When I was a kid, I used to dig through the family couch for loose change. It's kind of silly now, but that was the fastest way to land cash for me at the time. All that money I came across went straight to the local baseball card store.
It later transitioned to basketball. But the passion for collecting these pocket-size pictures consumed me from childhood.
Earlier this week, though, I sold my entire basketball card collection.
I once wrote a story about what the hobby meant to the most passionate card collectors. I spoke to people who had spent decades dedicating their lives to finding their favorite sports figures on a piece of cardboard with a dimension of 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches and they related stories of their childhood, with one of them saying that baseball cards reminded him of his brother.
The younger card collectors, on the other hand, were all about finding the shiny, expensive cards in the pile. These days, card collectors seem to have dollar signs on their minds when they're unwrapping a box of cards. They're looking for autographed cards, and ones with authentic pieces of an athlete's jersey placed inside them.
So I kept this in mind when a niece was seeking donations to help send her hip hop dance crew to a competition in Las Vegas. I wanted to sponsor her, and I thought, “This might be a perfect time to get rid of my basketball card collection and help out with a good thing.” I called a shop in Modesto and the owner told me he'd take a look at my collection immediately.
I carried inside the store a large binder full of basketball cards that were kept in clear plastic sheets, as well as a shoebox full of “my good cards,” which lived in protective cases. But the owner didn't think they were very good at all, saying, “That didn't work out so well.” Nearby I noticed what looked like a father-and-son team who was plowing through dozens of boxes of football cards. The son went through one box and immediately put his head down, the universal sign of disappointment.
“Are you looking for anything in particular,” I asked him, while the card store owner mindlessly browsed through my pile of so-so cards.
“Autographs,” he said.
He took a deep breath. “Nope. Nothing.”
After the first box was dismantled, his father looked at the stack of cards and said, “If you don't want them, I'll take them.”
I then returned my attention to the card store owner, who said not a single card in my collection stood out — except that he'd probably get a few bucks for a LeBron James rookie card I had — but was willing to buy my entire collection.
It was tough to let go, but it wasn't as painful as I thought it would be.
On the drive home, I thought about the memories that came along with collecting cards. That included this gem: When my brother and I were younger, we didn't always get along. But whenever I brought home sports cards, my brother and I would sit in the living room and take turns talking about each player. We did this for hours.
No one can take that away from me.
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