Baseball Cards. Little works of art. That's what first caught my attention and made me take it seriously—not that they were pictures of, and things connected to, some guys who could run, hit, catch and throw that nugget of warmth we call a baseball—but that, as objects, they had visual style and grace and beauty and graphic complexity in such an affordable and easy-to-take-home format.
It was Winter, 1989, and I was spending all my quarters on these little cards, just as the current marketing explosion was beginning. Before '89 the card-collecting crowd consisted of a few fringe lunatics. The cards were still mostly cheap-looking pieces of drab cardboard with wax and bubble-gum stains and no one really cared. Then this company called Upper Deck came busting through the door holding out a set of cards that were simply beautiful.
Great-looking photos of eye-grabbing clarity on glossy white card stock with tiny pet-like holograms and silver foil packaging that were so far above and beyond what had gone before that it changed its world. Suddenly it's a business, with an ascending high-end, and at the card shows I go to I bob and weave skillfully between small children weighed down with bills and boxes and guys in suits with fisted charge-cards and checkbooks.
What the hell am I doing here?