By Robert Bullough aka Kurri17


As collectors, the cards we collect and our reasons for collecting vary widely. We all have our story, especially us old guys, and here is mine.


I remember the first card I ever owned, a 1971 Topps Dick Green. I was seven. I don’t recall how it came into my possession, nor did I realize what that single card was going to inspire. I’ll be honest, at that time I didn’t even know who Dick Green was, with the only athlete that I recall having knowledge of at that time being Johnny Unitas. But the times they were about to change.


You see, my father was a rolling stone, to put it mildly, and kindly. From birth until fourth grade we lived in eighteen different apartments/houses spread over six states, ten cities, and one U.S. territory, attending six schools in my first three years of school. This always brings about the idea that he was in the military. Yes, but all but one of these locations came after he was out of the military. Go figure.


It was somewhere in the middle of all that moving that the fall of 1971 came along. My Dick Green card had made the trip from Kentucky to California with me, and when we landed in a small motel just down the street from your prototypical corner store, it was the trigger which started me on my to collecting way. I soon ran across the 1971 Topps football packs, which I started to amass at every available opportunity as I started to watch every football game that came on TV, including the CFL. It was in this motel that my love affair with sports began. And finally, that Dick Green card came to life as my soon to be beloved Oakland A’s filled our black and white TV screen on a regular basis due to our location in Sacramento.


Now, I’m not going to turn this into a biography, but some background is helpful in this case to lay the foundation for the how and why I started collecting, and more importantly, the why and impact of that collecting.


You see, it was over the next two and a half years, moving seven times, that cards, both football and baseball, became a centrepiece in my life. When you move that much, you don’t take a whole lot with you. Everything my parents, my sister and I owned fit into the smallest U-Haul they made, with about half the space left to spare. But no matter where we were, I had my boxes of cards and a floor or bed to spread them on. Whether it was the stack of psychedelic 1972 Topps baseball or football with my Roger Staubach (of course we know it as a RC now, but then it was the Cowboys young quarterback), or my near complete sets of every set from ’73 and ’74 (which grew over the years all the way through ’79), they were always there. They were not just images on a TV screen, they were right there where I could hold them, get to know them, see where they came from and learn about the highlights of their careers. They were sorted by team first, by position next, and of course from starters to backups after that. They had a personality, forged from the style of their card front, but also brought on by the location from which they were attained.


They were companions, playmates, constants in a life devoid of pretty much any other constant. My friends often collected, but not with the fervor that I did. Who is Dick Green, they might ask when I asked if they had one to trade. That would lead to a young boy’s version of a dissertation of the merits of the A’s second baseman. For reasons you might be able to surmise from this story, I seemed to mature, in some aspects, a bit early. I didn’t just hope my team won and get mad at them when they didn’t. I pulled for them with all of my being, but felt pain for them at their losses, understanding at a young age about the inevitability of failure, loss, and struggle. You see, I knew those guys. You support your guys, you don’t turn against them or abandon them. I spent every night with them. I knew their opponents too, with their strengths well documented on the backs of their cards as well, and understood that those guys were good too, and my guys weren’t going to win them all (this could send me off on a tangent about the manner in which those A’s teams of the early ‘70s won, but I’ll spare you that).


You see, those cards had a special feel all their own to me. You know how a passing scent may bring back a memory, that’s how those cards of my youth are to me. The year and style of the card being the background of where I lived at that time, a sort of cardboard timeline.


I’ve moved on and aged, collecting all but a few years of my life. It’s different now. But, those cards of the ‘70s bear little personal resemblance to those collected as an adult. They were, and are, special. They were the very fabric of my childhood, marking the passage of time and seasons with the images of my heroes.