Every few months or so a new list of "Things We Don't Do Anymore" pops up on the internet, and we are suckered into reading about how old we're getting.
Yep, I'm old enough to remember when phone booths were as much a part of the landscape as trees. I remember those evil pay phones that I can't believe give some people the nostalgies. There were more than a few times when I wanted to beat those phones senseless with their own receiver.
Thanks to technology we don't memorize phone numbers or hand-write letters or use an alarm clock. And if you still do, look, here's this new article that says: "you're oooooooooooold!!!!"
I don't need to read any more of those articles. But what about just one more, geared toward our hobby?
Here are a few things -- just a few because I've got to send out some card packages someday -- we don't do anymore in this hobby. If you're lucky enough (or unlucky enough) maybe you never did them.
1. Chart your collection by checking off boxes on a piece of cardboard.
For more than 40 years, most sets contained multiple checklists so collectors could figure out which cards they had. It was also the only way to keep track of what you still needed because the checklist for the entire set was a complete mystery. It was cardboard checklists or nothing. You couldn't find the info anywhere else!
Other things we don't do anymore: Decide whether we were going to fill in the entire square or use a check mark or an "X". ... Wait until we got a duplicate checklist before marking it up. ... Copy all the players' names and numbers on to a sheet of paper and then check those off (this seems borderline obsessive). ... Try to use pencil and realize that didn't work well.
2. Obtain baseball knowledge from cartoons.
You can still do this thanks to Heritage cards (at least until 2032), but for the main flagship set, there hasn't been an informative cartoon on a card back since 2006. And that year was like a raindrop in the desert because, damn, it had been a long time prior to then.
Other things we don't do anymore: Be genuinely amused -- or even laugh -- over something seen on the back of the baseball card. ... Treasure certain cards, strictly because of the cartoon on the back. Heck, treasure certain sets because of the cartoons on the back.
3. Purchase cards from the display sitting on the counter in front of the drug store checkout cashier.
Sure, some of my card purchases when I was a kid came from heading down the candy aisle. But the vast majority -- for a long time, heck to even after I graduated from college -- were bought by grabbing some packs from the box that either sat directly in front of the cashier or somewhere else up front. I have a suspicion this was to keep grubby little kids from filching packs. But there was something reassuring about seeing the cards on display where you couldn't miss them. No worrying whether a store carried them, just go right to the counter. I'm not saying cards aren't displayed up front anymore, but how many times do you buy them from the box on the front counter of a drug store?
Other things we don't do anymore: Find current cards at a store that is not a chain. ... Find cards in a store that strictly sells groceries. ... Heck, many of us don't even bother going to stores for our cards.
4. Open one flap of a wax pack to get a peek at the first card in the pack.
You'll have to buy old packs to do that. Modern cards haven't shown up in wax wrappers in I don't know how long. Wax packs were very easy to open -- which I'm guessing the lost-prevention types didn't appreciate. Opening today's sealed packs can be a struggle. I just encountered it yesterday. Pinching the two sides together to try get it open, like it's a milk carton. Pulling scissors out, for crying out loud. GET ME MY CARDS!
Other things we don't do anymore: Bemoan the waxy residue on one of the cards in the pack. ... Read the special orders on the side of the wrapper. ... Ignore the gum ingredients. ... Guess what player is being represented by the cartoon player on the wrapper.
5. Scrape gum residue off the back of one of the cards in the pack with your fingernails.
I don't recall which Heritage set was the last to feature gum, but when it did, the gum was enclosed in a plastic wrapper to keep the cards "safe". If there is one thing we modern collectors hate is food stuffs mucking up our cards. When I was buying cards as a kid, the gum was a fact of life. I ate the gum maybe the first pack I bought for the season then it was ignored the rest of the time. But almost every pack, I'd be scraping some powder off of one of the cards before it could harden on there forever.
Other things we don't do anymore: Discuss whether the gum tastes different this year. ... Wish we could eat the gum but our stupid orthodontist won't let us. ... Put our cards up to our nose and smell them because they smelled like bubble gum. ... Figure out whether you can actually blow a bubble with this rock-hard gum.
6. Save coins to buy packs.
There a lot of reasons why we don't do that anymore, chief among them: who uses coins anymore? But at age 11 or 12, I had a little valet on my dresser (trust me, I had no idea what a "valet" was, it was obviously purchased by my mom) with a drawer, and I'd throw coins in there to save for baseball packs, which cost well under a dollar. Today, every pack is over a dollar, and if you're so ancient that you pay with physical money then you'll need the paper variety.
Other things we don't do anymore: Dig in our pocket for that needed nickel while the man behind the counter waits impatiently. That happened to me a few times. ... Look in the car or under couch cushions for spare change.
7. Have a use for rubber bands.
This is pathetic but I was forced to find an online image of a rubber band because I'm quite sure they've been eradicated from our home. As a youngster, rubber bands may have been one of the 10 most prevalent items in my life. Anything that came in bundles required rubber bands. They were constantly being flicked across the classroom. And, of course, we used them to keep our cards in a tidy stack. I can still remember when I first learned to double-loop a rubber band around my cards.
Other things we don't do anymore: Look for the right color of rubber band to place around our cards. ... Spot notches on the side of cards thanks to using rubber bands. ... Have a rubber band snap, nearly missing an eye. ... Figure out how far I could shoot a rubber band while lying on my bed.
8. Try to ID players in team pictures.
Thanks to a couple of retro blogs, I still get to do this. But Topps has eliminated the more than 30-year tradition of team pictures on cards so we are now badly trailing other countries in the ability to identify players from their team picture. I would do this periodically as a kid, when I wanted a challenge. There also was something nice about having the whole team on one card even when you hadn't finished the team set yet. P.S.: I bet you can pick out Hammerin' Hank.
Other things we don't do anymore: Look on the back of the card to see which players from the team we still needed. ... Try to figure out where they took the picture. ... Send away to get all of the team card photos.
I'm sure there are plenty of other things we veteran collectors don't do anymore -- buy through mail-order catalogs, cut cards out of a magazine, fish cards out of a cereal box, trade cards with people in person -- but I'll leave that to you very old people to mull over.
Right now, I must get to the rest of my life, which has become very demanding and is the reason why I have no time for rubber bands or chewing bad gum or fishing out coins.
Life must be very efficient these days. Even if we're not very efficient at having fun.