Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The news sent me scrambling to my office bookshelf.
In Baltimore, the nuns of The School Sisters of Notre Dame were auctioning off a Honus Wagner T206 series baseball card.
The card is one of the rarest in existence, with only around 60 known in the world.
No collectors knew this card, which was donated to the order in the will of a brother of one of the nuns, existed before it was donated.
Even though the card is in poor shape, it could still fetch north of $100,000 in an auction, with the proceeds being donated to charity.
I was pretty sure I didn't have any Honus Wagner cards sitting in the binder and boxes in my office, but I felt the urge to check.
I actually did have one of T206 series once, or rather a replica of it, that came in a tear-out book of replicas of antique cards that I once bought in a craft shop as a kid.
I used a similar card (a Jose Canseco card out of a Post cereal box that looked really cool) to swipe the first card I came to, a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.
That may have been worth money once upon a time, but with the crash of the card market due to over-saturation, nearly all modern cards are practically worthless, what with supply and demand and all that.
Many of the cards I found did tell stories though; not just of the players on them, but snippets from my past, which jumped out me more dramatically than the photos on the front or the stats on the back.
Most of the cards are loose in a box; the more important ones are in small binders or plastic sleeves. The binders are decorated with hologram stickers of various baseball teams, with most of the stickers coming from the Lacey, Wash., Godfather's Pizza during post-game or post-season celebrations in youth baseball and basketball.
Some of the cards came from machines too, where a quarter would get you a few cards. When combined the four "common" cards you got were more often worth less than the quarter you put in.
There are Topps, Fleer, Score, Upper Deck, and my old school favorite, the red Donruss cards.
There are rookie cards from some of the greatest baseball players of my generation, like Griffey, Randy Johnson, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettit, many rookies for players who slogged through careers in virtual anonymity and a baseball rookie card for a player famous in another sport, Michael Jordan.
There is a "Hot prospect" card for a David McCarty with the Minnesota Twins, which I recall keeping simply because we shared the same last name.
For the record he hit .242 in parts of 11 seasons in the major leagues and turned out to be anything but a "hot prospect."
There are cards that are nearly worthless, but that I kept because they were some of my favorite players, like Andres Galarraga and Spike Owen.
There are even a few cards from the ill-fated 1969 Seattle Pilots, who moved to Milwaukee after one season.
There are cards of great players at the end of their careers, the only way I could afford cards of such players, like Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose and Bob Gibson.
There are completely random cards from the early 1990s as card makers tried to find a niche; like a card spotlighting what players did in their free time, including one of pitcher Jack McDowell playing the guitar.
Then there are the cards that started the industry's decline as every card became part of a "Special Edition" or contained snippets of "Game Used Jerseys."
The most recent examples of cards I purchased came in 1996 or 1997, like a 1996 "Metal etched" card of Eddie Murray with the Cleveland Indians, about the time I was tiring of trying to game my brother out of his good cards and well after I tired of sticking them in the spokes of my bike to make an awesome motorcycle sound.
I grew up and moved out of card collecting.
I never got a card worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, despite my best efforts, which included posting a sign with tear-off phone numbers on a local billboard with the words "Wanted, one mint condition Mickey Mantle card, will pay $5" scrawled on it, but the memories I have from some of those cards made lugging the box from my parents' attic when I moved worth it.
Every now and then I go back to the box on the shelf, and sort through the thin scraps of cardboard again, hoping against hope, that maybe I missed something in all the previous years, and maybe, just maybe I'll find something amazing.
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Peter Marbach comes to the rescue of his wind blown tent. Enlarge