I tried to sell a few shoe boxes and some binders of old baseball cards that I had collected when I was a kid, prior to moving out to San Diego. I hadn’t as much as opened one of the beat-up old binders since I was nearly eleven years old. I remembered when I was a kid, my friends used to go to a place that bought and sold old baseball cards not too far from my parents place. I drove up and sure enough, it was still open nearly 15 years later.
I walked in carrying three binders and two shoe boxes filled with odds and ends from when I collected every different type of sports card from first grade through the early parts of sixth grade. As expected, I was the only customer in the establishment. It was a pack-rat’s fantasy of assorted sports cards, boxes and cases stuffed to capacity stacked five feet high left just enough room for a narrow walkway through the shop. Cards were growing up walls and had even stretched up to the ceiling towards the back of the store. There were display cases on top of display cases on top of even more display cases filled with cards. Most of them were old athletes from decades ago, mostly ancient heroes from baseball, basketball, and football. There weren’t any prices anywhere there didn’t seem to be much in the way labeling on anything. I couldn’t understand how a business could be run like this. I made sure not to topple over any of the white boxes of cards that were nearly spilling out into the tiny walkway. I made my way up to the “front” where I found some space on the floor in front of the main display case set down my heavy haul of cards as two older men eyed me blankly but said nothing.
“Hi,” I said in a friendly tone, “I’m moving to the West coast and was hoping to get some money for my collection of cards here.”
I watched one of the men roll his eyes and walk away towards a dark back room leaving me with the younger putz of the two.
“Put one of the boxes up here,” the man said, rubbing the counter-top with his fat fingers.
He opened the first box and pulled out a few cards. He silently looked at me then back at the cards. He let out an aggravated sigh as if I was scum for not knowing that I was setting foot in the holyland of cards. He tossed the small stack of cards back into the box and then grabbed the binders. He opened one of them to a random page in the middle and began turning the plastic pages. The other idiot came over shortly after and began flipping through a few cards in the second shoe box.
“Got anything that’s worth more than forty cents?” one of them said shuffling through a second stack of cards.
I wasn’t sure if he was serious at first, so I said nothing and allowed the other doofus to join in and ridicule me for awhile about how much my cards “sucked” and for my “sheer lack of good cards.”
At first I was offended, but I started to think about how funny the situation was. A mumbling grown man in his late 50’s hunched over a shoe box was trying to insult me by putting down the thin pieces of cardboard I had collected as a child.
They both had moved onto the second box when the phone rang. The younger one answered the call and propped the receiver between his fat face and his shoulder while he continued to look through my cards.
“Yeah I’m just looking at this one guy’s cards he just brought in… I’m going to low ball him, these things are worthless.” he said to the person on the phone.
At that moment I could tell we were about to enjoy ourselves a good old fashion “battle of the wits” at a sports memorabilia & card shop.
I stood there watching him finish up his conversation and hang the phone. He settled up to the display case, “I can’t offer you much, it’s almost not worth my time to go through these things,” the guy said.
I cringed to think of what he actually did in his free time.
“Not to mention, there’s absolutely nothing good in here. I’ll give you $10,” he said putting his hands on his hips and sticking out his fat belly.
“Yeah,” I said sheepishly starting to pick up the boxes, “I’d probably have better cards if I didn’t have to deal with the confines of growing up and becoming an adult or having a sex life. Or just a life in general. But you guys wouldn’t know about that kind of thing. I guess I’ll sell them on craigslist. Thanks boys.”
The guy was stunned. I turned and headed for the door but not before spotting a display case holding a hologram “charizard” Pokémon card, and I nearly lost it.
I started to laugh while pushing the door open, “Real fucking winner over here!” I shouted as the door started to close behind me.
I got home and realized I’d left one the shoe boxes of cards sitting on the floor of the shop. I was willing to let it go considering the entertainment I got out of it and the lesson it provided; some things are just easier to throw out or give away rather than sacrifice your time and dignity trying to make a ‘buck’ on them.
It makes me think George Carlin was onto something when he said: “Isn’t it funny that your shit is stuff, and other people’s stuff is shit?”