Blog Bat Around – Wax Heaven

16 12 2008

(In response to Gellman of Sports Cards Uncensored)

A lot of great things happened in 1990. Universal Studios Florida opened its doors, Martin Scorcese’s classic Goodfellas was released and the nation fell in love (albeit briefly) with a rapper named MC Hammer. Amidst all that chaos, a 10 year-old boy fresh off a plane from South America accidentally fell into collecting.

I say accidentally because up until then my life revolved around Soundwave and Starscream, two villains from the cartoon/toy franchise, Transformers. I didn’t want to buy that set of 1990 Ames All-Stars featuring a bunch of guys playing a sport I knew absolutely nothing about. I grabbed it off a shelf from the now extinct Ames store thinking it was a pack of playing cards and begged my mom to buy it for me.

You can imagine my huge disappointment as I sat in my mother’s Pontiac Firefly when I found nothing but baseball players. While I didn’t find the Joker I was looking for over the next twenty years of my life I did however find a King who once upon a time ruled the world of baseball and trading cards. His name is Jose Canseco and through the years as my collection went into a dumpster in the late-90’s, one binder has survived it all and this one card is proof that not too long ago all you needed to capture a young kid’s interest is a photograph.

Today I watch videos on YouTube of kids no older than 12 busting boxes of Topps Triple Threads and complaining when their “hit” is numbered to 10 and not a “1 of 1”. Or maybe their autograph/jersey card is of only an above average baseball player and not Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth. It’s a shame how much this Hobby has changed since my departure in 1997.

Back in those days I would have been thrilled to bust a full box of trading cards. Today, I won’t even go near a Retail pack. It’s just so obvious that we collectors have become spoiled by the riches of the card companies. The day that Upper Deck produced the first game-used bat relic of Babe Ruth is essentially the day the Hobby changed forever and maybe not for the best.

With 2008 almost wrapped up I am sitting here trying to find an answer. I know the day is coming that finding that latest Andrew Miller or Jose Canseco will just not be enough. The day when I will sit through a box break and be thinking about what else I could be doing with my life. I know several collectors who have had that same feeling creep up on them suddenly. Sadly, I know the day is coming when I will once again walk away from the Hobby, only this time forever.

When I do, I know at least one card that will stay with me when Wax Heaven is long gone and those empty wax wrappers  scattered around my closet have vanished. It’s a card with absolutely zero flash, barely any color, and without even a single game-used relic embedded into any part of it. It’s a reminder of what the Hobby once was as well as what it will never be again.

-Mario Alejandro

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7 responses

16 12 2008
Newspaperman

Excellent piece, Mario. Interesting timing because I am again starting to feel the lull of card collecting. I’ve got that urge to purge and refocus the collecting efforts — if not stop for good. (Yeah, right…)

Collectors over the last decade have been spoiled, and the fact that we can’t simply enjoy what we own because there is seemingly always something better is a sad state of affairs.

Like many things in life, collecting for lots of people has succumbed to the adage of: Go Big or Gome Home. We see a few success stories of monster pulls or big flips for profits and suddenly the joy behind the hobby has been sucked away from us. It sucks, but it is the state of our hobby/sickness. We’re all guilty for fueling the fire with our hard-earned dollars. And truthfully, the hobby won’t get better. Pandora’s Box has been opened and there is no getting the evils back in. Never again will we be completely happy with owning cards featuring our favorite players. We’ll always want more.

Ben

16 12 2008
Gellman

Awesome, thanks!

16 12 2008
Beppo

I don’t think we have to succumb to the modern “culture” of collecting, where it’s all about hits. Sure, it’s tempting, and I would love to pull a rare and expensive card (although I would probably sell it to pay for collecting), but that’s not required to have fun with it.

I collected a lot from ’87-’91, then on-and-off in the past 10 years. For me, to keep from getting disillusioned and frustrated, I have to focus on what I enjoy in the hobby : collecting my favorite players, building a set (sometimes), and the fellowship of other collectors. If I read too many blogs about high-end products, I get too distracted by that and the hobby seems more about investing (or gambling) than having fun.

Now that my collecting budget has been cut because of income, I hardly buy hobby boxes anymore. Sure, there’s little chance of getting a hit from a retail box, but it’s a lot cheaper, and I still enjoy opening packs. Plus, I try to collect a couple of players via trade or eBay.

Part of the reason I still enjoy the hobby is because it takes me back to simpler times, and I don’t want to lose that. I may have to “fight” for that mentality sometimes, but so be it.

16 12 2008
Tim

Mid to late ’90s for the win! Screw the cards of today; give me packs of cards with odds higher than anyone can imagine for a game used card or the 1-per-pack ON CARD autographs.

17 12 2008
jl

Mario, you have summed up the hobby completely. There is no more simple collecting. You can never open a box of pre game used or autographs and be happy. Reguardless of you collect for fun or a player, the hobby has grown to impractical levels. A 1987 Barry Bonds has nothing on a 2007 Topps sterling, or a 1991 Donruss Elite Series Auto Cal Ripken to a 2008 Cal Ripken auto patch #ed 1/1. Baseball cards were supposed to be plain, simple a piece of cardboard and stats of your favorite player or team. No one says it and is afraid to admit it, but thank it is Upper Decks fault. They may have raised the bar in 1989, but anything high end, game used or rare, they started. Just look at the history, and tell me I’m wrong. Upper Deck Killed the hobby.

17 12 2008
night owl

Yeah, the hobby is going haywire, and there’s probably little we can do to turn it around, but that doesn’t mean you or any one commenting has to be sucked into the sick side of this business. We are not helpless when it comes to our own collecting habits.

Collect what you love! And be realistic in your pursuits. Why do you have to chase the most, the best, the ultimate? I’m happy with the cards I have. Yeah, I keep collecting, but if someone told me I had to stop immediately, I’d still be happy with what I had. If you’re collecting in order to have the most, the best, the ultimate, you will never be happy, and, yes, you will quit the hobby, someday.

17 12 2008
Submarine Shane

Very well written Mario. I remember my first packs being Star Wars, Six Million Dollar Man, etc. I didnt buy sports cards until 1979. While my Father and I never got along we did have one thing in common, we collected cards together. Some of my best memories are of my Dad and I opening a few wax packs trying to get an extra Wade Boggs Rookie or that Donruss Jose Canseco Rookie….those were the good old days. He and I took the time to build sets, talk about the players, and send those Topps points cards in for the Glossy Sets. (Maybe that was the first redemptions…haha). We collected every kind of card. We cut them off Twinkie Boxes, pulled them from Kellogg’s Cereal and got them out of Jimmy Dean Sausage. No Relics, No Autos, No Patch….just cards.
Several years ago my Father visited me and as a suprise I had a wax box of 1987 Topps for us to bust…that was the best. To this day he asks me if I have any extra Bobby Thigpen or Dale Murphy cards.

Later Gang

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