the 1971 set and the box of left-over stars. I told him what i had, and about how much i was hoping to get out of everything, and he handed the set back quickly. The second dealer at least pointed me to someone who might be interested. You can kind of tell by what they are selling if they would be interested in cards from this era or not, and there were probably less than 10 dealers even in the running. Finally the 4th man says he is interested, but doesn’t have that much money on him, but would be interested in the unopened wax packs. I go clockwise around the room, and the last booth happens to be the dealer on highway 58 in Chattanooga that i had scoped out on the internet, and was thinking about visiting his shop on Monday if nothing turned up today – sweet! not. I knew this was not sounding good when he said there was one-too-many card shops in Chattanooga (there are 2 total). He asked me how much i’m looking for, and after about a 10-second cursory look, started telling me i’m basically crazy because the guy across the way is advertising whole sets for those years for about the total i’m hoping for, so i’m asking him to pay retail. I assured him i wasn’t, and saw that we were getting nowhere, and took the cards to the table across the way, actually the first table from a clockwise postion there, but i had somehow skipped the first time thru. I go over there, and immediately the man is interested. He is retired, and seems to be having fun doing this card business. He spends over 30 minutes just going thru my 1971 set and stars, which is a good sign, and then quotes a price just for that which is encouraging, so i go back to the truck to get all the cards and bring them back in. Well, the 1981 and 1982 cards are not interesting for him, but tells me that there is a Cal Ripken card in 1982 that is worth some money. So i sit down on some chairs in the hall of the Holiday Inn hotel, and listen to the Spanish chatter of the people coming out of the HerbalLife rally, and go thru about a 1000 cards looking for one certain “Cal Ripken”.

The man interested in unopened wax packs and singles walks by and offers me 10 bucks for the whole lot of 1982 cards, and is still willing even after i tell him i’m told the Cal Ripken by himself is worth more than that, so will let him have it for that after i search them all. As luck would have it, i found him about 8 cards to the last in the Topps, and then again in the Fleer. I had high hopes for rookies from 2 different teams from 1982, and had purchased around 30 of each, but no, those cards are worth zero, and this one card is worth — 40 bucks book value. Then he can sell it for around 20, and i get around 60% of that. Fair enough. That’s about the way the baseball card business is it seems. ebay can probably get you close to retail, but it is a big hassle, and takes a lot of time. Checkoutmycards is interesting, but i’m not interested in managing sales of cards one at a time – just need to get them all taken care of at once. The man interested in the wax packs and singles sees the other box i have, and offers 10 bucks for both boxes together. I remonstrate that he had just offered me 10 for the one box. He smiles, and asks how much i wanted for both together, i say “12”, to which he readily agrees.

I still need to get rid of the 1981 and 1982 sets. The man interested in the older cards was not interested in the newer. What to do? The man who bot the wax packs and stuff from me said he could only offer 60, but motioned to the dealer next to him to come over and take a look at them. This man had a nasty wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth, but after about 3 minutes of looking at them, offered 90. I wanted 120, or 100 minimum, so lugged them around the whole show floor again, getting rejection notices from almost everyone. One hispanic-looking man asked to look at them, and spent about 10 minutes doing so, looking at his Beckett price guide intently. When done, he only wanted the 1982 Topps, and only wanted to offer 10 bucks for it! I told him that i wanted to sell all 6 sets together, and that the Cal Ripken card alone had a book card of 40, and the set of 80. So i finally went back to the first man, who forked over the cash.

Down to just the expensive, old cards now, and much lighter for my arms, but still with an anxious heart, i go back to the man looking at all the good cards. He doesn’t really want the 200 or so 1970 football cards, but offers 250 for them – sweet. Yes, i know O.J. Simpson just by himself has a book value of 80, and the 3 Joe Namath’s of 50 each, but, i’m happy. He says 30 for the 1968 game set, with a little brown spot on the Mickey Mantle card knocking 10 bucks off his offer. The Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Nolan Ryan, Johnny Bench, Yaz, and Reggie Jacksons are mostly there, and strangely enough, there are 3 extra Thurmon Munsons in the 1971 set, adding a hefty chunk to the total.

Finally, 5 1/2 hours after coming in around 10:15, it is time to hear the total. Not quite as much as hoped for, but after seeing the unresponsive attitude in several of the dealers, i’m extremely happy. He writes a check, which is not quite so happy, but we’ve developed a bit of a relationship here today, and,,,, well, i’ll just have to trust him when he says he’s been coming to this show for several years, knows the man who puts it on, sounds very supportive when i tell him i’m going back to Japan to do missionary work and teach English etc. He says several times that if he’s missed something, he’ll send me extra money to make it right. I give him a Great Controversy book, and after explaining it was written by a prophet and Jesus is coming soon so we need to get ready (to which he heartily agrees), i show him my email address in it, and tell him that if the cards are worse than he thot when he gets home, let me know, and i’ll refund some back to him. Lord, please may his check clear, and more importantly, save that man in your kingdom.

It was with a twinge that i sold the cards, as that represents very nice memories for me, but when i think that a pastor in India can work to save souls full time for one whole year with them, it just makes me smile 🙂 I wish dad could have seen what his buying us brothers all those cards, which made us happy then, is going to be doing to make other people happy, hopefully for eternity!!!

2 thoughts on “going, going, …. gone”

  1. Dear Daniel,

    Newbie shared your letter about your baseball cards. I could relate to every word and action you put in the email. I, too, collect, and have many memories. Although I haven’t purchased one card in over a year, I still have the ambition to collect.
    The reason I haven’t bought any cards is a similar reason- the money can be used for more important things right now- evangelism, helping others, etc.
    So, the main thing is that in this inexact science of card collecting, you sold your cards, and someone else will be sharing in the same joy that you had.
    You still have your memories of growing up with those cards…which is priceless!
    And, you shared the religious truth with a dealer!
    The best to you,


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