I have collected cards for most of my life, more than 40 years, with a few breaks in between. Collecting is a way of life for me and is ingrained in my thoughts and actions. It is such a part of me that I don't even realize how big of a card nerd I have become.
I am not the most knowledgeable collector around, far from it, but I do know a lot about cards. And because I've never been someone to give myself the benefit of the doubt, I just assume that everyone else knows about cards, at least a little. And if someone asks me about cards more than once, then, yeah, I'm assuming they know something about cards.
But I was reminded yesterday that civilians -- yes, I'm calling non-collectors "civilians," that's how immersed I am -- don't know squat about cards.
In the middle of a brutally long work day, I stopped at the post office to send off some card packages. I plopped six small mailers on the counter and the worker who is almost always there started asking me about cards.
We've talked about cards before. There are other people besides myself who come into this particular post office with cards to send. Most of them are dealers. The worker started talking about this one woman who ships out cards and he's talked about her before. I can tell she runs group breaks and he said she's always sending out big-dollar cards. He said lately the cards she's been sending have been even more and more expensive.
That's when I said something I shouldn't. I mentioned that some cards are soaring in price. You have to know which ones and it's not going to make you rich, but certain cards are definitely taking off in price in a way that I haven't seen in 25 years. I said all of this to him, thinking he'd know what I was saying.
I don't really like talking about "worth" when I discuss cards but with people with only a conversational knowledge of cards, sometimes you have to go there to keep the card discussion going.
I could tell he was interested.
"What about Rodriguez?" he asked.
Well now we were definitely going somewhere I didn't want to go. I never like discussing Alex Rodriguez. I don't like him. I don't like the Yankees. Please, no. But for the sake of the card discussion, yeah, OK, let's do it.
"Sure," I said. "You have to know which ones. Mid-to-late '90s could be worth something."
I hoped that was it and I hoped he wouldn't ask me "which ones are those?" I don't know a lot about cards from that time and all the elite/mirror/certified/rave/production line/artist's proof mumbo jumbo gets me confused.
But he didn't. Instead, he said, "hang on" and left to go in the next room. What the heck? There were people in line waiting behind me! And he wasn't done processing my packages. Have you noticed how long it takes to process each package lately? They have to confirm the street address with the zip code now? Gracious, what's that all about? Where is he going?
I heard him rummaging around in the next room. It sounded like he was looking through a gym bag. I heard unzipping and more shuffling. Then he came back.
And held up this card:
Not A-Rod, but K-Rod.
Not only was it the wrong Rod, but it was a card from 2010. And not only was it a card from 2010, but the card was mangled. It was twisted in two different directions, like a deformed soda can.
I stared at it in disbelief, and just so I didn't have to say too many words because I knew if I did I was going to start laughing, I simply said:
It sounds very dismissive. But at least I wasn't laughing.
That's not very understanding of me, but I was suddenly made aware of how much I knew and how little people who don't collect cards know. I was reminded again of that natural tendency among "civilians" to think every card they stumble across is worth some money.
I then mentioned that I was talking about Alex Rodriguez and he shrugged and said, "it was just something I had lying around with some other stuff."
That was the end of the conversation about cards, thank goodness. He went back to processing my mailers and I was happy because the people behind me had been very patient but I was certain they had quietly formed a lynching party.
I made my exit. And I thought,
"Next time I'm going to mention how that K-Rod may not be worth anything, but it does have value."
I'm going to make sure there's no one behind me in line first though.