I was rummaging through one of my closets the other day when I happened upon one of the fondest memories from my childhood – my baseball card collection. In it, I have hundreds of valuable cards and other great baseball collectibles that I spent years researching, collecting and safely storing so that one day, I would have a veritable gold mine of my own.
I remember scouring the old Beckett Magazine price guides and seeing such players as Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and, of course, probably the most coveted of all baseball collectibles. One of the rarest commodities of all is the famous Humus Wagner rookie card, valued at $100,000 in the late 1980s.
I would often brag to my parents about how one day, I would be able to sell my baseball cards and other collectibles and retire off of the profits. Naturally, when I found my old card collection that afternoon, I expected a joyful trip down memory lane and the opportunity to see how much my original investment had paid off so far.
I have to say, however, that I was pretty disappointed.
It was not disappointing that I lacked any baseball collectibles of players who were considered the absolute elite of their generation, but rather that so many of them were linked to the infamous Mitchell Report, which tied hundreds of players to steroid abuse. I sifted through card after card, and probably six out of every 10 were suspected of using or had admitted to using performance-enhancing substances.
I still had several great players who played the game clean, guys like Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Tony Gwynn and Mike Schmidt, but the once-comforting thought that I had in my possession a gold mine of baseball collectibles had all but evaporated.
I think the worst part about it is that baseball is the national pastime. It is something that fathers and sons have shared for generations, and as one man tells his son about the great players of his time, the son, whether consciously or not, starts to make his own list of players that he thinks are the greatest he has ever seen.
I know that in the very near future, I will start to take my own son to baseball games, and began teaching him about the sport that is so near and dear to my own heart. He will probably start looking for baseball collectibles of his own that he thinks will be worth a lot of money some day.
I am very pleased to see that Major League Baseball has taken steps to cut down on steroid abuse in baseball, and my hope is that my son grows up admiring players who are steroid-free.
As for whether or not baseball collectibles are still worth collecting, I think the answer is still a resounding “yes,” but collectors should be aware that what once seemed like a sure thing to appreciate in value over time may one day prove otherwise.