"Hey, Ryan...what's your best card?"
I was asked this question countless times when I was a kid, back when my friends and I would head home from the hardware store after buying our packs. Immediately, we'd reach for the latest Beckett and start perusing the sets, dollar signs in our eyes.
Back then, "best" definitely meant "highest book value." To a few others, especially my best friend Brian, best meant "oldest." In Brian's defense, his dad had saved nearly every card from his childhood, and we spent hundreds of hours looking through stars and commons from the 50s and 60s.
It was hard to argue a 1962 Mickey Mantle not being better than a 1989 Mark Grace.
To me, the "best" card I could ever hope to own would be Dale Murphy's 1977 Topps rookie. Every month, I would open the Beckett, head to the 1977 Topps listings, and scan down to card #476, just to see how much it was worth. At the time, the card consistently had a high value of $50.
That card might as well have had a $500 book value on it, since $50 was way out of my price range. My allowance and money earned from odd jobs was usually spent as soon as I earned it, and I couldn't exhibit enough self control to save enough for the Murphy. Every time I went to the card shop that was 50 miles away, I dreamed of getting my hands on that card.
Over the years, as I became more involved in the hobby, my concept of what "best" meant changed dramatically. Book value did not necessarily make one card better than another, and I found that when I was trying to complete a set, a common card I didn't have was "better" than a star player I already had doubles or triples of.
Today, I don't get asked "what's your best card?" very much. Usually, it's when I'm asked about my hobbies and interests by someone I'm meeting for the first time. The question doesn't make me cringe like it used to, but I just explain to them that I don't really have a "best" card, just quite a few favorites.
Those favorites are what make me enjoy my collection, rather than a price guide defining one card as the best of them all. A lot of my favorite cards have a story behind them, giving them more value than any guide ever could.
I'm going to use my next few posts to showcase my favorites. Some are obvious due to the player or team featured on the card, but some have a back story that causes them to make my list.
Until next time,