By Brandon Boyd aka 6boyds
If you ask any card shop owner today, they will tell you they are in it to make money. Sure, they like to chat with customers and take a look at the delightfully designed pieces of cardboard that we as sports card collectors gather, but in the end, they are in it for the ring of the cash register.
My local card shop was owned by Pat Thompson, known as pltcards on SportsCardForum.com. He was a great guy – always willing to talk, make deals, and was a friendly person to buy from. I frequented his shop growing up, along with my Dad and brothers, as well as Jason DiOrazio, another SportsCardForum.com member (jdio13). The shop was located on the corner of Main Street, in which no more than about five people could be in at one time in front of the counters – if it got anymore crowded than that, it got difficult to maneuver around the space about the size of the average closet.
“The size of the card shop – just kidding!”
It was somewhere around my teenage years when this occurred, though probably a little before. I would guess about 11 or 12. It was a hot summer day…sweltering, in fact. I remember walking to the card shop earlier in the week and taking a look through many of Pat’s cards, many of which were outside of the range of my pocketbook – though at the time it would have been closer to a piggybank than a pocketbook. I knew that Pat had a stack of cards that I unofficially called the “nickel pile.” Any card was five cents; at least it was what I was first told.
Of course, one thing you have to know about the nickel pile is that it always seemed like the cards I picked were never a nickel. The stack of cards was largely uncombed through by Pat, so often I would find a gem (read: a card that probably sold for about a dollar) and I would ask Pat for a price. Expecting to hear “five cents,” I waited, and then I remember putting the card back as I heard something like “one dollar” or “two dollars.” This wasn’t Pat being mean – he just didn’t want to take chump change for his cardboard, which I now understand.
I was bored on this day, probably driving my mom up a wall. My brother, David, was also bored on this day, so I went up to him and asked what he wanted to do. “I don’t know,” he said. “Want to go to the card shop and buy some cards?” I remember asking him. As a fellow collector, he enthusiastically agreed. We grabbed some change, either 41 or 43 cents, and walked under the simmering sun to the card shop. There, we were greeted by the cool rays of the air conditioner and the two friendly “card shop guys:” Pat and his friend, Mike.
David and I began to sort through the piles of cards, as base, rookies, and inserts were spread all along the counter. “Find anything good in there?” Pat asked us as we continued looking. Eventually we found two cards each. I chose a Mark Teixeira Upper Deck Rookie card and a Travis Outlaw rookie. David chose a rookie card featuring Quentin Jammer and Terence Newman. I can no longer recall what the fourth card was. Regardless, these cards were worth more than the 40-some cents our small pockets held.
We went to the register and told Pat we were ready to pay. “How much for these?” I asked nervously. Pat, possibly realizing my hesitance, asked how much we had. I looked down, embarrassed, and barely caught the graze of Pat. “41 cents,” I said. I could tell he didn’t want to take it. He had a pained looked on his face, and I’m sure if we weren’t regular customers he would not have accepted our measly pocket change.
“OK,” he said, and I handed him the money. I walked out of that store a tiny bit embarrassed, but mostly excited. My brother and I had got four cards for 41 cents – what a deal! I imagine that Pat had a slightly different reaction, but the story is something I remember to this day. The generosity shown by Pat and Mike on this occasion, as well as several others, is one of the reasons why I really got into sports card collecting. Yes, I enjoyed it then, but even now, at 19, I still collect. While my 41 cents would likely no longer be accepted by the new owners of the card shop, the story of my 41 cents still gives respectability to card shop owners. While card shop owners are in it for the money, they also realize when a couple of kids are trying to enjoy the hobby with what little money they could scrounge up, and I was and still am thankful for that.
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