I have a problem. I wish I hadn’t sold my baseball cards. Musician Paul Anka, writing for Frank Sinatra in “My Way,” observed, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.”
I could have written that, if it weren’t for the aforementioned regrets about my baseball cards, particularly 1953-1959 Topps. Those were the years of card collecting that mean the most to me.
Many of my fondest childhood memories are connected to those cards. I vividly remember how proud I was to show my father my newly acquired 1954 Topps Willie Mays. Even as an 8-year-old, I knew Willie was special.
I don’t have many regrets. That’s not because I haven’t done my share of stupid things, but I’m generally pretty easy on myself when it comes to rationalizing my mistakes. Not so when it comes to those cardboard gems.
This regret is not a recent phenomenon. It started about 60 years ago when I sold my collection of thousands of cards for $25 to a kid in Texas named Brian Leibowitz. The fact that I haven’t forgotten his name is some indication of how much this has affected me.
Most of my classmates had stopped collecting in the fifth or sixth grade. I continued through junior high school into high school, until I was the only one my age who was still collecting. I seriously thought there was something wrong with me that could only be fixed by ridding myself of these treasures. If I got rid of them, it would force me to outgrow them. But I’ve never been able to stop wishing I hadn’t sold my cards.
At some point, maybe in my early twenties, I really started missing them. For the past 50 or more years, I have even had recurring baseball card dreams, at least once a month.
The dreams are generally similar. I either find a trove of 1953- 1959 Topps or sometimes I buy them at a super bargain price. I’m not proud to admit that my dream persona has no compunction about taking advantage of these naive card sellers. I doubt Brian Leibowitz ever had any second thoughts, either.
At first blush, those dreams may sound pleasant, but they’re not. They don’t quite qualify as nightmares. Yet, when I wake up, it’s like I’ve gone through the trauma of losing my cards all over again. I acquire all these great cards, and then — poof! — they’re gone.
My way of dealing with this has been to subscribe to card magazines. I never buy anything, but I obviously must take perverse pleasure in punishing myself by breezing through these magazines and seeing things like how my 1956 Mickey Mantles (I had many) now are each worth more than $10,000 in mint condition.
Until recently, I hadn’t given into the temptation to buy my way out of this problem. Sixty years later, I decided to purchase a set of 1958 Topps from a card dealer. I hope this purchase will finally cure my problem, although I’m afraid it’s too little, too late. But I can dream, can’t I?
Stan Levco is a deputy in the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor’s Office. He served as Vanderburgh County prosecutor from 1991 to 2010. Levco also enjoys writing and has published two collections of columns, “The Best of Stan Levco” and “The Second Best of Stan Levco.”