Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Collector's Tale

My story is one that seems fairly common these days, but it's my blog, and I'm going to tell it anyway.

Flashback with me to 1986. I am 5 years old, and have just moved to Baltimore. Topps has just released what would become one of my favorite sets of all time, although I had no idea at the time. I don't even remember getting or opening any 1986 cards, but they were in my collection as a kid, so I know it must have happened, and this is where it all begins.

My earliest memories of actually opening packs are from the years 1987-1989. My brother and I would bug my dad to take us to 7-11 for Slurpees and wax packs. This would become the status quo until around 1993, when for some reason I pretty much stopped collecting. I was always a baseball fan, and if you lived anywhere near Baltimore, Cal Ripken was the guy to collect. For some reason his cards never appealed to me, and I sort of found his style boring (oh how wrong I was). My trading buddy, and best friend Mark was really into collecting Ripken, and most of the Ripken cards that I pulled, ended up in his possession. I remember Mark would smell every pack of cards he opened before flipping through, which is something I still think about every time I open a new pack of cards. Those old, glossy K-Mart cards always smelled sweet, which was a smell consistent with their design.

Not being a Ripken collector, I was left to find players of my own. I'm left handed, and have always rooted for lefties, which is probably why I became a Will Clark collector when I was about 9 or 10. He was probably the main player I collected as a kid, but I also remember my brother and I collecting Gregg Jeffries cards, since his name was a combination of both of our first names.

By the time I was 11 or 12 I had amassed box upon box full of cards, and probably had about 5 or 6 various rookie cards stored in top-loaders. This was around the time that baseball card collecting seriously blew up as a hobby, and everyone was talking about rookie cards. There were also TONS of new brands and products flooding the market. I remember Mark was lucky enough to have pulled an 89 Upper Deck Griffey rookie, and I was always jealous of that, since I had ripped tons of those packs looking for that very card. Me, I was stuck with literally TONS of Phil Plantier rookies from 92 & 93. Although his career never materialized, there was quite the hype surrounding both his, and Royce Clayton's rookie cards in the early 90's.

It was around this time that I began to collect Tim Salmon cards, and when I say "collect", I maybe had 10 or 11 of his cards. Cut me some slack, I was 12! He was AL ROY in 1993 and I finally felt like I had picked a winner.

The next year, something happened. I don't even quite know what exactly, but I stopped collecting cards. It was probably middle school, and girls. No one wants to be the nerdy guy who collects pieces of cardboard...of other guys no less. I'm not sure what happened to the bulk of my collection, and at that point it was ancient history to me anyway. My focus now was on playing baseball, not collecting little cardboard idols. I did manage to salvage a few cards from my parent's house in 2007. There were only a few in top loaders, and I grabbed whatever was in good shape.

Flash forward to 2007. On a trip to Cooperstown with my girlfriend and her family I wander into a card shop, simply for nostalgia's sake, and have a look around. I am intrigued by all the different types of cards, and for some reason am drawn to the retro-vintage look of Allen & Ginter packaging. I remember thinking Turkey Red looked cool as well, but A-Rod was on the front, so I almost didn't buy it. I walked out of the card shop with 2 packs of each. I opened the Turkey Red first, and inside that first pack, the first pack of baseball cards that I had opened in 14 years, was the single card that would bring me back to the hobby. I had no idea why it was shinier than the rest of the cards, or seemed to change colors when the light hit it, but I did know that it was of my favorite current Oriole, Nick Markakis.

Of course I am talking about a refractor, but at the time, I had NO clue what I was looking at, all I knew was that it was shiny, and I liked it. I bought several additional packs on that trip, and managed to score my first game used jersey card from 2007 Goudey, which was of John Smoltz. Needless to say, I was immediately hooked. Thankfully I already had a great girlfriend, so being a nerd who would never get laid was something I no longer had to worry about. I immediately made up my mind. "Let's do this!"

That just about brings us to present day, or at least the past couple of years. After returning home from Cooperstown, I started browsing ebay, looking for Nick Markakis cards, and whatever else looked cool to me. Refractors and game used cards were all really new to me, and immediately I became a "Joe Collector". I didn't want a 1986 Bo Jackson rookie, I wanted the refractor reprint of it. Needless to say, I bought a lot of crap those first few months, and most of it no longer even gets looked at. I did manage to almost get over the jealousy I felt towards Mark for pulling that Griffey rookie all those years ago, with this card, which is a 1993 UD 5th Anniversary reprint of the most popular card of the 90s.

During 2007 I also discovered Wax Heaven, and various other great card blogs, which while providing great information on what was out there, also made me feel even less nerdy, since Mario's story, and so many others, are very similar to my own. In 2008 I managed to figure out what type of collector I wanted to be. I was going to focus my energy on Nick Markakis, and all other Orioles cards. That's not to say there isn't still a "Joe Collector" mentality trapped in my brain (I hate that stigma, BTW). I love opening packs, and pulling hits. Opening a hobby box is still one of the greatest thrills I get, but now most of the cards are trade bait, since I am not much of a set collector, although I am VERY close to finishing 2008 A&G which would be my first complete set EVER!

It feels good to finally have a focus when it comes to my card collection, and my Nick Markakis collection is currently somewhere around 75 cards, and growing by the week. If you ask me to break it down, I would say I'm 50% player collector, 25% team collector, and 25% Joe Collector.

So, that's my story, all 27 years of it.

Below are some images of the last few remaining cards from the "original" collection, as well as some of my favorite Markakis cards.



Stay tuned for an 09 Finest break, which should be happening this afternoon.


  1. I'm down to my last two needed for '08 A&G completion, #312,313...
    shoot me a list of what you need, and if I have it, it's yours...

  2. Thanks, but I think Jeff from "I am Joe Collector" is sending them out to me w/ the booty from the Finest break.

    Good luck w/ the last 2 cards that you need! Those SP's are a biatch.