Those days are gone forever

My car was in the shop this afternoon for some routine maintenance. Since it was a Saturday afternoon, and they were probably busier than they are during the week, I was told it would be an hour and a half before the car was ready.

At this point, I could either sit in the waiting room, looking for a magazine to read or getting sucked into whatever was on the television at that moment, or I could get out and explore a little bit. Of course, I chose the latter course of action and, predictably enough, I came away with a story that I want to tell. Or at least try to get the words in my head into some sort of an intelligible thought. We’ll soon know how well I can do this.

I remembered seeing an estate sale sign on my way to the service place, and even if I did nothing more than walk over there and walk back, it would be more enjoyable to me than sitting in a waiting room. It was (and still is, as I write this) a lovely afternoon in Chicago, and the “it’s too hot to do anything outdoors” excuse of the past few weeks couldn’t apply to even the laziest person alive. Well, perhaps the laziest person alive, but fortunately I’m not that person.

The estate sale was a five minute walk, and I entered the house, as usual, looking for just a few things: books, first and foremost, and anything else that might catch my interest. For every estate sale where I buy something, I probably go to five or six more where I don’t. It’s always interesting to see what you can learn about whoever the recently deceased was, just by combing through the things that they left behind.

Today’s sale was being run, as many of them are, by a service that comes in and appraises everything, in order to make sure that no priceless piece of art is sold to a sharp-eyed collector for ten bucks. I can understand why this is done, but these services–whose job depends on wringing out enough for the estate to justify the cost of hiring them to begin with–make negotiating  more difficult than it otherwise might be. That’s probably good for the sellers, in the long run, but less than ideal for those on the other end of any potential sales.

Another thing I keep an eye out for at these type of sales is baseball memorabilia. I’m not a collector of it by any means, but if something with a personal attachment presents itself and isn’t too expensive, I’ll gladly pick it up. And so, at today’s sale, it seemed like I hit the jackpot. On a table in the garage there were boxes and boxes and boxes of old baseball cards. There were more of them than anyone needs to have, myself included, but I still wanted to see what I could get them for.

The manager of the sale came over, and I explained to her that I didn’t know what exactly was in that pile, but I was interested in taking the whole lot of them away if they wanted to sell it. She told me that she would value them at $300 for the entire set. She’s apparently under the delusion that it’s still the early 1990s, when a childhood hobby somehow turned into an investment game. Sports cards went from something that you looked at and held in your hands, to something that was enclosed in plastic binder sleeves, and never touched for fear of bending the corners.

I explained to her that sports cards aren’t nearly as valuable as she thought, and I was looking for things that I could look through and tell stories about, more than anything else. I then offered her $50 for the whole bunch of them. A counter-counter offer on her part might have continued the process, but she suggested that she would be “giving them away” and she couldn’t do that. With no agreement reached, I walked away empty handed and returned to the auto shop, where my car was ready and waiting for me.

I would have liked to see what could have turned up in this mega-lot of old sports cards but, in the end, I reserved the right that a buyer always has in any potential transaction: the right to hang on to his or her money. I don’t know whether any of the cards were sold later in the sale, but it doesn’t really matter one way or the other. I already have a lot of these things anyway, such as the truly bizarre one above, from the 1976 baseball card set. There’s really no good reason for acquiring 50,000 more of them, that I can think of.

So I was able to fill up the downtime, get some exercise, and remind myself that the sports card craze was a period that I’m glad has gone away, even if not everyone realizes that it has.

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