Tonawanda News — The article in the newspaper had the proper elements for one of those Disney adventure movies.
“Baseball cards found in attic to fetch millions,” the headline read, followed by “Ohio nephew of pack rat deceased aunt unearths incredible collection.”
Read a little further and you’ll learn the most valuable of the cards are from a series from 1910 known to collectors as “E98.” We’re talking pre-Babe Ruth here. We’re talking Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb and Cy Young. We’re talking Lottery-type money.
Way to go, Ohio nephew. Now, why doesn’t this sort of thing happen to me?
Perhaps it does and it’s my fault for not noticing. These days I’m not a collector of anything (in the investment, hobby or neurosis sense), but I run with a crowd that is: hockey memorabilia, guitars, postcards, etc. I’ve learned that the best way to grow one’s holdings is to stumble over a find and obtain it. Don’t carefully buy ‘em one at a time: Find a pile of it, then weed out what you don’t need.
So I should visit my aunt’s attic in Ohio and trip over a small and mysterious box full of who knows what and I’ll suddenly become a trader in that commodity and it’ll make me rich. Oh boy!
I don’t have an aunt with an attic, in Ohio or anywhere. My own Kenmore attic contained three small boxes, each with a Lionel train car in it, when I moved here 34 years ago, so the only person currently hiding mysteries in my attic is me. (The Lionels were sold at a train show, years later. I netted enough to buy lunch.)
Of course, plenty of things have passed through my hands without my pondering their future worth. Keep something long enough, and it’ll not only become valuable, it’ll come back into style (a handy hint to remember if time traveling). And yet, other than a museum, maybe, who wants the books and toys of my childhood? Or my wife’s vintage Barbie, the clearly played-with one with boxes of homemade clothes?
Some people can toss the accoutrements of their youth like used Kleenex, and move on. They’d rather have a memory of something than the actual something stored away. They have an advantage I’ll never have, of mobility and a kind of freedom and a lack of sentimentality. And all those somethings, piled in stacks or boxes, eventually become liabilities; consider containers full of wondrous textiles, given by someone thinking “Why don’t people care about lace anymore?” to a younger person thinking “What’s with this preoccupation with lace back then?”
Dollar value aside, this may be why we enjoy stories of finding baseball cards in the attic. I once bought an old book in a 50-cent bin and found a Hershey Bar wrapper inside, used as a bookmark. The wrapper was from the 1950s, listed ingredients nearly completely different from the candy bars of today and the text had something of an appreciative courtliness about it, as I recall (“Another fine product of the Hershey Company,” etc.). It was more interesting than the book.
Was the wrapper worth millions? Hell no. Was it worth anything? I suspect someone collects ephemera such as this, but it was in the pre-eBay era that I found it so I never pursued it. Was it a minor incident that added a little color to life and gave my mind a chance to flash onto something different from the calamities of here-and-now? Yes, and trust an old man on this one, you should value those opportunities.
The newspaper article did not mention if that man in Ohio is a baseball fan. He apparently recognizes old baseball cards when he trips over a container of them in his aunt’s attic, though.
There exists a television show old-timers enjoy called “Antiques Roadshow,” something of a cross between an appraisal program, a history lesson and a game show. Stories generally begin with a relative dying, others “going through her things,” finding one easily transferrable treasure or another, then the expert opinion “At auction this would go for $30,000” and a stunned look on an owner’s face.
Typical, but I want to know more about the “going through her things” phase of the adventure. Which relative looked at the piles of dusty boxes of mementos and merchandise with love in his or her eyes, and which with dollar signs?
If you’re of the type that is maintaining an archive of your memories for the next generation to appreciate, I’ve got some sad news to impart, but you’ll be dead by then, so neither of us should worry about it.Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.