Both the size of my personal collection as well as my fanaticism for the greater sports cards industry grew at an exponential rate during the first half-decade of the 1990s. For one thing, my brother started to age out of the hobby during this time period, and as such, I started to take ownership of all of the cards in the house. I made the collection my own. I loved organizing, sorting, and ultimately learning from my cardboard treasures. Rubber bands were out – all cards were now carefully stored away in either monster boxes or nine-pocket plastic sleeves. I vividly remember crying when I accidently damaged the edges of some 1991 Donruss cards that I had ripped into before returning home.
I kept track of how many singles, duplicates, etc. I had of each card. And in 1991, there was a lot for me to keep track of. I opened tons of baseball card packs that year from all of the major card manufacturers of the day – Donruss, Fleer, Score, Topps, and Upper Deck. As the summer of 1991 wore on, I become more interested in trying to complete entire sets. As such, a major project for me was to reorganize my entire collection. No longer was I going to organize my collection by teams (players got traded all of the time anyway I thought – what sense did it make to organize my cards into teams?). So instead, I decided to organize my entire collection sequentially by year, set name, and card number. I remember having cards spread out all across the living room carpet as I tried to sequentially order sets such as 1991 Fleer and 1991 Score. It took a lot of time and effort to organize a collection that featured a few thousands cards, but I really enjoyed the process. I felt like my collection was becoming better organized and more sophisticated than ever before.
Changing how I stored and organized my cards wasn’t the only change that I had in mind. The more I thought about my card collecting goals, the more I began to question why I didn’t simply buy factory sealed complete sets. Doing so would save time and eliminate the need to pile up stacks of duplicates. Sometime during the Summer of 1991, I saw an irresistible ad in a (I believe) Beckett magazine: a card shop was selling factory sealed sets of 1991 Donruss, 1991 Fleer, 1991 Score, and 1991 Topps in a single bundle. The total cost was a little over $100. Since I had no money of my own, I did the only logical thing: I begged my parents to buy the sets for me. I told them that if we bought complete sets each year, it would no longer be necessary to buy individual packs of cards. Somehow, someway, I eventually wore my parents down, and we ordered the four sets – this is still one of the best gifts that I have ever received. Thanks Mom and Dad!
Another big change for me in 1991 was that my friend N.K. and his family moved into our small Iowa town. He liked to collect cards as well, and his collection included some basketball cards. My new friend immediately got me hooked; some of the first basketball packs that I ever bought were of 1991/92 Skybox and 1991/92 Hoops. Throw in the combined influences of Michael Jordan and the Bulls and the upcoming 1992 Olympics featuring the “Dream Team,” expanding my collection to include basketball cards was both a swift and enjoyable process.
In summary, by the end of 1991, I had a sequentially numbered and well-protected card collection that featured three sports (baseball, football, and basketball). It was an exciting time in the hobby. Card manufacturers had started producing new and higher quality card sets: Fleer Ultra, Leaf, Topps Stadium Club, 1989-1991 Upper Deck, etc. All of these new sets seemed so high-tech to me – they featured beautiful color photography on both the front and back, premium card stock, and/or holograms. I used my cards to learn about and connect with my favorite players; I loved everything about the hobby and could never have enough. And I was just getting started…
Word of the Day
apocryphal: of doubtful authenticity; well-known but probably not true; an apocryphal story/tale about the president’s childhood