The Wayback Machine

The Baseball Card Kid

“Once in awhile, I would luck out and Mom would buy me three packs…”

If you were a kid growing up in the 60’s or 70’s, chances are you collected Topps baseball cards. Whether you played the actual game or not, nearly every kid had a collection. They weren’t only good for trading, they were even better at making noise between the spokes of your candy-colored Schwinn. Now that’s the sound of summer!

When I was in grade school, my Mom would buy me a pack of cards if I went grocery shopping with her. They were in every checkout aisle, and I couldn’t wait to get my grubby little hands on ‘em after the shopping was finally done. 

If I’m remembering correctly, for most of my childhood they hovered around the 15-cent mark. Once in awhile, I would luck out and Mom would buy me three packs, instead of the usual single pack. I can still remember the feel of that waxy wrapper, which smelled like the often rock-hard stick of bubblegum hiding in between Barry Foote and Oscar Gamble.

You’d always get a few cards that you already had, “doubles,” to keep with the stack of cards you’d trade, but every once in awhile, you’d get something special, like a Reggie Jackson or a full-team picture card. Occasionally, they’d do runs of fathers and sons who’d both played in the bigs, pictured on the same card. Those were cool, too, and hard to come by.

Even though I’m nearly 53 now, I’ve still got the bulk of what I collected as a kid, before so many companies like Fleer entered the market, and collecting everything became financially impossible for a kid. I finally bought binders and protective plastic sheets to keep everything safe and organized a few years ago. It was a lot of sorting work, but it was also a lot of fun taking a long look back.

The best part was that after I had sorted everything, I must’ve had 100 cards that were doubles and triples, left over. I went online and asked my friends if any had kids that collected baseball cards. About a half-dozen replied that they did, so I sorted the cards by region, so they might get players that their Dads had told them about. I pictured myself as a kid, and what it would have meant to me to be handed a bunch of Chicago Cubs cards from the 1930’s, when I was a kid in the 70’s.

That thought still makes me smile. Funny how a few little rectangles of cardboard could mean so much, all these years later.


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