Sunday, November 18, 2012

1987 Topps: My Introduction to Baseball Cards

   I just was a 10-year old kid wandering around Aloha Stadium on the Hawaiian island of Oahu when I first got into baseball cards in 1987.  The Aloha Stadium plays host one of the largest swap meets in the nation.  When we weren't at one of the beaches, my parents would set-up a weekend booth to sell coins and jewelry.  All day, I would roam the many parking aisles that surrounded the stadium along with my siblings and friends visiting the different merchant booths to see what was for sale.  Baseball cards seemed to be everywhere, with buyers and sellers haggling over prices of individual cards, packs, boxes, lots, sets, and supplies.  I quickly developed an addiction to card collecting, beginning with the 1987 Topps baseball card set.    

I began card collecting by purchasing 40-cent wax packs, containing: 17 base cards, some kind of sweepstakes card, and a stick of gum.  The wax packs were found in wax boxes containing 36 wax packs.  On the bottom of the wax box were four special cut-out cards.  Wax boxes came from wax cases containing 20 wax boxes.  All that I knew about or could afford at the time were 40-cent packs, which is where all of my money went.  I don't know where I got the money from, but I remember buying a lot of wax packs.  I stored all of my cards in shoeboxes that were cut and taped to resemble 800-count boxes, and stored my gum ziplock bags.  I saw plenty of older cards for sale, but they all seemed too costly, and I needed more C-A-R-D-S.  Packs of '86 Topps were already selling at higher costs, while '85 Topps cards seemed to be well outside of my reach.  The '84 Topps D.Mattingly rookie was one the hottest "modern" cards around at the time, and I thought that I'd never own one.  This left me with the idea that I'd better hurry up and get as many '87 Topps cards as I could before prices went up (what a joke).  I did gather quite a few cards from other brands and sports along the way, but all the while, I always felt that Topps Baseball was the industry standard: "The Real One".  Even now, I consider other brands the same as I would with foreign money at a grocery store--worthless.  This is not to say that I have no grievances with the number of different types of sets being produced each year now that Topps has a monopoly on the card industry.

Another great influence to the start of my interest in baseball card collecting, and the 1987 Topps set in particular was one of my parents friends who used to set up a cards and comics booth next to ours sometimes.  I would often look through the old binders of Topps baseball cards he had for sale, and  stand in awe at the some of the names of the legendary players I saw.  The memory that always seems to stand out greatest in my mind is that of the 1962 Topps baseball card set.  The set was organized numerically using 9-pocket pages in a brown binder, and appeared to be in great condition.  The 1962 set commemorated the historic chase to break Babe Ruth's single-season homerun record by Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle the previous year.  The set seemed to contain an infinite number of star players and manager cards designed with a classic wood-grain border.  Its resemblance to the '87 set was too great to ignore, which seem to validate my collection's place in history among the greats.

Looking through my '62 Topps cards, I noticed that I had a Gene Mauch card from both sets, and found this to be an interesting connection for comparison.  A professional player from the 1940s and 1950s, Gene Mauch was just in his 3rd year of managing in the big leagues during the 1962 season. 

The '62 Topps set was 25 years old when I first saw it in 1987.  Now, 25 years later, the '87 topps set is itself 25 years old.  This presents an interesting perspective for me to consider.  Do kids today look at the '87 set the same way that I looked at the '62 set back then?  I could only guess not, since there has been no increase in value over the past 25 years.  Actually, I saw an online video of a kid ripping open packs from an entire wax box of 87's, and another video of a guy burning complete sets of 87's in hopes of increasing the value.  I couldn't imagine doing that with '62s when they were the same age, much less even owning a single card.  I currently have 12 complete sets of 1987 Topps w/Traded baseball card sets stored away for no other reason than their sentimental value. 

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