I read today that Van Halen’s 5150 was released 31 years ago today, which got me to thinking about 1986 in general, which in turn reminded me that 1986 was truly my last great year of card collecting. I suspect several factors combine into the reason why, none of which really have anything to do with the hobby itself. OK, maybe one, just a little bit.
Love Walks In
I still have such fond, vivid memories of collecting in 1986. Memories like walking a mile or so down snow covered train tracks to the local card shop on a blustery Maine Saturday morning to pick up a shiny new box of Topps (with bright red cards on the box bottom!). Or swinging by that same shop on my way to my after school job at Service Merchandise to pick up a box of Fleer (a box that had ZERO doubles!). Or walking into Grand City and finding what looked like thousands of packs of Donruss dumped into a barrel near the cash registers (the number of packs it seemed like anyways before I pulled a Canseco!).
I’ve never been able to duplicate those memories at Target or Walmart. Luckily the memories of opening a Topps box with my buddy while his mom made us grilled cheese sandwiches never faded. Nor did buying a pack of Fleer later one afternoon and getting ALL 7 cards I was missing for my set. Nor the dizziness I felt rifling through each pack of Donruss looking at that crazy design. Who knows, maybe now there's some kid somewhere who has similar stories, but I'm not holding my breath.
Best Of Both Worlds
I think a large part of it also has to do with the fact that I graduated high school that summer. As I went off to college that fall, discretionary spending habits changed considerably over the next few years. Schaefer, Lucky Strike, and numerous record shops started getting a lot of my money that had once been earmarked for cards. I was an avid football card collector as well, and I have no memory of buying any that fall. Probably why I still don’t have that damn Jerry Rice card.
Why Can’t This Be Love
Obviously the brutal changes the hobby was about to undergo in 1987 played a part as well. When everybody started trying to fund retirement portfolios, my “hobby” lost some of its luster. I have continued collecting in the years following, but never again was it as much “fun” as it was in 1986. It became more like a dutiful chore.
So what really happened? Basically, I grew up. Well, got older anyway. It happens. But when you think about it, is anything as good as it was when you were a kid? Probably not.
PS: When 5150 was released, I was working as a sporting goods clerk at the local Service Merchandise (pictured above, it's now a Chinese restaurant). One of the guys who worked in the “Sight & Sound” department hatched a plan: a handful of us each chipped in a couple of bucks, he went up to the record store and bought the cassette and a box full of blank tapes, then came back to the store and dubbed copies for everybody ALL DAY LONG. I swear I remember hearing that album ten times that day. Much to the dismay of Van Halen fans, it remains my favorite VH album.