1979 - Mom buys my 7 year old self a 3 pack of 1979 Topps at the local IGA. My knowledge of baseball is non-existent. The only card I remember getting is Ron Reed of the Phillies. From all accounts I read now one of the surliest Phillies. My father informs me that his favorite team is the Phillies so I am told my favorite team is the Phillies too. Unlike religion I accept this leap of faith wholeheartedly and 29 years later still root for the losingest team in American sports history. Buying baseball cards to bribe child becomes standard parental policy, how else can you convince a manly 7 year old that he will be making daily trips to Camp Arcona Girl Scout camp because his sister and mother are going there and "You don't have a choice, so open your cards and be quiet."
Later 1979 - Trade away my only Thurman Munson to a classmate that cuts it up. Have some sense that this is wrong. Mom and Dad immediately issue a decree that only doubles may be traded or gotten rid of. This policy is followed rigorously until my near universal hatred of insert cards is crossed with Ebay selling by my 36 year old self.
More 1979 - Work on completing the set with many packs from the IGA and the trading away of duplicates only. All cards are stored in the Topps "Sports Card Locker" which comes with team labels not including the Blue Jays or Mariners who are in their 3rd year by now. At this point I didn't have any concept of a want list or need one. I played with the cards enough that I knew right away if I already had it. Towards the end of the year I finally get another Munson (now deceased and I already know this means something to his card "value") and run through the IGA announcing my triumph. In my first year of following the Phillies they go from three time defending NL East champs to 4th place. Disappointment ensues.
1980 - Pack of cards increase from $0.15 to $0.20, 8 year old Todd discovers inflation and unit pricing comparisons as number of cards goes from 12 to 15 per pack. Beloved Phillies win World Series due to one youngter in Mechanicsburg, PA who makes sure his "Big Time Baseball" book by Maury Allen is opened to the correct lucky pages during the post season. I agonize over whether or not I should pull for the Phils to win game 6 as Dad has acquired tickets to game 7. I decide to throw my support behind the team not wanting to risk a due or die game. The tickets sit unused in my basement as I write this.
1981 - Same ole, same ole, go to IGA, get packs, work on Topps set, save in the Sports Card Locker but WAIT! what's this at the more conveniently located Handy Market? 1981 Fleer Collector's Edition with 17 cards per pack. As I am often sent to the nearby Handy Market to get milk I decide that the Fleer cards will make a nice little sideline to my real collection, the Topps cards. As they are a "Collector's Edition" they will obvously be worth thousands over time.
WAIT AGAIN, when going to more obscure stores discover a THIRD Set, Donruss. Now these are exotic. They feature errors and bad photography, I love them! I don't have the resources to work on 3 sets but amazingly you can actually get complete sets through the mail!!! 1981 Donruss becomes my first complete set as a birthday present from Pacific Trading Cards which entitles me to be on their mailing list and I start getting the hobby periodical "The Trading Card Vendor" which looks suspiciously like a catalog.
Miss the first issue but acquire the second issue of "Baseball Cards" magazine. 10 year old Todd gets introduced to "The Hobby".
On a trip to see relatives in Northern Virginia a great lesson in human nature and economics is learned. Parents with a desire to shut their kids mouths purchase cards for everyone (Topps - The Real One) even though I'm the only one with a legit interest. Surely the cousins will trade me the ones I need, I'm the set builder. Zero interest in straight up one for one trades. I raise the stakes and offer All Stars including George Brett for some schmuck common I need. Zero interest from cousin Stephanie. Hmmmm. I pout, it appears the world I live in is imperfect. But maybe if I can come up with a better offer, I suggest that perhaps cousin Stephanie might be interested in some of this delicious cardboardesque gum. Offer accepted!!! I get all the cards I want!!! (If you're working on a 1981 Topps set, email me and I can offer some of these cards, they're doubles of course).
At some point I learn more of mail order by reading the classifieds of Baseball Digest. Neal Adams of Severna Park, MD becomes the preferred dealer of singles. The final holes in my 1979 and 1980 Topps sets begin to close.
NEXT UP - Full immersion in "The Hobby"