I sat on the floor in Paul Kaminski's bedroom sorting through baseball cards and chewing on that disgusting gum.

That was a scene repeated for years in my youth.

Paul's house or mine, that was how I spent a large part of my childhood.

I could not wait for the new cards to arrive each year from Topps, the maker of these exquisite pieces of cardboard.

Everything I needed to know about a player was on the back of those cards. I don't know how much time I spent memorizing the stats of my favorite players, but those were the only numbers that ever added up for me.

I could tell you how many home runs and RBIs Reggie Jackson had the season before, how many wins Catfish Hunter earned and how many bases Bert Campaneris swiped.

Paul and I argued over who was the better player, Reggie or George Brett, just as our teams battled it out each season.

But today, that is a picture that could just as well be a Norman Rockwell painting from years gone by.

The days of kids collecting baseball cards are dwindling to a precious few. The hobby is now dominated by investors and "older kids" who have the money to buy cards that once sold for a nickel a pack and are now going for $2 a pack on the cheap and $10 or more if you want a chance at player autographs.

Most recently, Major League Baseball granted Topps the sole rights to use team nicknames and logos.

Topps was the company of my youth, but since the early 1980s, other companies printed cards and collector dollars were spread between Topps, Donruss, Fleer and Upper Deck card companies.

Over the years, Donruss was sold and dropped out of the baseball card business, Fleer was swallowed up by Upper Deck and now Upper Deck is on the outside looking in at MLB.

That is a lot of legal maneuvering over a kid's hobby.

But in their prime, their was a lot of money to be made investing in these 2 1/2-inch by 3 1/2-inch pieces of cardboard.

In the late 1980s to 1990s, there were few better investments than sports cards. No more were cards traded or kept in show boxes; they were like gold and stored in pristine packages.

Kids who grew the industry were forced out by investors who had large amounts of money to invest in cards.

It even became so bad that Topps produced cheaper cards kids could afford. Of course, these cards were worth little more than the paper and ink used to make them and that niche portion of the hobby soon died out.

Now it appears the hobby itself is disappearing.

Although Topps vows to reconnect with kids, I wonder if the kids care.

I tried in vain to interest my son, Alek, in collecting. In fact, when he and his sister, Claire, were younger, the only thing they really cared about was opening the packs. Must be a Christmas-type connection.

At one point, Alek did collect. He saved his money and bought cards, and I bought him cards, and somewhere in the dark recesses of his closet are quite a few baseball cards.

But the permanent connection I developed was not made with Alek. Cards have given way to video games.

The only cards he is interested in these days are the ones autographed or the ones with snippets of a bat or game-worn jersey imbedded in them.

But even the most avid collectors apparently had grown weary of autographs and cards with uniforms as the hobby is quickly disappearing.

For me, I still buy a few packs, and still get the same child-like thrill from opening the first pack of cards of the new season.

Maybe somewhere Paul Kaminski is doing the same.

Patrick Murphy, of Columbus, Neb., is the former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.