My Hometown: A Hobby Wasteland

Living in Texas now, I don’t get back to my hometown as often as I should.  My parents, sister and niece and my grandpa all still live there.  I’ve said it for years, but with more time in between trips than ever, I realize just how much the town I grew up in no longer exists.  “Progress,” politicians and a major university that has too much influence on the town have made it a place that I have no desire to live.

I traveled back a few weeks ago to visit before I started my new job.  One afternoon, I took a little time to drive around town and look at some of the places that I played baseball growing up, and also where some of the multiple card shops around in the late 1980s and 1990s were.

Currently, there are no card shops in Morgantown, WV.  There are no card shows in Morgantown, WV.  As I called it in my post “Where have you gone, card shop?,” my hometown is now an absolute hobby wasteland.  

Five or so years ago, Jason (@preservehobby on twitter) put on a card show in Morgantown.  He had three former Mountaineer baseball players that were playing in pro ball. Two of the three played in the majors.   Jedd Gyorko, who has been in the majors for a handful of seasons was the biggest name.  The others were David Carpenter, who pitched in the majors for the Astros and Braves, and Grant Buckner, who I believe made it to Double-A.

L to R: Jeff Gyorko, Grant Buckner, myself, David Carpenter

I drove six hours to set up at the show.  It was mostly because I wanted to attend the show.  Setting up was just a way to try and offset some expenses.  Even though Jason did what I felt was a solid job promoting the show, it was a bust.  There weren’t many people that attended, other than the sellers.

West Virginia University is in the town and puts enough athletes into professional sports that can be collected.  It’s just an hour south of Pittsburgh.  There’s no real reason for a lack of collectors (when in other areas it’s very popular).  I’m telling you, hobby wasteland is a perfect term, in my opinion.

I previously mentioned driving around my hometown one afternoon and looking at where my old card shops used to be.  Cross Canadian Ragweed sang “You’re always seventeen in your hometown,” and while that’s true, your hometown never stays the same as it was when you were seventeen.

The timing of my trip home, then seeing Joey’s (@dubmentality on twitter) most recent post (Retro Review: Does This Mean I Have To Grow Up?) has me wondering if it’s just that time of year that guys our age are just feeling a little sentimental.  Maybe it’s the child memories of playing baseball and collecting cards that got us through the summer.  Maybe it was camps, pools or any other number of childhood memories.  Who really knows?

Anyway, it’s time for a quick trip through my hometown and some of the places I bought cards as a kid…

Bailey’s Grocery

This was my first card shop, even though it wasn’t a card shop.  This was a small, corner grocery store owned by Bob Bailey.  I don’t know how my mama even found this place, since it wasn’t in an area I even knew of at the time.  Bob had some singles and packs up at the front of the store by the register and a stockroom in the back with more.  This is also where I got my Beckett monthly magazines early on.

Two of the cards I’ve owned the longest, throughout all of the card purges over the years, were purchased from Bob.  I have a future post planned that they are a part of, so I won’t spill those beans now.  Bailey’s is long gone, but will always hold a special place in my heart.

It appears that it was sold to someone that attempted to keep it a grocery.  However, it’s just an empty storefront in a neighborhood of houses.  I’d be shocked if it isn’t knocked down and a new house built in the next decade.  Thank you for the memories, Bob.

Alexander’s Wholesale

 

I drove by the old Alexander’s Wholesale, or at least I think I did.  I just visited the place once or twice, but I know that my mama visited more.  Boxes and boxes of 1987 Donruss came from here.  Beginning in 1988, it was easy to find cards everywhere and Alexander’s wasn’t a thing any longer.

1987 Donruss cards for sale on eBay

The 1987 Donruss set will always be one of my favorites.  I hand-collated multiple sets that year and despite purges, kept one complete set.  Unfortunately, a house fire at my childhood home destroyed it.  Just this past week I bought a few packs and opened them on camera for nostalgia sake and I plan to buy a couple of boxes and put another set together.

Concession Stand – White Park


I am fully aware that you’re looking at a swingset.  Just to the right of this is the baseball field that was my “home” field in 1987 and 1988.  The concession stand from then is gone.  After each game, I got my free “suicide” soda and picked up a pack or two of 1987 Topps cards.  Yes, I am one of “them” that loves 1987 Topps.  Things change and the concession stand was torn down at some point, but I still know what was there.

This picture was taken in a spot close to that concession stand in 1987.  The reason you don’t see cards in my hands is that this would have been a pre-season practice game.  I guess the concession stand wasn’t open.

???

To be honest, I don’t remember the name of this shop, it wasn’t there long.  What I do remember is that it was a good size and was comfortable to be in.  They had a lot of product.  It must have been open in 1989, because I remember that my mama wouldn’t buy the cards for them because the cards were $1 a pack.  We all know that was both HIGH then, and low now.  Oh, how times have changed.

Excelsior

There’s no doubt that I spent more money in this shop than any other before I left my hometown.  One of my best friends as a kid was a neighbor, Wayne, that is also a relative.  He also collected cards so we bonded over that.  We would sometimes head into town in the early evening to visit the shop.

Once I reached high school, I really started spending money there.  My school had an open campus lunch and students could leave.  The shop was about half a mile and I often stopped on my way to or from getting lunch.  I spent WAY too much of the money I made working fast food in that shop.

The best card I pulled from this shop was a Marshall Faulk Collector’s Choice Gold Signature rookie.  At the time, it booked $300.  Though it’s no longer worth close to that, it would still hold a place in my heart.  I think I sold it on eBay sometime in the late 1990s and probably spent that money on other cards I no longer have.  I looked and there are no copies of this available on eBay.  BOOOO!

I mentioned spending money I made working fast food in this shop.  In a twist of fate, part of the store is now a Chinese restaurant.  Driving by, I couldn’t catch what the other part is now.

Ramada Inn

It’s not a card shop, but the Ramada Inn was a large part of my collecting youth.  You can’t tell from this picture, but it is now closed and up for sale currently.

I received my first in-person autograph here.  It was from Doug Dascenzo, who was playing for the Chicago Cubs.  It must have been the offseason between the 1989 and 1990 seasons, because the cards he signed for me were from ’89.  As is the trend in this post, I don’t have them anymore.  <sigh>

The Ramada Inn is also the site of the most memorable card pull of my life.  My mama allowed me to buy three packs of 1989 Fleer (only because it was from Bob Bailey) and yes, I pulled the “F**k Face” Bill Ripken card.  Breaking trend of this post, I still DO have this card.

The Others…

Oh yes, there were others.  I can’t remember the names of the shops and owners in a lot of cases.  There was a place called “Craig’s Comics” that supposedly had cards, but I remember being in there just one time.

There was good ol’ “Fairchance Cards” that had multiple locations in the area and was a pretty shady dude.  He is everything that’s wrong with the hobby.  Once, my then-girlfriend went in to buy me a gift.  He seriously overcharged her.  At one point I even tried working for him.  He wanted to sell a lot more stuff on eBay and I’d been doing that for a couple of years.  He showed me the kind of things he wanted to sell, but then when I agreed to work, gave me garbage to sell.  I was going to be paid a percentage of the eBay sales.  He just wanted me to get his feedback up so he could fire me then sell the big stuff.

There was CAM’s, which had a kiosk in my mall and also a shop 30 minutes away in Fairmont.  I always liked the owner, even if his prices were a little high.  The best “hit” that I’m confident came from a box in his shop was a 1999 Fleer Tradition Patrick Kerney Trophy Collection parallel.  I believe I was able to sell that for around $100 on feeBay.  I also think I pulled my 2000 SP Minors Corey Patterson President’ Edition from a box there, but I’m not 100% sure.  I sold that one for more than $300.

There was a place in Fairmont whose name escapes me, but it was in the Middletown Mall.  They had a weekly “bid board” in the pre-feeBay days.  It was my first experience with auctions and I loved it.  I believe it was very successful for them and once the interwebz picked up steam, it killed a large part of their business model.

Even in the early 2000s, a couple of cards shops tried to make it.  I believe they were mismanaged, but at the same time I don’t believe the interest was there.

There are also the non-card shops where I bought cards.  The “old” Walmart at the “old” mall, the Kmart above the “new mall” where I bought so many 1999 football blasters even the Giant Eagle (grocery).  The one I still remember most fondly of the non-card shops other than Bailey’s was the “Big B” grocery store.  I (well, my parents) probably bought me a 5000 count box of 1988 Donruss over that year.  Between that and the chili dogs that to this day I think were the best ever, I’m going to remember that place as long as my memory serves me.

I’m sure that many of you similar to me in age have similar hometown thoughts.  I’d absolutely love to read about them.  Please leave me some comments below!

 

If you shop online and haven’t signed up and used ebates yet, you’re missing out.  I also use it on eBay to get money back from purchases there.  Between referrals and cash back, I’ve gotten over $215 in a little more than a year.  FREE CARDS!

 

8 comments

  1. CAM’s was owned by Mike Stivers and I want to say he was closed by 2003, maybe 2002. They DQ owner next door also owned his building and charged an arm and a leg in rent because “it was on Fairmont Avenue.” Stivers moved to the lower level before eventually closing. The building has since been torn down.

    Middletown Mall, that’s D&S and the owner is Sal. He, along with another guy, initially started as a freestanding card-show-dealer-esque table setup in the mall. D&S is now in the old Chess King store that was across from KB Toys.

    The brown building you pictured on University….I cannot remember the name either. But, after that store closed. A friend of mine, Keith Robbins, had a used sporting goods store in there and he sold cards, too (I believe). Not much, but some.

    I remember going to Bailey’s, too. When my dad took me there I remember feeling like I had stumbled onto a secret place that none of my friends (I grew up 30 min away from you and a 30 min drive as a kid feels like a haul) knew about or would ever get to.

    There was also a dealer in the Morgantown Mall that had a Kiosk down by what is now FYE and Hibbetts. I feel like he wasn’t there long and thought he moved to a store location at the Mountaineer Mall.

    In the mid-2000s there was a store called Martin’s Memorabilia (punk stole the name of my store in Fairmont) that was across from Wings Ole and next to Cardello. Wanna say he was there for a year or so. Owned by Mike Martin.

    There are others but this is plenty for me to say now.

  2. Ah yes, Mike Stivers was his name! Thanks!

    I had forgotten Sal’s name, but he is who I was thinking of there and I still remember that voice and accent. So, they are still in business? Man, I would have gone down there for that!

    And yeah, I do remember a sporting goods store thatere at one point. It was also a Kinko’s at one time.

  3. I like posts like these even if they are a bit depressing. If I did one for my hometown, it would be short. Only two places ever sold cards- one a grocery store no longer open, and a convenience store still open but only sells like 3 packs. For a brief period maybe a few months an older guy had a card shop but it was next to the barber and I think it just gave him an excuse to hang out there and shoot the breeze. I never made it to his place.

    That said, I never expected too many places to sell cards in my town since we have a population of just over 700 people. I wish Dollar General sold cards as we just got one and I’d be all over that.

  4. Sal is still there. The other owner of D&S (or employee) has been gone for a while, maybe over a decade.

  5. I’m always upset when a store closes, but in most cases in the Morgantown region you could probably chalk that up to ownership. Like you said in your previous posts about card shops, most didn’t adapt to the times. The more recent ones like Mike Martin’s closed because he just didn’t have the time. His primary job shifted away from Morgantown so 9 times out of 10 he wouldn’t be there.

    Good to hear that Sal is still in business. I remember going down there in college. His card prices were very high, but he seemed to really embrace and cater to kids that played Magic the Gathering. When I walked in there around 30 kids were playing.

  6. This was awesome Kin! This is my favorite part of collecting; going back to when I was a kid and reliving the moments of my youth. It’s cool that you had good photos of the places now and it gives the reader a chance to imagine what they looked like before. Great read my friend!

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