Inquiring Fujis want to know: How did you first decide to collect sports cards, and when?
I think I may have covered this before, but I couldn't find it, so here it is again.
When I was in 4th grade, which was the 1991-92 school year, I signed up for the Cub Scouts. I'm not really sure why I decided to, even though my two best friends were in it, I don't remember that being the reason. I went to an informational meeting at which they were giving away free Cardinals tickets to any kid who showed up. Up to that point I was only moderately aware of sports, and had never attended a game. I could tell you which teams we had in town, but probably no players other than Ozzie Smith.
We went to a game on Saturday, May 9. Here's the box score, because baseball-reference.com is so awesome. I guess this was in the days before promotional passes were limited to Monday through Thursday. Down 8-0 in the 3rd, I remember my Dad jokingly (I think) ask if we were ready to leave. The Braves scored again in the 4th to make it 9-0, but the Cardinals managed 3 in the bottom of the 4th. Of course, the Cardinals didn't have any recent success, so the fans around me still figured this game was already lost. I assumed they were right, but still watched what happened, since I'd never been to a game before. I can still feel the excitement I felt when Felix Jose hit a HR in the 8th to give the Cardinals the lead. And, it gave my Dad a chance to do one of his favorite things: teach me stuff. He explained that when Lee Smith came in to pitch the top of the 9th, if no one scored, the game was over and the Cardinals didn't even have to bat in the bottom of the 9th! At first I felt cheated out of a half inning despite seeing 23 runs, but I sort of reasoned through it and was satisfied it would be pointless. I immediately started following baseball closely, reading every story in the sports section and examining the standings and stats every in every Sunday paper.
So when do we get to cards? I don't have dates quite as exact on that one, but I do know that over summer I started at a new daycamp, as my previous babysitter had moved. I didn't like it that much, because no 9-year-old like change. But, there was one kid there, whose name I can't remember now, who I got along with well and was really into sports. One day he brought in some baseball cards, in a little 4-to-a-page album. He was so excited by them, and I thought they looked really cool too. I asked him lots of questions, having no idea about them, and he told me Topps was the best. So you can all blame him and me in some small part for the Toppsopoly today.
Most Sundays after church my family and I would stop by a local grocery store which sold cards, so I started occasionally picking up packs of 1992 Topps. This is when Topps started inserting Topps Gold cards, so that's where my love of that insert set comes from. Somewhere along the way, someone told me it was possible to purchase complete sets. It was probably the same kid from daycamp. I thought this made a lot more sense, since I was starting to get duplicates, and only had a few Cardinals. I went to a local card shop after my birthday and bought the 1992 Topps factory set. The owner told me I could instead buy a hand-collated set, which I think he called a boxed set, for a few bucks cheaper. That would have been the smart move, because of course I opened the factory box as soon as I got home. I sorted the cards many different times, by number, by team, into binder pages 18 to a page, then 9 to a page so I could see the backs, and ultimately back into the box when I couldn't bring myself to throw out the box nor keep an empty box around. At that point I was officially hooked into collecting.