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The tank is full

I was fortunate enough to grow up during an era where I didn't have to seek out a hobby shop for the best cards. I didn't even have to fight the enormous crowd and wander through the enormous aisles of a big box store.

Cards were everywhere in the '70s. Our go-to as kids was the drug store smart enough to stock cards, there was one wherever we lived. But grocery stores also carried them, and the corner stores that you younger people only read about on blogs like this. I'd find them in hardware stores. They were in book stores, record stores, you name it.

But I never experienced cards from a gas station when I was a kid. I've heard about them, probably some tale about singing gas service men, belting out a song while pumping your gas and handing cards to the kiddies while a puppy dog happily wagged its tail.

It wasn't until years later that I discovered cards at a gas station. It was in 2001, in the spring or summer. I was visiting relatives in Buffalo and I stopped at the Sunoco station up the road about a mile from my mother-in-law's. I don't know why I went to that station, there was another one across the street that was my regular stop. Perhaps I heard about a card set being sold there?

This was during my card collecting hiatus. Like most years during that time, I'd buy one pack of Topps cards when I spotted them at a store (I never specifically went to search for them). And that took care of my interest for the rest of the year. But I still liked them and was intrigued by them. I walked into that Sunoco station to pay for my gas, and just inside the door -- I had walked past it -- was a rack featuring the 2001 Sunoco/Coca-Cola Dream Team set. Glory be, I'm about to buy cards from a gas station!!

The cards were three to a pack and available for 49 cents with a gas purchase. I couldn't tell you what the packs looked like or why I bought just one pack (my guess: the newborn was sucking up all my money). But I know I was thrilled by them, especially the content. No current players in this set, just legends, a number from when I was a kid.
This was the beginning of the retro-card era for the hobby, lots of sets like this at the time, but I didn't know that. Couldn't have told you what Heritage was. Is that some brand of furniture?

These are the three cards that came in the pack. They felt slick and flimsy. But I really liked the subject matter -- loved that Red Sox card. And they stuck with me, obviously, since I remember which three I pulled.

I wanted them all, it was just a 12-card set. But I knew I wouldn't be able to go back to the gas station again, we were heading home. And I had no idea how else to get more. I looked at the three cards I owned. The tank was just a quarter full.

Years passed and I still owned just those three cards. Then they disappeared from my collection maybe 10 or 12 years ago. I must have traded them, maybe thinking I'd never get the others.

Still liked them though. And when Johnny's Trading Spot showed off the set a few weeks ago, I mentioned my interest. Then, about two weeks ago, several envelopes showed up in the mail and in one of them was the complete 2001 Sunoco/Coca-Cola Dream Team set.

The tank is full!

Those are the rest of the cards.

I would have loved the other subjects, too, as random as they were, as odd it might be to see players from different eras together (Mattingly and Berra). I recall being disappointed that there was no Dodger card in this set, yet there were two Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox cards, including two Red Sox cards from the exact same period (a period I love by the way). This was definitely an East Coast set.

Here is a sample of the back. (The artwork for the card fronts was done by Jim Trusilo).

True to form for an oddball set like this, it's not worth much and probably shouldn't be. But it's dear to my heart because of the discovery and the memory, and I won't let these cards go again.

Johnny added a bunch of Dodgers to go with the Sunoco set, here are nine that stuck:

He also sent two key 2014 Finest Dodgers.

The Arruebarrena completes the team set (I'm sure I've received this card before and discarded as a dupe). The Puig is a refractor -- maybe green? The color refractors in this set confuse me somewhat.

Johnny also sent two Michael Massey cards. I was looking only for the 2024 one, but a rookie card of a player who was born the exact same day as my daughter is a nice touch! (That's right, the newborn is now plenty old enough to get an MLB rookie card).

It's always a good day when you can get a card with that kind of connection.

And it's a great day when you can complete a set -- even better than topping off the tank.


The photos on the Sunoco are way better than the "art", if you can even call it that. Thanks for sharing these. I didn't know about them.
AdamE said…
There was a gas station in my little hometown that had a box of 1987 Topps Football cards. I remember buying some a few times until they ran out. They never had any other cards after that one box of 87s. Oddly it was 87 football cards not baseball because 87 baseball seems way more overprinted than football was.

A year or two after high school my best friend dated a girl who's grand parents owned an old gas station. They had stopped selling gas back in the 70s but it was such a small community that they kept the store open. Her grandparents passed away and they were trying to clean it out and sell it off. Her brother found a couple boxes of 60s something Topps so she said my friend and I could look around if we wanted. We didn't find any baseball cards but we did find an old box of dynamite and they had to call ATF to come get it. lol
Nachos Grande said…
I put together most of that Sunoco set by stopping for gas on my trips to and from Vermont to visit my grandparents that summer. One of my favorite "oddball" sets I own!
1984 Tigers said…
Don't recall gas stations in Detroit area having cards until late 1980s when EVERY PLACE had cards, even Hallmark stores. The Sunonos near us had the 1972 Football stickers it seemed for at least a few years. They must have gotten boxes of them and no one wanted them after 1972.

Love the Tigers card. Seeing Sparky as one of the "stars" having a discussion with an umpire is cool.
Old Cards said…
Interesting oddball set. Don't remember buying cards from a gas station. Most of my early cards came from the corner store just a few miles from my house, a good bicycle ride away. A few came from the grocery store if I could talk my Mom into bringing me just one pack. Oddly enough, for the most part, I don't remember where I bought my cards when I reentered the hobby as an adult except for the complete sets I bought at flea markets!
Fuji said…
Cool set. It would have been cooler had Catfish been paired with Reggie and featured in Green & Gold, but guess not a lot of Oakland love on the East Coast. Heck... not a lot of love for them on the West Coast these days :D
I live in Buffalo and collected this set. It was heavily advertised on the radio. Tug McGraw promoted them