What is the most famous and repeated line in the hobby? “Is it mint?” How about "Can you do better"? All strong contenders but I’d venture to say it’s "You know, I had all those cards but my mother threw them all away.” If you are a certain age and were in any sort of a retail part of the hobby before the year 2000, you’ve probably heard it a lot. If you’re a regular at shows and own a shop, you probably wish they passed out dollar bills every time someone said it to you.
Of course, one of the reasons pre-1980s era cards have maintained their popularity is a significant percentage of them were casually tossed out, given to younger relatives or sold at garage sales back in the day. After all, these pictures of old baseball players that the kids collected primarily for the bubble gum would never be worth anything now.
So it’s really moms across North America that we have to thank this weekend. Moms who threw their kids’ cards in the trash or gave them away and those saintly ones who would have never dreamt of making that decision on their own.
Of course once we arrived in the mid-1980’s or so, the fact that old cards were worth something was no longer a secret. By then, no mom would consider tossing any cards because they were all going to be worth so much money someday. Well, we have had the great inversion and not only were those cards overproduced but without any mechanism for natural selection of reduction, their population hasn’t decreased much. Even 25 years later, every man, woman and child in American can find and keep a 1989 Topps set for the price of a fast food lunch.
Joking aside, it all shows how powerful moms are in this hobby. They can certainly impact a card shop today, just as they did when stores were jammed with kids 20 or 25 years ago. Sometimes it’s not a positive impact though. I’ve talked with card shop owners who have had to come up with rules to prevent mommy from just dropping off junior with a $5 bill and telling him to spend a couple of hours until she returned. Frankly, having a youngster in your store for an extended period of time does not do any store much good, especially when he doesn’t know how to conduct himself. Some shops even have signs to try to prevent that from happening. They’re running a business, not a day care.
However, if you are a mom who comes in with your child and learns about the hobby, helps your child decide what to purchase or just drops him or her off at a shop or a show for a short period of time, the local store owners and promoters thank you. I will say that in the past two years of setting up at the Dallas Card Show this scenario has not occurred and the youngsters who have attended usually come with mom or dad and are very well behaved.
For all of the mothers who truly help their children with their cards, share the experience with them or uses collecting as a teaching tool, the hobby owes some gratitude. After all, the next generation will decide whether traditional card collecting exists 20 years from now. Kids love technology but they also love time with mom (and dad) and many of them do enjoy collecting physical things and having a tangible item helps connect them to sports and some of the athletes they look up to.
For all of its faults, our hobby still has a lot to give. It even teaches math, geography, finance and so much more. It’s far better for kids then Internet programs such as Yik Yak. So for all the great kids and their mothers I have met in the past two years, thank you all very much and for all those mothers who threw away those cards all those years ago, thank you for making the older cards so much fun to chase down.