And the first pack is here…

18 Nov

My eBay purchases arrived one on top of the other, as I excitedly opened my first pack of 1985 Topps in 25 years.

Why am I so excited. I gathered the essentials for the rack pack: the pack, scissors and a beer. Hey, I might be reclaiming my childhood, but I AM still an adult. As such, I am entitled to an adult beverage or two.

I sliced open the pack, and pulled out the cards.

I must say, buying packs of cards is fun, but for practicality, I’m going to go with rack packs from here on out. They are hard to search (if not impossible) and there is a lack of gum stains and wax stains. Two cards of every pack were ruined from every wax pack. Maybe more!

I scored a pretty decent on the first packs…the flip side of my first rack revealed a Darryl Strawberry, his second year card. There was a time when this would have been an awesome score, but like his counterparts, The Straw succumbed to the pressures of 1980’s baseball, namely cocaine.

I remember his suspension from baseball in 1995. It was just 10 years after this baseball card came out, that Darryl Strawberry’s career was in permanent jeopardy.

In 1996, he was out of Major League Baseball, playing for the Independent League St. Paul Saints. I remember watching a few highlights of Strawberry on the news in those days. Soon after, he would sign again with the New York Yankees.

In spite of his troubles, Strawberry still played fairly well until 1998, when he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Comparisons to Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth seem long gone from now. There was a time when The Straw could have written his acceptance speech for Cooperstown. Today, he’s a side note to the awesome Mets teams of the 80’s.

In the packs, I didn’t score so as well. I did find another one of Strawberry’s cohorts in the set.

Eric Davis.

He’s another case of what-might-have-been, but of a different sort. Davis was just injury prone. Did he ever have a season where he didn’t spend a good portion of it on the DL? Speed, form, power, a great swing…all the tools needed to be a huge player.

I remember, during the Reds 1990 World Series win, the television announcer held up the 1985 Topps card of Eric Davis, talking about how the card was now going for more than $20. My brother and I raced upstairs to see if we had any Eric Davis cards of any sort.

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First Packs…on the way

7 Nov

I did it.

I bought the first packs I’ve bought of 1985 Topps in 25 years. How exciting?

Last night, I bought them on ebay. I was hoping to do as much foot traffic as I could, and actually purchase most of my packs the old fashioned way; buying them at a store. After my recent failed attempt (see below) I decided to get the ball rolling on the internets.

I’ve been outbid on several boxes, and I’m hoping to do a majority of the set that way, but for the mean time, this will get me rolling:

First packs! A little pricey, but worth it!

I bought 3 wax packs and one “rack” pack.

The wax packs, so called because they are sealed with wax on the back, have 15 cards and a slab of shitty gum.

You can count on a few things in one of these packs…

1 – The card on the back is ruined, as far as any collectible value is concerned. The wax used to seal the pack stains the back of the card, rendering it useless. The worst thing in the world, when I was a kid, was seeing one of your favorite players on the back, knowing full well it was ruined as soon as you pulled it out.

2 – That awful “bubble gum” slab also likely stained a card or two. I’m not sure what residue comes off these awful things, but it destroys about 1 out of every 4 cards it comes into contact with.

So out of the 45 cards I purchased, I can expect 3-6 to be in poor condition before I pull them out of the pack. I’ll also likely get a double or two, bringing that total to 5-10. In other words, 10-20% of the entire purchase is already wasted. Sweet!

Since this is my first purchase in this endeavor, I also need to set precedent. When I open a pack, or make a purchase, I’m going to keep a running tally of what I’ve spent and how far along I am in the set.

Purchases:

  • 3 wax packs + shipping = $11.35
  • 1 Rack Pack + shipping =    $5.95
  • —————————————-
  • Total                                         $17.30
  • Total cards    –        1 (Mark McGwire times 5…so sad)
  • Cards to Go  –   791

False Start

4 Nov

I know the title refers to a different sport, but it still applies here.

I went into a baseball card shop today. Yes, they still exist. Of course, it is also filled with memorabilia, and various sports paraphernalia, but remains largely, a sports cards collectors shop.

Sports Collectors Heaven on Elm Street in Manchester, NH. They have an entire wall dedicated to boxes of cards. A majority of them are new, but in the front corner, there are about a dozen or more boxes of 1980’s era baseball cards.

Alas, there wasn’t a single 1985 Topps pack to be seen. I even asked.

“Oh no,” the lady at the counter said, “good luck with that.” I shrugged it off.

“We do have a set,” she continued, “and an uncut sheet of 85 Topps hanging in the back.” What? Really? I walked back and stood in amazement. An entire sheet of cards, saved from the knives of the Topps factory for more than 25 years. It was marvelous.

132 cards in all, 1/6th of the entire set, including the entire Team U.S.A. Olympic card sub-set.

“Used to get $1200 a pop for those,” the proprietor told me. “I’d be happy if you gave me $200 today!’ I passed. It was a beautiful sight, for sure. And the McGwire card was right there, second card up from the bottom left corner, but it certainly wasn’t worth $200 of my precious money.

132 1985 Topps cards - uncut...what a waste.

Back in the day, these were cut by large machines, and the slightest cut the wrong way would end up sending the grade of the card down. When I first collected, we relied on sheer judgment to grade cards. We were probably off a little on our guesstimates, but fairly close. Of course, as a child, all my cards seemed slightly better than they actually were.

I lamented with the owner of the store how I ended up with five McGwire rookies since I started collecting, holding them all when they were worth $200 a piece. He just shook his head.

Though I didn’t find any 1985 Topps packs, I did end up making a couple of purchases, which I’ll share in a later blog post.

I talked again with the lady up front at the register, telling her my plans with the blog and the cards.

“Just remember, every generation has their faults,” she said, speaking of baseball. “Your too young to remember, but there were the Black Sox,” she said, referring to the 1919 disgraced team. She didn’t look old enough to remember either, but I didn’t call her on it.

She reminded me of the other drug scandals, the cocaine problems of the 80’s, the uppers of the 60’s.

“Mickey Mantle boozed it up,” she said. Though I hardly think Mantle grabbed a bottle the night before a big game, thinking it would help his performance. She did offer me one tidbit that I’ll use. As I was leaving, she told me to remember how great it felt to first get those cards, and the happiness they brought with them.

It’s true, and in spite of any scandal, I still love the game, and the memories it brought me back when I was young. And while I’m never going to forget how wronged we all were, it is nice to recall the fondness we’ve all had, especially in the innocence of our youth.

The Beginning.

4 Nov

1985.

My parents came home from a trip to our local flea market. It was a Wednesday morning ritual in those days. Get up early, treck to the neighboring town, walk around the hundreds of tables, filled with useless crap, and hope to score something good. For nothing.

Usually, it didn’t work like that.

There were moments that you struck gold. This particular Wednesday was one of those mornings. It was a vending box of 1985 Topps. My brother and I were ordered to split the cards up as evenly as possible.

Being the youngest, I decided this wasn’t fair, and in my immaturity, I grabbed a slice about 30 cards thick, right from the middle. This obviously tilted the balance in my favor.

After the ensuing argument calmed down, settled by me keeping the handful of cards and my brother being rewarded with a few extra for his troubles, we started to look through the cards.

Almost instantly, I found it. It was a Team U.S.A. card. Those distinctive red white and blue colors of the uniform with borders to match made for an eye popper in the relative boredom of the rest of the design of the set. I distinctly remember seeing the card for the first time. It was a boyish smiling face staring back at me, a bat casually slung over one shoulder, with a blue sky background and seats from a stadium. But the graphics and artwork aren’t the reason I remembered the card so vividly. It was the name…Mark McGwire.

Now, in 1985, Mark McGwire wasn’t a household name, and the only reason my young brain gave a shit about him was because his name was like mine — very Irish. A Mick. Like me. And he played for Team U.S.A. My brother and I sifted through more of the cards, hoping to score another. We did, in fact, I believe my brother scored big that day with 3 or 4 Olympic cards, while I only ended up with two – Cory Snider and McGwire.

I must have been on the cusp of my 7th birthday. It’s a magical time in youth, far from being a toddler, just wise enough to start seeing the world around you, but not hormonal enough to understand why you want to chase girls. Instead, a young boy can focus on silly things like “how does baseball work?” and “where do I get more of these joyous pieces of cardboard?”

Soon, I discovered the grocery store, where my mom worked was loaded with these cards, and I poured every penny I had into purchasing them.

It was 35 cents back then for a pack of cards. A little slice of heaven, paired with a slab of pure, cruddy, crusty, dusty, bubble gum hell. The package said bubble gum, but the flavor said “shit”. It didn’t matter, by that time, I was hooked.

Now it is time to start again.

4 Nov

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