Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Beginning...

Today I've got a special post to share with you, one that is long overdue.  In fact, looking back on it, this probably should have been the very first post on my blog all the way back at the beginning of 2008.  It's the story of how I got started in this hobby more than 25 years ago now...

My two younger brothers and I began playing ice hockey in early grade school after I brought home a pamphlet that the local league had left at our school, begging and pleading for a chance to get involved.  I still remember my first time out on the ice, at 6 in the morning in an unheated rink with barely half of the equipment I needed.  I was miserable, I'm pretty sure I cried like a baby, and I recall my Dad offering me $5 to stick it out and give it a shot.  Thanks in large part to that bribe, I did stick with it.  Before long I was having the time of my life, and I ended up basically playing year round straight through until my college years.

Well, anyone that has played ice hockey knows that it's a sacrifice not just for the kid who is playing, but for the entire family.  Leagues being run on a shoestring budget often take whatever ice time they can get, which meant many late night and early morning practices, entire weekends sacrificed traveling all over the place for tournaments, thousands of dollars and countless hours of time invested.

As a way to further develop our interest in the sport, my dad began surprising my brothers and I with packs of 1989-90 Topps (and sometimes O-Pee-Chee) hockey cards.  It seems like at least once or twice a week (my memory is getting foggy as the decades roll by), he would arrive home from work with a small brown bag of packs that he picked up at a card shop on his commute home.  Some extra three-ring binders from work became our method of storage, and he even printed out a custom cover for each of them.  To this day, I still have mine:

Keep in mind, this was 1990, so at the time this cover was pretty damn high tech!  My brothers and I would sit at the kitchen table and open our packs, excited for each new card.  It was a lot of fun slotting them into our binders, swapping dupes, and learning all we could about these players who were so foreign to us at the time.

I would diligently sort my cards out by team in my binder, with the team sticker first if I was lucky enough to have it.  If you click this image of my Bruins page for a larger view you'll see that my OCD was setting in from an early age, as I sorted all the players on each team alphabetically by last name!  This resulted in a lot of shuffling and reshuffling of the cards as each pack was opened, but that was half the fun.

This was a time before 24x7 sports coverage like we have these days, so these cards were in many cases the only exposure I had to many of these players.  All these strange names and faces, it was like a sneak peek into some alternate hockey universe, and I was hooked.

Here's a look at my Joe Sakic rookie card, which at the time I was convinced would finance my retirement decades later.  As it turned out these didn't exactly hold the value that many predicted, but that's fine by me.  Whether these are worth thousands of dollars, or mere pennies each, I'd never remove them at this point or dismantle this childhood gem in any way.

Of course, my favorite cards were the ones representing my beloved Hartford Whalers.  I was fortunate enough to see many of these guys in action when my parents would load us all up in our van and make the trek out to Hartford once or twice a year.  I have fond memories of those trips as well, and I remember thinking at the time as a sheltered kid who grew up in the woods that Hartford must have been one of the biggest cities in the entire world!

As time wore on and I became more heavily involved in both the sport and in collecting, I ended up with a couple of other small binders to house my "star cards".  Here's a peek at a couple of pages my my Gretzky section.  The 18 cards that are visible here are probably worth no more than a dollar or two these days, but to me they're priceless.

One of the first things I did when I got back into collecting as an adult was to pick up full sets of the '89-90 Topps and O-Pee-Chee releases.  They were cheap and provided a fun trip down memory lane, though nothing could ever replace my originals.  Well, recently I started to wonder if there was anything else I could pick up from these sets that were such a foundation to my collecting.  I recently found a new addition that I am beyond pleased with:

As I mentioned, we knew little to nothing about most of the players when we were collecting this first set of cards early on, but one thing I remember clearly was our knowledge that Al MacInnis possessed one hell of a slapshot!  I can clearly remember pretending that I was Al as I wound up for a slapshot playing "street hockey" in the patch of dirt on the side of our house.

I was beyond excited to find this hard-signed '89-90 O-Pee-Chee card of the HOFer on eBay recently, and was even more excited to bring it home as the sole bidder for less than $15.

This was actually a buyback autograph inserted into 2007-08 O-Pee-Chee, and to me it's the perfect accent piece to accompany my very first hockey cards.

Here's the proof card that came with it in the pack, guaranteeing that the autograph is authentic.

I can't believe I never thought to look for something like this sooner, but I'll certainly be keeping my eyes peeled going forward for any other autos from this set.

So there you have it, the beginnings of my sports card collection from over 25 years ago now.  I'm forever grateful to both my parents, and especially my dad, for all of the time, money and patience they spent over the years encouraging my brothers and I to stay involved in sports.  It's something that's retained my interest to this very day, and I'm sure always will.

Do you remember what your very first cards were?  If so, I'd love to hear about it in the comments...


John Bateman said...

That 1989-90 Topps/OPC Hockey set was almost like the last of the golden age of cards (16 cards to pack - 35 cents a pack, brown cardboard). A great design, a slight take off of the 1979-80 set.... I remember putting a Topps set together from a 12-13 dollar wax box I bought wholesale - cant do that anymore...

arpsmith said...

Great post, thanks for sharing.

My first cards were 1979 Topps baseball cards, I was 8 years old. I would get packs from the snack truck out at the PONY baseball fields after games. When I turned 10 my dad gave me his old collection that luckily my grandparents kept. It was primarily made up of 1959 and 1960 Topps baseball cards. Looking through those cards was a foundation to my love of baseball history.

Tim B. said...

Great story! One of the first collecting memories I have is a weekend flea market search for a Don Mattingly RC. Growing up, I didn't have a card shop or any shows that I could go to near my home town. One weekend the family was out at the not-so-local flea market and I was thrilled to find several baseball card vendors set up. I spent the afternoon finding a Mattingly RC and then trying to convince my parents to let me get it. Fun times and good memories!

night owl said...

Nice story. Yeah, that was a post I made in the first week of the blog. How did you wait so long?

I've said it many times: my first cards were 1974 Topps baseball, bought for me by my mother during a shopping trip. The first cards I collected and bought with my own money were 1975 Topps.

CaptKirk42 said...

Having 2 older brothers who both at one time collected cards, my first card memories are from when I was real little at about 4 or 5. I think I have mentioned it on my blog One of my first memories was trading with my brother (the younger of the two) with our plastic card "lockers". It was around 1970 we had "matching" trading card boxes that looked like long gym lockers. They were hard plastic one was red one blue, I forget who had which I think I had the blue since as a kid blue was my favorite color. They had two rows or columns and adjustable "shelves"/dividers. I think they even had team name stickers that could be stuck onto the edge of the dividers. They must have been pretty thick to do that. I used the stickers but my brother didn't. The "lockers" were a little over a foot tall or long if you will and probably 7 or 8 inches wide, wide enough for two rows of cards. I seem to recall some kind of trade of the 1965 Topps Ernie Banks for a 1968 Topps Willy Mays. Maybe those cards changed hands a few times, I'm not 100% sure. All I know is my brother was more into other hobbies to stick with card collecting so eventually I found his cards in the basement laundry/utility room that we used for storage (aka the family hording pile). I wish I still had one or both of those "lockers". Over the years some of the cards were kept but the storage boxes "lockers" were not.

Billy Kingsley said...

Shane, great post! I am glad you have kept the original binder intact. I think I've posted this on Cardboard History but I am not totally sure and I enjoy typing it.
In 1988, I was 4 years old and already a collector. My brother read me my first comic book at 5 days old and I had been collecting Hot Wheels size cars since I believe Christmas 1985. In 1986 I became a monster truck fan, and in 1988 the first set of monster truck cards was issued and they became my very first. My brother gave me his Star Wars duplicates that he got new (He's 13 years older than me) and for many years I always thought they were my first cards. But he remembered that the Bigfoot cards came first. I still haven't completed any of those 4 sets yet, either.
I collected non-sports pretty much solely until Christmas 1992, when I discovered NASCAR. That became my major thing in life for the next decade or February 1996 I got my first basketball cards and that changed everything. My mom, who volunteered over 10,000 hours in the school I attended (even after I left) realized all my friends were into basketball while not one was into NASCAR or non-sports. So for Valentine's Day she gave me a pack of 1995-96 Fleer Series 2. I found a game on TV later that night, and the rest, as they say, is history. Collecting NBA cards became just about the only thing that mattered to me from that point on. I still got a pack of most NASCAR sets, but not all, and I drifted away from non-sports after 1997, even Star Wars.
I paid more attention to NASCAR after a single pack purchase at Target yielded an autograph of my all-time favorite driver, and from then (2003) to 2010 I put more effort in my NASCAR collection.
In very late 2006, sometime after September but before Christmas, I got fed up with the NBA scene and I stopped collecting basketball cards. I now consider it the biggest mistake I've ever made in the hobby. I realize, after the fact, that it was really me that was the problem, not the cards. The game had changed, true, but not bad enough that I should have walked away.
So from 2006-early 2010 I did NASCAR only. Then, in 2010, at the local Target I found some packs of the Topps Empire Strikes Back 3Di cards and loved them. It got me back into non-sports and I began collecting them full time again. Now I actually spend more time with my non-sports than I do with NASCAR, as all the changes the sport has made have not been for the better and it's taking away my interest slowly but surely.

Billy Kingsley said...

In 2011 I watched the NBA Finals and got back into them big time, and I determined I would buy some cards again from time to time, but only what the local Target put into the discount bin that they no longer seem to have. That lasted only a few months.
In October 2012 I entered my entire collection into the Trading Card Database and that was the final straw that brought me back full time. I didn't even look at the actual cards- most of them I had not looked at since 2003, the last time I sorted my collection to that point- but just going off my paper listings I had made brought back so many memories that I was back into the hobby full time by the end of that month.
Surprisingly, I've never actively collected hockey, even though playing floor hockey in school was the most fun I ever had in the educational system, and it was the only sport I was any good at. Unfortunately my health doesn't allow me to play any sports anymore. Baseball and football never really held my interest, they were too slow for me. I like speed. I do have lots of cards of each- in January 2015 a friend sent me over 3000 cards, most of them hockey. I had exactly 29 hockey cards when I woke up that the time I went to bed I had more than 2700! I'm over 2800 now. I've purchased a couple on my own but I really can't afford to pick up a new sport. But I find myself really enjoying the hockey card blogs. If only the medicine that keeps me alive wasn't so expensive...

By the way, I still have all but one card I've ever had. I only traded one non-duplicate way back in 1996, and I've been trying to replace it ever since.

And I think this may be the first blog comment ever that had to be split into two because it was too big. I've made blog posts smaller than this (LOL)

Mark Hoyle said...

Shane. Thanks for sharing that. I still have four of the old card lockers Capt Kirk wrote about. They are still in use. Two of my sons used them now there back in my possession

Marc said...

That was a fantastic story. You're right. It was long overdue. The early 70's had me collecting Wacky Packages. 72-75 Topps baseball was it. Thank you '75 Red Sox for tearing a little fans heart out. Didn't start collecting again until the early 90's.

That MacInnis was a steal of a deal. There are many buybacks from 1989. That would be quite a set to build.

GCA said...

I started with a handful of '74s like Night Owl. And put my first few years cards into the red Topps lockers like CaptKirk. I still have those two, plus a three-row one I picked up a year or two ago, a blue one that my friend sent me a few months ago, and about ten of the ones with the one piece lid.

Check them out here: On top of the wire rack. (toward the end of the post).

One of the '74s was Carl Yastrzemski. That's still the one in my set.

shoeboxlegends said...

Thanks for all the comments guys, it's always interesting to me to hear how others got their start in the hobby.

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