Madison, Wisconsin resident Beau Thompson has a simple goal: amassing one million Chicago Cubs baseball cards. The quest, which began in December 2017, is shaping up nicely. To date, he’s collected more than 280,000 Cubs cards that were acquired from trades using social media.
Using Twitter - where his @onemillioncubs handle has more than 4,500 followers – Thompson has perfected the art of acquiring baseball cards through the mail. This year to date, Thompson has executed more than 75 online trades with fellow baseball card enthusiasts. More impressive is the daily haul that comes to his mailbox each day: about 376 cards on average.
By his estimate, Thompson has more than two million baseball cards in total and he uses them as trading pawns to fill his coffers with plenty of Sandersons, Dunstons and Santos. It all started simply enough: He vividly recalls ripping packs of 1988 Donruss and 1988 Topps Football. And when Thompson saw his first Cubs team card in 1989, he was hooked. The passion was lit.
And it’s carried into adulthood, where his wife was quickly indoctrinated into Thompson’s world of cardboard. For example, when Thompson and his wife, Amy, returned home from their honeymoon, there were 17 packages of cards waiting for the new Mr. and Mrs Thompson.
What was her reaction?
“That was ridiculous,” she recalls. “I wouldn’t say [the project] is normal, but I knew what I was getting into.”
And as his collection started to grow, the Thompsons purchased a home. The idea was that Beau Thompson would have his own dedicated area: the basement. All the other parts of the home would be cardboard free.
A salesman for a third-party logistics firm, Beau Thompson quickly created a warehouse and fulfillment center to run his cardboard empire.
Depending on one’s perspective, the photos (shown on page 26) engender equal parts amazement and bewilderment. It looks a bit like organized chaos. A nearby folding table doubles as his sorting and fulfillment space.
The 20x10 card room is jam-packed with containers, or “monster boxes” as he calls them. There are monster boxes everywhere - on the floor-to-ceiling shelving, stacked on pallets, on the floor - anywhere there is available space. There’s so much mass on the shelves, they are beginning to bowing from all the weight.
A 12x6 utility closet - which was part of the cardboard-free zone - was quickly absorbed by the mountain of cardboard.
“I wouldn’t call it organized,” Beau Thompson joked.
Still, he dutifully enters every last card into an Excel spreadsheet to keep a good tally, he said. He often sorts alphabetically by player (for example, Almora. Arrieta. Assenmacher, etc )
“I’ve been a Cubs card collector since I was young, and completed bulk team trades off and on. With all of the cards I had (more than a million) that I didn’t want in my collection,” Beau Thompson said. “I knew someone would want them and trading them for Cubs would be a great way to do that.”
In addition to finding space in his home, there are a few challenges that he must first overcome. For starters, there are far fewer than a million ball players that have donned the Cubs uniform.
According to the Trading Card Database, there are less than 130,000 unique Cubs cards - so that means duplicates count.
“That’s probably less than the actual number as I know it’s not a full checklist,” he acknowledged. “But I do know the actual number isn’t close to a million.”
So as to not lean too heavily on duplicates, Beau Thompson has widened his criterion to allow for the inclusion of minor leaguer issues and smaller, regional trading card sets.
He recently uncovered a 1986 poster set put out by Unocal that caught his fancy.
“They weren’t really baseball cards per se, they had these blank backs,” he explained. “But I thought they were pretty cool, and decided they belonged in the project.”
As if to defend his decision-making, Beau Thompson joked, “It’s my project and I get to make the rules. They count.”
A self-described numbers guy, Beau Thompson admits that the sound of a million cards resonated with him - and would with hobby enthusiasts.
“Many people are attracted to numbers, myself included, so I felt that if I had a goal that was tracked, it would keep me invested and others would enjoy following the updates,” he said.
Thompson estimates the project will take him five years to complete. His goal is to surpass 400,000 cards by the end of this year and 600,000 cards by the end of 2020.
So what’s the end game for Thompson? What does he hope will happen? Is he seeking acknowledgement from the big club?
“I’ve tweeted at the (Cubs) from time to time. As I get closer to my goal, I would think they would begin to take notice,” he said.
Whatever the outcome, it was all worth it.
“The journey has beena lot of fun,” he said.
Mark Del Franco is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.