Trading Cards: how to burn money and fuel the flea market.

Today I want to talk trading cards, the good, the bad, and the expensive card board that will never, I repeat never be worth much of anything.

While the trade card goes back to before we were a nation, being handed out like advertisements when a product was purchased, The trading card has it’s origins in tobacco. There was a time when they would put some kind of promotional card in packs of cigarettes, a way to get a second use out of something, or really to give you something to collect that required the purchase of even more smokes to collect the cards. The most well known of these are the Allen and Ginter cards of early baseball heroes. The most valuable of which has become something of an American legend in it’s own right. Honus Wagner. Honus Wagner was a great player, and adding to the value of anything of his, is the fact that he played ball until 1917. However, his card is not valuable because of that, it is valuable because it is rare, not simply because of the age of it, but because he hated tobacco and demanded that the cigarette industry cease to use his image, making his card incredibly rare. There is an episode of “Prison Break,” where a minor thief is in federal prison because he stole a baseball card collection, which included a Honus Wagner. The value of which made his crime a felony.

 

While some cards are the stuff made of legend, they are far and few between, owned and accounted for…sometimes miracles do happen, as in the case of the family that found seven (later an 8th) Ty Cobb baseball cards from between 1909-1911 in an old paper sack while cleaning out their great-grandfather’s house. That is probably, I would say, the last of those miracles. Most cards today, are absolutely worthless, not even worth the paper they are printed on, except if you are counting the personal value they have to the collector.

Trading cards in this case, should not be confused with Pokemon, or Magic the Gathering, both of which are collectible card games. Yes they come in packs that depend partly on chance to get good things, and yes they can be sold and traded, but they are not the same as trading cards. However, I will weigh in here, I think many of the things which have ruined the trading card, have also ruined the collectible card game. It has become about money, and winning, and there is not an ounce of spirit left in it. I loved both of those games, and now avoid them at all costs.

I cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone get into trading cards, especially sports cards today. There are others out there of course, that has been a long tradition. There is a familiar rule about a certain type of content on the internet, and it is much the same with trading cards, there is a trading card for everything, and I mean everything. When I was a kid, my favorites (to my regret) was Dragon Ball Z. I have seen plenty of others. There was a set for the 2016 election, and in my searching the bazar that is eBay, I found out there were Desert Storm trading cards in the 90s. I know, there were probably ones for other wars, but that strikes me as…distasteful.

Today’s cards are overproduced. I made an attempt to become a serious collector of baseball cards a couple of years ago, and it was somewhat fun opening some with my son, but very quickly it was expensive and out of hand. There is not just one set per brand, there are tons! I like Topps, and there wasn’t just a Topps set for the year, but there was also Topps Allstars, a follow up set, rookies sets, and then they started to issue sets that were made like the ones of years past (and these were the best) Allen & Ginter, Gypsy Queen. Part of their draw is that they have added cards that include real memorabilia from players, pieces of bats, pieces of shirts, things like that. They are nice, if you can find them, we found an autograph once, but again, it is far more cost effective to go on eBay and find the ones you want, than to hunt them in packs. Some of them were truly insane, but again their rarity was created one. I saw a double rip card that was listed for 2500, and it has more things inside of it that you have to rip it open to get. I do not understand. I have bought the memorabilia cards for around 5$ when I found one I wanted. What I really have is a mess of baseball cards that I have hidden in a closet so that I do not have to face them. I have organized a years worth and realized that it would start all over again.

I do not enjoy doing all of that work, as there will always be more, they are made to keep you buying, and they will eat up space, doing nothing except being printed faster than they can be collected with no value and not even the joy of the hunt to be really had. They are the predecessor to smartphone apps that require gems or something, they are the micro-transaction of the analog world.

What I do enjoy doing is opening the packs, looking at them, feeling the perfect edges, that smell of a new pack of cards, so I have come up with a way that allows me to get my enjoyment from trading cards, and then move them on in a meaningful way. I use them as extras in my letters. The letter writing community is (re) growing by the day, but for every 100 people who try writing letters, maybe five will stick to it. The dedicated I have seen, have been including things that express who they are in their letters. I have gotten stamps, comic strips, pressed flowers (an old card making hobby of it’s own.). In mine I include the comics from my tear away calendars, some stamps, the occasional sticker, but this year I started something new. I started to put my baseball cards in, one per letter. I keep on the Boston Red Sox cards, and the rest go in letters. It gave me the chance to look at each one again, enjoy it, and then use it to express my passion for the game I love.

I began to wonder, what if I could find other ones, discounted, vintage, and most likely at a flea market, cards that showed the things I loved, films from my collection since childhood, favorite shows, etc. I took to the flea market to find out, and was rewarded for my efforts. I found Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Batman, and Batman Returns. Thirty year old cards from some of my very favorite films!!! I chose to document the time in which we opened them, and realized that many of them would have a piece of bubblegum still. The gum is a left over idea, the cigarette cards never having recovered from the paper goods rationing of the Second World War, and later it was the bubblegum card that took over for it, you got a card with your bubblegum. Later, it went the other way, you got some gum with your card.

We opened the TMNT cards first. The quality of the cards was ridiculously 80s, even to the point that they were mislabeling turtles, but it was fun! Even better, I have not encouraged the industry, and these things will not remain in my house long. They will become the odd ephemera of my letters, part of my lettercraft, which is good as I am not very good at making creative cards or anything like that. On a sidenote, my cousin Lucas decided to try a piece of that thirty year old gum, and neither of us recommends that experience. Their are plenty of videos out there telling you that is an awful idea, and now we are telling you.

There is a special place inside you for opening old trading cards, the cards you wanted as a kid but were probably not a good use of money, and now I have gotten to scoop them up for a steal at the flea market. I will not always be on the hunt for them, as this one time out has given me enough cards for letters for years, but if I see some for the right price, I will keep the variety going, but the letters are a means to an end, I still like opening the packs and seeing the images of my film heroes on pieces of cardboard.

I have enjoyed this experience, but I am sad to say, the age of the trading card is dead, and we missed the funeral by a few decades. I do not recommend this hobby, the hunt is dead. Unless there is a truly rare sports card you are after, the hunt is held on a reservation, you can find complete sets of the cards you want or even whole cases of the store boxes for a fraction of their cost on eBay and there will be no hunt to speak of. If you can find a way to recycle what is essentially high dollar trash from a flea market into something meaningful, then I beg you to do it. However, do not let me stop you from something you are passionate about, but the trading cards of today are a collector’s black hole.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

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We did it we went camping part 1.

 Very This entry is a little backdated, but thats the way it goes sometimes.

10/9/2015-10/11/2015

We did it.  We bit the bullet and went camping.  We made the decision last minute on Wednesday.  We had talked about it back and forth some, and due to Columbus day being the last real weekend before the campsites close down, we went ahead and booked a campsite.  Nature of the adventure beast right?  Just jump in.  We had pretty much all the gear we needed anyhow.  We pull it all out while still working and trying to get through homework and wrangle a three year old.  We did need to buy a new tent and such, the one I have barely holds me and my gear.  We made this attempt all while seeing if we could keep from turning the house inside out (fail).  I managed to chug through enough homework so that I could go without having one of those panic attacks at how much work I was ignoring and ruining everyones trip.  We prepared on Thursday, and Katie dropped Liam and I off at school on Friday.  She went to buy the food and a cooler and put all of the stuff into the car.  She picked us up as soon as school was out and we were on our way to the cape.  Being that it was Columbus day weekend and we were driving to Cape Cod, the traffic was fairly thick, but we made it just fine.  When we arrived we followed the rules and set out tent up before we did anything else.  If you have your notebook handy go ahead and take this down.  Rule #2 shelter first.  It is a part of the trinity of shelter fire food.

 Once the house was set up we went to the camp store to obtain firewood, built a fire and busted out the camp chairs.  Liam showed us that there is an infallible rule involving kids and camp fires.  Children will find a stick, shove it in the fire, pull it out, blow the small flame on the end out, and repeat this process to madness.  It is such a simple form of entertainment, and it is just a natural part of being a child.  Their curiosity is wonderful.  I remember doing this as a child.  Anyhow it seemed to me it was time to do what I had been looking forward to all along, to bust out my pipe and sit in a camp chair by the fire while watching my boy play with a stick.  We built the fire together with a flint and steel and a little homemade tinder just to make sure that he starts seeing how it is done early.  I was enjoying our little scene with my pipe, reflecting on how I was now in the chair that I remember my Grandfather and Uncle being in previously, maker of fire, all great knowing camping sage…

 That is about the time the rain started.  A few drops managed to hit before the weather alert came through.  Cape Cod suddenly went from cool and clear to holy wow thunderstorms.  So rather than a long night of sipping teamed smoking a pipe and cooking marshmallows over a fire, the first of our nights camping will be spent inside the tent, playing cards (war) and listening to Johnny Cash on my phone.  We will count this as being unplugged because we are not using it to sit around and check Facebook, it was just a radio and lots of people take radios camping.  For us this is just part of the experience!  It was great really, minus the fact that the storms were fairly strong.  Also part of the experience is the little mistakes you make along the way that become part of the ritual every time you do this.  This camping trips (first) mistake was that apparently we had stolen some of the batteries from the lantern to put in the army flashlight when Katie needed it, and we did not bring this flashlight with us.  From this point on during the trip all night time activities will be conducted by headlamps.  So now part of our camping ritual will be overpacking every four of battery and socks for the kids because Mistake #2 was an awful parent moment, apparently Liam’s only socks were the ones he was wearing.  Not to fear we brought absolutely everything else he needed and if you pull them up the right way he can wear his mother’s socks…

  
 Liam however did enjoy the concept of getting to pee in the woods.  I mean yes there was a clean facility across the street, but he is three and should get to pee in the woods.  Anyhow we brought the cards for a reason so we decided to bask in the experience of being rained in for the night.  We brought them for the same reason that we brought notebooks, and a book each, and a set of liars dice.  These are the methods that allow people to enjoy each others company and not resort to Facebook when un entertained company becomes just too much.  That is why we are here, we want to unplug for a bit.  To get away from the petty concerns of the day to day and live a little.  Andrew, one of my classmates how I planned to balance this with the massive homework load I would be ignoring for two days.  I told him, and Liam I do hope this holds true, that my son would never remember my GPA, but he would remember camping.  He would also remember if I was always telling him that I am too busy.

  
  
This is what Katie and I are trying to keep in mind, our son is young only once and the clock is rapidly ticking.  We were given stark reminders of the shortness of life this past week.  First the veterans community…and humanity really, lost one of our titans.  Justin Fitch’s battle with cancer is over.  On Sunday October 4th we woke up to find out that the lie we had been telling ourselves, that he would always be there, was not true.  If you have ever been to a team minuteman event up until recently, then you know who I am talking about.  The first time I got to step off with these fine people, Justin Fitch took me into his family, and at the end of it all he had a drink from the horn, despite being on chemo therapy.  “This could kill me you know” he said lowering the horn with beer foam on his face.  After an appropriate freak out from me he explained that it may be the only drink he ever has with me.  It was if you are wondering.  Secondly I basically found our next door neighbor dead.  His back door had been ajar for three days and after leaving him a note about it, it became apparent that he had not been leaving.  Police were called, Alex was dead.  Sixty seven is not young, but it is to young to die in a hoarded up apartment filled with garbage and cat crap, in your sleep.  So todays final words (before part two) are this, remember that you will die.


Hrolf The Ganger.

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