Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Christmas Miracle

Until the day I stop collecting, I will consider myself first and foremost a set builder. No matter the sport, my goal each season is to build the Topps base set in each sport. Now that Topps only produces a football and baseball set, it isn't too tough to complete both sets, and recently I've set my sights on the Upper Deck base hockey set and the Panini/Donruss base basketball sets.

My first set challenge was the 1987 Topps football set. In my town, the gas station and hardware store would usually stock a box or two of cards, which was generally enough for a couple of my friends and me to satisfy our pack-busting fix. Every once in a while my family would take a trip to a bigger city 50 miles away and if I was lucky, I'd find a few packs and be able to buy a couple of dollars' worth to look at on the ride home.

I didn't keep an official count of how many packs I bought that season, but I had completed a large amount of the set rather quickly, as well as quite a few trades with my friends also building the set. My pack buying frenzy settled down somewhat, and when I would get a pack or two, it contained nothing but doubles. The regular season was starting to wane, and with it so was our interest in buying packs.

I was down to 12 cards to finish the 396 card set, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find them. My friends were coming up as empty as I was in their efforts as well. The hardware store and gas stations were no longer stocking the 1987 boxes, and without a local card shop or any other way to find the missing cards, I was resigned to the fact that I wasn't going to finish the set.

Christmas morning came, and I luckily found 1 pack of 1987 Topps Football in my stocking. I thought how cool it would be if I found even 1 or 2 cards I needed from my list, at least I'd be closer to finally finishing it. After studying the checklist so diligently throughout the season, I knew exactly which cards I needed by name as well as number.
Would this pack contain a Christmas miracle?

I opened up the wax pack with trembling fingers, hoping against hope that just 1 card I needed would be in there. First card on top--had it. Second card--had it. Third card--had it. My excitement slowly started to turn into disappointment as I looked at the fourth card--I needed it! The fifth card--needed that one too! I went through the rest of the pack and each of the 12 remaining cards on my list was in it!  I could not believe my luck! I ran over to my parents excitedly and showed them my good fortune. They had heard my laments over the past few months about not being able to finish this set, and shared in my excitement. This was better than any Christmas present I could receive that day, and I still had yet to open any of my gifts.

A few months later I found a box of 1987 Topps football in our hall closet, and I lifted the flap to see what was inside. Three of the 4 rows had the usual 9 stacks of packs, but the fourth row was a pack short. Just as I was about to close the door, my mom came home and I asked her what these cards were for. She hesitated at first, but I kept nagging and nagging, and she finally let on.

"Your dad had ordered a box from the gas station, and when it came in, we waited until you were sleeping and took your checklist to see what cards you needed. Then that night we opened up all the packs and found the ones you were missing, then took a pack and put together the one you got for Christmas."

At first, I felt a little shocked that I wasn't lucky enough to find a random pack with my missing set needs, but then I quickly realized how much my parents knew completing that set meant to me. I will never forget it as long as I live, and even after 30+ years of collecting, it will be my most favorite hobby memory/story.

I hope you all are able to enjoy a "Christmas Miracle"--if not this year, perhaps in the near future.

Until next time,


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