This is, by far, one of the best essays I’ve ever read on the subject. Congratulations, Patricia, on a great essay! Enjoy…
Which ONE do you prefer, a good baseball card show or a good baseball card shop? Why?
A brick and mortar shop is best, a place where the proprietor greets us and our kids by name. We’re reliable customers because the shop receives timely shipments of the latest product; there is no price gouging; pack searching is verboten; children are truly welcome. In fact, the shop keeps a box by the register so kids can reach in for a pack that costs 99 cents. The owner runs ads in the local paper mentioning what’s coming up to keep us apprised of what to hope for.
The good shop is akin to the home team, and a card show is more in the realm of the visiting team, energizing but not so comfortable. Because nothing beats a familiar haunt where we emerge with one more story, another memory to share.
Did a friendly baseball player sign your son’s Topps card once? Did your uncle or granddad keep a stack of Bowman cards, wrapped in a rubber band, in a shoebox? Did your grandmother slip a Johnny Mize card in the corner of the oak mirror in her bedroom? Is there baseball cardboard in your DNA?
Everyone has different motivations for collecting, but two themes emerge consistently: nostalgia and seeking the happy kick provided by hope in a pack or a box. Sure, shows can be fun.but one never knows. We might burn some serious fuel to get there, we might stand in line to gain entry and then be thwarted by dealer after dealer with inexplicably overpriced singles or boxes. Of course, we may find a little gem that will convince us the trip was worth it. Perhaps.
But sometimes in this fractured world we seek consistency even as it seems to be fading away. We want to be lucky enough to find that good shop in walking distance of the stadium, or the girls’ fast pitch softball field, or the college ball park, a friendly shop where someone has committed square footage to the old-fashioned notion of helping people stumble upon what they seek. Where at least there’s a chance. A chance that as we remove, with a sigh, the last pack from the last hobby box of that set we like, we hear the faint click of baseball cards in bicycle spokes, or catch a glimpse of a flipped card as it soars through the air, and when we get to the car, that last pack will have in it something we really wanted to find.