Monday, November 15, 2010

The Oldest Card I Own

Last week, Greg over at the Night Owl blog had a great post about the oldest card he owns, and his personal evolution as time went on. I make a point to read that blog every day, not because we both come from the same part of the country (Northern New York), or because he and I possibly could have bumped into each other at a show without ever realizing it 20+ years ago..but it's a well-thought out blog. Any blog that occasionally takes me back to my early hobby days (since we have similar backgrounds, even if they weren't exactly on a concurrent timeline) and causes me to think is going to be a great thing to keep reading.

Plus, in a way, it's rather interesting to go into a lion's den (I'm a Yankee fan from the age of 6, he's a rabid Yankee-hater) sometimes.

So here's my own hobby story:

Last May, I gave some background info about my hobby roots. In that post, I mentioned that I didn't start out as a baseball collector. The first cards I ever collected were these:

These are 1977-'79 Star Wars cards that show the markings of once belonging to a 6-year old kid who loved them. The first cards I owned were from the Yellow series (Series 3). In fact, that yellow-bordered card above is one from those first few packs I ever tore open. At some point, I began to wonder why my cards didn't seem to come numbered below 133. So, by asking a few friends, I found out that there were Star Wars cards with blue and red borders as well.

So, I began to trade for some of those, and I ended up with this card:

(Not my original one, I've upgraded since then)

The Yankees had won the 1978 World Series. Since that was the first time I paid attention, I became a fan of the team (Likewise, the same thing happened when the Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XIII a few months later). And this picture of Reggie taking a big swing was perhaps the best thing a young fan like myself could own.

For the next several years, I picked up a lot of different cards from lots of different sets: baseball, football, basketball, hockey...Wacky Packages, Star Wars and its sequels, Superman, Star Trek, Jaws 2, Grease, Mork & Mindy, etc. There really wasn't a focus at the time. I just liked the cards.

By 1983, I was in the sixth grade. My middle school library had a book that pretty much changed my life forever: The American Premium Guide to Baseball Cards by Ron Erbe & Keith Mitchell. That book taught me about vintage card sets. And I immediately wanted to get some cards from those sets.

So, I went and actually organized my card collection. While I had plenty of stuff from 1979 onward, there were only a few 1978 cards to join Reggie and these were my oldest cards:

In five years, I had only managed to go back one additional year in my collection. That set me on a quest. Sometime early in 1984, I managed to get one of my friends to let me have this card:

That was a cool gesture...a Yankee, a pitcher everybody told me was great (I saw him at the very end of his career) and a possible future Hall of Famer (which he would be, in 1987). The thing I thought odd was the fact that everybody called him "Catfish" but Topps. But more than that, it was my oldest baseball card.

I tried to see if I could get any others, but met some dead ends: a friend who had some 1975s but wouldn't give them up, somebody's older brother who had a shoebox full of stuff from his mid-70s childhood who promised them to me but ended up giving them to his cousin, and a friend of my Mom who said he'd dig out his old cards for me but never did.

As winter turned to spring, a new series of baseball cards arrived. I also found out about something for the first time: a real live card dealer. At some point, the U.S. Army was doing some maneuvers at Ft. Drum that were open to the public. I went and saw the tanks and a simulated infantry assault, but what I remember most about the event happened after we walked to the parking lot. Some tables were set up and a flea market-style thing was there. And one of the tables had a card seller.

He had a box of cards on the table for a dime apiece and I was allowed to get a dollar's worth. Finally! The opportunity to extend my collection was upon me, and all ten cards would be older than that '76 Hunter. However, one card would be my crowning achievement:

Cesar Tovar is about as common as you can get. But that didn't matter to me at 11, because he was now on my oldest baseball card. However, this time, I had reached a very significant milestone in my collection: With this card, I now owned a card that was older than I was.

A year later, I attended my very first card show. It was an annual event they had at the State Office Building in Watertown, New York. I talked about it a little bit in this blog post from last May, but I dug this one from a quarter box a dealer (the same guy who sold me the Tovar card):

Again, I walked away from the show with several cards that were now older than the Tovar card, but this one was the first from the 1950s for me. That was another personal milestone.

A few years later (1988), I went to another show (discussed here back in August) in Clayton, New York. At that show, I met a true gentleman dealer named Vin Minner and bought these two cards from him:

(Price: $2.00 for the pair)

After reading about the 1952 Topps set for nearly 5 years, I now owned two of the cards. That was big.

A trip to the Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame followed during the early spring of '89. A visit to a card shop just down the road from the Museum gave me this card:

My first T206. Before getting any Bowman cards or any '30s gum issues, I picked up a card from "The Monster."

And in 21 years, I've never really gone and added a pre-1909 card to my collection. I have other cards from that year (an E92, an E90-1 and a few other T206s). I may consider picking up a 19th Century card if I find one at a decent fact, I'd really like to find an Old Jugde or Kimball's card of Joe Hornung (sometimes misspelled "Horning"), as he was born in my hometown.

Someday, I may get one. If I do, I'll make sure I show it here.


  1. Cesar Tovar - that card just gave me a jolt. For a few years that same card was my oldest card. I started collecting in '77, and I think around '80 managed to get the '70 Tovar in a trade, and it was 5 years older than anything else in my collection. I thought it was really cool to have a card from the year I was born. Great post - thanks for bringing back some cool memories.

  2. One of these days I'll go to Cooperstown just to shop for cards. That seems sacrilegious to say, but I've never seen a place where you can get more great cards in one area.

    We collected the Star Wars cards from the first year. I had lots of blue cards, but preferred the red for some reason.

  3. I've been to Cooperstown a few times (not recently unfortunately). They certainly did have quite a few card shops. I remember a shop that had almost all Jordan cards/memorabilia. Great little town.

    Cool cards. Most of my stuff is all 90's and 00's. I can't image owning a card from the 50's or 60's let alone from the 1900's - 1920's. Good Stuff!!!