On New Year’s Eve in Dallas, the Contact Line closed down. The Contact Line was a place for people to call in for counseling, advice and in many cases suicide prevention. While I never did volunteer there, I have done several hundred hours as a telephone volunteer at the Suicide and Crisis Center in Dallas. In many ways, those are the most important 500 or so hours I have ever spent in my life.
While in training, my first two calls were actually suicides in progress and if you can get through speaking to people with guns at their heads, you can usually handle just about any of the day to day aggravations life throws at you. And what does talking to people in need have to do with the hobby? Well if you think about most collectors, many of them are extremely contented and happiest when discussing their hobby. Collecting things we take pride in is a tremendous stress reliever and while it certainly won’t help overcome all problems, studies have shown that having such an outlet is good for the soul.
And for sports collectors, we get a special treat in that many of us get to relive our childhood on a daily basis.
I’m still convinced the gentleman who has purchased several thousand 1964 Topps Curt Flood cards did so because Flood was his favorite player as a nine year old boy growing up as a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Now most of us do not go to that collecting extreme but personally every time I look at a 1968 or 1969 Topps card I have memories of the earliest packs I opened. And how many other collectors can look at the cards from their childhood and remember all these intricate details we would never remember otherwise.
Some of the cards had the player’s full names while others included noteworthy statistics we memorized and used in conversation. And, of course, we liked the goofy poses whether it was Lowell Palmer and his sunglasses, Glenn Hubbard and the snake or Tim Flannery and his surfboard. Now those cards do not have extra value but they’re still fun to look at years later. And we’re not even mentioning the great hairstyle cards of Oscar Gamble or Darnell “Dr Dunk” Hillman. There is an even YouTube video tribute to Mr. Hillman.
Even if we evolve to dealers or collector/dealers, we keep a soft place in our hearts for the cards of our youth and we love to tell stories about those days. Listening to Roger Neufeldt recall collecting the 1952 Topps high numbers as a boy provides a personal connection to a legendary set. He recently told me how he ended up being the only youngster in his group of friends who kept buying them that fall some 62 years ago.
I love working with two Cincinnati Reds collectors who come visit me at our local DFW shows. One of them told me he grew up in Los Angeles during the 1970’s and always tells me how tough it was to root for the Dodgers’ main rival during that period in that area.
If you’ve been collecting long enough, the memories aren’t just from your younger days, though. All collectors have stories to tell and we’ve been fortunate the last few years to share many of those stories with you. And for collectors who go to shops or stores, we love to about why you collect. Sometimes, like when we reviewed Dr. Chris Partin’s book, the love he had for the journey was evidenced in every page. We are so fortunate that unlike Citizen Kane, we can buy back a piece of our youth on many occasions, even if a nice 1968 Topps Lee May tends to be a bear to find.
And even more importantly, we get to make friends who share a common interest and having those friends is a major support system in itself. I have been fortunate to make lifetime friendships with people like Mel Solomon. And you know, without baseball cards, I never would have met Mel or many other long-time friends. It didn’t take long for me to learn there are a lot of good people in the hobby.
Having shows and stores to go to is a major blessing here in Dallas and we hope to see you at one of our shows this year to join and share those memories with a great bunch of dealers, many of whomare collectors themselves. And if you ever need to talk, please reach out. The internet is great, but let’s make 2015 another step toward more personal connections, which are far more rewarding.
I hope 2015 is a wonderful year and I hope you all reach your collecting goals, whether it’s acquiring the final card for your favorite set, making that great find at a local flea market or reconnecting with hobby acquaintances. I also hope none of you ever need to be in need of the Crisis Center, but there is someone there 24/7 to talk to you.