Last year I retrieved my 3,000 baseball cards from my parents’ house. I started collecting in 1973, when my brother and I would spend our 30 cent allowance on a pack of 12 Topps cards and a stiff, bland, powdered pink stick of gum. We coveted the Indians’ players the most because we were living in northeast Ohio and we were dumb. We had doubles and triples of Duane Kuiper, Frank Duffy, and Charlie Spikes. If you have never heard of these singles hitters, then you probably wasted less time in your childhood than I did in mine.
While my brother kept his cards in mint condition, I foolishly put rubber bands around mine–which warped and cut into the cards, and played make-believe baseball games in our living room by smacking a marble with the cards and then pushing them around the floor. I pretty much ruined a ’73 Lou Brock this way. He was fast, so his card was always stealing bases, which led to carpet burn, which wore away the statistics on the back of his card.
I had mostly forgotten about my cards, but I figured they were my ace in the hole. If we fell into a depression and a barter economy, my baseball card collection might buy me a new car. Which makes this essay on Slate disturbing. Apparently my childhood was smack in the middle of the baseball card bubble, and my cards today, even if they were in mint condition, wouldn’t even be worth a Toyota. The story is an interesting read, and a reminder that nothing in this life is guaranteed.