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The Slice Card Collectors Know Just When To Buy, Sell, Wait

I’m almost certain I had the Jim Palmer baseball card that was selling for $80.

The same goes for a Harmon Killebrew card priced at $50. And on and on. All tossed out long, long ago.

This value inflation came as no surprise. In fact, documenting it was one reason for attending a sports card show inside the Franklin Park Mall Saturday afternoon. I wanted to confirm my worst fears.

Call it a baby boomer’s lament.

A nice guy named Jim Dorr helped. A Spokane Valley teacher and coach who is a sports card dealer more or less as a hobby, he was reluctant to guess what my shoe boxes full of ‘60s cards might be worth today.

He said there were lots of variables. For instance, the ones I had used as noisemakers in the spokes of my bike probably wouldn’t be worth much. And if the corners were frayed from excessive handling, that would decrease their value, too.

He was trying to let me down easy.

So I pressed him. In ballpark terms, how much money got pitched into the trash when my cards were thrown away?

“Well, there’s a chance you’re looking at a nightmare,” he said.

Perhaps thousands of dollars.

Another dealer, Jake Winslow, agreed that this was a possibility. But he, too, tried to spare my feelings. He stressed that there were lots of ifs and maybes.

Fortunately for the dealers, most of the people attending the show weren’t living in the past. They were happily immersed in the world of 1997 supply and demand.

The selling and collecting of sports cards is a subculture that has been bashed for corrupting what once was innocent and for being cutthroat about something that ought to be child’s play.

But I didn’t see much that seemed all that sinister Saturday.

Sure, everybody is aware of dollar values now. And consulting thick price directories might not be quite the same as sitting on a porch and saying “I’ll give you Ron Santo and Don Drysdale for your Juan Marichal.”

But some of the guys who collected way back when were at the card show with their own children. And when the parents and kids talked about possible purchases or potential trades, it was something to hear. They tended to speak to one another as peers, as equals.

“Three dollars for his rookie card?” one dad said to a boy who looked about 11. “Sounds good. Don’t you think?”

Nobody had to be reminded of the first rule of contemporary collecting.

Never throw anything away.

, DataTimes MEMO: Being There is a weekly feature that visits Inland Northwest gatherings.

Being There is a weekly feature that visits Inland Northwest gatherings.

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