I was ten when I went to my first auction, an actual stone and mortar building that looked like a converted garage. My father and I sat down in brown metal bi-fold chairs with our number and waited to bid. It was an estate auction and the newspaper had mentioned a very large baseball card collection.

I was a huge baseball card fan at a time when baseball cards were big business. Everyone was collecting them. They had packs of fifteen cards at every checkout counter in the grocery stores, drug stores, and gas stations. Packs cost a couple of dimes and I saved my allowance money so I could buy a few packs every Sunday after church. It was before the 1994 baseball strike that ruined the fan’s perception of their favorite ball players and drove them out of the bleachers. It was before fantasy baseball became the avid fan’s fix, and before you could watch every game on TV. Cards were the way people pursued their interest in the game and talked about it when the game wasn’t on the radio and it wasn’t Sunday when they aired the weekly game.

My dad and I had been collecting cards for years, my interest fueled in part by my dad’s stories of Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra and Thurman Munson while we listened to the game in the car. The car was the only place the radio station came in. We would spend three hours listening to the Yankee game before traipsing into the house and back to regular life.

My dad always saw collecting as an investment more than a hobby. I saw it as a hobby, though as I grew older I began to see it both ways. That week night I was looking forward to adding to my collection and my father was hoping to make a good investment.

The old converted garage was packed with people. We got excited when the boxes of baseball cards came out and bid sixty dollars to win one box of 10, 000 unsorted cards. We were terribly excited, hoping there would be some great cards in that box. Maybe a famous rookie card or two that we could put in plastic and stick on the wall.

I spent weeks going through those cards and found a few good ones, but no great ones. For a time, those cards rose in value and our investment seemed like it would pay off. However, in 1994 the baseball season was cut short by the players strike and it would take years for the casual fan to start loving baseball again. By then, the internet had crept into people’s lives and baseball cards got lost in the shuffle. The market just dropped out of sight, so much so that out of the five major companies, only two still make cards these days. Today, that box of cards might sell for ten dollars.

It is not hard to see the parallel to today’s stock market. A few years ago everyone wanted to get into the market and most people made a lot of money. But now the market is really eating up people’s money as companies fail. I bet for a few years at least, many of those casual investors that really spurred the growth these past few years will be afraid to invest. And by the time their interest and their bravery returns, there might be something new out there.

I do not know, but I imagine there will be a new technology that comes out that changes the way we associate with our money and long term investment. There will always be a buy/sell/trade system. There has been since people started communicating. But it has evolved and it will continue to evolve.

© Seth Crossman