On April 5, 2001, I received a phone call from a gentleman in New Mexico claiming to have an unopened box of 1959 Topps wax packs (24 packs in all) and some raw cards from the 50s. My first thought was that someone was playing a practical joke but, after a few moments, I realized that this gentleman was telling the truth. He then asked if I might be interested in something like this, and of course I calmly responded "yes." He gave me his phone number and said that he would email me a list of what he had (an assortment of raw cards plus "the box").
The second I hung up the phone, I was making flight reservations to New Mexico. This was too good to be true. I got the email and responded immediately so he knew that I was interested and I told him that he should give me a call after that email. I tried calling him 2 or 3 times a day for about two weeks (still no response); I even emailed him at least half a dozen times.
Three weeks later, I was looking at my notes at my desk and I decided I would give him one more call before I threw away that paper. When he answered the phone, I WAS SHOCKED! I started the conversation by apologizing for my aggressive behavior in trying to contact him and he responded by apologizing for not getting back to me and saying that he had been on vacation. I then asked him if he still wanted to sell the list of cards and the 1959 box. We talked about it and he agreed to sell the cards.
The second I hung up the phone, I called the airport and made my reservation and the next day I was on a plane to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We met at a Mexican restaurant inside the airport in Albuquerque. He showed me what cards he had. First came a bunch of off-center raw 50s stuff, but there it was, just like he described it, the immaculate 1959 box. He handed me the box and told me how he used to be a dealer about fifteen years ago. "I dealt in mostly new stuff at the time and before I stopped dealing, this guy came into a show with three of these boxes," he said. "I bought one and it's been in my closet ever since."
Now it was time. So, I carefully opened the box. Two of the packs on top had opened, naturally, over time. What lurked in those packs? Just the nicest 1959 Mickey Mantle cards I had ever seen. So there it was. There were 24 packs in all with every pack containing 6 cards and, of course, one stick of gum. Of the 24, 22 were unopened. I told myself to keep cool and not to act too anxious.
I proceeded to ask him how much he wanted for the collection. I don't think I even negotiated the price. I just paid him, grabbed the cards, and got the heck out of there. Now, I just had to make it home without being taken hostage by aliens. I couldn't wait any longer, I opened every single one of those packs right there on the plane. Two Mantles, two Sniders, and the most gorgeous Mays I've ever laid my eyes on. Card after card, perfect, perfect, perfect. No gum stains and everywhere I looked, pack fresh glory.
Needless to say, I made it home all right. Still giddy from the day, I had to decide what to do with these cards. I told myself that there was no way that I would wait a few weeks to have them graded through the regular PSA service. Luckily, there was a show the next week where PSA would be doing on-site grading. I was going, rain or shine, earthquake or flood.
The results of that day were as follows: the 2 Mantles graded 9's, the Mays received a 10, 1 of only 2 of it's kind, and two Frick # 1 cards both graded PSA 9 (now the only two nines in existence). Of course, another 40 or so PSA 8's, 9's, and 10's came back from the batch, with most being commons. Everyone at the show wanted these cards. That day, at the show, I met a guy who was literally shaking when he saw one of the Mantle cards. He said he had to have the card and finally asked, "How much?"
It's been about a month now. The guy I sold the Mantle to at the show has paid in full and he received the card just recently. A few mornings later, I received an email from him and I think that email sums up the spirit of the entire hobby. This is a prime example of why so many collectors are passionate about these little pieces of ink and paper.
Dear Memory Lane,
I have the Mantle. It is the nicest card I have ever seen. My mouth waters as I look at it. It has to be the nicest 1959 Mantle on the planet. It could never be upgraded. Why should I? I have finally found the card that a girl up the street had and wouldn't trade when we were 6. Do you know how many packs I opened up trying to get this card? Even when Topps introduced the other series, I was always hoping that they screwed up and reissued the First Series.
It took me 42 years. It took a pension loan to get it but, thanks to you, I have my dream card. We both know that you could have sold it for more money elsewhere but you decided to do me a favor instead.
P.S. The enclosed pack and gum - what a classy touch!
This is what the hobby is all about.
About the Author
J.P. Cohen, president of Memory Lane Inc., is a full-time dealer based in Tustin, California.