Boy Rare Collector at N.H. Card Show
Noah Blake, 10, center, his father Todd, left, and his friend Dominic VanLaere-Nutting, 9, all of Charlestown, N.H., look at a certificate of authenticity at the Twin State Sports Card and Coin Show at the Fireside Inn in West Lebanon, N.H. on October 20, 2013. The framed certificate referenced a vial of dirt from the infield of Baltimore's now-demolished Memorial Stadium. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
West Lebanon — Noah Blake leaned in close to the open glass case, shrewdly perusing its treasurers. Then he spotted it: A 1961 Stan Musial card. Signed. Score. It was a little beat, but mostly mint. Either way, Musial is Blake’s favorite and it was only 15 bucks to boot. Blake dug deep into his shorts pocket, fishing out various bits of flotsam before emerging triumphant with a mitt-full of quarters and dimes to pay the man.
“I came here with $10 and my dad gave me $5,” the 10-year-old from Charlestown said. “I’ll have to work that off of course, but ($15) is a deal for that card.”
Blake was one of a few kids meandering through a winding maze of sports cards and ephemera Sunday at the Twin State Sports Cards and Coin Show at the Fireside Inn in West Lebanon.
Despite a no-show by former Red Sox pitcher Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, who was supposed to be signing autographs, the crowd seemed content to take in the history laid out in neat stacks of plastic throughout the room.
Blake, for one was very happy with his find.
“Musial is my favorite,” he said. “He always signed autographs, no matter how late he had to stay. And he was fabulous. He was a great player.”
Blake said he caught card fever two years ago at the wise old age of 8, when his dad showed him a tub-full of cards that he had saved from the 1980s and 1990s. Blake was hooked. He started buying books on collecting and studying up on the art of finding the right cards. That is why last year when he and his dad found a newspaper ad for a Mickey Mantle on sale, he just knew he had to have it.
“I bought books and read up on all the older players,” Blake said. “And I just think about how neat it would have been to live back then, getting to see players like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris. Then I saw the Mantle.”
So Blake phoned the number in the ad.
“We did some wheeling and dealing and he said he could do $90,” Blake said. “But I thought there was no way I could get $90. I started with $20. So I worked and worked and worked all last summer — doing yard work for neighbors and really anything I could do to earn the money.”
But he could manage to raise only $60.
“I called him every day asking if he still had the card,” Blake said. “Finally, he said he would sell it to me for $60.”
Blake sent the seller a note at Christmas and a picture of the card, which holds a place of honor on what was formerly Blake’s NASCAR shelf.
“I just love it,” Blake said. “And I don’t really sell the cards. I trade them. But I collect them just to collect them. I want to pass them onto my kids someday and they can pass them onto their kids and then maybe one day they can open a museum of all of my cards.”
Blake is not typical.
“It’s different than it used to be,” said Jim Younce, admitted sports card “nerd” and organizer of the Twin State event. “I don’t think it’s as popular with kids as it used to be. A lot of kids are still sports nuts, just in a different way.”
And there are a lot more distractions, said Arnold Lawson, 71, of Barre, Vt., who had a table at the show. With kids so enamored with technology, it’s hard for them to gin up the same enthusiasm from dusty bits of cardboard that still smell vaguely of bubble gum.
“Kids don’t want to take the time to read, they don’t want to take the time to learn this stuff, and spend all the hours it takes,” said Blake .
Additionally, there are fewer companies putting out baseball cards, which used to come free with the aforementioned bubble gum, he said. While a collector used to be able to get cards from the likes of Bowman, Fleer, Donruss, Topps, Upper Deck, and Panini, only Topps, Upper Deck and Panini remain after respectively buying up the other three.
“I think the kids who are interested get interested because they have parents who collected when they were kids,” Lawson said. “It’s the parents that tell them the history and what it all represents.”
That’s certainly the case for Celeste Tanguay, 10, of Derby, Vt., who was at the show with her dad. She agreed it was hard to find other kids, let alone other girls, as interested in baseball cards as she is. But that was OK with her.
“My dad had cards as a kid,” she said. “And I think it’s kind of fun finding all different kids of cards. We get them at stores and shows. … It’s nice because it’s like this time I get to spend with my dad and I like it.