NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Matthew Texter’s current favorite basketball card is a shimmering purple and blue Panini Mosaic Ja Morant he won from a buddy.
To do so, Matthew hit a half-court shot on a driveway hoop.
“He regretted it,” he said of the friend who handed over the card. “I practice the shot a lot. I’d say I can hit it three out of 10 times if I really take my time. …I like the shiny cards, they look nice.”
Matthew, 11, pops into a card show every once in a while. On Saturday morning at the Lighthouse Christian School gym where about 100 dealers had tables set up, he carried around a plastic case with some cards and some cash seeking LaMelo Ball, Morant and his most recent prize – Jordan Poole.
I met him and Blake Kelsey, also 11, after I wandered around a little bit on my own.
My first mission was to see what some of the cards of my youth were worth, and so out of a fancy cloth box perched on top of a shelf in my wife’s home office, I picked 10 cards a younger version of me had determined were special.
These prizes were purchased with hard-earned allowance money a five-minute bike ride from my family’s home in South River, N.J. to a corner store across the street from our church. They came with a piece of stale bubble gum inside. My beloved Yankees always got plucked out first.
They were all Topps:
A 1977 Nolan Ryan
A 1978 Reggie Jackson
A 1978 Rookie Catchers with Bo Diaz, Dale Murphy, Lance Parrish and Ernie Whitt
A 1979 Carlton Fisk
A 1979 Pete Rose
A 1979 Ron Guidry
A 1980 Nolan Ryan
A 1980 Gary Carter
A 1980 Dave Parker
A 1981 Robin Yount
Ace McKenzie, a retired teacher, gets a table at a card show about once a month and typically turns in into $100. He gets more action on current cards – Morant’s quite popular – than vintage stuff. His 1958 Eddie Matthews had an $80 price tag and his 1965 Roberto Clemente was $200. He and his friend at the next table estimate all the cards McKenzie had with him are worth about $2,500.
He pulled out a giant magnifying glass and a price list to kill my dreams of a big payday, though I had no intent to sell.
Fisk was worth 3 bucks, Jackson 5, Rose $12. The 1980 Ryan could get me $15, the 1977 $30. The internet suggest I can do better if my cards are perfect and I find the world’s most eager buyer.
It was far more fun to watch and talk to Matthew and Blake, and to go back in time watching them look longingly at cards and strike up deals. (Mine were of the driveway trade variety; this was my first show.)
Blake’s favorite cards are of Ken Griffey, Jr. because he’s a lefty and his father tries to get him to model his swing after Griffey’s. But he traded a Griffey he estimated to be worth $15-20 for a Joe Burrow and a Jameis Winston.
He pulled out his wallet and showed me his bankroll. He had $111 and he started with $180. His aim was to spend only $50, so he was looking to sell off some cards before his visit ended.
Matthew was in the same frame of mind.
Blake’s family is soon to move back to Covington, Louisiana. LSU, the Saints and the Pelicans are among his favorite teams.
What makes for his favorite cards?
“It’s 50 percent price,” he said. “It’s 25 percent who I like, how I like the player. And it’s 25 percent how cool the card is.”
Another dealer, Jamie Owens, finished up a deal with Matthew and told me he doesn’t deal with as high a percentage of kids as he’d like, but that it is trending up.
Before we parted ways, I recruited Matthew, Blake and Blake’s brother Cooper, who turned 14 on Sunday, to help me pick out three packs of cards.
I wanted baseball and football only, so they steered me to Panini Contenders 2020 NFL (22 cards), Donruss Baseball 2021 (30) and Topps Baseball 2022 Series (67).
We were low on time, as one of them had a baseball game. But each took a turn opening a pack and shuffling through, pulling out the best cards (and the Yankees).
Matthew picked a CeeDee Lamb/Jalen Reager combo card from the football set. Blake and Cooper chose from the Donruss — a Ronald Acuna Diamond Kings and a throwback Babe Ruth, respectively.
For my own 12-year-old, I brought home a Winning Ticket Tom Brady and MVP Contender Cards of Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray, a Donruss Elite Series Yadier Molina and several nice Topps cards: a Greg Maddux insert and five stars of MLB – Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, Luis Roberts, Freddie Freeman, and Fernando Tatis.
Heading into the show, I decided I’d search for a Don Mattingly, and I looked at several.
Ultimately, none had a pull on me.
Matthew likes the shiny ones.
I just liked remembering being Matthew.