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May 2000


by Fine Diner

Hidden Treasures

Hang around any flea market, antique show or memorabilia shop, and you're bound to eventually cross paths with someone who has made the ultimate find - a gem that accidentally fell into his crown of collectibles and suddenly became the centerpiece of the whole lot.

Not only does he marvel at the piece, but also at the way he felt he got "something for nothing". We all know about getting something for nothing - most of the time, there is someone lurking about more than willing to remind us of the rule that "you get what you pay for." But every now and then, if you are lucky enough, you get much more than what you paid for.

I've been into sports collectibles as long as I have been into sports. As a kid, I collected baseball cards, refusing to follow the norm and either flip them for winnings or stick them in my bike spokes. Straight into the shoeboxes they went, although they came out regularly so I could amass my dream team or memorize statistics. They were prized possessions all, except maybe the 12 Roger Repozes I amassed in my search for one Carl Yastrzemski. Equally prized were the autographs - Jim Lonborg, Harmon Killebrew, etc.

As I got older, I stopped collecting regularly. I was pretty regular for about six or eight years, but college came and I was off to the big city. After getting into journalism, I started getting cards just to analyze their content, design, and photographs. I compared them from year to year, grading them, deciding how I would make them better.

In 1979, after years of baseball and basketball cards (with a sprinkling of specialty cards like Dr. Who) I decided on a whim to buy five packs of hockey cards. A first for me, I could not resist checking them out. I liked the design, especially the stats overlaid in a shadowed area the shape of a skate.

I looked them over, and tossed them in a box. And, as it turned out, totally forgot about them. About 15 years later, after picking up a Beckett's collecting magazine in a store, I noticed that my three Rickey Henderson Rookie Cards were priced over $100, apiece and my most prized card - the 1968 Nolan Ryan Rookie he shared with Jerry Koosman, was climbing toward $1,000. "I've got a gold mine!" I thought.

Just for the fun of it, I started digging through old cards, most of which I paid a couple of pennies for. A rookie Robin Yount, a rookie Cal Ripken… my heart leaped as I flipped the pages. My retirement fund!

Eventually, I found the hockey cards… most of the guys had come and gone, but there was a Mike Bossy. Suddenly, I was staring at a mint condition Wayne Gretzky rookie. Most everything else I had I realized I had, but did not realize at the time that this rookie card in 1979 would belong to one of the three greatest players of all time. Now the card, worth $600 last I saw, takes up space in the safe deposit box with old friends Nolan, Rickey, Cal, Robin and Mickey. Ironically, it was the only year I ever bought any hockey cards.

congratulates the winner of our April drawing:

DT Lady

She has won a "Greatest Sports Fan" Beer Mug and 3 packs of UpperDeck MVP Basketball cards for properly answering:
Seattle Supersonics