MURPHY'S LAW The thrill of the chase collecting sports cards

By Patrick Murphy

The last remnant of my childhood is ending.

Topps is soon going to be out of the baseball card business. 

Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have negotiated exclusive rights to produce baseball cards using MLB logos to Fanatics, which is a large seller of sports memorabilia and clothing, etc.

Topps and Panini — which manufactures baseball cards, but without the rights to use MLB team logos — lose exclusive rights after 2022.

I grew up collecting Topps baseball, basketball, football and even a few hockey cards.

Collecting cards is as much a part of my childhood as any memory I have.

I loved collecting, and Topps was the king of the mountain back then.

In the 1980s companies named Fleer and Donruss began making cards, and I collected them, too, although Topps remained at the top.

I started collecting when I was around 7. It was 1969, and I asked my parents for nickels so I could run across the street to the Safeway grocery store and buy packs of cards. I even chewed the gum back then, even though it was always the worst tasting gum I ever had.

I was hooked. These little cardboard treasurers were my world. On the front were pictures of my heroes and on the back their entire baseball lives condensed into the statistics they accumulated. I judged how good of a player they were based on those stats.

My collection grew and grew. I went from collecting as many cards as I could buy with the nickels my parents gave me to collecting complete sets. I was on a mission to get every card printed each year. Six-hundred and sixty cards in a set, and I had to have them all.

I ended up with sacks full of duplicate cards. Some players I had two, three and four of, others I struggled to get just one to finish the set.

I loved the chase, the glorious, frustrating chase of collecting all the cards in a set.

Any collector of anything will say it’s the chase that we love the most. When we get what we want we move on to the next chase.

I collected until I had kids of my own, and then tried to get my son, Alek, hooked on them, but the collecting bug never bit him like it did me, and he’s probably richer for it.

I never stopped collecting completely. I still buy a few packs every February when the new baseball cards are released. I stopped chasing complete sets, and it has become more of a curiosity than a real collection.

I kept most of my card collections through the years, although they are now regulated to the basement, awaiting the day until I do pass it on to Alek.

Collecting has become a rich person’s game. Nickel packs of cards have gone the way of the nickel gallon of gas and nickel movie tickets. 

There are so many products these days I stopped trying to keep track, and collecting is now a very expensive habit, and I wonder if kids still have the passion I did.

Even though I no longer collect, hearing Topps will soon be regulated to some second tier card company makes me sad.

Even though there were tobacco cards and other companies before Topps, it is the company I grew up with. Those cards took up a lot of my youth, and gave me hours of enjoyment.

Soon they will be gone, at least in the sense of how I knew them, just another sign of an ever-changing world. 

I might have to make a trip to the local hobby store and pick up a few packs for old time sake because those old times disappear, but the memories of collecting those cardboard treasurers lasts forever.

Patrick Murphy, editor-publisher of the Humphrey Democrat and Newman Grove Reporter in Nebraska, is a former assistant managing editor at The Telegram.