Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

It Was His Destiny: A short story about a budding collector

42. The answer to the ultimate question.
Zooey Deschanel. She's why I watched the movie.
But that's not the question. This is:

How did you first decide to collect sports cards, and when?

I've told this story before, but I'd like to tell it again, in a different way.
A long time ago, in a country far, far away, there was a preteen boy with a love of reading and collecting random stuff. He had over a hundred books. He had dozens of magazines (anyone remember Zoobooks?), rocks and toy cars, shells, and Legos. And everything was scattered about his tiny bedroom.
Stickers and a poster are more than enough to interest me. I think mine came with cards, too.
At some point, alongside all the other random "neat" things he bought, he convinced his mom to pick up some baseball cards. Perhaps it was 1987, or 1988. But in a random, unknown toy store, or perhaps while picking up some candy from Walgreens or another convenience store, a couple packs of cards found their way into the shopping cart and eventually ended up in that tiny bedroom.
Like the shells, Legos, and Teddy Ruxpin tapes (remember him too?), the cards were tossed aside to be forgotten like the lunch you ate on January 12th, 2006. A few other packs of cards joined them over the next several months, maybe gifts from grandma during the long summer break.

Sure, the cards were there, and a collection was started. But the little boy hadn't really decided to collect cards yet. Books and Hot Wheels were still more important to him, but that would all change in the early months of 1989.
It was but a piece of paper that taught the young boy about value, collecting, and organization. The Scholastic Book Club was a favorite school-time handout for the child. He would spend an hour every month carefully studying the latest offerings in hopes of maximizing his interest (and getting some freebie, like the poster seen in the ad above). Some cold winter day, the new Scholastic flier was distributed, and the hunt began. Nestled carefully among the "Harry Potters" and "Twilights" of the time, the future supercollector spotted a unique offering: baseball cards. For the low, low, price of who-the-heck-cares-since-mom-is-paying, the boy would get a stack of cards, a storage box, and a little guide for beginning collectors.

"Mom, I made my selections!" the boy said.

"Okay, let's see... baseball cards? Why do you want those?" Mom answered.

"I'm going to start collecting!"

"But you'll probably lose interest really quick, just like everything else you've started collecting."

"This is different! I know I won't forget about them! These are special and I need them!"

Finally, the mother gave her only son the money needed for the cards and books, and the waiting game began.

But, wait! The boy remembered he had some older cards sitting in a box somewhere! Before long, he had those cards out and glued to some poster paper with rubber cement so he could display and admire them every day.
Actual kit not shown.
The collectors kit arrived, and the boy sorted through the cards with glee. He read the book, learning about the old tobacco cards, the wonder that was Topps, and the recent interest in rookies and the coming of Donruss, Fleer, and the brand-new manufacturer Score (it was 1989, remember?). The boy learned about card value and condition, how to store cards, and what kinds of cards existed.

Soon after, Spring Break came, along with it traditional family trip to Mendocino. The car ride took forever - four hours in adult time. But a stop at a country convenience store along the way really solidified the collecting bone in this young man. There, hanging next to the sweet and salty snacks passersby would want to grab for the road, were rack packs of 1989 Topps!
Again, the little boy begged and pleaded his mom, and the pack found its way into his hands. With his new knowledge about collecting, the next week was spent sorting and re-sorting the cards. And from that moment on, baseball dominated his life. By that summer, he visited his first card shop. He saw his first baseball game at Candlestick Park, learned how to actually play the game, and found friends to trade and collect with.
Obviously, the little boy was me. That's how I started collecting! Of course, this story is a trilogy of which you've only heard part four. The prequel trilogy is full of crazy aliens and an unconvincing love story, and no baseball at all! But it does involve Natalie Portman in form-fitting costumes the way I remember it.


  1. Great post. I never had them, but I definitely remember:

    A. Zoo Books
    B. Teddy Ruxpin & his tapes.

    And as a teacher, I'm a huge fan of Scholastic Book Orders.

  2. I had Teddy Ruxpin, the tapes, Grubby his friend, and the little worm friends. And probably some more stuff too. I'm young enough to have enjoyed it I guess?

    What do you like about Scholastic? I know they give at least 5% back to the school in free books - do you get materials you can use?