Wednesday, March 21, 2012


 I've written before how I became a collector, but when I was recently reorganizing my closet where I house my collection, I found the two cards that began it all.

When I decided to collect cards again in 1987, I thought it wise to buy that year's set. I choose Topps. The next priority was investing in "older'' star rookies. The '84 Topps Darryl Strawberry and the '85 Topps Dwight Gooden were my first two targets. 

I purchased this lot at a Sunday flea market in March, the same place where I bought the '87 set a couple weeks prior, but from another vendor. I saw the Strawberry and Gooden there for the first time in person and was instantly smitten. Strawberry with a classic follow through and Gooden looking mean and nasty. I hadn't read too much about collecting, so I was flying by the seat of my pants when it came to grading and especially bargaining. 

I asked the vendor to see the cards, and they looked even better up close to my very untrained eyes. They both had a sticker and Beckett price of $8. 

When I said I wanted the cards, he asked me if I was sure.

Of course. Why?

"Well, for the cost of these two, you could buy this set ('86 Donruss The Rookies). If you're looking at this for investing, this set has a better chance to do well because you're spreading the risk over more players.''

The 56-card Rookies set had a sticker and book price of $20, but he would sell it for $16.

But I already have a set -- the '87 Topps -- I thought to myself. I really don't want another right now.

"I'll just take these two.''

"Are you sure?''

Man, now I was sweating. He started getting me thinking. Was I making the right choice? Maybe I should buy the set. Wait a minute: It's Donruss. I only want to buy Topps, The Real One. But still, he sure seems knowledgeable. 

I must've looked like I was about to bet my life savings on the longest of long shots. 


"No, I just want these two cards.''

"OK, you're the boss.''

And with that, I owned the rookie cards of  The Dead End Kids, two players who would piss away God-given Hall of Fame talent.

I should've bought the Donruss set as I realized after some research and talking to store owners like Bob McMackin. It was my interaction with this flea market vendor that taught me to open my mind and listen to those who knew more than I about collecting. That's why Bob became so important to my cardboard education. Then again, they all reminded me to collect what makes you happy. On that sunny March day, the Strawberry and Gooden cards made me oh so happy.

Then, of course, a few weeks later it came out that Gooden had a cocaine problem and would be suspended at the beginning of the season. 

I always get nostalgic when I see these two cards. It brings me back to when I was younger and headed into the hobby with guns a blazing, determined to amass the greatest collection ever and make a million bucks. It didn't quite work out that way, but I can say I'm happy as hell with my collection and the memories it brings, including the day I struck out investing in The Dead End Kids.

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