One sports card set per sport. Good old days or not?
Not more than a week goes by when we don’t get a news release from one of the card companies about a new product that’s "hitting store shelves" or "going live".
It’s nice for us, I guess, in that it helps fill up the giant white space that would occupy a spot if no card products were issued. It’s nice for the card companies to see their work come to fruition. It’s nice for collectors of modern cards who are looking for some new autograph and memorabilia cards to chase. It’s nice for shop owners who depend on those people to come to their store and buy products. They still say there aren’t enough issues being released.
Yet as someone who remembers the days when one major product per season was about all you had to look forward to, I still wouldn’t trade my era as a young collector for the variety available today.
Granted, we had no stores back in the early 70s. Topps was the only company. The hobby was still for kids, primarily. Still, the issuance of the season’s cards was an event to look forward to. We bought packs–one or two at a time usually. Some of us tried to put sets together. Most of the time we ran out of money before we did. Then, it was baseball season and we moved on to that. The gum was still part of the attraction.
We really cherished those cards. Looked at them–back and front. Learned a bunch about the players thanks to Topps’ writers (Joe sells insurance in the off-season!). Packs were 10 cents each. You really wanted cards of the home team–or maybe Pistol Pete during basketball season. You hated doubles. You loved the playoff cards. I don’t know how much kids truly love their cards these days. It’s more of a lottery game for a lot of them now. Hopefully there are Dads from my generation out there encouraging set collecting and card sorting by team and all of that.
For us, the jackpot was getting packs as gifts. Free card packs? Anyone who gave them to us earned instant respect for knowing what made us tick. One Christmas, my sister’s boyfriend showed up at the door with a nicely wrapped box. He had bought me an entire box of 1972-73 Topps basketball. I thought he must have been from a rich family. I wanted my sister to marry him immediately and they were only 18 (she never did). She took the box and hid it in her dresser after I opened about five packs because she didn’t want me to open them all at once (I have no idea why she cared). To this day, it’s my favorite basketball set and I think Scott Hollmaier is one of the ten greatest Americans.
We had three sets a year–plus Kellogg’s cards in baseball and football season. When we completed the basketball sets or got bored with them before baseball started, we sometimes bought hockey cards. Had no idea who the players were and had no idea how to pronounce Jacques Plante but still thought they were cool.
The cards were cardboard. No one thought a thing of it if a corner got bent. We didn’t even notice. They weren’t worth anything. Now we know they really were. And it has nothing to do with money.