1991 Topps Box Bottoms #F - Carlton Fisk
When I discovered that there were baseball cards on the bottom of the boxes in the grocery store, I quickly made friends with any and all employees. I asked if I could take the display box home. Most were fine with it, as long as the box was empty. Sometimes they put the caveat of purchasing a pack of cards with my free empty boxes, which was completely fine.
I discovered this in 1990. Ever since that point, I've made it a point to look at the bottoms of my boxes of cards. You don't see much of that today. I guess it has something to do with the demands of collectors that their cards be in pristine condition and pre-cut. You know, silly things like that. Don't get me wrong, these things are important, but I think collectors today get too caught up in condition for a card that is printed enough times to be a cheaper alternative to kitty litter.
I understand the need for it. I can get persnickety on condition and have rejected cards for the collection because I thought they were too poor of condition for my lofty standards. I get it. I really do. I fall into the same trap as everybody else. When I need a reality kick, I just dig out the cards that I cut out and collected as a kid.
This 1991 Topps card of Carlton Fisk is one of those cards. I thought I did such a careful job cutting out each card. I know I took special care in cutting out a Fisk card. I can see jagged edges everywhere on the card. In fact, I think I still own the pair of scissors that I cut the card out with, even though it was twenty years ago. I can take a look at those uneven edges and instantly be brought back to the stalking the aisles of local grocery and drug stores, making my rounds to see what boxes were empty and were ready for me to be picked up.
Occasionally, I was usurped by another enterprising collector, who beat me to the punch and snagged the box before I rode my bike to that particular store. I get the same feeling when I get sniped at the last second on eBay. It's annoying, but not the end of the world. There will always be another cards on the horizon. Another card to chase down. A never ending cycle, if you will.
People can get consumed by the sheer immenseness of the hobby. When it gets too complicated, the fun vanishes and one starts to wonder why they got into collecting in the first place. If the answer is money, you will be facing bitter disappointment. If everyone made money off their cards, then the card shop wouldn't be dying a slow death. I think back to all the card shops that were within biking distance of me twenty years ago. There must have been over a dozen. Now, there's only one.
A lot has changed in twenty years. I try to hold on to the same ideals that I did back then. I think I do pretty well with that. When it comes to collecting, I try to keep it fun. People lose that more often than you think. Bring it back to the basics that hooked you in the first place. From there, it's a lot of joy.