Staying true to the promise that I had made to my parents, I did not buy any packs of 1992 Donruss, 1992 Fleer, 1992 Score, nor 1992 Topps baseball. As these 1992 releases starting coming out, my plan was to wait and buy complete sets at the end of the year. To this day, I don’t believe that I have ever opened any packs from any of these sets. I’m not sure if I could have lasted the entire summer without ripping into any packs of baseball cards, but as it turned out, the ever expanding sport scard industry gave me plenty of new sets to choose from. Most prominently, 1992 was the year that Score first released its amazing Pinnacle baseball set. I was totally blown away: the black design, action photography, and the increased cost of a jumbo pack ($2.99) made these cards seem ultra-premium and ultra-awesome. Needless to say, I’ve been a fan of 1992 Pinnacle right from the beginning. This set turned my passion for sports cards into all out obsession. Since I didn’t expect to buy a complete set of these cards, I started buying packs of 1992 Pinnacle with any spare money that I could get ahold of. Luckily for me, by 1992 I was starting to get old enough that I could help area farmers around the farm during the summer. Much of what I earned was spent on cards. The year 1992 was also significant in that I began thinking in terms of base cards and inserts cards for the first time: 1992 Pinnacle’s Team 2000 set marked the first insert set that I truly chased after as a kid. Other than Pinnacle, I focused on building a sizable collection of 1992 Upper Deck baseball. I specifically remember one occasion where I bought four jumbo packs of 1992 Upper Deck for $8 from the local convenience store. I made sure not to open my new treasures until returning home; it was my top priority to keep them in good condition.
As for my basketball card collection, I was so happy after pulling Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, and Christian Laettner cards from 1992 Classic. They were the “Big Three” from the 1992 NBA draft, and I had a card of each of these players. Great, great memories. As for my football card collection, 1992 was a pretty quiet year. I bought a lot of Pro Set cards and a pack or two of Skybox Impact. But more than anything, I remember enjoying “old-school” cards in my collection such as 1987 Topps Jim Kelly and 1987 Topps Randal Cunningham.
I first subscribed to the Tuff Stuff price guide sometime in 1992 or 1993. The fact that Tuff Stuff featured all of the major sports made it any easy choice for me over Beckett. It took an agonizing month or so for the first issue to arrive, but when it finally did, I was in heaven. I loved reading the articles, reviewing the value of my collection, and looking at the advertisements. No longer did I have to wait for a box of cards to show up on a shelf in a store somewhere to get an idea of what a set was all about. Moreover, I really started to feel part of the larger card collecting community.
I collected even more cards in 1993, and then even more in 1994, and then even more in 1995. I continued to buy plenty of packs and several complete sets from the 1988-1994 era. I even bought some cheap wax boxes such as 1990 Pro Set football. Opening 36 packs in one sitting was a dream. A major purchase for me later on was a box of 1994 Topps Stadium Club Series II baseball that I bought at the Iowa State Fair. Opening all types of packs from all types of sets kept me informed about what was going on in the NBA, NFL, and in Major League Baseball. We never had cable TV as a kid, so without my card collection, I do not know how I would have been able to keep track of all of the teams and players. Because my collecting reached its apex in 1995, my knowledge of contemporary sports in all probability reached its apex around the same time as well. As a young teenager, I could name most of the starting lineups from the major sports teams without trouble – this is something that I can no longer do. Major pulls for me during this era included 1993 Fleer Ultra Drew Bledsoe, 1994 Pinnacle Museum Collection Jeff Bagwell, 1994 Pinnacle Museum Collection Don Mattingly, and a 1995 Donruss Elite Jose Canseco. Except for the Bledsoe, all of these cards had a book value of over $20 in Tuff Stuff at one-time or another. I felt like I would have protected these cards with my life. In my mind, 1994/95 Flair basketball was about the coolest set that I had ever seen. I could not have enough.
But then something funny happened: I kept getting older and older. Similar to the experience of so many card collectors, as my teenage years continued to progress, the youthful fire that I felt for collecting started to get pushed to the side. I bought fewer cards in 1996 (although I did have a strong affinity towards 1996 Action Packed football) and decided to no longer renew my Tuff Stuff subscription. Studying, planning for college, and participating in a variety of high school activities took up my time and focus. Furthermore, the overwhelming growth in the number of card sets and the relative cost of unopened hobby packs (characteristics of the hobby that I liked when I was younger) started to overwhelm me. Money was in short supply, and it just got harder and harder to justify to myself to keep spending my cash on sports cards. By the autumn of 1997, as I headed into my senior year of high school, I no longer actively pursued cards as I once did, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever do so again.
Word of the Day
assiduous: marked by careful unremitting attention or persistent application; an assiduous book collector; tended her garden with assiduous attention