I still remember rushing to the store. Making a bee line towards the trading card section. It was my Mecca as a child. I could not wait to get home and rip open the packs of cards. The smell of fresh cards, the anticipation of who could be inside. It was too much. Card collecting has been a hobby of mine for decades and I owe it all to my family.
Growing up in Patterson, my parents opened up G&A Dugout in the late ‘80s. There were not many places you could go that were local and the internet was not even a thing at that point. Crazy right? You actually had to go out and buy these at retailers and hobby shops; it was not just a click away like today. I was five when the shop opened and I remember going to the shop with my mom and brothers each day. At that time Bo Jackson, Joe Montana, Mark McGwire and Wayne Gretzky were all the rage. One of the most memorable items that I can recall is the Bo Jackson black and white poster where he has on the shoulder pads and a baseball bat across his shoulders. To this day, it is still one of the most desirable pieces of his memorabilia.
When the shop shut down in the mid-‘90s, I still continued to collect and grow my collection. I remember going to school and trading cards on the bus and in class. One time, I got myself in quite a bit of trouble. My classmate and I were trying to reach a deal. He had a Dan Marino card (not even a rookie card, but Marino was my favorite so it did not matter to me). I knew I wanted it and I would give up anything for it. I offered him a Superman: Doomsday graphic novel for it in exchange. He took the deal and the next day I brought him the book and we made our transaction. The only problem was that the book did not belong to me. It was my brother’s book and I took it in hopes that he would not notice. He noticed that afternoon and I folded under the pressure when he asked me about it. The next day I went back to my classmate and told him the story. He understood and we reached a deal that involved Garbage Pail Kids, Ken Griffey Jr., Steve Young and more, but I returned home with that Marino card in hand.
Years later I worked at a pizza place in Patterson and my friend worked at a convenience store just a block away. When we had the same shifts it was an unspoken agreement that I would bring him a large pizza in exchange for basketball cards off the store shelf (Note: It was not stealing, he paid for the cards and I would be credited a pizza at the end of each shift).
Since my leg injury last fall, I have had time to go through all my binders and boxes of cards collected throughout the years. The Marino card is still in my collection. I have been buying new cards, from all major sports and have been able to add to my collection and sell others on eBay. My oldest brother is also a sports fanatic and has been selling cards online for over a year now. He is very serious about it and even travels to card shows out of state (he lives in Texas) and travels to Oklahoma and New Mexico when the shows are open.
My four-year-old likes opening the packs with me and he lights up when I give him one of the inserts or extras that I have and we put it in his binder. I’m not sure if he will be a collector or not but for right now we have fun doing that together.
Looking back I guess it is more than just a hobby for me. It takes me back to my childhood; it reminds me of old friends from school and it is a bonding time for my family.
Dennis D. Cruz is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.