I'm glad to have you back with me, and I am excited about telling you a little more about collecting baseball cards during the primitive 1980s, along with 3 fond memories, for me, from that period of time.
I questioned myself..."Do such events truly exist??"
There was one card show coming up the following weekend, just a few short miles from my home, and I begged and pleaded with my parents to take me, which they did, luckily!
The crowds were dense, and it was like walking on air! Cards everywhere. As far as the eye could see.
There were many tables with rows and rows of cards that folks were thumbing through with little pieces of paper. I asked someone what was on their paper, and they said it was a list of cards they needed to complete their 1975 Topps set! That thought stuck with me, and I planned on making the same type of lists for my sets when I got home, before the next card show.
I met some great folks at these shows, "vendors", and over time, I began to know them by name, and vice versa. One really nice older gentleman had a gumball-machine type of baseball card dispenser, and for 25 cents a turn on the machine, I was pulling out cards from the 1950s! Remember, this was 1980s, before the prices really spiked! Each time I got another card, he asked me if I wanted a "Gosinta"? He found it quite funny! He said it to everyone. Why? Because they would ask what a “Gosinta” is, and he would reply, "it holds the card...your card ‘GOES INTA’ the holder!". I guess that was part of his joy in the game! He was there every week, and I got so many incredible cards from him, and a stack of “Gosintas”!
Being a newbie to card shows, I did make some "Silly Rookie Mistakes". One specific time stands out for me, and a vendor had a really good laugh. I had asked him how much his 1963 Topps Pete Rose rookie was, and he said “Two Fifty”. I took out two dollars and two quarters and went to give him $2.50 for the card, and he said, no, so, $250! Yikes! I turned beet red!
Amidst the chaos of these shows (and aside from my confusion with the multiple Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, and George Brett versions in that pesky 1981 Fleer Set), I had a blast. After going to several shows, I figured I would try and bring some cards with me to sell, but when the vendors looked them over, I learned a valuable lesson in this era before grading companies existed; condition matters, and the price of the card depends on the condition of the card! How could I find out the prices for cards across different conditions? The Beckett Baseball Card price guide, of course!
With that said, this now brings me to my first memory of those times:
#1 "BECKETT WAS BIG!":
The Beckett Baseball Card price guide was better known as the "Bible" of baseball card collecting in the 1980s. This incredibly comprehensive book had almost every card ever produced listed within its covers, along with conditions and pricing.
What is my take-away...my memory here? Well, this huge book was only produced once a year, so I remember waiting, waiting, waiting for the next issue to be released to see if the prices of my cards had gone up in value. It was absolute torture! In between issues, it was all a big guess! It was a very primitive time! Have I mentioned that yet?
Fortunately, with the price guide, I was able to price my cards a little better, and my first venture into selling cards came by placing an Ad in Baseball Card Magazine as "Bob's Cards". This yielded another true "sign of the times"; people would send me $1 and a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE) to receive my list of cards that I was selling! I made a few sales, but the process was really tough, unless you were selling at card shows.
The lesson here; you should really appreciate the fact that with a few simple keystrokes, you can check card prices and sell your cards vs. the ancient way of waiting, waiting, waiting, and then doing some more waiting!
#2 "LUCITE TOPLOADERS WERE
Keeping your cards safe from damage was a new concept in the 1980s, and the sleeves were these rigid pieces of plastic with sharp edges on them. Top Loaders? Well, that is my second very fond memory:
The Toploaders (or "Top Loaders") that you know from the present day, got their start in the 80s. These huge, thick, Lucite plastic card holders were thick, heavy, and could protect a baseball card from an atomic bomb!
If you were walking along with that gorgeous red and yellow bordered 1975 Topps Pete Rose that you bought at a show, and someone tried to take it from you..."CLUNK"...it also served as a weapon (Not that I clunked anyone with one of these prehistoric toploaders...however, in Brooklyn & Queens in 1980s NYC, you never know!!).
The point is, these were mammoth-sized holders, which really make you appreciate the slimmed-down, yet, just as durable toploaders of today.
I even included a few photos in my post to give you an idea of just how big these toploaders were from back then at the dawn of time!
#3 "BLUE BOXES, BLUE BOXES EVERYWHERE!":
Aside from purchasing complete card sets, I found out later on in my collecting ventures (in the 1990s) that there were such things as "Vending Boxes", which are basically a small carton of about 500 random Topps Baseball Cards from the current year, direct from the factory. These boxes were loaded with mint condition cards, and a boatload of rookies from the set from the particular year that was printed on the box.
With that, comes my third memory from those times (a memory that is more of like “the one that got away”); I saw these blue boxes all over the place at baseball card shows, but I never thought to ask what they were. Why did I never even look INTO vending boxes? I never heard of them. So, the true take-away here is...don't be a fool! Open your eyes to what's out there, and never take anything for granted!
Growing up in the 80s was amazing, but collecting baseball cards in the 80s was epic, especially during the earlier part of the decade, before over-production began, and when finding names like Cal Ripken Jr, Wade Boggs ("Wade"..that name still makes me giggle, lol!), Tony Gwynn, Ryne Sandberg, Don Mattingly, Darryl Strawberry, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, and Kirby Puckett in your Wax Pack gave you that feeling of excitement, and that feeling that you struck some type of gold...but at the time, you didn't realize just what type of gold it was...not yet, at least!
Thank you for taking this journey with me, and I hope that it brought back some great memories for you, as it certainly has for me..
Thanks, be safe, be healthy, and be well!
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