When I was younger, it would be an absolute privilege to go down the street to the local sports card shop. All-Pro Sports Cards was a magical place to me as a child, located in a quiet little corner in the back of the local shopping plaza. I’d wander the store in awe of the large number of baseball cards locked in brightly lit glass cases, wishing one day I’d be able to start a store of my own.
If I was lucky, my parents would buy me a pack of some Score baseball cards. I had the choice to get one pack from any set, but I always tried to get Score cards – thinking one day I’d collect them all. It never dawned on me that the sets updated every year, new rookies entered the league each season, or that players got traded to new teams over the off-seasons. I didn’t know a single player on any card I collected. All I knew is that I loved having hundreds of cards.
As I grew older, and made new friends, I remember vividly the impact cards had on my life.
From five to seven, I’d be jealous of my friend next door, whose floor was carpeted by thousands of cards. I remember not being able to walk without first digging a trail through the room to his desk. At the time, we didn’t care about value or condition… We wanted quantity.
At eight, I got my first box to store my thousands of cards in “officially”. I’d constantly trade my baseball cards for cards of other sports, just because I thought it was cool to have a mix.
Grammar school progressed, and cards became currency. Fourth grade saw the introduction of Marvel Overpower cards. Fifth grade were trading cards of the superhero variety – something we eventually collected the whole set of. Sixth grade’s obsession was Star Wars TCG cards. Eventually, the cards would get banned from school, because we cared more about trading than actual schoolwork.
High school and college saw the rise of Magic: The Gathering. While fun, there wasn’t the same interest. You no longer collected cards, but rather, you built decks. The appeal was being lost in competition.
Fast forward to now. Sitting at my computer one night, I decided to see how the card industry was doing. With the internet taking over our lives, I wondered if sports cards were even relevant anymore with the current generation. To my surprise, not only were the card companies surviving, but they were also evolving! Cards with jerseys sewn into them, autographed cards coming right out of packs, and serial numbered “rare” cards instantly captured my attention. I NEEDED to find out if my favorite hockey players had some of their own little cardboard treasures.
Sure enough, they did. I ordered a few cards off eBay (just to have), but soon found myself getting even more involved. The community behind hockey cards, while small, seemed to be just what I needed to fill my lack of “hobby” in my life. Reading forums and learning of interesting terminology such as “break” and “hit” was trivial but amusing to me… and reminded me of the joy I once had from opening little packs of baseball cards myself.
There was something magical about a new pack of cards. The smell of card untouched by human hands seemed to ooze from the cracks of a freshly opened pack. The excitement I’d feel before looking at the new cards was always a highlight of my week. I’d always hope I’d get some rare insert that I only had a 355:1 chance of getting. I had no idea what that insert would look like, but I figured it would be more amazing than anything else I ever got. Non-sports cards didn’t have this same level of excitement.
And quite frankly, I missed it.