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mad in pursuit journal

DISPATCHED FROM THE CROSSROADS

Baseball Cards: Where's the Magic

I spent yesterday on a labor of love, listing about 40 baseball cards (+ a few football, + a few basketball), from my brother Tom's collection. It isn't my area of expertise -- but what is? Everytime I clean off a mystery shelf, I have to learn a new market.

Tom did his research on the cards, but I always double-check to see what's happening this moment on Ebay. Yesterday's exploration reminded me that Ebay ruined the market for selling baseball cards. When the first cards sold big, every boy's collection was dragged out of storage and thrown into the game. The market crashed. Some cards sell big but they are usually autographed.

And then of course the experts jumped in with their rating systems. Cards are rated on a 10-point scale. It costs a fortune to have a card professionally rated, unless you're in the big time, with thousands of cards to sell. Once rated, they are sealed in a hideous plastic case that frankly removes all the charm.

Nothing said "all-boy" for my generation better than a pack of well-worn "flip cards" that could be sorted, re-sorted, traded, and stored in the back pocket of jeans -- and then actually flipped on the sidewalk, against a stone wall or fence, in hopes of winning some new ones off your buddies. Now a pampered kid only gets the clatter of awkward sealed cases and never gets to feel the actual cardboard. Oh, where is the sensuality in this plastic age?

I think the best collection would be, say, a set of 1950s Cardinals with the edges totally fuzzed, a few bends, a couple faded from having gone through the washing machine. That collection would still possess all the magic of the boy. (Not that it would be worth a nickel on Ebay.)

2.22.2008

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