Before the price of a pack of baseball cards blew through the roof and outpriced any kid with a buck, me, like any other young kid from my generation, spent a fair amount of time and money on baseball cards.
One year, every time I went to the store, I purchased a pack of 1990 Donruss cards, the awful-looking red cards with cursive writing of player’s names on the top. They might have been some of the ugliest cards in the history of the cardboard manufacturing business.
Yet, as a kid, you don’t really think about that stuff. You are only looking for either a) your favorite player; b) players on your favorite team; or c) the most expensive card in the pack so that you can tell your friends you have, for example, the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.
All summer long I spent the 50 cents (yes, I remember it was two for a buck at Target!) on the packs of those Donruss. I think mainly I kept buying that brand because I bought a few packs the first time and figured if I buy more, I can get the whole set.
Needless to say, I ended up with a lot of red repeats and never made it to getting the entire set.
That is, until Christmas.
My mom’s boyfriend at the time brought over gifts and he brought one long, rectangular box that had my name on it. I saw it and said, excitedly, “A set of baseball cards!”
“Is that what you think?” he said.
“Yes! I know it by the shape of the box.”
“Oh,” he replied, “I’m sorry, Matt, that’s not what it is.”
Turns out he was a damn, dirty liar because it was a set of the 1990 Donruss cards and when I opened it I got extremely excited. I had my own set of baseball cards! (As any kid who bought cards on the reg will tell you, having a complete set gave you all kinds of bragging rights on the playground.)
As a kid on Christmas, getting a set of baseball cards seems cool, but after about 10 minutes of looking at them, the fun is gone and you wish you had gotten a toy or a video game or you just move on to the platter of Christmas cookies.
Most deflating was when I took the box of cards upstairs and put them in my closet next to all my other cards and I saw dozens of scattered red 1990 Donruss cards sitting there. A whole summer’s work was taken care of for less than $10. Now I had far too many of those eyesores.
I never sold the complete set to a card dealer (have you seen any around lately? No? That’s what we thought. Card dealers preceded the newspaper business in overfunding and underselling) and I think I gave them away to a friend of mine in college who was still card-crazy by the time women and alcohol changed my interests. That, and the fact that I was 21 and didn’t really care about collecting cards anymore.
Turns out, the set of cards is only $11 now. So, what an investment that turned out to be!