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The Legend of Bam Bam Meulens

The summer of 1989 was difficult for a 13 year old Red Sox fan.  This was at the peak of the card collecting craze.  Everyone was planning on retiring from their baseball card collection.  If only I had learned about supply and demand earlier, I wouldn’t have so many 1988 Donruss cards in my basement.  Rookie cards were the hot commodity.  The cards everyone wanted were Todd Van Poppel, Rookie of the Year Jerome Walton, Big Ben McDonald and Phil Plantier.  A kid name Ken Griffey Jr had just come up, but he was no Bam Bam Meulens.


In the 1980’s, everyone was catching the collecting bug.  What was a one company hobby became flooded with new brands coming out each year.  Topps was the big dog.  From the 1950’s with the debut of the legendary 1952 Topps set with Mickey Mantle’s rookie to the final lone collectors set of 1980, they were the only game in town.  Fleer, Donruss, Upper Deck, Bowman and Sportsflix all came along and offered glossier photos, brighter colors, and action photos, basically everything that Topps wasn’t.

Baby Boomers realized the cards they put in their bike spokes were now worth thousands of dollars.  Their favorite cards were played in a flip game that basically made the chance of their cards being graded well now a days, virtually impossible.  The Baby Boomers now had money and they were going to get in on the Sports Collectors business.  They were not going to miss the boat twice.

I had them all.  I treated them with care and now…they are worthless.  The 1969 Topps Mickey Mantle error (which was stolen in a home invasion, but replaced by a friend) is still in my collection still has value.  My childhood collection, which I spent hundreds upon thousands of dollars on is basically worthless outside of sentimental value and a few outliers.  When doing estate sales, people who inherit these card collections are ultimately disappointed as they were thinking their father’s collection was their $1,000,000 find.  That has happened once.  Most find that the collection is worth maybe a few hundred bucks.  It’s deflating.

There is still fun to be had.  Cards from that generation can still have value based on condition and scarcity of the card.  For example, Topps put out a Tiffany set.  This is a glossy set with a nicer card stock.  You have those sets, they have value.  Another surprise is the 1990 Topps Desert Storm cards.  These cards were distributed by Topps to the soldiers overseas.  They were limited edition packs and the odds of them getting back in pristine condition was limited to the care of a soldier in the deserts of Iraq.  These have value and I’ve never seen a complete set.  

There are some other  variation cards such as the “Fuck Face” Billy Ripken 1989 Fleer card.  Cal’s brother wrote “Fuck Face” on the knob of his bat as a prank.  This was corrected by Fleer, but there were many variations.  There was the black box correction, the white box correction, the lines across the curse word.  Each variation carried it’s own value.

Trading cards was a lot of fun.  I traded my brother Tom “Flash” Gordon and Bo Jackson cards for his #1 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr cards.  He still hasn’t let that go after all these years.  I actually gave him one back as an adult.  If the Red Sox made a bad trade, he would state, “They took advantage of the Padres the way you took advantage of me by stealing all my Griffey’s.”

If you have anything pre-1980, hang onto them.  They have value.  The value isn’t anything you can retire on, but the memories is what it is all about.  I still have that Bam Bam Meulen’s card in the card collecting cabinet my step father made for me.  He was going to be the next Joe DiMaggio to the Red Sox Phil Planter being the next Ted Williams.  Expectations were missed, but the hunt sure was fun.

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