The greatest trade a sixth-grader could ever make

This is the coolest card in the universe.

When I was a kid, old cards were cool.  Now, I happen to think they’re still cool, but back in the day we all thought they were cool.  This year’s cards were great and all, but if you could get your hands on something older, maybe a player who wasn’t around anymore, then you really had something.

I was in Grade 6 for the 1981-82 season.  It was my second full season of collecting hockey.  That was still the time when everyone came to school with a stack of doubles held together by a rubber band and if you had no takers by the time recess was done you’d just yell, “SCRAMBLE!” and throw the whole lot in the air.  I remember getting the Flames’ Paul Reinhart that way.

My oldest cards at that time would have been a handful of ’75-76 Flyers that had been pasted in a book.  A kid who’d come to our school from Iceland had them (not sure where he got them) and I traded for a bunch.  His dad also had Lego so old it was made of wood.  Never seen that before or since.  I had some ’77s, ’78s and ’79s, but those 1975 cards were the pride of the collection.  I scraped away enough of the paper and glue that the backs were legible – almost.

One day, a girl named Lisa announced that she had a card from 1970 and it would go to the highest bidder.  The news spread like wildfire.  We all went home and combed through what we had.  This was the oldest thing any of us had ever seen (not that we had actually seen it yet) and I had no intention of being outbid on it. 

Lisa and I struck a deal with the card still sight unseen and it ended up being a trade in the magnitude of 137-for-one.  (That’s the number stuck in my head, anyway.  It was about a 2.5-inch stack.)  It decimated my doubles, but it was worth it.

When the day came, I finally held the card in my hand and it was everything a kid could dream of.  The condition was good – this wasn’t something that had been glued in an album.  Instead of 1970-71, it was actually a 1971-72 card.  She’d misread the back and thought the last year of stats meant the season it was from.  No biggie.  It was still awesome.  The name of the player meant nothing to me.  I wouldn’t have known Bryan campbell from Glen Campbell.  I didn’t care.  This was the coolest card in the whole school and I had it.

It went immediately into safekeeping – the Chicago section of my OPC card locker.  There, it roomed with Tom Lysiak and Tony Esposito and Reg Kerr and Bob Murray and whoever else played for them in the early ’80s.  This was the pride of the collection for years.  I checked it out all the time.  I loved it.

Now, in hindsight and from a strict dollar standpoint, this wasn’t the best of moves.  While it’s uncreased, the corners are a tad soft and it would grade as maybe a generous EX.  A Bryan Campbell in this kind of shape books for maybe a buck or so. 

The stack I gave up?  It was a mix of ’80-81 and ’81-82 OPC and as a good Calgary boy I loaded it with Oilers.  Think about that.  There were Messiers, Gretzkys, Kurri RCs, Coffeys, you name it.  Conservatively, over $1000 in book value went the other way.

But man, oh man, was I happy with it at the time – and that makes it a good deal.

I finished the ’71-72 OPC set years and years ago.  The one card that was never upgraded was Bryan Campbell.  He’ll stay in the binder in his gently-loved glory forever.

I hadn’t thought about this deal in a long time, but over at Collecting For Kicks, Michael made this trade post that really made my day.  He’s obviously not the age I was and I don’t mean to come off like some condescending old fossil and that’s certainly not my intent.  It’s just that the tone of it just reminded me of what it was like to get something that was now the oldest card in your collection and feel the enthusiasm of the moment.  What a great feeling, and it was nice to have the opportunity to share that with someone else. 

Thanks, Michael.

Bryan was indeed a shifty centre. I guess. It always comes as a surprise to me that Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita weren't linemates.

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10 Responses to The greatest trade a sixth-grader could ever make

  1. Michael C says:

    Haha great post! I’m 16 so obviously that Hodge from the 60’s is something way before my time (actually that card is a few years older than my dad). Actually this has really sparked my enthusiasm for building my 80’s, 70’s and maybe even a couple 60’s part of my collection.

    I remember in elementary school my best friend hated the Leafs (sorry I know they’re your favourite) and so we did a massive 90 to 1 card trade for all his Leafs cards in exchange for one of my Brendan Morrison RC’s. I still have most if not all the cards from that trade. But your trade is definitely of bigger value then mine!!

    Anyways could you e-mail me with your address again, I forgot to write down your return address before throwing away the package you sent me the cards in.

    • 1967ers says:

      Just did the math and realized that for me, the equivalent to that Hodge would have been produced in 1940. Yeek.

      At the same time, it fits. It was in my teens that I first got access to legit card shops and virtually every pre-1955 card (particularly in Parkhurst) I have is something that I got before I finished high school. The higher-end 20s and 30s stuff is more recent, but the rougher-edged stuff I don’t show is all from that time.

      Also, the prices you’re seeing for 70s cards is pretty similar to where I was buying 50s cards 20-odd years ago, before prices went goofy. (I missed out on a perfect Gordie Howe RC for $135 because I didn’t carry that kind of cash and passed on a Bobby Hull RC for $85 because it was overpriced by $20. Imagine that.)

    • 1967ers says:

      My seven-year-old asked for a card, so I gave him a 1968-69 OPC of the Seals’ Billy Hicke. From a comparative standpoint, that’s even older, though I don’t think he has any sense of that. Every card in his collection is significantly older than he is. :)

  2. dave h says:

    Awesome story, clearly you still treasure the card and the history of these acquisitions often exceed any book value on them . I made a trade I too probably took a major loss on. Back in the early 90’s when the 87-88 OPC Set had value, I traded a Ray Bourque and Patrick Roy OPC rookies for the set. Totally regret it to this day, at least this trade was with a family member…

    • 1967ers says:

      Well, the set does have some value, it’s not junk wax for sure. Maybe your RCs had some corner fuzz? :)

      It’s funny, though. These things mean more because of their history than they ever could to anyone else. I’ll have to explain some of these things to the kids before they ditch them all someday.

  3. Chris says:

    I really enjoyed this post! You and I are about the same age, so our early collecting experiences are quite similar. I remember Scrambles, and also games like “closies” and “flipsies,” and the accompanying nervousness when we played “for keeps!”

    About trades…my younger brother must have been a smarter collector than I was, because when I look through my mid-1970s collection I am missing a LOT of goalies – I figure he must have “acquired” them all somehow! Also, he was a big Islanders fan which probably explains some of the other holes in my sets!

    Wood Lego?!?

    • 1967ers says:

      Wood Lego. If you mention that around serious Lego people, their eyes go big like you`re casually describing the time you held the Holy Grail. :)

      It was the first Lego and I guess it only existed in Scandinavia. I just remember that I preferred the plastic.

  4. Brad says:

    Great post! I think this might be the first time I’ve come across your blog – I’ll deff keep reading onwards.

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