I love reading through this thread at OBC! Though my tale isn't near as interesting as all of yours, I'll add mine to the list.
I started collecting as a teenager in 1984. I had all ready played a few years of Little League, and baseball was, by far, my favorite sport. I discovered baseball cards while standing in the check-out line one day at the local grocery store, Market Basket. I noticed an "impulse buy" display of candy near the check-out stand, and included on this display were Topps Rack Packs.
The rack packs contained 50+ cards including 1 glossy all star card of a player from the previous year's all star game. Best I can remember these rack packs sold for just under $1. I could occasionally talk my dad into splurging for a single rack pack on our regular visits to the store.
I to was taught to take care of everything I owned. My grandparents lived through the depression, but I don't know if this trait was passed down from the depression, or just as sage advise. Whatever the reason, I took care of my baseball cards! I don't recall how I kept my first cards, but it wasn't long before I had a "proper" box for them. If I used a shoe box early on, it wasn't for long.
I don't remember how I finished that '84 Topps set, but I now have two complete sets on my shelf.
I originally sorted my cards by teams, but I quickly realized there were numbers on the backs. As soon as I discovered this, I was definitely a set builder. I was always somewhat annoyed with having a few cards to a set and not having the rest of the set to go along.
|My neighbor collected baseball cards as well, on about the same scale as me. Neither of us had very many cards, but we loved what we had. One day, someone gave him a box of cards. The box had probably 2,000 cards from '73 to '80. The cards were bundled with rubber bands around the stacks. We had no concept that one card might be "worth" more than another, so we would trade cards 1 for 1, unless it was one of our favorite players, then we'd have to offer a few extra's. The only card I specifically remember trading for was a beat up '80 Topps Rickey Henderson (probably one of the few non-Dodgers I recognized, since he was on another California team, Oakland). At the time, I didn't realize what a rookie card was and had no idea a rookie card was worth more than any other card of that player.|
Trading for these cards that were kept in rubber bands may have started my affection for well kept cards. I didnít mind a card with worn edges or creases, I couldnít do anything about that. But, picking rubber off of cards was just something that could be avoided if proper care was taken not to make a card any worse than when it was acquired. I didnít like rubber bands!
I found a baseball card shop close to the house, Wes's Card Shop, and could talk my mom into driving me there once or twice a year. She would eventually purchase binders and pages from Wes's for me to put my complete sets in. I even ended up with a few extra pages to put some of my "misfit" (a little Christmas pun, i.e. Land of Misfit Toys) cards in, which then got placed in a generic 3-ring binder.
For Christmas in 1987, my dad purchased complete sets of '85, '86 and '87 Topps, including the traded sets. For the next few years he would get me the current years Topps set with the traded set for Christmas. In 1988, along with the current year's set, my dad also gave me the 1983 Topps set, but no traded set (I'm still working on that set!). In 1989, along with the '89 Topps set, my dad got me the 1981 Topps set, as well as the 1982 Topps set...WITH THE TRADED SET! For some reason, Cal Ripken Jr. became my favorite player to collect, though I never watched him play (living in Los Angeles we didn't see many Oriole's games). I think I found out that the Ripken XRC was the most expensive card I owned, so he became my favorite player to collect.
|Somewhere in the mid '80s I picked up a small price guide that was about 4"x4" and had Pete Rose on the front. I think I got it from a Woolworth's store. I still have the book around here somewhere, but I haven't seen it in quite some time. I'm guessing that's where I found out the value of the Ripken XRC.|
We had moved across town in 1989 and I found, closer to our new house, what would become my new favorite shop.
Once we moved away from Wesís shop, my collecting sort of ground to a halt. I was now in college and my folks didnít care where the closest baseball card shop was. I now had to purchase cards for myself. Although it was still a hobby, it had now also become an investment. I was careful with what little money I had and I made sure it went as far as possible. In 1990, I wanted to put my first set together just from opening packs. I had never opened wax packs and I wanted to experience the enjoyment that I had seen others experience from opening packs and being surprised by what they pulled. I purchased quite a few packs of Ď90 Donruss for under $.50 a pack. I built a near complete set, but was finishing that set off by purchasing a few singles (including my first error cards) from my new favorite shop. I enjoyed putting that Ď90 Donruss set together so much that the following year I decided to put another set together. But this time, no purchasing singles to complete the set. Iíll do this one purchasing packs until I have EVERY card. By this time, I had a steady girlfriend and was spending a lot of time at her place. I found a coin dealer, around the corner from her house, who also sold some baseball cards. It was getting harder and harder to find packs that werenít going for $1.50-$3.00 per pack. And the packs were no longer 15-25 card packs, they were 8-12 card packs. Premium sets were just hitting the market and manufacturers were beginning the insert, parallel and short print craze.
|So, I found some packs for $.75 and decided, that's the set I'll build! I purchased so many of those packs I was able to build 4 near complete sets by the time I was done, and I still had a bunch of dupes left over. I was now the proud owner of 4 1991 Fleer Ultra sets. Not the best choice investment-wise, but I liked the look of the cards (the price must have had something to do with that!) and it was all I was willing to spend on cards.|
In 1994, I had a roommate that had more baseball cards than I had (I never knew many people growing up who collected baseball cards, and the ones who did didnít have many cards). He had multiple near complete sets from the mid-'80s to early-'90s. We once went in on a QVC deal for 3 boxes each of '91, '92 and '93 Donruss and Fleer cards. We built near complete sets of each for a total investment of $8 each. Again, not a great investment but I wasn't "investing" I was enjoying a hobby! We had fun sitting around opening hundreds of packs, feeling the joy of little kids as we pulled some of our favorite players.
When he moved out, he didn't want to pack all his cards, so he took out a few of his favorites and gave me the rest (probably 6-8 near complete Topps sets from the mid-'80s as well as boxes of cards from probably 100 different sets).
|Between '91 and '96 I stumbled upon 4 or 5 card shops in the area. I would frequent each from time to time when I was near by. From one, near my college, I purchased a set of '84 Fleer, minus the Mattingly RC (I couldn't get myself to spend $150 on a set that had a single card worth $110). So, I walked out of the store with 659 cards for $90. I figured I'd find a deal on the Mattingly RC later (my dad purchased a creased Mattingly RC for Christmas a year or two later).|
Discouraged by the "high" price of packs, I resorted to purchasing complete sets. Before I got married in '96 I purchased a '77 Topps set (the oldest set I could afford) and a '92 Bowman set. The Bowman set was a $350 set and was so full of RC's that it just HAD to increase in value over the next few years...at least that's what owner of the store that sold it to me said.
After I got married, I didn't do much with the cards for a couple years. I was getting turned off from the hobby because there were so many sub-sets, inserts, parallel's and, worst of all, short prints! In 1999, I discovered Rottman's Auctions (an auction house that held auctions on-line). I had lost faith that any new, regular issue cards were worth spending money on, and I wasn't going to spend the going price on short prints and parallels' that I figured could never increase in value. So, I purchased a starter set from the '69 Topps set. And that started my adventure into collecting vintage cards! I won a few more auctions for starter sets from the '70s before finding eBay in 2000 or 2001.
I came across a few card shows around the area we lived and hit 4 or 5 (mostly mall shows) between '99 and '03. I never really found anything worth buying and my disposable income was pretty much nothing.
It was about 2001 when I found Trading Bases. Shortly after joining I realized most of the trading there was on newer stuff that I didn't care to collect, but it was a great avenue to trade off the dupes that my roommate had given me and all those Ď91 Fleer Ultra dupes I had purchased. So, I finished off a few half-completed sets, I got my Topps run complete from '81 to the current year and I started a handful of "vintage" style sets (Topps Heritage, Upper Deck Vintage, etc.).
In 2003, I joined VCT. Between 2003 and 2012, I was able to complete my Topps run back to 1969.
I tried trading for near complete sets of the current years so I could complete them in trades, but focusing on my vintage sets made this somewhat excruciating. I didnít have many UV cards to trade and wanted to use my vintage dupes to build my vintage sets. So, I resorted to purchasing the newest complete sets with money that came in at Christmas.
I never really purchased a whole lot on eBay (my eBay feedback is under 300 and a lot of the feedback is from my wife selling stuff or picking up non-baseball card items) Most of my eBay purchases for cards were starter sets, that included dupes, so I would have trade bait for the sets I was working on. Unfortunately, since I never spent much on the hobby, what I acquired didn't meet the condition requirements of those I was trading with. So, it was always difficult finding traders I could trade with.
I joined OCT back around '05, but the points system somewhat took the fun out of trading and it became a chore, sometimes, trying to get trades in.
Once I completed my Topps run back to '69, I figured it was time to expand my network to include people whose focus was closer to mine...'50s and '60s stuff in tipton condition. I joined OBC in 2012, after trading with most of you throughout the years through VCT and Trading Bases. I saved my Christmas money for a couple of years and purchased large starter sets of '62 and '63 Topps. I also picked up some '50s Bowman and a few '50s and '60s Topps scarce series cards to try to help you guys out with. None of that lasted very long as I was inundated with welcome packages and am still trying to hit some of your lists.
A few months ago, I made it to my first card show in about 10 years and was able to meet up with 4 or 5 OBC'ers. I had some Christmas money left over and had saved up a bit more, so I was able to spend a little at the show. I got a nice stack from new ('er than me) OBC'er Patrick Prickett, who I traded with for years via VCT. I picked up a few late '60s singles for like $.25 each from another table and spent more than I ever had on commons for four or five '54 Red Heart, under the watchful eye of Joshua Levine.
I donít spend much money on cards and I try to acquire dupes whenever I make a purchase. I have 3 kids at home, so they get most of the disposable income at the moment. I use barely started sets to pull from for ďtrade baitĒ when my dupes box isnít sufficient for return fire. Though my collection may not be growing, itís tuning over. And seeing new cards come and go is just as enjoyable as seeing my collection grow.
Thatís how I got started, and how I got to where I am today.
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