by Rich Klein
Recently, the Dallas/Fort Worth College Fair season ended. For about two weeks, a large group of college admission officers as well as dedicated alumni travel around the DFW area to meet and greet high school students and their parents and try to convince them to, at the very least, apply to attend your school. I have been doing these fairs for more than a decade now and in some ways they've changed a lot although I was the last person to realize that.
One of my old card collecting friends comes in each year for the fairs. Steve Koenigsberg is now an admissions officer for the Florida Institute of Technology and we always tease each other by saying that with a little training I could talk to his prospective students and he could talk to mine. We've never done that for a full event, but I still want to try the switch one day.
Steve and I always have dinner once a year at a Plano, Texas steak place called Love and War in Texas. The food is really good and a bit spicy (even for me) but the best part is we get to compare notes and find that baseball cards sometimes do indeed imitate life.
One very interesting change is over the past decade is that we used to meet high school seniors who hadn't made their final decisions as to where to apply. Now, you can count on both hands the number of seniors who have not thought in deep detail about where they want to attend college. In addition, the parents (as they should) take so much pride in their children when you explain how ultra-competitive my alma mater has become to enter and the kids for the most part "get it" and understand the hurdles they face while the parents think their child is the special one. I do not blame the parents for those beliefs at all. Not every college accepts every student.
But sometimes, you get asked a question which can set you for a loop. The one I remember most was a parent telling me "our sixth grader is very interested in your architecture school and what can you recommend I do?"
Well, my immediate response was to have them tell the sixth grader to go outside and play and not worry about it for awhile. And in further reflection, that is also part of what the baseball card hobby has become.
When the "older generation" of card collectors were kids that is what we did-- "go outside and play" with our cards. The games such as "Leaners" and the infamous bicycle spokes are examples of how kids had fun with the cards that came with the bubble gum. Now, the only fun anyone ever seems to have is for newer cards when they get their "hits" or when an elusive card is found. No one really plays with their cards anymore and in some ways, that is a real shame.
There is plenty of time for that sixth grader to do internships in the summer and there is plenty of time for us as collectors to encourage fun in the hobby instead of just the monetary aspect.
And for the fairs themselves, they remind me very much of the good card shows of the 1980's in which you can sell out your merchandise at every show. Granted, I did attend a real good school but when I do the fairs with the head of our alumni committee, he always is in amazement about how many informational publications I give away and how many people speak to me. I usually end up explaining that in this case, I'm doing the exact opposite of what I used to do as a card dealer which was "make the customer, not make the sale". At these fairs, I need to make the sale so I can chat with the next student coming up to the booth. That means, answer the question and move on.
Of course, technology may make that even easier as the years go by. Some of the schools, at this point not including the ultra-competitive ones, gave their admission officers information about their schools which can be scanned onto a piece of paper with a bar code. Can you imagine a day when we add to our collection by just having every trading card transaction done on an electronic basis where all the items are scanned and the customers take their downloads, pay electronically and go move on? It may not be far fetched. The younger generation tends to prefer digital storage rather than physical.
When we get to that point, some more of tactile pleasure of having physical possession of a card will go away and that would also be a real shame. I do not know about you, but being able to hold an item which in many cases transport me back and "speaks" to me is a real treat which I hope never goes away.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]