This is a story about luck and heartbreak all in one post.
It was the summer of 1992. The same year Topps had the #1 pitching prospect, Brien Taylor, in their main set. It was also the summer that my grandparents weren’t in the best of health.
My dad was visiting them, as we lived in North Carolina and they lived in Ohio, and my sister and I were still in school at the time. I remember one night after school, my dad called to say hi and see how things were going with us. The usual stuff, but it was still nice to hear from him. Then he mentioned that he found a bunch of his old baseball cards and asked if I wanted them.
Obviously as an 11-year-old who was into collecting baseball cards I said yes, not knowing what he had and if anything worthwhile would stand out. Of course, considering he was born in 1951, I’d be just as thrilled with “commons” from any year when he was a kids. Hell, I’d be happy just to have something worth holding onto to pass along to my kids.
That whole week seemed to last forever and by Friday, I still didn’t have the cards in my hands. You think Christmas is bad for a kid? Well, Saturday’s mail finally arrived and sure enough, a padded envelope that was from my dad. Inside, held together by rubber bands (ugh) was a stack of 1969 Topps cards.
I grabbed my trusty Beckett Baseball Card Monthly magazine and started to check out the values of the cards sent to me. Most cards were commons, worth nothing more than $5-$10. To me, I was just happy to have the cards in my collection no matter what.
Well, the second-to-last card was up and so I looked it up. Some scrub named Reggie Jackson, in his Oakland A’s uniform and a cheesy smile. Mind you, the card probably saw better days but the centering was damn near perfect, even if the corners were somewhat rounded and soft instead of sharp. Similar to what I found below, courtesy COMC.
I had to do a double take because when I looked at the price guide, the high column read $635 for a copy in mint condition. I was 11; there’s no way I had something this valuable in my hands, let alone have it survive all those years. I don’t think I put the card down for what seemed like hours, but I did put it into a penny sleeve and top loader to protect it.
Unfortunately, excitement got the best of me and I showed a few friends the card and I bragged about the value. Obviously I regret this, as later on the card was stolen from me. But at age 11, I really didn’t think that far ahead. Live and learn, right? At least when I told my dad about it, he wasn’t too upset, as he thought the cards weren’t worth much anyway.
The closest to the original that I now own is the 2001 Topps Archives Reserve, seen below. One day I’ll find a good copy to add to my collection again, and you can bet I won’t let it go.
At least my grandparents were able to live a few years longer.