Friday, June 26, 2009

Thoughts On the Passing of A Fellow Collector

Thoughts on the Passing of a Fellow Collector

(by Mike DeNero)

I debated whether I, a mere sportscard collector turned dealer, should attempt to eulogize Michael Jackson, the "King of Pop." After all, other people are far better equipped for the task than me -- plus, ours is only a sportscards e-Newsletter and accompanying blog. But by trolling the Internet the night of his untimely death, I quickly realized that our blog (i.e., a blog about collecting and collectors) is quite appropriate, as Michael Jackson was one of us -- yes, the King of Pop was a collector to the degree that most of us can only dream of.

By the time I was six-years-old (1976), I was spending my entire weekly allowance (fifty cents) on baseball and football cards. Because of my limited "income" at the time, my insatiable appetite for sportscards was far from quenched. I remember vividly a recurring dream of my childhood -- it involved me walking down to the local five-and-dime with my little red wagon in tow and, upon my arrival, discovering that the waxpacks of cards were free and that the store’s saintly proprietors were allowing me to take as many packs (and even boxes full of waxpacks) as my wagon could hold. The image of me walking home with my little red wagon full of cards is as vivid as any of my actual childhood memories.

As one of the greatest spenders of money in the history of that noble pastime, Michael Jackson lived my childhood dream … hundreds and possibly thousands of times. If you have ever seen the film footage of the King of Pop in a certain Las Vegas antique shop -- "I’ll take two of these, six of these … I’ll take one of these … wait, is that a painting of Apollo? I’ll take that too …" -- you know exactly what I mean. Yes, Michael Jackson was the quintessential collector; from comic books to antiques, from prized entertainment and popular culture memorabilia to Disneyana, he was one of the biggest collectors in the world. As such, Michael Jackson knew the thrill of suddenly finding something, a collectible, that he had to own, even though he knew not of its existence seconds before -- the essence of the collecting addiction. You and I know that feeling, too.

Yes, there is a little Michael Jackson in all of us.

The Greatest Auction That Never Happened

Just a few short months ago (from April 14th through April 25th), Julien’s Auctions, the leading entertainment memorabilia auctioneer, presented The Collection of Michael Jackson exhibit at Beverly Hills’ famous Beverly Wilshire hotel, featuring Michael’s prized collectibles and personal memorabilia from his storied career. Interestingly, all of the items featured in the exhibit were originally scheduled to be auctioned by Julien’s at that time. The massive five-volume auction catalog featured nearly 1,400 items, which were forecasted to rake in approximately $30 million at the auction (although the auction never occurred, you can still purchase the five volume catalog collection for $500, or individual catalogs for $100 each, by visiting Julien’s Auctions website).

How did a planned auction of Michael’s collection and personal memorabilia turn into an exhibit? While Michael’s notorious spending habits, high legal bills, and presumably underperforming investments led him to a point at which he needed to generate a large amount of cash. The auction seemed to be the easiest way to solve his cash flow problem. But, it appears that Michael Jackson quickly suffered consignor’s remorse. In early March, he sought an injunction to prevent the auction; eventually, he and Julien’s settled amicably just prior to April 14th, turning the planned auction into an exhibit, after which all 1,400 items were returned to Jackson.

Interestingly, on March 5th, on or about the same date that he turned to the legal process to prevent the auction, the King of Pop announced that he would play ten concerts at London’s O2 Arena. Due to overwhelming demand, the ten show series ballooned to fifty, allegedly much to Jackson’s reported dismay and anxiety, at least initially. While the reports, believable or otherwise, of Jackson’s reluctance to play a series of fifty shows at the age of fifty are ubiquitous, at a minimum, we know that he postponed the start of the tour from July 8th to July 13th.

What does this all mean? To me, a lifelong collector (of sportscards, animation art, etc.), the timeline above means that while Jackson needed to raise an enormous amount of cash, he initially took the road of auctioning off his collectibles and personal memorabilia. But, a true collector only sells his stuff as a last resort!

As one of the greatest entertainers in history, Michael Jackson had another option: hit the road to play some concerts, whether he wanted to or not. If you’ve seen the film footage of his press conference announcing the initial ten shows in London, interestingly named the This Is It! concert series, you see an entertainer who, at a minimum, is unsure of whether hitting the stage for a comeback tour is the proper (or comfortable) decision for him at that point in his life and career.

But, as a true addicted collector, he chose a path that reportedly provided him great anxiety (again, at least initially). We collectors would have made the same choice -- do whatever we can to avoid losing our collections. As such, we understand Jackson’s decision and sympathize with him in a way that non-collectors cannot.

Yes, there is a little Michael Jackson in all of us.


For now, like many others in the coming weeks, I will convey to you my personal Michael Jackson stories. Please understand and forgive my indulgence.

I was born in 1970. While that year is of no obvious importance, for the present purposes, it means I grew up with Michael Jackson. His Off The Wall album was the first I ever purchased with my own money -- and due to my childhood addiction to sportscards, it was an especially meaningful purchase, as I either spent my birthday money to acquire it, or I saved up my allowance for several weeks to do so. Either way, as a ten-year-old sportscard addict, I thought it advisable to spend $5.00 on Off The Wall, rather than several waxpacks, a torturous decision which, presumably, weighed on my mind for days before I ultimately strolled into my local Sam Goody.

In 1982, the same year I managed to put together my first complete TOPPS baseball set (thanks to my friend Steve, who traded me the elusive #662 Luis Salazar to complete it), I heard Billie Jean smoking the air from my older sister’s clock radio to my bedroom across the hall. I had never heard anything like it; and I have since not heard its peer. Needless to say, I was one of 25+ million who spent a fiver on Thriller (incidentally, I am listening to the Ipod version of it as I write). While I was unable to score tickets in the summer of ‘84 to The Jacksons’ Victory Tour, which stopped at Giants Stadium, about an hour from my hometown on the Jersey Shore, I recall listening enviously to Z100’s (New York’s most popular hit radio station of the day) pre-concert coverage of the first show on my massive boom-box as I watched the New York Yankees on WPIX (channel 11) with the sound turned down -- my belated apologies to Yankees broadcasters Phil "the Scooter" Rizzuto, Frank Messer, and Bill White.

As a mature seventeen-year-old in 1987, I purchased Bad at Tower Records in New York’s Greenwich Village either the day of, or shortly after, its release. While that memory is vivid to me, I am unsure of the exact circumstances, as my parents typically only allowed me to venture into the Big Apple to attend concerts and sporting events at Madison Square Garden. While I recall purchasing the record, I don’t recall attending a sporting event or a concert that day. Yet, this confusion provides me with the perfect transition to the story of my first Michael Jackson concert, which was on March 3, 1988, at Madison Square Garden. What an experience!

How did I get tickets? My kind mother allowed me to spend the night (by myself) waiting in line outside Jack’s Music Shop in Red Bank, New Jersey -- Jack's had a Ticketmaster location inside the store.

Inside Madison Square Garden, I literally got chills during the show’s opening seconds -- with curtain closed, a huge panoramic scoreboard was lowered to reveal an animated version of the King of Pop’s feet (floods, short white sox and black shoes, of course) dancing his signature moves, culminating with his patented short vertical jump with tiptoe landing; this final introductory animated move was accompanied by the eardrum splitting crash of a guitar strum and the opening of the curtain to a smoke-filled stage commanded by the King of Pop himself. I cannot possibly describe the excitement in words -- as one of my college professors once told me, "the written word can be such a pain, sometimes."

Months later, I had the privilege of witnessing the show again, albeit this time at a different, but equally legendary venue, London’s Wembley Stadium. My Aunt Robin, who always has been one of my favorite persons on the planet, took me to London as a high school graduation present (not a bad gift, eh?). Three of us (my Aunts Robin and Karol and me) landed in London’s Heathrow Airport the day after Michael Jackson’s celebrated arrival. On the plane, we watched the news clips from the previous day. Shortly after our arrival, I walked into a record shop near our hotel and asked the clerk how I could score tickets to one of Jackson’s five sold-out Wembley shows -- "Somewhere in Piccadilly Circus," he replied, as he stroked his pathetically sparse goatee. So, off to the tube we went in search of a "tout" (the colloquial term for a "scalper").

As fate would have it. We found a tout’s "shop" located up an incredibly narrow stairway above another local business. "How much for a Michael Jackson ticket?," I asked, trembling at the thought of what his answer would be. "Thirty-five pounds, mate," was his wonderful reply. "Thirty-five pounds? That’s it?," I answered, as only an excited stupid American teenager could have. "Where are the seats?" "No seats, mate," he answered tersely. What he meant was that there were no assigned seats in the 100,000 "seat" Wembley Stadium -- all the tickets were general admission.

Days after we paid the £105 for three tickets (a price double face-value, a steal considering the circumstances), we rode the crowded tube to Wembley. Upon arriving inside Wembley Stadium before opening act, Kim Wilde, was about to take the stage, we chose "seats" in the stands near the side of the stage, at which point my Aunt Robin said to me, "If you really wanna go stand on the field, go ahead. We’ll try to find you outside somewhere after the show."

So, I ventured to the pitch on which so many legendary international footballers had tread before me. The sense of history that Wembley provided was simply overwhelming. And then it happened, on the stadium’s video screen, they showed a live clip of Prince Charles and Princess Diana meeting the King of Pop backstage -- apparently, Michael forked over a huge donation to the Prince’s Trust that night. Minutes later, Prince Charles and Princess Diana entered the stadium and took their place in the Royal box. Here I was, standing on the Wembley pitch, thirty yards from Princess Diana (and Chuck too), surrounded by wonderfully drunken Europeans waiting for the King of Pop to take the stage -- a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forgot.

After the show, as I strolled aimlessly around the perimeter of Wembley, I felt a tug on my shirt. My aunt Karol had found me in a sea of 100,000 people. As we arrived in the tube station, which was the most crowded place I have ever been inside, I was literally lifted off my feet for seconds at a time due to the thickness and excitement of the crowd.

Fast-forward three months later to October 3, 1988 -- Jackson schedules three shows at New Jersey’s Meadowlands Arena. I scored tickets in the upper deck and took my mom for her birthday. Before the show, my older sister, who did not have tickets, decided to drive up to the show with us. Her thinking was that she’d score one, albeit for a princely sum, outside the show. We stopped to have dinner with my cousin (who was one year older than me), aunt and uncle, and grandparents, who lived minutes from the arena.

My cousin, also a fan of the King of Pop since his childhood, decided to accompany us to the show. The plan was for he and my sister to score a pair of tickets and, thus, sit together. For this purpose, my cousin brought an enormous wad of cash with him. Outside the arena, we found a woman who was selling two tickets (5th row, center, allegedly), that nobody believed were real --- she was selling them at their $50 face value (she claimed to have received them for free from her father, who had "connections" to the arena). My cousin quickly stroked $100 off his wad of cash and grab the tickets. They were real, all right. Minutes later, as my mother and I sat in the upper deck, I enviously peered through my binoculars and saw my sister and cousin walk the length of the floor to be seated by the usher 5 rows from the stage. Blimey!

After the show, my cousin and sister were still in hysterics. My cousin (a fellow sportscard addict) was screaming, "It was awesome; and you’ll never guess who we saw? Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee and Vince Coleman. They all signed my ticket stub! Look!"

Yep, the three prominent members of the St. Louis Cardinals, who finished their season against the Mets the day before the concert, decided that it was worthwhile to stay in New York an extra two nights, just so they could take their families to see the King of Pop.


While I have not had the opportunity to attend another of the King of Pop’s concerts, I have remained one of his millions of fans throughout my life. And as a fellow collector and father, he and I shared a common bond. But while it is difficult to describe accurately, I can only express that I am deeply saddened by his passing. However, I take comfort in the fact that he was probably welcomed to a better place by Princess Diana, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Fred Astaire, and Gene Kelly.

Michael, thank you for the memories ...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mike DeNero's Neighborhood: June 2009

Mike DeNero's Neighborhood was created by superstar cartoonist Jim Hunt ( To view a synopsis of the comic strip and/or sketches of the four characters with whom you will become familiar, please click here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

1953-1955 Johnston Cookies Milwauke Braves Sets

Charlie, Bob and Me & The 1953-1955 Johnston Cookies Milwaukee Braves Sets
(by Mike DeNero)

"Holy cow! That ball almost made it to the Johnston Cookies factory!" - Earl Gillespie (voice of the Milwaukee Braves from 1953 through 1963)


Where are you, Charlie? I’ve tried in vain to track you down. I have your set; you know, the one you worked so hard to put together way back in good ol’ 1955. The set that you took such great care of and that, at the time, probably sat near your bunk-bed, underneath your John Wayne poster and next to your Chuck Berry 45s. The set that undoubtedly provided you so much joy when you completed it back in your hometown of Milwaukee, the same year the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the New York Yankees to win the World Series. Are you still with us, Charlie? Or have you passed on to the field of dreams? Wherever you are, Charlie, thanks for leaving behind a fantastic piece of history.

Charlie is the pseudonym of the original owner of a 1955 Johnston Cookies Milwaukee Braves 36-card regional set that is currently housed in pristine Sportscard Guaranty ("SGC") holders (colloquially known as "slabs"). Charlie owned the cards in 1955 -- we, Mike DeNero’s Vintage Sportscards, LLC, own them today, at least until someone decides that they would fit more appropriately in his private collection, rather than in the inventory of a sportscard dealer. In the meantime, I’m calling all Charlies.

Charlie’s Pursuit of the 1955 Johnston Cookies Milwaukee Braves Set … And My Quest to Find Charlie

The 1955 Johnston Cookies Milwaukee Braves set was released in six separate panels -- each panel featured six cards. The panels were inserted into packages of cookies and other confections manufactured by Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s very own Robert A. Johnston Co. (the "Johnston Cookie Company"), located just past Milwaukee County Stadium’s center field fence. Attached to the first player card in each panel were two informational cards (each a "flap"). One flap’s face displayed an advertisement for Johnston’s "cookies, crackers and sundae toppings" transfixed over a sketch of County Stadium in the background. The reverse delineated the list of players in each six-card "series."

The second flap’s face, titled "How to Order Trading Cards," provided instructions on how to obtain one of the six series. The reverse took the place of the face of an envelope, as the Johnston Cookie Company folded the panels accordion-style, taped them shut, and simply mailed them to collectors who ordered them.

Charlie’s name and childhood address appears on the address flap of each of our panels. Thus, to complete his set of 36 cards, little Charlie had to do the following tasks several times: check the box next to the series he wanted; enclose a nickel (yes, five cents) with his order; and include either 1) a label, wrapper, or box end from any Johnston cookie or cracker package or 2) a label from any "take home" can of Johnston hot fudge, butterscotch, or chocolate syrup sundae toppings. I sure hope little Charlie had a sweet tooth!

Armed with Charlie’s name and childhood address, I was determined to contact him -- specifically, I wanted to ask him about his childhood ownership of our 1955 Johnston Cookies set. So off to the Internet I went, as would anyone else who lives in Alexandria, Virginia, but is trying to locate a person he’s never met and knows nothing about, other than the fact that he lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin approximately fifty-five years ago. As luck would have it, I found two potential Charlies on So I called them - both of them. Turns out, neither was our Charlie -- or each pretended he wasn't our Charlie when I blurted what must have seemed to be a ridiculously odd reason for my telephone call.

Yes, my expedient, yet valiant, attempt to find Charlie yielded a hugely disappointing result, as I was excited to speak with someone who loved the 1955 Johnston Cookies cards in his youth much like I loved the 1977 and 1978 Burger King New York Yankees cards in mine (needless to say, I am New Jersey born and raised).

The 1953-1955 Johnston Cookies Milwaukee Braves Sets: Generally

While I did not discover the three Milwaukee Braves Johnston Cookies sets issued from 1953 through 1955 until nearly fifty years after their release, I have since become enchanted with them for several reasons.

First, the former stockbroker (and thus, salesman) in me loves the fact that the 1953-1955 Johnston Cookies Milwaukee Braves sets were produced primarily for one reason: to push product -- and in this case, the products were presumably sweet and delicious ones! One peek at the backs of the cards displays the importance of such product pushing -- in large letters at the bottom of each card in the 1953 and 1954 sets appears the slogan "No One Makes Cookies Like Johnston." In 1955, the slogan changed to "Buy Johnston - A Sure Hit Every Time."

Second, although the 1953 set features few stars (e.g., Eddie Mathews; Warren Spahn), it represents a new birth for the struggling team that moved from Boston to Milwaukee just weeks before the 1953 season began. The hapless Boston Braves closed out the 1952 season with a dismal 64-89 record. To add insult to injury, their home attendance totaled less than 800,000 for the entire season. Upon moving to Milwaukee, the Braves turned their fortunes around, finishing 92-62 in 1953 and playing their home games before a Major League Baseball record 1.8 million spectators. In just four short years, the Braves would defeat the New York Yankees in Game 7 to capture the 1957 World Series title, sending Wisconsin into a state of frenzy.

Third, the 1954 Johnston Cookies set not only features oversized cards with a unique shape, but each card number corresponds to its subject player’s uniform number (e.g., #21 Warren Spahn, #41 Eddie Mathews) -- cards depicting team trainers, Joseph Taylor and Dr. Charles Lacks, do not bear numbers, for obvious reasons. The result of the uniform-numbered cards yields a particularly noteworthy factual tidbit: the Hank Aaron rookie card is #5, although Hammerin’ Hank is known for his patented #44. During his rookie campaign, Aaron wore the #5, as he also donned when he played in the Negro Leagues with the Indianapolis Clowns in 1951. He didn’t sport the #44 until the 1955 season.

Fourth, although the 1953 and 1954 sets are not overly difficult to acquire, they are relatively rare. For example, in a recent eBay search for professionally graded 1954 Hank Aaron cards, of the forty-eight that resulted, only four were Hank’s Johnston Cookies card -- the other forty-four (no pun intended) were Hank’s Topps counterpart. Thus, we can state generally that Aaron’s Johnston Cookies rookie card is approximately ten times as rare as his Topps.

Fifth, all photographs that appear on the cards were taken at the Braves’ spring training facility, Braves Field, located in Bradenton, Florida. Each set’s photographer took a different approach as well. The 1953 cards feature snapshots of the players from the chest up. Each player appears to be standing near the middle of the infield with the grandstand behind him -- two players, however, were photographed with their backs to the outfield. The 1954 set’s images typically captured the player from the chest up as well, but this time, the players leaned against the chain-linked fence backstop -- the result is that the rickety metal folding chairs on which spectators were forced to sit can easily be seen and counted in the photographs (e.g., the Aaron rookie). Many of the players, however, are more animated in the 1954 set than they were in the 1953 set, as they are holding a glove, ball, or bat -- two photos even snapped catchers Charlie White and Paul Burris in the crouch position. The 1955 set, on the other hand, features a plethora of vivid color photos of players in a variety of action "poses" -- one look at a panel of cards alerts the collector to the bright and colorful nature of the set compared with those released the prior two seasons.

My Search for An Alternate Charlie

Considering the aforementioned qualities of the 1953-1955 Johnston Cookies sets, my love of the sets is warranted. Due to my borderline obsession, I possess that certain characteristic shared by many vintage sportscard collectors: we love the hobby, and certain cards/sets, to such a degree, that we consistently seek to proselytize our passion in an attempt to convert non-collector sports fans ("non-believers"), an exercise which, more often than not, results in our disappointment and puzzlement when the non-believers inevitably not only fail miserably to reciprocate our enthusiasm, but are also puzzled, if not a little freaked-out, by it. But, with Charlie I didn’t think I would need to convert him, as he once shared the collecting passion. To borrow a sales term, I had a warm lead at my fingertips, a Glengarry lead, so to speak! Thus, my failed attempt to contact Charlie disappointed me greatly.

Like any great salesman, I picked myself up by the bootstraps and set out to fetch me a new Glengarry lead. That lead turned out to be Bob Buege, the author of The Milwaukee Braves: A Baseball Eulogy, and the co-author of Eddie Mathews' autobiography, titled Eddie Mathews and the National Pastime -- quite possibly, I had found the greatest and most loyal Milwaukee Braves fan of all-time. Surely he would share my passion for the 1953-1955 Johnston Cookies sets, right?

I purchased Bob's book, The Milwaukee Braves: A Baseball Eulogy, read it, and was amazed at the level of detail with which Bob chronicled the history of the Milwaukee Braves before their ultimate relocation to Atlanta after the 1965 season. During my subsequent interview with Bob, I discovered that his passion for the Braves, who he rooted for from the time he was seven-years-old (in 1953) until they moved to Atlanta when he was nineteen, was even more real than that which jumps off the pages of his book. His colorful memories are stored vividly in his mind, even more than a half century later

For example, Bob recalled attending his first Braves games with his father at the age of seven (a double-header against the St. Louis Cardinals) on July 5, 1953. Warren Spahn pitched for the Braves in the opener. Thus, Spahn threw the first Major League pitch Bob ever saw in person. He sat in the left-field bleachers that day, just paces from legendary visiting left-fielder, Stan Musial. He recalled the "overwhelming" sensory images of the afternoon: the vivid dark green hue of the infield and outfield grass, Spahn's unique high leg-kick, the smell of smoldering cigar smoke, the spectators sporting their leisure suits and matching fedoras (yes, Sinatra’s style even made its way to Milwaukee), the dinger hit by Johnny Logan, which clanged dangerously against the left-field foul pole, just yards from where Bob and his father sat, and bounced innocently onto the left field grass in front of Stan The Man.

But, during our interview, when I asked the important baseball card collecting questions, I learned that although Bob still carried a torch for the Milwaukee Braves of his youth, and that he collected baseball cards as a kid (incidentally, his first card, a 1953 Bowman Carl Furillo, was given to him by a classmate who had "doubles" of the card), Bob not only doesn’t own any Johnston Cookies cards, but he also has not been a collector since his childhood. Et tu, Buege?

Reflections on Charlie and Bob

As usual, even though I possessed two Glengarry leads, my effort to find a fellow baseball card obsessive proved fruitless, albeit for a different reason with Bob than with Charlie. But, while I finished 0 for 2 in my Johnston Cookies Braves quest, I still can revel in an imaginary conversation between Charlie and me.

Had we spoken, might I have learned that Charlie was seven-years-old when he collected his 1955 Johnston Cookies set, as was I when I collected the 1977 Burger King Yankees and as was Bob when he attended his first Milwaukee Braves game in 1953? Perhaps Charlie needed to do additional chores around the house to raise the six nickels he needed to purchase all six panels of cards to complete his 1955 set. Perhaps Charlie carried the panels to grammar school with him and presented them to his classmates during "show and tell." Perhaps, had Charlie learned of the current whereabouts of his 1955 Johnston Cookies set, a nostalgic tear would have sparkled in his eye. Perhaps, the 1955 Johnston Cookies set was the last treasured possession of his youth that he sold off to help pay for his children's education or to start a college savings plan for a grandchild. Perhaps, his mom gave the set away to someone when he moved out of his parents’ house years later. Perhaps, he still collects the Johnston Cookies cards, but sold this particular set only after he pieced together the highest graded set in the SGC Registry. One can only imagine … and hope.

Copyright © 2009 Mike DeNero's Vintage Sportscards, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Confessions of a Vintage Cardboard Junkie - June 2009

The Plunge
By K. Aaron Cohen

Having been asked to pen a (hopefully) entertaining monthly column on the matter of vintage baseball cards and their collectors, I think it fitting – for my initial foray – to relate the tale of my first pre-war card purchase and the thrill it provided me.

But as the great Yogi Berra was reported to have said to a reporter prior to an interview, "Before I talk to you, I gotta tell you something." Thus, before I start, let’s first examine how such an intrinsically trivial act (buying a card) could provide such a buzz - my amateur attempt at self-psychoanalysis, I suppose. What compels otherwise responsible adults to shell out bodacious cash for little pieces of cardboard featuring pictures of dead white guys on them?

Is it the only means we have of grasping a long bygone era, a remnant of the narratives of our fathers, or the stories we read by lamplight long after our mothers thought we were fast asleep? Shouldn’t we have a personal answer to this question if only to justify our habit to our wives or girlfriends, who often are unable to see any rationale for this hobby and think we’re crazy?

Perhaps the discovery and purchase of these cards is our "archeological dig" into the early days of baseball – with a T206 common being the plentiful arrowhead and an E107 Christy Mathewson the rare intact Etruscan urn. After all, these late nineteenth century and early twentieth century Boys of Summer are, at least to many of us, our cultural equivalent of the Greek Gods – as there is most certainly a mythological aspect to these legendary heroes. What is the word "Ruthian" if not an updated synonym of "Herculean?"

Having spent most of my professional life overseas (China, France, and Africa, to name a few), I ventured back into card collecting about nine years ago when I returned stateside in 2000. I started enthusiastically, albeit predictably, with the late 1950s cards I bought at the drugstore counter way back when, usually with the loose change I had stolen from my mother's handbag. Oh yes, I suppose we collect to recapture those innocent, carefree days of yore – but I digress.

I was bitten by the pre-war card bug suddenly one day about eight years ago when I attended my first ever card show, a small gathering in Northern Virginia. As I recall it, I timidly approach a dealer’s table finding myself within earshot of a conversation he’s having with a potential customer, who is holding a T206 Walter Johnson (portrait). Oh man, Walter Johnson! The nostalgia boom was lowered and smashed me right in the kisser! Obviously not owing to my own memories of the unparalleled hurler known as the "Big Train" was I overcome, but to my father’s, who was born in 1908 and raised in the Washington, D.C. He often regaled me with his remembrances of having gone to Griffith Stadium as a wee lad and witnessing the Big Train’s sizzling buggywhip deliveries.

I overhear the dealer quote him a price of $250 for the card, a princely sum at the time, particularly inasmuch as I had probably never previously purchased any card north of $100. The prospective buyer replies, "If you have it at the next show, I’ll probably take it." At that moment, my eavesdropping (uh, I mean overhearing) morphs into action -- I ask if I can have a look at this gem of a piece of slightly tattered cardboard. Upon closer inspection, it appears to be nice solid example.

I somehow achieve a synaptic bypass, in other words, I avoid the usual question to self, "Are you nuts?," and then say reflexively, "I’ll give you $250 for it," to which the nice man behind the table replies that the "other guy" was another dealer and $250 was a "dealer price" at which he was willing to "flip" the card to him. However, he then utters the magic words, "but if you heard $250, then $250 it is." I quickly stroke the check, giving any modicum of good sense and restraint the proverbial stiff-arm.

I walk out holding the card with a young Walter Johnson staring right back at me, my arm hairs standing on end. That did it, my first hit of crack cocaine from which I have yet to recover. I still get that same feeling each time I look at it.

I am still an addict, with no prospect for recovery or intervention from friends or relatives. I do however still enjoy the companionship of that monkey on my back.

Copyright © 2009 Mike DeNero's Vintage Sportscards, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Mike DeNero’s Announces Two New Columnists for Its Monthly E-Newsletter and Blog

Mike DeNero’s Announces New Columnists

We are proud to announce the addition of two new monthly columns (and columnists) to our e-Newsletter and blog. The first column, which debuts below, is titled Confessions of a Vintage Cardboard Junkie, written by addicted pre-war baseball card collector K. Aaron Cohen. Ken’s first offering is appropriately named The Plunge. The second new column, debuting in next month’s e-Newsletter, titled Keith’s Key Kard Korner, will be written by Keith Weinhold, who penned the article, Register This!, which appeared in our May 2009 e-Newsletter and can be read in its entirety by clicking here. We are happy to have Ken and Keith join our team and look forward to their thoughts, recollections, and opinions in the coming months.