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Hostess baseball cards and the horrid idiosyncrasies of collecting all kinds of crap

October 23, 2012

I have an uncle who’s an avid baseball card collector. He was one of those lucky baby boomers who had a shoebox full of baseball cards as a kid, didn’t destroy them in bicycle spokes, and had a mother who didn’t chuck them out with the garbage when he moved out of the house. So, later in life when he got back into the hobby, he had a base that would be the envy of anyone with interest in trading cards. I have a lot of fond memories of going to card shows with him as a kid and also getting to go into his inner sanctum, a cubbyhole of a room where he kept the core of his collection. It was a paradise in many respects, with untold cardboard treasures — you half expected to have to utter an “Open Sesame” password to get the through the door. The funniest thing about it was that it was so chock full of loot, the kitchen ceiling, which was right beneath it, had started to sag. We’re talking SAG.

All this is a long way to getting to the point of this post. Every hobby has its little quirks, its little foibles and quibbles about condition that seem batshit insane to anyone on the outside looking in. In comics, I always come back to what you’re supposed to do with those old polybagged comics from the 1990s, the ones that held (coincidentally) trading cards, posters, and all that extraneous hazarai. At first blush, you’d probably think that, to preserve “Mint” condition, you’d have to keep the bag sealed. WRONG. Because polybags are volatile for long-term storage, you’re supposed to take the contents out of the bag and store them in a more archival kind of bag and board. Okay, logical enough. The kicker, though, is that you’re supposed to keep the bag too. Yes, I’ve taken comics out of their bags, put them in a new bag, and then taken the old bag and put it in the new bag.

This is a little bit nuts, I admit. But it has nothing on my dear old uncle.

The ad above got me to thinking: My uncle was happy to get any baseball cards under the sun, but he was (understandably) a stickler for not doing anything that would damage his trove. These Hostess cards (and Drake’s cupcakes cards when I was a kid collecting alongside him) were rough because, if you wanted to keep them in strictly “Mint” condition, you couldn’t cut them out from their spot on the bottom of the box. You had to keep the whole box. And if you took that a little further, you had to not even open the box.

Yes, my uncle took it that little bit further.

In that wonderfully cramped upstairs room, the one whose contents had warped the very structure of the house and threatened to come crashing down into the kitchen at any moment, there were unopened cupcake boxes, Twinkie boxes, what have you. Not a ton of them, but they were there. I shudder to think what biologic reactions are going on in the sealed plastic containers as I write this.

So when I’m taking a bag and putting it in a bag, all I have to do is think about my uncle’s 30-year-old cupcakes and I don’t feel so dumb. And if anyone is ever looking for proof of the old legend that Twinkies (which, as I’ve said before, are god-awful poison) last forever, they could perhaps turn to my uncle for empirical evidence. That is, if he’d let them open the box.

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