My name is Geoff, and I’m addicted to baseball cards.
And basketball cards, bobbleheads, Funko pop vinyl figures and any kind of game-used sports memorabilia you can find. Everything but football cards, which, even though football might be the best sport, generally aren’t worth the cardboard they’re printed on.
It was an addiction that first hit me in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which is known as the “junk era” of baseball cards. Every young male was collecting back then and cards became abundant.
I bought rookie cards of future hall of famers like Ken Griffey Jr. and Chipper Jones, thinking I was making a great investment. While I was right that those guys (and others aided by certain substances that they weren’t supposed to use) would have great careers, the cards are worth less than I paid almost 30 years ago.
Once I got to college, I started spending my extra money on beer and compact discs (remember those?). Except for a brief relapse around the turn of the century, I thought I had overcome my addiction.
But I recently heard of a baseball card set that Topps was putting out that included only two cards in a box, but each was autographed by a major league player. I figured I’d go to Walmart the day the cards came out and see if I could find some.
Well, it turned out that set was only available to sports card shops (which jack the price up to $200 a box), so I gave up on buying those. But in studying those cards, I came across some YouTube videos that showed some other interesting cards.
We stopped at a Walmart in St. Louis a few days later and found some of the baseball cards mentioned in the videos, as well as a box of basketball cards (which, according to another story I read, are almost impossible to find). That purchase yielded a rookie card of NBA star Zion Williamson and an autographed card of a San Diego Padres rookie pitcher. Even though the pitcher was out for the season after Tommy John surgery, the thrill was enough to make me want more.
So over the next few weeks, I drove my wife half nuts by stopping at every Walmart or Target we went near, coming up empty most of the time.
On a trip to Union Walmart, I came across a young man even more into cards than me. He said he checks the store nearly every day and agreed with me that they rarely have anything other than football cards.
It was a different story when I went to Union Walmart on a recent Thursday. As I arrived, an employee told me they’d just put out a huge shipment of cards. They had boxes and boxes of the cards I’d been looking for — Topps Stadium Club and Chrome and Panini Illusions basketball cards.
They even had a set I hadn’t heard of that claimed “on average” each pack contains either an autographed card or a memorabilia card. I had to spend the $19.99 on that box, which yielded a card containing a piece of a game-used jersey of a Colorado Rockies rookie.
I spent $100 and promised myself I was done looking for cards for a while. A few days later, I was back checking out Walmart and Target.
Once again they had nothing but football cards. While that was disappointing to see, I was kind of happy to know there was at least a demand for the cards I blew so much money on and someone else bought them up.
A couple weeks later, we ventured to a baseball card show in St. Louis. I went to a ton of those when I was a kid and made great memories. While this show wasn’t nearly as big as some of the events I attended in the early ’90s, which often featured hall of fame players charging big bucks for autographs, it was a neat experience to be back at a card show after all these years.
I don’t expect to make a ton of money collecting cards, but while things are quiet during the pandemic, the thrill of pulling a special card might be as exciting as it gets.