Each year tens of thousands of collectors descend on the National Sports Collectors Convention, and this year was no exception. Among the masses that swarmed the I-X Center in Cleveland was a 14-year-old girl from Ohio named Marissa. Over the last several years, finding a boy her age who collects hasn't always been easy, making Marissa about as rare as a T206 Wagner.
What makes Marissa's story all the more exceptional is the fact that she has been collecting vintage sports cards, including several pre-War issues, for three years. It all began when she received a baseball bat autographed by Grady Sizemore, and she has been collecting ever since despite the fact that none of her friends or family members share her collecting passion.
Marissa's vintage collection began with a 1972 Topps Roberto Clemente, but she quickly gravitated towards pre-1945 issues and acquired the T206 cards of Rhodes and Wilson. Not satisfied with mere common players, she added Cy Young, one of the most coveted Hall of Famers in the set. Her 1950s collection is equally impressive, having added rookie cards of Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron. Robinson is a particular favorite and she owns several more of his cards.
As an Ohio native, news of the National being in nearby Cleveland was certainly exciting news for Marissa. While she regularly attends the shows held in nearby Strongsville, the National is an experience unto itself and she had been counting down for the past year and a half. Saving most of the money from her birthday, bah mitzvah, and babysitting, she came prepared to make a major acquisition for her collection at the show.
Stopping at the MSB Sports Cards booth, she spotted a T206 Ty Cobb red portrait featuring an Old Mill back. She proceeded to wear down dealer Andy Becker like a seasoned professional and soon settled upon a price for the iconic card. "She's a fierce negotiator," said Brian Terjung, who was working the booth alongside Spano and Becker and spoke with Marissa.
"I am so very proud of Marissa," said her mother, Leslie, who accompanied her to the show. "She developed this passion of on her own, and despite the fact that many of her friends don't understand it, she has never been discouraged or felt like she should not continue collecting. She does a lot of research, she chooses what she buys carefully, and she is so very happy making collecting vintage baseball cards her hobby."
With the National over, Marissa has returned to a bedroom populated with vintage sports cards that would be the envy of collectors three times her age rather than the Katy Perry posters that occupy the rooms of her peers. Vowing to return to the National next year in Chicago, young Marissa has one goal in mind: "a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth."
In a convention center often populated with cynical older collectors, Marissa's youth and enthusiasm for a hobby so often described as near-death impacted everyone she came in contact with. As long as there are collectors like Marissa and supportive parents, like her mother, there will certainly be another 35 Nationals to attend.