My Reccurring Hobby Nightmare

The year was 1997. I had become a regular at a local card shop in Sunrise, Florida. The owner, was very accommodating. Not only did he attend weekly card shows and pull Jose Canseco cards for me, he usually gave me samples of every product released and that year, there were a LOT. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend, as I had to pay car insurance for a beat-up, 1986 Delta Royale and also enjoyed hanging out with my friends on the weekends. My part-time job didn’t cover much but I was always good for at least $20 dollars at the shop every pay day.

My favorite day to shop was on pay day because I’d stop in to the shop after 5 PM and the place was always full of collectors, all well into their 30s, spending big money on the high-end products of the time like Totally Certified, Skybox E-X2000, SPx, and the ground-breaking, one autograph per pack, Donruss Signature, produced by Pinnacle Brands (of course). Those packs were at my shop for $20 dollars each originally but as word of mouth spread, they hit $29 dollars. While this product was way out of my budget, I still regret not pulling the trigger, 21 years later.

It’s been 7,665 days …

As a kid more concerned about girls and having fun, I could have never known just how big of a deal Donruss Signature would turn out to be. Yes, Leaf Signature came out the year prior but this product really hit big on their second try thanks to Pinnacle’s “Touch of God” and a checklist full of Hall of Famers and fan favorites. It’s so popular two decades after its release that finding unopened packs is not just difficult, it borders on impossible. Okay, there is one box on eBay for $399 that includes 12 packs, which comes out to a reasonable $33+ per pack but it’s the first I’ve seen in years.

What kills me most is that one particular week I had enough money for a pack of Donruss Signature but instead I chose to go for broke on the dud that was Pinnacle’s flagship that year. I guess it was the overuse of gold foil or the neat inserts but to me getting a large handful of packs vs. one autograph and two base cards seemed like the way to go. I should have known what I was getting into as packs of Pinnacle were just $1.50. They say you get what you pay for and I sure as hell did. Meanwhile, some lucky collector probably opened up that pack of Signature and pulled a Jeter.

183,960 hours …

So here I am obsessing, STILL. I am no longer a fresh-faced kid. I am now pushing 40, with a few wrinkles on my face and grey hair starting to fill my head. Cards are as much of a priority now as they were back then and for the most part, modern cards are where it’s at. Sure, Pinnacle Brands did some wonderful things during their 7-year run but none of it compares to the magic of today’s Topps parallels and autographs. So why then, do I still feel like I missed out on something big? Like all my years as a collector have been wasted solely based on my failure to buy one single pack of Signature.

The reason why 1997 Donruss Signature has reached mythical proportions in my mind is because I never opened a pack. Really think about it, has any product every truly lived up to expectation and hype? I’ve pulled DNA cards, Hall of Fame autographs, and more 1/1 cards than I know what to do with and still there is not one product that in my mind was perfect from beginning to end. Donruss Signature and the then insane price point never truly had a chance to disappoint me so it kept growing and growing into this monster, which literally haunts my dreams.

11,037,600 minutes.

Since 1997, I stopped collecting from ’98-’07, ’09-’13, and ’14-’18. That’s a long time to be away but no matter how many years go by, one dream always comes back to me at the most random times of my life. In my dream, I walk up to my local card shop (which has been closed since 1999) on a dark and rainy Friday sometime in ’97. I walk in with pockets full of cash and stroll by display cases with all the key rookies of Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, and the like. Football cards I know nothing about and that’s when I come to the unopened wax.

The store is full of collectors ripping through boxes of 1997 Bowman Chrome looking for a Kerry Wood but for some reason, no one can see me. I walk behind the register and start passing all the wax from 1997 that was popular. The box of SPx only has two packs left, surprising as it’s $7 dollars per pack. There are three boxes of Bowman Chrome, which has ballooned up to $11 per pack. None of it matters, I have my eye on something else. Something I should have purchased long ago back when I was a happy little kid and my biggest problem was filling up my gas tank for .99 cents a gallon.

I will never relive those glory days. That is a sad truth I’ve accepted but in this dream, I grab every single pack of Donruss Signature and with a proud smile on my face hand the owner all the cash in my pocket. If that’s not a metaphor for collecting, I don’t know what is. Without opening a single pack, I walk out the store and get into my Delta Royale and drive off into the midnight black rain. As I drive away and jump onto the highway, I can’t help but be distracted by the packs sitting safely on my passenger seat. The mystery of what is inside those packs has yet to be revealed.

I always wake up from my dream before opening the packs.

2 thoughts on “My Reccurring Hobby Nightmare

  1. Man I love 1997 Donruss Signature. But if I stumbled across a card shop with packs of 1997 Donruss Signature for $20… I don’t think I’d pull the trigger. Way too chicken to spend $20 on a single pack.

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