The scene is Calgary, mid-winter 1981-82.
Still awash in Flames fever, the entire sixth-grade is deep into hockey cards. It may be that my entire perception of how cards used to be collected is shaped by what could have simply been the historic anomaly of a team actually moving INTO Canada. At any rate, we all collected them. Scrambles, need-'im, got-'im, this was the rhythm of our days.
For whatever reason, a lot of us were into the older cards. I don't know whether it was because we were all so new and had so little sense of what had come before, but there was a real sense of 'cool' in anything that predated the Flames. It didn't matter whether we'd ever heard of the guy. If it said 1970s, we wanted it.
There was the kid from Iceland who somehow had a bunch of 1975-76 Flyers that had been glued into a scrapbook and still had paper residue on the back. I scored maybe 5 of those. (He also had wooden lego, which I have never seen since and is supposedly absurdly expensive now.) There was the guy with Pete Laframboise of the California Golden Seals (I eventually got that, as well, spawning a lifelong fascination with that team that I'll post about later.)
And then there was Lisa, who spawned a furor by announcing that her father had given her a card from - wait for it - 1971. That was almost as old as we were. That's freaking ANCIENT!!! This card would be traded to the highest bidder.
Not willing to be outdone, I got to Lisa in music class and asked her to set her price. It was steep.
"I want ALL your doubles."
Whoa. That set me back for about half a second before I agreed. What a coup. NOBODY would be able to compete with that one.
Got home and told my folks what we'd agreed to. They said it was nuts, and talked me into giving up only my triples. Not liking the size of that stack, I did what any good Calgary boy would do - I topped it up by throwing in ALL my Oilers. Sure, it was a dirty trick, since nobody in their right mind wanted Edmonton, but it made for a better pile. At the end of the day, this was a 135-for-one trade.
She was happy. I was happy. I had my prize.
Now, I was thinking the other day that none of us would have known Brian Campbell from Glen Campbell, but that's not really true. We'd all have known Glen Campbell. Sad, but true. (From the moment that I had that thought, though, "Rhinestone Cowboy" has been stuck in my head. It is there right now. It is not pleasant.)
Now, with the passage of time and the arrival of such things as price guides, I look back at those 135 cards and I know they included the following: second and third-year Gretzkys, Messier rookies, Coffey, Kurri and Anderson rookies, Moog rookies, you name it. I figure there's a good thousand dollars or more in that pile.
Bryan Campbell might net two bucks. He's a little shy of ex-mint, I'd say, and commons from that set book at four dollars in nearmint condition.
But I had the coolest card in school, and you can't put a price on that.