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92-93 Fleer Basketball: If The Wax Could Talk — Part II

My Short Hobby Blog/Vlog Story of the Month is part II of a three-part series that describes what the wax would say about the collectors of my cardboard community when we were chasing the 92-93 Fleer Basketball set. Also, in this three-part series, I describe what the wax would say about us had we had the chance to collect a classic MJ insert card from the 1996 Topps Basketball set.

In part one of “If The Wax Could Talk,” I recalled what the wax would say if it had to tell our stories with the 1992-93 Fleer Basketball Set. These stories that took place in my 4th-grade classroom and the schoolyard of Ludlow fostered community and bolstered our connective affection for cardboard, and these spaces had levels to them, respectfully. Beyond my 4th grade homeroom, the absence of certain cards in your collection from the 92-93 Fleer Basketball set restricted your access “respectfully” to certain hobby circles in the schoolyard. However, if you had cards 32 and 238 in your PC, you could access every hobby circle throughout Ludlow. 

To put this access in context, in 1992-93, if you had the Michael Jordan base card and league leaders' insert card in your PC, the level of access bestowed upon you felt equivalent to roaming the most restricted spaces in the Pentagon without an ID badge. This Pentagon analogy might be a reach, but the analogy makes sense because, at the Pentagon, there are specific guidelines that limit people’s access to certain parts of the building unless they have the right title or clearances associated with their ID badge. When it came to the various cardboard circles within our overall ecosystem, we operated like the Pentagon. In our cardboard ecosystem, everyone was welcomed, everyone had a place, and most respectfully, everyone also knew their place. However, if you had card numbers 32 and 238 in your PC with “four sharp corners and no creases,” your collector rep increased, and you were automatically catapulted to the “King of The Yard” conversation regardless of age or grade. 

The trifecta of being labeled as a top-tier collector, connected to the “King of The Yard” conversation, and having the freedom to navigate every hobby circle without proving yourself was nostalgic in its own right and came with a ton of perks. Also, the 1992-93 Fleer Basketball set created a unique opportunity for everyone within our cardboard ecosystem to raise our status above the titles of top-tier collector and “King of The Yard.” In our cardboard circles, everyone wanted to be the KING; however, only a few could be “LEGENDARY.” During the release of the 92-93 Fleer Basketball set, the only way a collector could claim the prestigious title was to have all four MJ cards—cards 32, 238, 246, and 273. In our cardboard ecosystem, cards 32 and 238 gave you access to the mountaintop, but if you had all four MJ cards with “four sharp corners and no creases,” you became the mountaintop and owned everything that came with it—-The titles, status, bragging rights, influence, and, more importantly, center stage to tell your cardboard story to the masses. 

In 1992-93, during the release of Series I and II Fleer Basketball, everyone who collected in my neighborhood vied for the title of LEGENDARY collector. I can’t fully recall or remember if anyone in our cardboard ecosystem ever achieved the title of legendary collector. However, I remember a handful of collectors from my 4th grade homeroom and the neighborhood who came close to achieving this iconic title because they had three of the four MJ cards in their PC. Everyone who collected in the neighborhood had card number 32, and when card number 238 started to circulate throughout our cardboard community, the trade offers were ridiculous. Next, when the most popular of the four MJ cards (number 273) surfaced, the conversations about Patrick Ewing getting posterized by MJ were legendary. Cards 32, 238, and 273 were him, and despite having some of the most prolific collectors in my neighborhood, no one seemed to find the elusive card number 246—the MJ MVP insert card. 

Even though most of the collectors from my neighborhood never completed the 92-93 Fleer Basketball MJ four-card set, including me, when collectors like Jermaine, Morris, and Gregory were one MJ card away (e.g., the MVP insert card), they instantly became the talk of every hobby circle throughout the neighborhood. In our 4th grade homeroom, everyone crowded around them to see their cards. During recess, the 5th graders paid homage to them for their achievement of being the only collectors in Ludlow with three of the four cards. Finally, throughout the neighborhood, the older collectors who moved on to Penn Treaty would initiate the most enticing/outrageous trade offers. These moments I experienced from the sideline in my homeroom, during recess, and in the neighborhood were flat-out dope—you had to be there to see it! 

During the release of the 1992-93 Fleer Basketball set, I was in the group of collectors who only had card number 32. Seeing my classmates hold court with 5th graders and middle schoolers was exhilarating and memorable. When MJ’s three magical Fleer cards started circulating throughout my neighborhood, I was relegated to the hobby circle in my fourth-grade classroom, and despite only having one of the four MJ cards, I and other collectors like me were still allowed to watch from the sidelines. Even though we were bystanders and living vicariously through collectors like Jermaine, Morris, and Gregory, our secondary experience allowed us to dream and envision what it would feel like to hold court across various hobby circles and see our classmates come close to achieving the title of legendary collector. 

In 1992-93, during the release of the Fleer Basketball set, if the wax could talk, it would say—At Ludlow and throughout the neighborhood, there were levels to collecting, and everyone had to “Bring their A-Game or C themselves back to their homeroom, “respectfully.”

Keep Collecting,


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