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Saturday January 23, 2010 8:00 am

The legacy of the trading card




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Editorial, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL,

Chuck KnoblauchRemember trading cards? You probably do. Those two-inch by three-inch photographs of yesteryear’s most beloved sports heroes and villains certainly had a special place in many a child’s daily activities. Trading with friends at school for your favorite player was always a thrill, but it was just as difficult to part with non-duplicates, even if it was some unknown like Bruce Hurst. Sets of trading cards were sought after with one goal in mind: collect them all.

The biggest names in the game were Fleer, Upper Deck, Topps, and Pro Set. O-Pee-Chee was also a top brand in Canada, but they were in a partnership with Topps and often featured the same cards with their logo in place of Topps’, mirroring their American counterparts, while Topps created parallel card sets to the hockey cards release by O-Pee-Chee north of the border. They disappeared largely in 1995 after the MLB players’ strike. They continue to make cards, but have lost their prestige.

One of the biggest excitements about a pack of trading cards was the disgustingly hard stick of gum that came with it. You could count on one hand the amount of chews it took before it lost flavor; two hands if you were lucky, but that powdery pink stick sitting on top of a Chuck Knoblauch rookie card was like a dream come true in every pack. The card itself, with its action-photo and 50-word biography printed beside his team logo like a permanent branding, would forever remind you that he once played for Minnesota, with no hint that he’d ever wear the Yankees pinstripes or Royals blue.

Trading cards were huge until the emergence of Pogs in the early 90s. Trading discs that could be played with was a huge innovation. The National Hockey League’s 1994-95 Pog set was colorful, charismatic, and, for their size, incredibly detailed. As their popularity grew, so shrunk interest in cards, as if there was only so much interest that could go around, and the Pog people weren’t willing to share. These days, trading cards can still be found. Places like McDonald’s still release card sets yearly that include the best of the best in games, but the legacy of the trading card is irreparably damaged and will never, ever be the same.

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