Dustin Samms is a ceiling fan.
No joke. The ceiling of the basement in his Charleston, West Virginia, home is covered with baseball cards. There are 1,848 cards positioned on 24 tiles, fastened with a straight pin through the center of each card. Eight of the tiles are wide and grace the middle of the ceiling, flanked by eight smaller tiles on each side of the center tiles.
Look up, and get lost in the last 25 years of baseball card history. It’s certainly off the wall.
“I love just coming down here and looking at them,” the 30-year-old said.
Samms’ basement sits above the garage, with a main floor and second story above that. “Top to bottom (in the house), it’s all baseball,” he said.
Samms admitted that he always wanted to cover his walls with baseball cards, calling it “an obsession.” But a friend proposed a different angle.
“She’s creative, and when she suggested I put the cards on the ceiling, I said, ‘genius,’” he said.
So, a room with an overhead view was created.
Samms began the project in January and had it finished in less than two months. Each tile took “30 to 45 minutes” to complete. That part was easy. Deciding which cards to put there was tougher.
“That took more time than putting them up,” he said. “I tried to use All-Star caliber cards. I used the scrubs around the sides, in places where I knew I was going to have to cut the cards.”
Some collectors might be horrified at the notion of baseball cards with straight pins stuck through them like so many voodoo dolls.
“I probably sent a couple of guys through college by buying all these pins,” Samms laughed. “I had to put a Band-Aid around my thumb (due to) pushing so many pins.”
But he is not planning to run a pin through the rookie card of his favorite player, Ken Griffey Jr. Or through other valuable cards, for that matter.
“Jersey and autograph cards? There will be no pins going through those,” he said.
Indeed, the most expensive card in his ceiling collection is probably a Dusty Baker autograph, Samms said, but “nothing worth more than seven or eight dollars.” He already has a few autographed balls by Baker, obtained during a Reds Caravan when Dusty was managing in Cincinnati.
The cards he selected came not only from his youth, but also from the late 1980s and early 1990s, when cards were mass produced. Many of them have little value, which makes them perfect candidates for the ceiling. There is a good mix of brands represented, like Topps, Upper Deck, Donruss, Fleer and Score. He plans to rotate some new cards into the mix, substituting 2015 cards for older ones.
Samms was born and raised in Charleston. He currently works as a production assembly worker for NGK Spark Plugs, which sends parts worldwide to such places as AutoZone, Pep Boys, O’Reilly Auto Parts and Advance Auto Parts.
He began collecting cards as a 5-year-old in 1990 and has between 50,000 and 60,000 cards in his personal collection.
“As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a collector,” Samms said. “I can’t go to Target without buying baseball cards.”
He originally liked Darryl Strawberry but became a big Griffey Jr. fan when the outfielder landed with Cincinnati in 2000. There is plenty of Reds memorabilia on the basement’s paneled walls, including programs, signs, posters and pennants.
What would Samms tell someone coming to his house for the first time?
“I’d try to sell them on the ceiling before they got there,” he said. “But mostly, the initial reaction is awe,” he said. “Even from non-baseball fans.
“I think this looks so cool. Any baseball fan would have to love it.”
Samms is single, which for now eliminates the prospect of a spouse disgruntled with his baseball card décor — particularly on the basement ceiling.
“Even if I did have a wife, she’d have to embrace it for the sheer beauty of it,” he laughed.
If that’s the case, Samms might have to pin his hopes on finding a baseball fan for a soulmate. Or at least another ceiling fan.