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Return To Childhood: Portrait On 2½ x 3½ Inch Cardboard

I first saw them on the back of a box of cereal my mom had brought home with the other groceries. Each kind of Post cereal had

six baseball trading cards featuring a small color photo of a major league baseball player taking up about a third of the card, along with a brief description of that player's accomplishments and two lines of statistics: One from the most recent year and another showing his career stats up to that point.

I've been an inveterate collector and list-maker as long as I can remember. Even at age six, I saw something appealing about these cards, each 2½ by 3½ inches in size, which were the standard dimensions set by the Topps and Bowman trading card companies back in the early 1950s.

It was about that time also that my dad took me to my first-ever major league baseball game at windy Candlestick Park in San Francisco, where I would see Willie Mays and his teammates of that era play. Though our family would move away from the Bay Area three years later, attending that game started a lifelong love affair with the San Francisco Giants that continues to this day.

Post would issue a set of cards each year from 1961 to 1963, and I collected as many of them as I could. The edges of the cereal box cardboard became fuzzy with wear as I organized and re-organized them by team. It was 1965 before I realized that Topps sold baseball cards along with a pink slab of bubble gum wrapped in wax paper. My mom spent five cents for a pack and brought it to me. My then 10-year-old eyes thought the cards were beautiful: The photos of the players were large with bold colors, and the team was identified by name along with its logo, all within the shape of a pennant.

As soon as I was able to scrape together a few coins from my allowance, I headed to Miller's Variety Store in Pullman, Washington, to get more. I went first thing in the morning. When I arrived, a kid was there ahead of me, in the process of purchasing the entire box. When I asked Mr. Miller if he had more, he explained, "This kid always comes in and buys everything I have."

From that day forward, I've been in a lifelong pursuit of those beautiful cards.

Waxpack Junction is where we will come together to trade our stories of the cards we collected, filed, flipped, traded, abused, and then put into the back of a closet in a shoe box where, like fine wine, they sat in the dark, slowly gaining value. We'll celebrate the 40-year-old rookie card we discovered in mint condition; we'll commiserate over the cards our mothers threw out during spring cleaning, or that we sold to someone for pennies, happy to have gotten actual money for them, only to realize 10 years later that you had six Reggie Jackson rookie cards in beautiful condition that you sold to a guy for a dollar apiece.

C'mon, let's rip open a pack and see what we get.

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