If you grew up in the 1950’s, 60’s and part of the 70’s, your baseball cards were a constant companion. You flipped them, traded them, put them in your bike spokes and sat on your bed and looked at them. You sometimes brought them to school and kept them in your desk. At recess, you traded.
Cards were a big deal to kids here for a long time. That may not quite be the case so much anymore, although there are still plenty of kids who collect, in spite of all of the mainstream media articles that say they don’t. Finding large segments of the under 13 population who are into them, though, isn’t usually possible. More like a kid here and a kid there.
So what I read over the weekend sort of warmed my heart–and made me want to move to Australia.
According to AdelaideNow.com, kids Down Under are absolutely crazy about Australian Football League cards. Aussie Rules football is, of course, sort of their version of our NFL. It’s a huge deal. Kids fervently follow their favorite teams and collect cards, often putting them into colorful, specially designed albums that are available.
The problem is that the kids have been using them…get this…as bribes to get what they want from classmates. The cards are actually worth enough playground collateral to convince another group of kids to let you into whatever game they’re playing if you turn over some of your stars. Give a nice card to someone you’d like to be friends with to break the ice, and boom!, you’ve got a new pal. Sometimes kids are trading them at times and in places at school where it’s strongly discouraged.
The whole thing has led to one school actually banning them. Come to school with ‘footy cards’ as they call them, and the teacher takes them away and hands them over to mom and dad.
U.S. card manufacturers wish they had school principals telling them their cards were a distraction.
Other schools say that while the cards are prevalent, they aren’t a problem. In fact, one principal believes the stats and stories help teach life skills (remember when you learned to calculate batting averages and found out where Commerce, OK was by reading the backs of your baseball cards?). Some teachers use them to teach marketing–who makes them, how they’re distributed and are they involved in promoting anything.
Australian schools have even set up designated areas and times for trading. Remember trading? It’s a big deal among Aussie youngsters, who apparently have not been quite so jaded by the monetary aspects and price guides (although there’s a very popular online footy cards price guide in Australia, too).
It’s like an American snapshot from 20 or 25 years ago when the card boom was in full bloom here and kids spent their afternoons at the local card shop or traded cards with their friends at lunch time. They toted the latest Beckett price guide, too, just to make sure the deals were even.
I’d love to see a resurgence of that. Or maybe I’m missing something. Do you ever hear about youngsters swapping cards at school or in your neighborhood? Drop me a line ([email protected])…or send me a plane ticket to Australia so I can investigate further. Winter’s coming there, but I think I can handle it.