Monday, August 2, 2010
A big box of junk (wax)
My brother-in-law visits a few more flea markets than I do, so when he sees a large box of baseball cards, he knows what to do.
I was told that he had found such a box recently, bought it, and left it for me to pick up and do with it what I wanted. Reportedly, the box was filled with baseball mostly, but there were some other cards in there, too. Probably football, said my sister-in-law.
I couldn't wait to see what was in there. I knew the chances of it containing junk wax were good, but my brother-in-law had produced some much more cooler card items from flea markets before, so I approached the box filled with excitement.
It turns out the box featured between 2,500-3,000 cards. And it was 99.99999 percent junk wax. There were non-baseball cards in there, too. But not one was football, as you'll soon see.
I admit I was a bit disappointed as I leafed through the cards, even though I knew I could use some of them. Yes, I haven't completed my 1992 Topps or 1990 Donruss sets yet. No, I don't care if I ever do.
But then something struck me: the cards in this box had too much character for them to be lumped in haphazardly for a sale. There was a certain collecting progression in this box. A pattern. A collector's tale. This was a box that featured the life of one collector -- from collecting birth to collecting death.
Let's call him "Randy." Here is the story of "Randy, Former Collector":
Randy is 7 years old. He's a Yankee fan. He doesn't know why or what that means. But some older kid gave him two Donruss cards. One of Don Baylor and one of Clay Christiansen. Both Yankees. Randy is a Yankee fan.
Randy is 9 years old. He buys his first pack of baseball cards. Well, actually his mom buys them for him so he'll shut up and stop whining about the Power Rangers toys in the next aisle. The highlight of the pack is this Wally Backman card. It's so cool that Randy becomes a Mets fan. But he doesn't buy anymore cards.
Randy is 10 and he buys his first pack of baseball cards. For real this time. He doesn't even want a Power Ranger toy anymore. They're for babies. In fact he buys TWO packs of baseball cards. One pack has two Red Sox in it, including Mike Greenwell with a cool golden cup. Randy becomes a Red Sox fan.
While Randy is at the drug store, he sees a different pack of baseball cards. It's called "Score." Intrigued, he buys one pack. He's not intrigued enough to buy another. But that Score will stick in his head. In fact, it will become his drug of choice in future years.
Randy turns 11, and he's starting to like this card collecting thing. He buys his usual two packs of Topps baseball cards and lets out a yell when he pulls Mark McGwire.
But Randy also sees that Score is back for another year. He buys a couple packs of that, too.
Then he spies something called "Donruss." He had never noticed it before. Because it's new, and because he's 11 years old and is intoxicated by the thought of having his own spending money, he buys nothing but '89 Donruss for the rest of the year. He ends up with about 50 cards. He couldn't be more pleased with himself.
But Randy's not done yet. He can't help but notice some larger cards out on the shelf. Bigger is better, right? They're called "Bowman." Apparently they made cards a long, long time ago, like when most people didn't have TVs. That was so freakish to Randy that he HAD to buy some Bowman. He ended up with about 150 cards from the set. Everyone on the set looked really old.
Randy is 12 and collecting is officially a way of life for him. He makes sure to buy his usual two or three packs of Topps. But the design is weird and there is so much more that he wants to buy.
Of course, there's Score. Randy's not too thrilled with the design, but he grabs a couple of packs because he believes in brand loyalty.
There is Donruss, which he still loves, although not as much as last year. What is with all the red? He buys maybe 6 or 7 packs during the year.
Especially when there were cards like THIS. Randy tries like mad to collect the entire Classic Monster Truck set. He doesn't finish the set, but he comes awfully close.
He also tries to convince his mom to let him get a haircut like this guy. His mom says no.
And Randy is developing yet another collecting obsession. He accumulates a bunch of cards from Marvel Comics' 1990 set. They're cool.
Randy is 13 and starting to spread himself too thin. He buys several packs of 1991 Topps. All the action shots are cool, and there are some horizontal cards, just like in the monster truck set. Randy isn't athletic at all, so he lives out his fantasies in the photos of shortstops sailing through the air as they turn double plays.
But Randy doesn't have time for Score or Donruss because his monster truck obsession has grown into a stock car obsession. A new card set featuring the best of NASCAR hits shelves and again Randy tries to collect the entire set. Unfortunately, there are entirely too many cards and entirely too many mullets.
He also collects a set devoted to Corvettes, and very nearly completes it. Randy has a new idea of awesome.
It's 1992, and every damn person in the world is collecting cards. Randy is 14, and like any 14-year-old, all he wants to do is what every damn person in the world is doing. So, Randy decides to collect it all.
He buys more Topps cards than he's ever bought. He ends up with about 250 in the set.
He returns to Donruss and buys a handful of packs. It's not the same, but at least the set looks a little better than the previous year.
He comes back to Score, too. Oh, how he has missed Score. Randy buys around 10 packs.
There's a new set out called Triple Play. Randy likes the wacky photos and sinks a bunch of money into these cards, collecting maybe a little less than half the set.
But Randy has ditched the car obsession to revive his fascination with comic books. He nearly completes the entire Marvel set devoted to the 30th anniversary of Spider-Man. Spidey is a lot cooler than cars.
Besides, comic books ocassionally feature hot chicks in tight costumes who can summon hurricanes on a whim. Randy's having a difficult time landing a girlfriend. He collects the Marvel Superheroes set instead.
Life is getting difficult for Randy at age 15. He buys some packs of Topps, but not as many as last year and only because it's what he always does.
Those are the only baseball cards he buys all year. Instead, he grabs a pack of Thunder cards, which showcase Harleys, so he can at least tell a girl that he knows what a Harley looks like.
But most of his time goes toward comic books and the Marvel Comics card series. "The Ovoids are awesome," Randy says. "They can live forever, placing their essence in fresh new bodies when their old bodies become too decrepit." Randy's grades are plummeting.
Randy turns 16 in 1994. A strike ends the baseball season in the middle of the summer. Randy again buys some baseball cards out of duty. This time, they're Score, which he has liked since the very first Score set. He has about 50 by the end of the year.
But Randy is a fantasy fiend, preferring the Marvel Masterpieces set ...
... the Marvel Universe set ...
... and the very glossy Flair Marvel Comics New Mutants series.
And just because he's officially embraced his nerd status, Randy buys one pack of Beavis and Butt-head cards. But only one. Because he really, really wants a girlfriend someday.
Randy is 17 and about to graduate from high school ... barely. Baseball is dead to him -- because of the strike and because reality sucks. Mom can't even get him to come out of his room.
The entire sum of his card purchases are some super shiny, super well-drawn (and sometimes super shapely) Metal cards.
Randy graduates. Doesn't go to college. Gets a job delivering appliances and gets a haircut like Gary Bauer (see above). He's done collecting.
Randy is shopping for wrestling videos in Wal-Mart one day and, overcome with nostalgia, buys a pack of 2007 Upper Deck. He could never afford Upper Deck as a kid. But at 29 years old, he finally had the chance to see what the buzz was about way back when.
He leafs through the cards in the car. "This was a big deal?" he says.
When he gets home, he throws the cards in the box with the rest of his neglected collection that sits under his bed. A few weeks later, he sells it to a flea market dealer. Three years after that, someone -- my brother-in-law -- finally buys it.
I'd like to say I'm going to cherish Randy's collection forever. But now that I've told his story, here's what I'm going to do:
If you want any of these cards, except for some of the baseball cards that I need for my collection, they are yours.
You can either have all of it or parts of it.
If you want all of it, please know that it will take me several weeks to get it all out and it will arrive in portions.
I've listed all of the sets above. I don't think I left out any. If you want any specifics, send me an email.
The first people who speak up get whatever cards they want (they're all in pretty good shape. Some of the earlier baseball ones have some corner/edge wear).
If none of you want any of the cards, I understand. I knew when I first opened the box that Randy's problem would be my problem.