When Baseball Cards Changed Forever

When I was 22 and finally started making a little money I decided I wanted to start getting some autographs of my favorite athletes.  I went in search for a few 8 by 10’s that I could hang on my wall but didn’t have much luck.  No place seemed to have anything like that around Salt Lake.  As a last resort I looked up card shops in the yellow pages.  Only a few places were listed and most had nothing but cards so I didn’t even look around.  In the last store I checked (Overtime Cards in Midvale) I told the owner what I was looking for.  She said she didn’t have anything like that in stock but mentioned that the card products now had autographs right on the cards.  They even went as far as to put cut up jerseys and even game used bat pieces right in the cards.  I was absolutely shocked.  I thought the autograph idea was really cool until I looked at the prices of the packs and boxes that these cards might be in.  Packs used to be like 50 cents or a dollar but had skyrocketed to upwards of 100 dollars a pack and 400 dollars a box.  It blew my mind. What kid could afford to pay that kind of money for just a few cards?  I was also disgusted by the fact that card companies would cut up sacred pieces of sports history just to make a buck.  I didn’t buy anything that day.  I didn’t think I ever would to be honest with you.

As my search for autographs continued to no avail, I decided to go back to Overtime Cards one more time hoping that maybe she had got something in.  This time I started looking in the show cases and I noticed that some of the on-card autographs were pretty cheap.  In fact, they were much cheaper than I had anticipated paying for 8 by 10’s so I picked up a few no name guys.  On the way out I saw a flyer sitting on the counter for one of the upcoming products.  It was advertising autographs of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.  That intrigued me to no end.  I thought to myself that 100 bucks wasn’t too bad if I could pull one of those guys.  A couple weeks later I bought my first high end box.  I don’t even remember who I pulled or what product I opened but I really enjoyed the thrill.  It was kind of a rush.  In the back of my mind I thought what it would be like if I pulled some major star and I was hooked.  For the most part I only opened hockey products.  That was the sport I grew up with and had it seemed like the best odds of getting someone I really liked.

My first great pull happened when I was opening an Upper Deck box and I got the autograph of my favorite player of all time.  I had to grab the counter to steady myself because it made me weak in the knees.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  A Wayne Gretzky autographed card was staring back at me.  That was one of my coolest days as a collector.  I still remember the rush I felt.  It was awesome.  I still have that card.  I don’t think I will ever sell it.  I wasn’t always that lucky when opening boxes but I managed to get a nice little collection of my favorite players.

I even changed my mind on the whole jersey card idea.  That happened the first day I saw a Babe Ruth jersey card.  As weird as I thought it was to cut up such legendary material, I thought it would be even cooler to own a piece of it for myself.

For a sports fan, walking into Overtime Cards today is like going to Disney Land as a kid.  Your eyes get big and you don’t know where to turn first.   Sports card companies have been so creative in all the changes that they’ve made since then, that it’s almost overwhelming.  Printing plates and one of one’s and even cut autographs of the best players in the history of sports.  While some boxes cost as much as 800 dollars they’ve even managed to make some products affordable to kids.  I think it’s important that kids grow up with sports cards like I did even if the packs don’t have gum in them anymore.  Maybe that way they will be interested in playing sports too, but that’s a different topic for another day

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