By James Bisson aka edthesandwich

9192TeemuSelanneRCLife reality No. 1: Everybody, at one time or another, makes mistakes.

Life reality No. 2: Fact No. 1 doesn’t make our mistakes any easier to accept.

Card collectors love sharing stories. It’s one of the things that makes the hobby so intoxicating. Ask any die-hard collector about his favorite hobby-related story, and he’ll likely spin a yarn about the whale he captured after months of chasing, the pulse-quickening decision to purchase the last pack in a box and finding a monster hit inside, or the heart-wrenching tale of a damaged gem, a pack full of base or an autograph of a no-name has-been or never-will-be.

And then, there are the stories of a deal gone wrong, the biggest cautionary tales out there. “I can’t believe I traded away that card!” the storyteller will say, usually more than once, often more than twice. You can see the pain in his eyes as he describes the transaction, almost as if he is secretly hoping his words will somehow wind back the clock of time and bring back the beloved card or cards he sent away. Alas, it doesn’t work that way.

My story doesn’t involve a card of great value. You will not hear names like “Rocket”, “Great One” or “Mr. Hockey” tossed around my tale. The card in question can be acquired for a few bucks from just about any card store on the planet. And yet, not having it has caused me more than a fair share of grief, because it was the first hockey card that actually meant something to me. I battled greed, and greed won. Here are the gory details:

* * *

Spring, 1993. A fresh-faced Finn named Teemu Selanne shatters the NHL record for goals by a rookie with 76. It instantly becomes one of “those” records, the kind you know likely won’t be broken until the NHL suddenly starts awarding two points for every goal. I was a 16-year-old who had only dabbled in hockey cards to that point, enamoured with Upper Deck but only really able to afford Pro Set. But man, did I love what that Selanne guy could do.

I knew his only rookie card was an Upper Deck model from his time with the Finnish Canada Cup team. I saved my quarters and dollars until I had enough to pick up seven or eight packs from the LCS, and took my shot at Selanne. In the second-last pack, as crisp as a newly minted 20-dollar bill, sat Selanne’s Canada Cup card, and I was elated.

Most kids would have placed their ultimate PC item in the most airtight container possible, where it would sit as a prized possession for the next 70 years. Not me. I wanted some ink on that bad boy. I had heard that Selanne was a generous signer, so I looked up the Winnipeg Jets’ mailing details, tossed in a self-addressed stamped envelope and hoped for the best. Was I crazy for not waiting at least until I had a double? Perhaps. But this is what kids do sometimes. I took a shot.

And I scored.

A month or so later, I had in my possession a signed Teemu Selanne rookie card. The signature was bright blue, as crisp and clear as any hockey autograph I had ever seen. Not even a hint of a smudge. I did a little happy dance as I slid the card into a soft sleeve and top-loader, then spent the next several hours staring at it with an unprecedented mix of astonishment and elation.

That card remained in my possession for a good year or so, and was the pinnacle of what, at the time, had become a rather robust collection. Nothing could prompt me to part with that card. Not 10 dollars. Not 20 dollars. Dare I say, not even 50 dollars.

And then…greed took over.

I had followed the popularity of Topps Stadium Club baseball with a great deal of interest. People were shelling out huge money for packs of this product, which featured the highest-quality photos that had ever appeared in the hobby. When I found out that Topps would be releasing a Stadium Club hockey product, I simply had to be a part of it.

I didn’t have nearly enough money to buy a box myself, and my younger brother was in no mood to part with his own hard-earned money. I brought along some traders, but the gentleman at the LCS was truly unforgiving when it came to assessing equal value; there was only one card in my collection that would have sealed the deal.

I would have to part with Teemu.

I had to make a decision then and there, and it wasn’t easy. I’m sure the man could see the anguish on my face as I decided whether I would take my prized Selanne card and return home, or whether I would relent to the sparkly new cards and part with my first favourite card.

I decided to take the box, and let the Selanne go. It took me less than 15 minutes to open every pack of Stadium Club; after about the fifth pack, the novelty quickly wore off. The cards weren’t that exciting, and it seemed like every other pack had a Brett Hull in it. He’s a great player, sure, but one or two Hulls would have suited me just fine.

The moment the final wrapper was tossed into the trash, I felt a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, realizing I had made a colossal mistake. When I returned to the shop a few days later, the LCS owner had already turned around the Selanne. It was gone for good. I was crushed.

Only recently did I return to the hobby after a lengthy absence, and with hundreds of Selanne cards on the market, I look forward to reestablishing myself as an elite Teemu collector. But no matter how big my stash of Selanne cards becomes, I will always wonder what happened to the first signed card I ever owned.

I can’t believe I traded away that card.