I was talking with a friend the other day who didn’t grow up collecting baseball cards until the “gum” phase had virtually passed. I had an old wax pack of Topps cards from the 1980’s which I decided to open to show him what it was like. Even though we are both now adults, there was still a childlike curiosity. Luckily the cards I found weren’t worth much, as it was one of those bad packs where the cards I got would have been considered an insult to “common” cards everywhere (!).
The best part we got to was the gum!
We talked about what it was like to taste the gum in the 1970’s and 1980’s, scaring mothers across the country by chewing gum that had baseball card ink and wax all over it. We laughed and started to share stories about collecting cards and what we did with cards we didn’t like. One stupid, but innocent, thing my friends did to tease other card collectors was to take the cards of “has-been” players that we didn’t like and leave them on someone’s gate or fence facing inward. Being 10 or 11 years old we would say that “so and so” was watching the kid and cursing him with mediocre baseball skills for the rest of his life. Yes, it was dumb… but we were still in elementary school!
Since my friend does gate repair in Plano, he got a particular chuckle out of that. I asked if the kids today do anything more creative. He said unfortunately not, as most kids who live in the homes where he repairs gates stay inside and are using technology. The outward humor and pranks seemed to be a lost art, just like chewing the gum.
On the way home called a friend of mine who is a concrete contractor for Fort Worth and the mid-cities, and I asked him about baseball cards as a kid. We laughed because he was around during the time of the gum packs, and we chuckled about dumb things we did as kids. He said that he ran across a concrete tear-out project once and found the remnants of a baseball card in the card in the concrete. Obviously it’s condition was too far gone to see which card it was; but we laughed and talked about which players from back in the day would have been the types of cards which would likely would have been left as a joke by another elementary school kid. He, too, confirmed that in his work he doesn’t see funny, creative, and innocent pranks pulled much anymore. We laughed about the stuff we did as kids before he had to take a customer call.
That is why we enjoy talking about baseball cards. For us they serve as a conduit to the past and brings back a lot of humor… even those “common cards” that most kids traded or flipped to get the cards of their favorite players.
One of the tougher things to collect in the baseball card world are those which come from the independent minor league baseball teams. Unlike their affiliated Minor League Baseball team counterparts, the operations aren’t always on top of things when it comes to souvenirs, and baseball card production is not always consistent. The Dallas Fort Worth area actually has had the following independent baseball teams (since the 1993 version of independent baseball), but not all had card sets made:
- Fort Worth Cats
- Grand Prairie AirHogs
- Lewisville Lizards
- Tarrant County Blue Thunder (later the McKinney Blue Thunder)
- Texas Heat (travel team in 2007)
These are tough card sets to acquire, even for those in the industry. For example the commissioner of one of the leagues lives in the North Dallas area, now a Medicaid planning attorney, and even he had challenges finding old card sets from the teams that played.
It is interesting to note that there were some great players who came out of the DFW independent baseball team circuit. Some are still in the Major Leagues today and many had good careers as far up as Triple-A (AAA) Minor League Baseball. It is tough to value these cards, but it is a fun pursuit to pick them up when you find them as they have a rich and interesting history; and many of the players have some fun stories if you ever get a chance to meet them.
Another independent baseball fan in the North DFW/Collin County area talked about how tough it is to collect these cards, especially the older sets which may not necessarily be readily available on eBay. He grew up in Camden, although now lives in DFW and helps commercial real estate developers secure NNN financing and other property development funding; and he went back to Camden to visit family some time ago. It was virtually impossible to find old card sets from the early Riversharks team which now plays there. The team has played since the late-1990’s, but finding the early card sets has been a challenge. Even employees at the stadium aren’t sure where to go get that information.
I have to tip my hat to Heather! She understands the value of sports cards, and not just potential resale value at some point in the future. Since the baseball card craze started in the mid-1980’s, the baby boomers whose mothers threw out their 1950’s and 1960’s baseball cards (when they either went to college or the military) have been trying to recapture their youth. Part of this recapturing was to relive the times when the guys flipped cards, put them in the bicycle spokes, and other games they played with their baseball cards. Not to mention their penchant for the bubble gum which came with the cards!
Heather at least understands this, so she got some old “commons” cards in bulk. These are the worthless cards that are deemed to be “filler” in a baseball card set. Usually these are of players who had short careers and who really made no impact with the sports fan landscape in any era (as a player, coach, analyst or other). She got these cards in bulk from a sports card shop which had these leftover cards, usually in poor condition, and got them for a nominal amount.
What is cool about her is that, even though she deals with high end clients looking to buy new homes for sale in Prosper Texas, she took the time to get “down and dirty” and help show the kids in the family the value of flipping these old cards and putting them in the bicycle spokes. By teaching them the history and origin of the cards then the kids received a better appreciation for how cards have evolved and why they have some degree of value to grown men.
My friend Donovan was telling stories about his time in Utah. One of the things he mentioned is that he had some tough-to-acquire Winter Olympics cards from the last event there. It is interesting seeing US-produced cards for international athletes as the presentation is quite different than cards of the same athlete from his/her home country.
In addition to language differences, the content on the backs of the cards tends to be different. The US cards were more factual whereas the international cards had more of a story and “hype” to promote the athlete. The artwork on the international cards was different as well.
I was glad to see him smile when talking about his favorite athletes and the memories of those cards because he was able to recount stories he doesn’t get to do very often. Since he owns a company which performs residential and commercial heating and air conditioning repair and installation in McKinney and the nearby Collin County towns (like Allen, Frisco and Prosper), he doesn’t get to talk very often about international athletes and sports cards or other sports memorabilia. He has some great stories!
If you have any of these cards then please contact us if you want to share images of them one day.
My friend Tim was watching the World Cup with us a few days ago, and he was talking about his experiences with the 1982 and 1986 World Cups. Being a kid back then he loved collecting baseball cards – right around the time that the Fleer & Donruss manufacturers came out – but he loved finding difficult-to-acquire sports cards. Again, this was long before the internet and eBay!
One of the things he enjoyed doing was tracking down unique sports cards from international sports, including those that were made in other countries for the World Cup. Unlike U.S. cards, they weren’t always standardized in terms of size or color layouts. Obviously there were different languages, especially Spanish so he started to learn Spanish words as a result of his card collecting as a kid – something that helped him years later with his business doing custom pool remodeling in Dallas Fort Worth.
This passion to learn about new players, get interesting insights, and learn words in new languages served him well. He talked about some of his favorite cards including countries which haven’t been discussed since the late-1970’s after their last World Cup appearances. It was fun hearing him give history of international soccer while the game was going on as it gave a context which the announcers failed to convey on television.