A Cardboard Conundrum

How am I going to empty an apartment full of baseball cards?

I will soon be moving for the third time in 18 months, in what I hope will be my last move for the foreseeable future. In preparation, I am making one last frenzied push to rid myself of the unnecessary clutter I’ve acquired through my admittedly pack-rat-like ways, in the hopes that I can avoid renting an entire U-Haul fleet to haul away my personal effects — including my more than 28,000 baseball cards.

How expansive is my baseball card collection? If I posted one card a day on my personal blog, it would take me more than 76 years to get through them all. And that figure doesn’t even take into account the boxloads of duplicates sitting in my closet. These doubles are thousands of little pieces of colorful cardboard that have essentially no value to me (or to fellow collectors, for that matter; most of these cards were made in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when overproduction rendered them worthless).

Still, I can’t just throw them away. So what do I do with these extraneous spoils of my hobby?

Here are my latest brainstorms:

Trade them. They are commonly known as “trading cards,” after all. I’ve already put an open offer on my blog to swap my junk for other collectors’ junk. Someone out there must be looking for a cheap way to complete that 1989 Topps set, and it’ll enable me to finally wrap up some old sets that I never have gotten around to finishing. So far I’ve made a sizable 200-for-200 swap with one reader from New York, and a few other deals are in the works.

But at the end of the day, boxing up even a few hundred cards and shipping them away doesn’t make much of a dent. (From the eds: This might be beside the point, but this technique also seems to result in Kevin acquiring cards as quickly as he’s getting rid of them. We’re just saying.)

Turn them into clothing. It’s a shame that Halloween has just come and gone. I could have transformed myself into a walking, living baseball card. I still feel like I could weave them together with some string and make an avant-garde shirt. I could become an outsider fashion designer! Who wouldn’t want to wear Dickie Thon and Tom Niedenfuer? Nobody, that’s who.

Of course, I wouldn’t want to get caught out in the rain while wearing it. A mushy, pulpy shirt isn’t my idea of fun.

Leave them in random places. Ex-roommate Mikey told me that his uncle used to do this. He once stashed a Jay Johnstone card in the White House. (Of course, this might not be possible with the heightened security of the post-9/11 America.) I can see the completely random joy of leaving an old baseball card everywhere I go, as a pointless sort of calling card. I wonder if anyone would take them home after finding them. Maybe I could place them only in public restrooms.

As an aside, I did slip a Rob Dibble rookie card in the bottom of a drawer in the Lankford Hotel during my family’s last vacation in Ocean City, MD. If we rent the same apartment next year, I want to see if it’s still there.

Dump them all onto the floor and dive in, à la Scrooge McDuck. Okay, this would serve no practical purpose. I just think it would be cool. Oh, but the paper cuts … okay, nix that.

Attempt to use them as legal tender. As the US Treasury goes to increasingly greater lengths to avoid counterfeiting, the design and coloration of our currency gets more outlandish all of the time. We already have floating Lincoln-head watermarks and big purple “5”s, so I’d like to think that I could trick some disinterested teenage cashier into accepting five Mookie Wilsons in exchange for a steak burrito.

If this doesn’t work, I’ll just have to establish my own sovereign nation in the middle of Baltimore County, MD.

Use them as a dietary supplement. They’ve got to be full of fiber, right? They’re made of cardboard! Besides, a little Old Bay seasoning could make anything taste good. At any rate, they’re bound to be more edible than the chalky pink slabs of so-called gum that came in the card packs.

I’ve considered several other options, including wallpapering the new house with them, stacking and sculpting them to make furniture, or “going green” and recycling them. I could even give them all out to friends and family as Christmas gifts, provided that I decide I’d rather not be bothered by my loved ones any longer.

But in the end, I’ll probably do something much less interesting:

Donate them to Goodwill. That way, they’re someone else’s problem.

Article © 2009 by Kevin Brotzman