When I was 10 years old, one of my best friends, Donnie Peck, was moving to Connecticut from our Glen Head neighborhood. I didn’t have much money so as a farewell gift, I gave him four boxes of my baseball cards.
I was not a smart kid.
When I was 12 years old, I traded 125 baseball cards to my best friend, Mark Morganelli, for one Mel Stottlemyre Sr. card. Stottlemyre was my favorite Yankee player, and “Mel” was my father’s name.
I was not a smart kid.
Back then, a baseball card was worth about a penny, but today those cards I gave Donnie could retrieve a small fortune. In the intervening years I’ve lost track of him, but I keep imagining he’s retired to an island in the Bahamas with the money he made selling my cards.
Mark, who told me he sold my cards and made a handsome profit, has done quite well. He owns a jazz club in upstate Tarrytown, and when I visit his beautiful place, I muse to myself: “I think I contributed to this!”
So it was a pleasant surprise on "Day 208 of Cleaning My House During the Pandemic" when I came upon old notebooks containing long-lost family photos, school mementos — and about 60 baseball cards! Most were from 1966 and a bunch were from 1968. I immediately announced my discovery on Facebook, asking for interested buyers to contact me.
It’s amazing how the baseball card world has changed since I bought a five-card package — plus a stick of gum — for 5 cents. Today it’s Big Business!
A 1909 Honus Wagner card — Hall of Fame shortstop Wagner played 21 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates — was recently sold for $6.6 million; Mickey Mantle’s 1952 Yankee rookie card fetched $5.2 million; Babe Ruth’s 1916 card (pre-Yankees) went for $2.46 million. Among today's stars, Angels outfielder Mike Trout's 2011 rookie card went to the top bidder at auction for $3.93 million.
As I surveyed my collection, alas, there was no 1909 Honus Wagner card. No Babe Ruth. There was a Mantle card, but like many of the others in my collection, it was taped into a notebook and removing the tape removed the card’s edges, knocking down its worth.
Indeed, when I looked at the responses on Facebook, others knew the situation. “The tape destroyed them,” wrote one.
Someone else: “I’ll give you 20 bucks.”
Another offered $150.
But a fellow named Chuck said, “$500 for the bunch.”
I invited him over to examine my cards. I thought he’d dismiss some of them and want to give me less money. Indeed, if he was offering $500, surely they were worth more as he wants to make a profit when he resells them.
After flicking through the cards, pointing out the tape marks and noting that a few had been “yellowed from the sun,” he looked at me and asked, “$500?"
$500?! It might not have been enough to open a jazz club or buy lakefront property in the Bahamas, but I took it.
And, as I resumed my cleaning on whatever day that was, I spotted my old Little League equipment. There’s my glove, baseballs and my bat.
My bat! Hit a homer with it when the centerfielder fell down. Hmm. I wonder if someone wants an original “Saul Schachter” bat. I’ll even autograph it!
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