By Michael Barton aka MonticelloCards

I have been a collector since 1988. That year, the card we all wanted was the Matt Nokes Topps RC. Nokes had an incredible season, and his cards were highly sought after in the hobby. My! How times have changed over the years… Nokes faded after that season, and the other sought after rookie card, the elusive 1988 Donruss Gregg Jeffries, can now be found with the Nokes in common bins across the country. So many things have changed between then and now. But I have never lost my passion for these wonderful pieces of cardboard, even as the hobby has become somewhat crazy in terms of prices these days.

I also remember 1989, the year Upper Deck debuted. The rookie craze was all about Ken Griffey Jr., a man whose card was reaching astronomical prices at the time. But there was another card that had people buying pack after pack in search of it – I am talking about the Dale Murphy reverse negative error. I pulled one, and the treasure was worth a box of 1989 Upper Deck to my dealer, so I made the trade. 1989 was also the year of THAT famous Billy Ripken variation card. An insulting phrase was written on his bat, and somehow it made it through to production. In a scramble, Fleer did everything to the card until they finally covered it with a black box. It was another frenzy that had collectors busting wax like mad. I remember those two times vividly, as I hung out at my card shop so often people thought I worked there! It was the beginning of my collecting days, and I will take those memories with me for the rest of my life.
In between then and now, I have done shows, I have worked for an amazing man in a hobby shop for a year, I have gotten caught up in selling cards for profit, even going so far as to buying cards that were listed improperly on eBay and reselling them for a major profit. But this year I finally got back into the essence of collecting. My favorite recent purchase was a lot of different rookie cards from 1988-89, including Sammy Sosa, Randy Johnson, Gary Sheffield, and other major stars and future Hall of Famers. I paid $1.00 for 17 different rookie cards (it came to $3 total when you include shipping), and once I got them I began to smile. I bought these because of the fond memories of my youth, not because of any possible future value. Spotting a 1989 Donruss Curt Schilling RC, I remember those living in my common boxes – who knew he would become a part of baseball history!

I look at people’s personal collections, and there are so many cards that are made today that absolutely amaze me. Before Strasburg got hurt, the frenzy for his cards in 2010 made me remember all of those wonderful memories of the late 80’s, and thanks to that frenzy, it made me remember why I got into collecting cards in the first place. For fun and enjoyment. For sharing times with friends making trades. That is why I recently came back to my favorite trading site – Sports Card Forum.

Today, I am no longer looking for the hot card of the moment trying to make a deal in my favor. I am looking for cards that will be in my personal collection forever. The rookie lot that I mentioned above is the beginning of my personal collection. I am on the hunt for a copy of THAT Billy Ripken variation card. My personal collection may not be viewed by many as much value wise, but the cards I am collecting now have a sentimental value that cannot have a price put on it. Do you remember the 1989 Topps Gary Sheffield card? I certainly do, he had those braces on and they were front and centre on his rookie card. He looked about 15 to me, but he went on to have a very nice career. I am going to start an Albert Belle collection, because he was my favorite player in the 90s. I was a Belle guy, not a Griffey guy. And I am one who will stand up and say he deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame, controversies aside. If you look at his statistics over the ten year period before his hip began to fail, he is one of the top five guys in baseball in the 1990s. I am also planning on working on a Chicago White Sox collection, my favorite team.

In closing, I have seen it all. I have been a collector, I have been a retail seller, I have been an investor. In 2010, I have gone back to my roots, and when you see my eventual personal collection, I hope that, like me, you will see it for the memories that I associate with these special cards, and worry less about what something is worth. And please, keep the Kirk Gibson cards away! Over 20 years later, I still have a desire to destroy his cards after his dramatic home run against the Oakland Athletics. It was the first time a baseball game made me cry, and I will never forget it. And that, in closing, is what collecting should be all about.