Blogs » Politcs Plus » Whatever Happened to the Old Baseball Card Shows?



When you're advanced in years and retired just everything you do is magnified and sometimes the things we see, do, and hear; jolts our memory back to yesteryear. A few months ago, when I finished cleaning out the garage, I found two old baseball cards underneath an old' filing cabinet. I started wondering if they still had the old baseball card shows. I'm sure they exist, but I bet most of them are in cities that have major league teams.

I remember back in the mid 50s when I started collecting baseball cards. When I had duplicates, I would either use them to trade with my other friends for cards I wanted, or they were attached to the spokes on my bicycle with cloth spins to make the sound of a motor. There are only about 16 teams, eight in the AL and eight in the NL, so collecting baseball cards enabled us to know the names of every major-league player. We probably couldn't name more than two and three signers of the Declaration of Independence, but we knew whether a player batted left-handed or right-handed. I kept all my cards in a couple shoe boxes one for the AL and one for the NL, and the goal was to have every player who had a card. I remember getting impatient and cutting out players picture from a news clipping and pasted it over a duplicate. I had to complete my team collection. The gums that came inside those packages weren't that tasty, but if you stuck a lot of them in your mouth you could pretend you were chewing tobacco, just like our heroes did in those times. Those were simpler times.

I kept collecting into my teenage years but like any teenager; girls and music became more important. I don't remember even thinking about my baseball cards until the rookie Mickey Mantle card craze came out. The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle vintage card sold for $200,000 but even imperfect cards fetched a lot of money. I still swear to this day that I had one, but we search my mother's attic to no avail. Who knows I might have had a $200,000 spoke attachment. Then in my young adult years, looking for that right job, vacations, recitals, and managing youth baseball didn't leave time for such foolishness.

I used to work with a person who was an avid sport memorabilia collector, but he was in it for the money. He didn't know the difference between Yogi Berra and the cartoon character Yogi Bear. I bought the Houston Astros team set from him and the collecting fever caught me. I started going to baseball card shows and adding to my collection. My friend talked me into going in with him because I had the newer stuff, and I could talk sports stuff with the customers. It took me two or three shows for me to catch on, especially after my other friends told me that he was just using me. I branched out on my own and on a good weekend, I would be gross about $300 or more. It then became a business, making a lot of out-of-town trips to build my collection, keeping up with the latest Beckett prices, paying for a sales tax permit, DBA, and filing a business return. It was no longer fun because it was all about rookie cards and holograms. It became where a card collection list became more important than a player because you couldn't complete your set without it. In order to attract people to your table, a collector had to also have basketball and football cards, unless you had a niche like the best collection of vintage old baseball cards.

My wife and I attended several Astros spring training games in Kissimmee, Florida where we learned that Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio did not sign autographs. They entered the main stadium from the adjacent practice field via a tunnel. An old timer told us that teenagers were sent by the local baseball card stores to get their autographs for resell. I heard that was a common practice in San Antonio when the Dallas Cowboys practiced there. I guess Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and player agents own all the player's marketing decisions. I remember several baseball players signed, autographs before a game in the Astrodome but now they designate a player or two at Minute Maid.

I ended up giving my collection to my grandsons, who probably sold them on EBay.