Baseball card collectors can be obsessive, but Beau Thompson is in a class by himself.
Thompson, a 36-year-old business development specialist from Madison, Wisconsin, is a Chicago Cubs fan on a mission. He wants to collect 1 million Cubs cards. He’ll buy them online or trade for them, and condition is not a major issue for vintage cards. He scours internet groups, auctions and card shows, looking for deals. He even has a website, One Million Cubs Project, which tracks his progress. He also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and blogs about his latest deals and finds. This is one busy guy.
“It’s quite the endeavor,” Thompson said.
Thompson is not picky, either. He’ll trade with you if you have one Ernie Banks card or 10,000 cards of Tuffy Rhodes. How about Billy Williams? Steve Trachsel? Ron Santo? Ryne Sandberg? Thompson is interested.
“I’ll take them all,” he said.
Thompson already had a head start. Three decades of collecting, which began when his mother bought him 1988 Donruss baseball cards and 1988 Topps football cards in his hometown of Annawan, Illinois, had already netted him more than 50,000 cards. Thompson came up with idea of collecting a million Cubs just before Christmas 2017. He added 368 cards Friday and now has more than 253,530 Cubs cards — and counting.
“Most of it is by trading,” Thompson said. “When it gets back to vintage, I like the beat-up cards. They’ve got more character.
“And, they’re cheaper.”
Thompson has picked up a 1956 Banks for $20 and has not broken the bank searching for tobacco and pre-war cards. His oldest card is of Duke Farrell from the 1887 Old Judge set, which he had authenticated (although not graded) by SCG. He also has a T206 card of Joe Tinker. Thompson also owns more than 200 1989 Topps cards of pitcher Rick Sutcliffe and is always searching for cards of Shawon Dunston and Scott Sanderson, players he cheered for as a youth (“I always rooted for guys under the radar”); and Javier Baez, the Cubs’ current second baseman (“I love his fire and passion”).
During the Chicago Sports Spectacular Show last November, Thompson pulled off his biggest trade to date, securing 30,000 Cubs cards from a vendor for a mixture of Astros, Nationals and Reds cards. Another recent deal brought in 6,000 cards, as Thompson swapped a similar amount of Red Sox.
Deals are available for collectors with patience, persistence and optimism. That matches the profile of a Cubs fan, too, so it’s a perfect fit.
Thompson stores his cards in 3,2000- and 4,000-count monster boxes in his “Cubs basement” — an unfurnished room that measures 20 feet long by 15 feet wide. If Thompson meets his goal, that means he will have 250 monster boxes (of 4,000 cards), or 312.5 boxes (at 3,200 cards per box) to sort through. An adjoining closet can be used for storage, along with another room for “overflow.” The walls of the basement are adorned with 240 autographed baseballs. He has more than 1,000 autographs, most of them he acquired in person or through the mail.
Keeping the cards downstairs is just fine with Amy, Thompson’s wife of nearly two years.
“When boxes and packages come in, she says she wants them in the basement,” he said. “But when friends come over, she says, ‘You have to see the card room.’
“Their reaction is mostly, ‘Oh my God.’”
Thompson admits he can be a little over the top in his goals. After graduating from Western Illinois University with a degree in business marketing, he worked for Prairie Radio Communications for nearly 8½ years, running the sports departments at three radio stations in western Illinois. In 2008 he founded the Illinois High School Sports Network, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary.
From November 2010 to March 2011, Thompson called 153 high school basketball games as part of “The Quest 2: 150.”
“I went all over the place,” he said. “A big chunk of the games were from a couple of local high schools that made a deep run into the playoffs.”
From 2011 to 2014 Thompson was the “Voice of the Leathernecks” at his college alma mater, calling football and basketball games. At the same time, he was a part-time sportswriter for the McDonough County Voice.
His announcing expertise landed him a four-month stint with the Peoria Chiefs in 2012 as a public address announcer and producing broadcasts.
Thompson shifted gears in June 2014, taking a job as a business development specialist and transportation broker at the Allen Lund Company in Middleton, Wisconsin.
Through it all, his love for the Cubs never wavered. He made his first trek to Wrigley Field when he was 19. His favorite piece of memorabilia is a game-used second base from the 2017 NLCS.
“I’ll stop at a million (cards),” he said. “I’ll start to narrow the focus and hopefully I’ll get caught up.
“My goal is to get the cards organized, sorting them by players’ names.”
In addition to having a sympathetic wife, Thompson said he has learned a lot during his quest.
“A million is a lot. You’ve got to do a lot of trades,” Thompson said. “Over time I realized that it was more than reaching an ultimate goal.
“I started meeting people, and it became more of a journey than just getting the cards.”
All Tuffy Rhodes cards are welcome — along with any other Cubs player.