Friday, August 11th, 2006 at 8:24 pm  |  31 responses

OLD SCHOOL FRIDAY – The Collector Part I

Old School Friday: The “Bowman” collector takes a look back. Part II next friday.

By Jake Appleman

When I was a kid, I used to collect basketball cards. And when I say “collect basketball cards”, I mean that many school days ended with, “I’m going to the card store, I’ll be back in time for dinner…Work on my game? The court will always be there; the store closes in four hours.” This habit lasted into my early teens.

Some people grew up shoe fiends. I grew up obsessing over whether or not I’d be able to see my face in the reflection of a refractor. Topps Finest, I loved you. Fleer Ultra, I think we dated. Upper Deck, collecting you was more fun than sitting in you. Bowman’s Best, I think you were my baby, but you never treated me right. UD3, you were the fake boobs of the card industry. Skybox, you did you, and I still have respect for you even though it didn’t work out between us.

Collecting became an addiction. Pulling inserts became the new gambling—I would feel around the box for the pack that felt different until the guy behind the counter yelled at me. And then the market over expanded itself. More importantly, I stopped caring.

Also important to my loss of interest in the card game: the star of my collection was and still is Penny Hardaway.

This reality completely debunked the saying, “A Penny saved is a Penny earned.”

A Penny saved is a childhood stab wound.

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  • Chris O’Leary

    Totally feel you on the cards, man. I learned the faces of the NBA by busting open boxes of 90-91 Hoops and Skybox. The jewel of my collection was my David Robinson RC. I think we all know how that turned out.

  • Marco

    RIP Fleer.

    I absolutely miss Fleer, especially Fleer Ultra. I hated Upper Deck and Topps though.

    Like the rest of you, I learnt the NBA faces from collecting – Hoops 92-93 and Fleer 93-94 for me! You end up collecting so much you get quadruples though.

  • Chris O’Leary

    Yeah, cards were cool when they were pre-insert crazy. It’s cool when you get one of those rare ones (my friend puleld a 1/3 auto’d Stackhouse upper deck card with a piece of the ASG floor in it a few years ago), but when you’re paying like 11 bucks per pack, what’s the point?

  • steven

    i agree with you on the cards, i still collect penny cards & i have around 60 or 70(traded them for a $120 michael jordan card). more than a couple of them rookie cards. still havnt checked to see how much they would be worth, probly not a lot anymore right?please write back on my email..

  • Josh

    When i was younger, my Dad bought the entire topps basketball collection in like 94 or 95 i had some sick cards.

  • Mighty

    basketball cards! gosh i don’t know where to start…well fleer 90-91 and hoops 90-91 got me started but it was upper deck 91-92 that really made me love them! that set had those cool holograms for inserts and alot of mj cards too

    favorite inserts were, “famous nicknames” i think ultra had that one…the MJ of that had big bold letters of AIR printed on the card as compared to the other players nicknames! slick silver were good ones as well FLEER METAL! fresh foundations yo! that looked so cool on a 9page card holder with all of em rookies with their caps on! I can’t forget those big nba jam cards for the big pics =) the collector’s choice predictor card!! watching a player get 30 made it much more fun yo! along with that player’s club random platinum ones and hahaha, it had a dr naismith subset about players doing moves or something! if you get lucky u can get those hot packs which had every card tagged with a players club hologram!

    too much more but that and topps finest had crazy ass high priced rc’s! plus that protective sheet which if you take out looks like the card just got so much better…plus just gotta say that since you guys stated that 96-97 was the best draft class il say that the same year those 96-97 sp cards were mad gems! the blue lining on the cards made it really sweet! the rc of kobe and stephon particularly looked really nice and stood out!

    but the best is the 3D upper deck cards which had a pair of 3D glasses per pack! one of its subsets had a players comming thru a brick wall dunking and the shawn kemp of that looked really cool thru those shades!

    long live my eddie jones rcs!!!

  • simon

    Ah basketball cards. loved em too. The pick of my collection are my 4 or 5 Shaq rookie cards. still in perfect condition. no idea how much they’re worth, probably a bit but dont really wanna sell them anyway.

    92/93 upper deck was the first pack i got. i remember getting a Richard Dumas rookie insert card (in my first pack) and finding out that it was “worth” $15. Then he kinda lost his way a bit (something about drugs i think).

    I used to collect all the Atlanta Hawks cards (Nique was the man), even Duane Ferrell. haha! Even traded a couple Jordan cards to my bro for some Hawks bench warmers cards!

    Once got a upper deck silver rookie redemption card (or something like that) which was in only like 1 in 360 packs, i was so excited untill i found out that i couldnt redeem it here in Australia and it was past the date that you had to send it by!

    By the way Old School Fridays is the best idea ever! Ah the good old days

  • hadoken

    I stopped this card collecting thing long years ago, but I still want to get an autographed Kemp card. E-bay, here I come.

  • marvin

    Oh yeah, cards. Me and my friens used to go crazy over cards. We all had our favorites, I liked Kemp and later Iverson , my friend had Shaq, my other friend had Drexler. We went nuts if one of us had somebody’s favorite what a tradings!!! I still have my cards and stopt collecting after 00. So i’ll save them for my son. But whenever I get close to a card store I pop in and see if they have some iverson cards.

  • DBlizzy

    I can totally relate on the card collecting, I was a fiend. And the crazy part was I was a huge Penny collector too, but not because I thought since he was nice his cards would be worth alot, just because he was my favorite player. I guess it was just that childhood innocence. I even traded all my Jordan cards to get Penny’s. Remember those fake crds they used to have, they were all colorful and had cool graphics and shit, but since they weren’t NBA licensed, they had to take all the logos off of the jerseys! Took me a minute to realize they were bogus.

  • Jake Appleman

    Steven, never got that email. Send it again…

    The worst thing about my collection was that my second star was Grant Hill. There’s nothing worse than a Penny/G Hill duo. Investments like those make it easy to understand how stock markets can crash. I forgot to mention the genius of Fleer Metal. Those cards looked like they could double as weapons.

  • TKJC

    Jack I feel you, GHill was my main dude too. But honestly, almost all cards decrease in value after the first few years. I remember when Shaq was winning championships in LA, his Fleer RC was like 3-4 dollars and going down in value. My Jordan 93 Fleer Ultra scoring king insert went from $80 to $20 in a couple years. After a few years I just bought singles from the counter like Kobe’s and Iverson’s Topps Finest RC’s. And then brands lost control and released like 500 lines of cards with 2 million different insert series and I just stopped caring after a while.

  • simon

    Yeah my Penny collection was\is 2nd only to my Shaq collection.

  • Delicious J.

    Card collecting may be dead.. but don’t believe the hype about the cards being worthless. Keep them shits! I guarantee you they will return to greatness.. our generation (20-30 somethings) are nostalgic as hell. Just wait.

  • Mr. Pink

    Man, I remember when my 98-99 topps chrome vince carter rookie was worth 100 bucks. Now? I see it on ebay going for 1 dollar, sometimes. It’s sad. I hope in 30 years, my cards will help me achieve my goal of spending my days fishing and watching the NBA.

  • Jake Appleman

    Topps Chrome. The overpriced bling of the card game.

  • Chris O’Leary

    By that logic, is 90-91 Hoops the two dollar 2-pac chains you see selling in those stores that aren’t even stores in the aisles at the mall?

  • German Reignman

    Oh, good old memories … damn, I definitely need to check the boxes I still have stacked somewhere …. the ripping-up of packs while looking for an insert …. and about 250 Shawn Kemp Cards ….. anybody in need of KB8/24/Mamba RC ?

  • FLUD

    KURT RAMBIS made the hoops 90-91 set. Those shades…I mean specs. awesome. Kinda close to Rambo. Saw an all-star(losely applied term) type game from finland years ago. Magic’s travelling willburys team. Kurt Rambis won the dunk contest.

    And Oliver Miller in the MTV Rock n Jock. Brilliant. Flava Flav attackin’ people with a hockey stick. Queen Latifa puttin’ the moves on Kemp. Those were the days.

  • DBlizzy

    Rock n’ Jock!!!!!!

  • simon

    btw we really must be true hoop heads cos no one has even mentioned Pam Anderson/Lee/Anderson/Titties yet. had her pictures cut out of magazines an put on all my school books

  • Joe

    I really wish I hadn’t bought that Stadium Club Shaq rookie card for $20 back in 1993.

  • Matthew

    Yeah cards were cool but i got way more “commons” than the exclusive one of a kind cards…. Speaking of collecting … I loved Starting Lineups. Early in the game i would take them out of the package and put Jordan vs. Barry Sanders or some dumb shit like that until i realized saving them in the packages they would be worth more $$$. Anyway, most prized SL was/is Tim Hardaway when he was with GS and on my figure he was rockin #5. Who knew???

  • KBee


    Feel you on the being in Australia vs the US issue. Started collecting after my folks brought back the Hoops 1992 dream team set from the US, just as basketball was taking off here in Oz. Even stood for a couple of hours to see a glimpse of Shaq when he was in Sydney after his rookie season (was too young to go to the club to catch his performance with Fu-Schnikens that night, thankfully).

    This was back in the pre-cable, no NBA games on TV (only NBA Action on weekends and a few NBA Entertainment videos to sustain us).

    92/93 UD was the set that really got me started. But then, the proliferation of cards killed the industry. Personally, I was screwed over by Topps when my Knicks playoff redemption card (93/94?) was refused because I wasn’t in the US. And yes, I still hold a grudge to this day!

  • sush carter

    i had like 4 autographed mahmoud abdul rauf cards

  • Jack

    Basketball wasn’t taking off in Australia around 1992, it had already peaked (with Jordie) and was on the decline.

    The card market in Australia was also declining, so it wasn’t the wisest investment.


    “a penny saved is a childhood stab wound”

    wow, just ……………wow

  • Stan

    We have a lot in common. I also started collecting during the 90-91 season with skybox, hoops, and UD. I stopped during Yao’s rookie year because our currency dived and the cards lost its value. I still have a lot saved at home, MJ, Magic, Bird and a Reggie Miller RC from 86. I wish the cards will pick up in value again.

  • http://s87.photobucket.com/albums/k137/Penny-Fan/ german Ronald

    I started collecting in 1993. At this point I’m one of the biggest Penny collectors in the world.

  • midgeo

    i remember penny cards, i had so many of them, skybox two face cards with shaq, and also many hoops upper deck and fleer ultra rookie cards. unfortunately my “friend” stole them at the time, he moved cross country and i never saw them again. i still wish i had those cards, cause they would be worth a bit now with the jordan cards it had in the collection too.

  • http://bottlestation.com Marc Smilen

    I have a cookie tin of my cards from 1992. I was 24 yrs old in 1992. hooked on the shaq craze. was still living in my parents house. I remember the middle aged guy from the local home alarm copmpany that would come into the card store and buy packs. Think he bought a shaq stadium club beam team for $500. He lost a little on that. $500 might be the price of a 92 stadium club beamteam if its graded high enough. I have six or seven Shaq SC beamteams. Thats the only decent valuable shaq rookie. what do I do with my tin full of cards? throw them out? Im really itching to dump all my cards. I love the topps baseball black gold set.