Buying Back Dad's Cards
December 17, 2014
by William Szczepanek
Dr. Chris Partin has written a book about baseball cards. But, like most people who write about baseball cards, he is really not writing about baseball cards. In his case he is writing about the bond between a father and son reinforced through their passion for collecting baseball cards. It is about family, people and places along the way, memories of which are all strengthened through their relationship to baseball cards. There are many descriptions of card fronts and backs that all come with a story.
Much of Dr. Partin’s thought process is similar to mine and many others who view cards for how they make them feel. For it is not in the card itself, but in relationships to life that cards retain their true value. I enjoyed reading his book because it tells the story of his life and that of his family members through their many exploits in replacing his father’s collection and expanding on it after it was trashed, like so many others.
Christmas time is another part of our culture that has changed over time. Both Christmas and baseball card collecting have been commoditized and commercialized. The meaning of both have changed and not necessarily for the better.
Since Chris’s father is closer to my age there is probably more similarity between us than between Chris and myself. But as the story unfolds I realized again that many of the feelings for collecting can be experienced in a post-Golden Age of Baseball cards time (after 1952-1974), for as I have indicated many times the Golden Age of Baseball Cards is the time that is important to the individual, not the specific years.
There is a small period of time between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s when collecting cards transitioned from a hobby for young kids to a passion by adults who wanted to share that experience with their kids. After that time cards became a commodity and the relationships became secondary. Dr. Partin bridged this timespan by combining the eras and refashioning the past through the buying, selling and trading of cards, much like it was done in the 50s and 60s, before card shows and ages before the internet. The process brings together friends, families and new acquaintances and expands the lives of many.
The experiences were enlightening to me because they extended what it meant to collect cards beyond my own experiences and explained more fully why the hobby was such a national phenomenon. As a child collecting cards I could not imagine how someone living in a city not close to a Major League team could have an interest in something that was so far away. Being from Chicago we had the Cubs and Sox and saw the Damn Yankees and Dodger Bums as enemies. Little did we know that people from all over the country including Raleigh, North Carolina, Dr. Partin’s home town, were rooting for teams like the Yankees and Dodgers and idolizing the likes of Mantle and Berra and Snider and Campanella. I am especially surprised by the number of players that Chris and his Dad were able to meet through card shows and the fairly lucrative process of autograph signing.
Dr. Partin and I share a number of similar thoughts about cards, one being that the 1956 Mickey Mantle card is something special and shall be deemed the best ever, at least by me. Another implied importance of cards is shown in his persistence in showing the front and back of each card. It is compelling to read his descriptions of the backs of cards and remember them myself from more than 50 years ago, when I would devour that information on each card I possessed.
Thank you Dr. Partin for expanding our baseball card horizons.
If you would like purchase a copy of the book you can find it here.