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Confessions of a card guy

A wire service news article last week that told about a postal employee convicted of glomming a 1915 Cracker Jack Christy Mathewson and then was clumsy enough to get caught gave me pause.


The guy told the judge at his sentencing that he was addicted to collecting; the judge told him he was sentenced to six months in the county jail, with the jail time suspended provided he stay out of trouble for two years. I half expected to see that he was barred from opening Topps or Upper Deck wax packs, or maybe be put under a court order prohibiting him from being closer than 500 feet to a candy store, but no.

Our SCD correspondent, Arnold Bailey, wrote a nice piece about this bit of criminality (Sept. 19 issue), even getting quotes from academia about “the emotional sources of the never-ending longing for yet another collectible.”

 Oh, pulleez. Not again. When clinical psychologists go about writing books, even those about something as ostensibly innocuous as collecting, they go searching for pathology. It’s sexier, and also has a leg up in elbowing for space in the medical journals.

I used to try to get some psychologist friends from years ago to speculate for me about the reasons why people collect things, but virtually all begged off. Now I have to wonder if maybe they just didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

I don’t doubt there are people who collect for odd reasons, including some of the deep-seated psychological stuff, but I would also be willing to bet the reasons for much of the hobby are relatively benign, and maybe even laudable.

But, of course, I really can only speak for myself. I like cards for a variety of reasons. I don’t think I had a particularly traumatic childhood, but I did hang onto the cards with a certain fervor. Here’s more of the confession part: my original intention was to have them intact to pass along to a son or daughter as a means of also providing said hypothetical offspring with a link both to my youth and the game of baseball.

By the time it became clear that any descendants would remain in the hypothetical category, I had already contented myself that hanging on to the cards was OK in and of itself.

As most of the readers of this blog may know – and I would bet some of the academics do not – putting together a complete set of cards can be a fun undertaking, whether it’s a $25 investment in still-cheap 1987 Topps or the painstaking process of piecing together one of the great vintage Topps or Bowman sets of the hobby’s golden era in the 1950s and 1960s.

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