By Matt McNabb aka ISO NJ 30 G

My return to collecting cards came as a result of three independent occurrences – seeing blasters of 2008 Topps Heritage baseball at Target, suffering a detached retina in my right eye, and purchasing a house.

I’ve always been a collector, probably due to being an only child. It started with sports cards early on (I was taught to read using, among other things, 1981 Topps football cards), and continued through the years with collectible card games, magazines, music, tickets and programs, newspaper clippings that either mentioned me or that I wrote, and books. I prefer to think of myself as a collector, not a packrat (though that might be more accurate).

When I had my first retinal detachment, in February 2008, the focus was books. I have about a three-year stockpile (at a one-a-week clip) of unread books on hand. But I found myself in a position where reading was complicated, and frustrating. Not along after, though, the card aisle at Target caught my eye. The idea of returning, in part, to a more carefree time appealed to me. So did the combination of the modern players with the vintage card design.

In the next few months, I picked up a few blasters, and eventually a hobby box. I learned on the fly about the black back variations, the short-prints, and the “hits.” When I was looking online for information on variations and SPs, I also was introduced to the online card communities. The forums, trading sites and collector blogs provided their own brands of valuable information and opinions for a collector reborn.

In May, my then-fiancée and I bought a house. In July, I had another eye surgery, on the left eye this time. From the first surgery, I knew I had a week and a half off work ahead of me, with doctor’s orders to keep my face down. I also knew I now had more space, and an address I was keeping for awhile. I had an idea, and called my mother, a nurse, who would be coming to help post-surgery.

“Do you still have all the cards I collected growing up?”

I knew the answer. When I was a younger collector, she always lamented the fact that her parents threw away her childhood collection.

She arrived before the surgery with boxes, milk crates and other storage items filled with my old friends. Returning home following the surgery, once I felt up to it, I spent the waking hours of those days sitting on the floor, looking down (doctor’s orders, of course). The rookies and stars I had separated out years earlier remained more or less isolated. And all my Martin Brodeur cards were thankfully together, still in toploaders. I soon decided that I would focus on building that player collection, and other player collections later on.

I sorted by sport (tossing the badly damaged ones), then by brand, then by year. I made sure there were no stray Jordans, Griffeys, Montanas, Favres or Brodeurs mixed in with the commons. I went by the local comic shop and bought plenty of 800, 1,600 and 3,200-count boxes to store my reclaimed collection.

After the 2008 Topps Heritage, I branched out, while remaining mostly at Target. There were some stray 2007 Bowman blasters, from which I pulled my first serial numbered card – a Brandon Meriweather rookie blue refractor /150. I also wandered into basketball with some 07-08 Topps Trademark Moves blasters; they always treated me right. For a while I said I would stay away from hockey packs/boxes, as it would just complicate things more. That didn’t last.
I immersed myself in nearly everything, to give it all a chance and find out the future of my collecting. Turns out, it was mostly basketball, and mostly player collections.

With the exception of the “hits,” all the parallels and the online community, it’s like I’m 11 again. And while I’m glad to not be 11 anymore, it’s good to feel that way again when I’m opening packs, making trades, picking up special singles and sharing collecting stories with friends.