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Collector Origins - The Most Extraordinary Hobby Story Ever!

My Short Hobby Blog/Vlog Story of the Month is about the origin story and my acquisition of the 1980–81 Topps Larry Bird, Julius Erving, and Magic Johnson mini-rookie card (separated).

On a Sunday afternoon, I walked into the Fishtown Card Show at Rivers Casino, located in the Philly neighborhood of Fishtown, to meet friends and search for some 1986-87 Fleer Premier cards. When I entered the main showroom, I immediately recognized my cardboard brothers, Tony and Oz of @cousins_collectibles. After we shared mutual greetings, Tony, Oz, The Commish, and I engaged in cardboard conversations about the hobby industry and the memorable moments from their podcast episode I was on. As the cardboard conversations between Tony, Oz, The Commish, and I subsided, my eyes were immediately drawn to Oz’s 80s and 90s basketball bin. I found four 1986-87 Fleer Premier cards I needed in Oz's cardboard bin for my Fleer Premier chase. After purchasing the four chase cards for my Fleer Premier set, I asked The Commish to immortalize the chase moment with a picture of me, Tony, Oz, and my newly acquired Charles Barkley rookie card. This moment captured by The Commish would become the precursor to a memorable day at the Fishtown Card Show because, in the first half-hour of the show, I purchased four 86-87 Fleer Premier chase cards, five rare Fleer Metal insert cards, and a late 90s Hall of Famer PSA rookie card all in the first aisle of the main showroom.

I don’t know if this was a poetic irony because I was in a casino, but in the gambling world, most gamblers or pundits would say that I was playing with house money for the rest of the Fishtown Card Show. I was up on the house because I had eleven pieces of cardboard in my left hand and seventy-five percent of my budget in my right hand. So, as I made my way towards the second aisle of the main showroom floor, I realized that I positioned myself to buy a more expensive card or make a bid for a grail card. However, unbeknownst to me, the memorable half-hour that I hoped to repeat throughout the remaining aisles of the main showroom quickly became a distant memory until I reached the final table in the main showroom.

After experiencing four aisles of disappointment, at first glance at the final table, I saw nothing desirable in the showcase. However, since the dealer was a kid, I decided to take a closer look at his showcase because it's inspiring whenever I see kids wearing their entrepreneur and collector hats at card shows. So, as I took a closer look at his showcase, I noticed two cards: a PSA–9, 1996 Upper Deck Collectors Choice Mini Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant base card and a raw version of the 1980–81 Topps, Larry Bird, Julius Erving, and Magic Johnson mini-rookie card (e.g., separated). The negotiations for both cards lasted about three minutes, and after finalizing the transactions with the hobby traditional handshake and the exchange of currency and cards, I decided to take a victory lap around the main showroom–because this was a big hobby moment for me. However, as I made my way towards the first aisle to start my victory lap, the nostalgia I hoped to experience was stalled by the subconscious repeat of a phrase we all know–I never thought I would be able to… Because cards like the 1980-81 Topps Bird, Erving, and Magic mini-rookie-card aren’t supposed to fall into anyone’s hands the way it happened with me.

The excitement I hoped to experience from this memorable acquisition didn’t last long. The entire moment became overshadowed by the most extraordinary hobby story any collector could hear during their collecting journey. What is the most extraordinary hobby story ever? Before telling you about the most extraordinary hobby story, I must acknowledge an old and new hobby moniker that is tried and true. "No matter how mainstream the hobby becomes, the hobby will always be a small world,” because as I carried my version of this iconic rookie card to the front of the showroom to show Oz, I never imagined that Oz would be a part of this iconic card’s story.

So, what is the most extraordinary hobby story ever?

The most extraordinary hobby story a collector can hear is tracing the collecting history of a specific card back to its original owner.

On Sunday, June 5th, 2022, I learned the collector origin story of my version of the ICONIC 1980-81 Topps Bird, Erving, and Magic mini-rookie card. My version of this iconic 20th-century rookie card only had three owners before me, and I met two of the owners (Oz and the Kid Dealer) at the Fishtown Card Show. The original owner of this iconic card pulled the card from a Topps pack in 1980 and sold the card forty-two years later to Oz at a previous card show. Learning about this iconic rookie card's original point of destination made my entire experience at the Fishtown Card Show worthwhile because, at one point in the show, I felt like I was on the best and worse date ever. The chemistry was terrific at the show's beginning; during the middle of the show, the awkward silence was demoralizing, and at the end, I got a kiss and a second date. As a historian, by day, the cardboard experience I had at the Fishtown Card Show was a magical moment that I would never forget because cardboard stories like this are rare in the hobby. Also, until that day at the Fishtown Card Show, knowing the collecting history of a specific was never plausible because cards don’t come with a paper trail. However, as the fourth owner of my version of this iconic rookie card, I look forward to passing the torch and collecting history to the fifth owner one day.

Keep Collecting,

Click the link to view the 1980–81 Topps Bird, Erving, Magic Rookie Card picture!


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