By Michael Barton aka MonticelloCards

I often think back to my youth, and the joy I experienced collecting baseball cards. I got serious when I was almost 12 years old, collecting the 1987 Topps Baseball Set. I loved the wooden border design, and the price of 40 cents per wax pack was very affordable. Those days, sadly, are gone, replaced by packs that range anywhere from $1 for Score brand items, to $500 for Upper Deck’s Exquisite Collection. The hobby has completely changed, and as a result, my collecting habits have as well. I am now a 1 player collector, because I simply cannot afford most of the products put out today. Yes, I long for the old days, because collecting back then was about fun and getting together to make trades. Now it seems that this hobby is all about the almighty dollar, and that makes me sad.

My recent flashback to 1987 has caused me to remember a wonderful time. I had two other friends, Addy and Jin, and we were hardcore collectors together. I remember the fun of trading with each other, because one of us would be interested in Kal Daniels, and other would be looking for all the Will Clark rookies he could get. The local convenience store was only a few blocks from where we lived, and we would buy them out of baseball cards faster than they could get them. At 40 cents per pack, it was easy and affordable as kids to buy packs. We did odd jobs for a few bucks here and there, and it all went to the store as soon as we were done. I don’t think there was anything better than sitting at Jin’s dining room table, each of us with giant stacks of cards, wheeling and dealing with each other to make the best trades. What fun that was!

The 1987 Topps Set has always been one of my favorites. The simple design, the massive 792 card set was just awesome to me as a child. It still is today, as I am preparing to bust a 1987 Topps box soon. Sure, I could buy a factory set or a complete set for a low price, but this is about something bigger. Busting a box of this is going to take me back, even if only for a moment, remembering the guys who were popular then who made it, like Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Larkin, etc. It is also going to be fun pulling guys who were supposed to make it and never did, such as Kal Daniels, who never made it due to injuries. And what about Todd Worrell? He was the superstar closer for the Cardinals in 1987. His Topps All Star Rookie was something we were all after at the time. While he had a decent career, he certainly did not live up to the early hype. For a moment, Topps brought back the massive set in Topps Total, a 900+ card set. Yes, I busted plenty of this product, because it brought back those memories again.

Collecting, in my opinion, should not be based on making money and hitting the big pull, it should be about spending time with friends and having fun trading and collecting with each other. I have found some solace in collecting one player, because there are members of www.sportscardforum.com who have helped me add to my PC. But it is different, because we don’t have that personal interaction of trading in person, but as things evolve, you have to adjust as well.

Do I miss the old days? Yes, yes, yes. I cannot afford these crazy prices on products such as Exquisite Collection and Triple Threads. I don’t need to pull that Lou Gehrig/Babe Ruth cut auto anyway – I derive pleasure from putting together sets like Topps Total, a program they unfortunately stopped. I am praying that Panini eventually gets into baseball and puts out Score baseball one day, or another company steps up and puts out a massive baseball card set that is not about gigantic pulls, instead they are about each teams 25 man rosters, with a simple design and a low price point. Even Topps Base Sets have gone the way of the chase cards, with the SP Variations and such makes it hard to really put it together. Then the was the Strasburg effect this year, which was horrific in my mind. Topps went nuts with his cards, and are still doing crazy things even though Strasburg will likely not even play next year after having major surgery. And the RC designation has done more harm than good. Players are getting this designation even though they have rookie cards from 5, 6 or even 7 years ago in Bowman and Bowman Chrome products. I get the concept, but people are still considering Bowman and other products as true rookie card, even if they do not have the designation of a RC. This process does nothing but confuse people who are trying to enter this hobby. When I entered this hobby, I had someone show me the ropes and teach me how everything works. That is just another case of a personal interaction that rarely exists these days.

I am a passionate collector. I love getting new Dustin Keller cards in the mail to add to my player collection. Since I am a full time student, my funds are very limited at times. If it was 1987 all over again, I would have no problem busting wax and chewing gum if it became affordable once again. Today, however, the hobby has lost that personal connection, and that will hurt in the long run as less people are turning to collecting and finding other things to occupy their time with. As I sit here looking at a stack of cards from 1987, I can only hope that this hobby goes back to its roots on some level, and finds a way to get people together again to share and trade and just enjoy the cards in front of them. At least I can afford the cards of my youth, and getting a 1987 Topps Box isn’t about the big pull – it’s about the happy memories of a time in my life that was special.