Yesterday (and today too, quite frankly) was a completely beautiful day here in the Nutmeg State with bright sunshine, a little blustery and it looks like it is only going to get nicer. These are the days that, when I was younger, I would look forward taking a trip to one of my favorite places in the world: The Eagle’s Nest. The Eagle’s Nest was a small little store nestled in Old Avon Village that could only fit about 5 or 6 people inside at any given time and they sold coins and sports cards. A quick run through Google seems to suggest it still exists in some form or another in Avon, but I know it’s not in the same little building it once occupied as they’ve completely redone that quaint shopping area.
Ahh, but those Saturdays! I would take whatever amount of allowance money I had cobbled together and head over with my brother, Jason, and some of our friends. Those were the days of the rock hard chewing gum that was dusted with enough powdered sugar to inevitably make you choke when you tried chewing more than 2 pieces at one time… which, of course, we always did. Dumb crap like that is half the fun of being a kid.
Sometime during college is when I really got away from baseball cards and all of that kind of stuff. I ended up selling several pretty valuable cards (Jordan rookie card from Fleer, anyone?) because I wanted to have a little extra pocket money and I sort of thought of myself as mostly being beyond all that stuff from when I was a kid. I did, however, keep a lot of the baseball cards I had bought over time.
Yesterday I decided to go to the local hobby store and snap up some baseball cards for myself. I’m not sure if was a desire to recapture a bit of that feeling of days gone by that will never return again, but off I went anyway.
The first thing I noticed about the entire process is how much different it is in a few key ways. First, I think a lot of card shops end up catering more to things like the various battle card games out there (like Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, etc.). In fact, the place I went yesterday (Omni Cards & Comics) mostly had people interested in getting together for some kind of gaming tournament whereas I just needed my baseball fix.
A second difference (and something that began when I was still collecting) was how much more expensive all of this has become. The box you see in the photo is the 2010 set from Bowman (owned by Topps, the most venerable of all card companies) was $85 for a box of 24 packs of 10 cards. The crazy thing is the larger box goes for $159. Why so expensive? Because a lot of work has been put into creating a more exclusive market for cards. There are special inserts that show up in maybe 1 in every 1,000 packs and card with actual autographs and even cards that have a swatch of a game worn jersey in them.
All of this is designed to make the cards purposefully a lot more valuable. I guess this is kind of cool in one sense, but it’s really something that’s meant to make all fo this more investment focused and less on just having the cards to have them, trade them, collect them and so on.
In the end… did my experiment work? Did I recapture a few moments of youth passed? Actually, I think I did in some way… but in many ways, I think I just rediscovered something I always liked anyway. It became less about wishing I was back in a different time in my life and just enjoying the fact that even after all these years, I still like my baseball cards. Feels good to revel in that nerdom all over again.
The lesson in all of this is that joy can be a fairly simple thing and should never be something that you let pass you by because that which brings the joy is “for kids” or doesn’t fit with some externally driven notion of what is OK to do or enjoy. So, you like role-playing games? Do it. Enjoy the nerdery of a sci-fi convention? Soak it up, young Jedi. Maybe enjoy collecting a card or two? Game on. Don’t let the outside distractions of what other people tell you is OK take away from that which you enjoy, especially if it’s the kind of thing that someone will say, “Isn’t that just for kids?”
Because you know what? Kids are good at finding joy. Maybe we should be paying attention to that a little more often.