Monday, February 10, 2014
It's The Trades You Don't Make That Make The Biggest Impact
In 1985, I was an unfocused collector with a limited knowledge of the history and value of baseball cards. In other words, I was just a kid.
As a kid, I collected by one simple rule... collect them all... hardcore. It didn't matter that I had extremely limited resources. I had friends who were willing to trade. I wasn't looking to cheat them out of valuable cards. At the very least, I wanted an example of each set. At the most, I wanted more cards than Mr. Mint, whose print ads always tantalized me and made me want to get my hands on everything.
I had two friends that I would regularly to to trade with, Keith and Mark. Their names were not changed to protect the innocent, but I will leave their last names out of this, as I respect their privacy and the fact the I haven't spoken to either one in at least twenty-five years. It's just the way things go with elementary school friends. It may have also been a friendship of convenience, since you could see both of their houses from my house. Whatever the circumstances, the friendships earned lasted for a good chunk of elementary school.
I couldn't tell you what any of us traded. They surely were blockbuster trades, since we were accustomed to haggle back and forth for hours delicately crafting a trading package that would entice the other, but not screw anyone over.
I only traded White Sox cards, if I had doubles. Everyone knew that and it probably made for some lopsided deals. Other cards that were off limits were the 1985 Fleer Eric Davis, the 1985 Topps card of Mike Dunne and the partially singed 1961 Topps card of Danny Kravitz. Everything else was fair game.
Keith and I had our cards spread out on the floor of his bedroom. We were half listening to a WGN broadcast of the Cubs game. The Cubs were his favorite team, and still may be for all I know, so we had to watch while we were wheeling and dealing.
I was thumbing through his pile of cards, I came across a design I hadn't seen in person up to that point. The only way I got new cards at that time was either at the grocery store, trading with friends or if my parents brought me something. There was a comic book shop, but I was unaware of any baseball card shops in the area. It would be a few years before I went to a card show and twelve years before I signed online for the first time.
The few cards I saw in his pile were 1981 Fleer. I didn't have any, but I wanted at least one. I fixated on the Cliff Johnson card. I had to walk away with it in my collection. Before I really knew about the suspect photography or the set that was riddled with errors, I knew that I didn't have anything from the set in my collection and that it was the first year for Fleer. Well, the first year in a really long time for baseball cards from Fleer. I offered a 1985 Topps Jody Davis for the '81 Fleer. Jody was hot at that time, especially in the Chicago area. This meant I was serious. No dice.
I offered to throw in a 1984 Topps Larry Bowa. Keith wasn't biting. Finally I offered my 1985 Fleer Tippy Martinez. Not only was 1985 Fleer one of the coolest sets to my friends an I back then, it was hard to find at the stores. I would usually get the 69 cent cello packs, if the store had them. The stores always had Topps, sometimes had Fleer and on the rare occasion would carry Donruss in the mid-eighties. My dog was named Tippy, so I thought the Tippy Martinez cards were cool. Martinez always reminded me of a real life version of Spike, Snoopy's brother from the Peanuts comics. The fertile imagination of youth is a powerful tool to build upon. In my mind, I had just gone all in.
The offer was rejected for a final time. It was said that the 1981 Fleer cards were next to impossible to get. That may have had a grain of truth in 1985, but in 2014, I can pick up most commons from that set for pennies. Even though the trade didn't happen, I still have memories that will last a lifetime.
Mark and I didn't trade very often. He usually was content enough with what he got through pack opening to satisfy his collecting habit. He would never trade anything that he didn't already have a double of in his pile.
It was odd to get a call from Mark to bring my cards over. He always had the best G.I. Joe figures, but I suspect it may have something to do with having an older brother. Mark would have the older figures that were rarely found by the time the cartoon became an afternoon staple on WGN. We always had the best fun playing with our action figures outside, usually in the snow, the sandbox or the swing set. Again, we used our fertile imaginations to create a vivid landscape as far as the eye could see and used what was around us to enhance that landscape.
I brought over my 1985 Topps, as requested, and walked the length of seven houses to Mark's door. He was waiting for me in the driveway. It was one of the few times I remember being in his house after the addition was built. He said he had something I was looking for and I followed him to his bedroom. All serious trading took place in the inner sanctuary of the bedroom. It was like the board room in an office complex. It was home turf and the only bit of real estate that could truly be considered your own.
I had managed to get the majority of the 1985 Topps White Sox set through trips to Gennaro's, the local drug store, Walgreens, the chain drug store, and Dominicks, the closest grocery store. Mark showed me the card of Jerry Don Gleaton. He knew that it was one of the missing cards. All I had to do to make it mine was fork over my 1985 Topps Tom Seaver. Even at that young age, I knew the legacy of Tom Seaver. I looked through my change for 1967 coins and separated those out because Tom Seaver started his MLB career in '67. I knew he was close to the 300 win milestone. There was no way I was giving that up.
Even though I was quick to say no, I did seriously consider the trade. I was confident enough that I had found a Tom Seaver in a pack, that I could find another one. I became convinced that Jerry Don Gleaton must be rare because I haven't run across it in a pack yet. Cooler heads prevailed in the end and I kept my Tom Seaver, which was good, because I never ran across another one in any pack.
I have no clue when or where I got the Jerry Don Gleaton card. I must have gotten it at some point because it is in my binder, along with the rest of the completed team set.
The days of hanging out with Keith and Mark waned. I'm not sure if I hung out with Mark after that aborted trade. I only hung out with Keith a few times after our missed trade opportunity. They hung out together quite a bit after that, so maybe Mark finally got his Seaver card from Keith.
People change, we gain more knowledge about the world around us and we grow. I've had friends come and go since then. I've had trading partners come and go, as well. The memories of those first trades will always stick with me, shaping and molding who I am and how I approach trades. I'll never be that kid again, which is sad in a way, but I relish the new opportunities that have headed my way since and will come my way in the future because of those experiences.
You can always look back, but remember to keep moving forward while you do. Great things have happened in the past, but you use those as the foundation to build something even greater in the future.