In 1968, I could walk into the corner grocery store with a shiny dime and purchase a packet containing three baseball cards, each featuring the mug of some currently popular ball player. As a bonus, a stick of pale pink bubble gum was included, guaranteed to be as malleable and chock-full of flavor as a tongue depressor. Cramming the gum into my mouth, I´d sit down on the curb to examine the cards.
They were all there—Willie Mays, Harmon Killebrew, Nolan Ryan—the boys of summer, handsome in their bright white uniforms, hitting, fielding or just casually lounging while waiting for the game to begin (or perhaps the peanut vendor to arrive). On the backs of the cards were each player´s stats—RBI, HR, AVG—symbols that meant nothing to me, but which I knew accounted for the hero worship of millions of fans like my brother, who had committed those facts to memory.
In later years, those same cards would increase in monetary value by about four million percent. But even in ’68, they were priceless to me, spending them as I did to bribe my brother into doing my chores. For 10 cents, it was quite a bargain.
I was reminded of this a month ago, when my son and I stopped at a local hobby shop, intent on purchasing more Pokemon cards to add to his already morbidly obese collection. Instantly he spotted the card of his dreams, encased behind bulletproof glass with a red velvet rope guarding its perimeter.
"It´s…it´s…a Clefairy!" he said in awe.
"Twelve dollars?" I said, looking at the price sticker. "Twelve dollars!! That can´t be right. Are they insane?"
"Mom!" he said between clenched teeth. "You´re embarrassing me."
"C´mon buddy. Twelve bucks is a lot of money for a 3x4 inch hunk of cardboard, unless it can actually do something. Does it levitate? Does it possess the power to clean your room? Can it prevent tooth decay? Fight foot odor? What does it do that makes it worth 12 bucks?"
"Well," he said, "it´s a Clefairy, a basic but rare Pokemon, and it´s holographic, making it even more collectible. And it can use water, fire, fighting, lightening, leaf, dark or psychic energy—raising its attack powers, and it has 40 hit points. Its retreat cost is 1, meaning only one energy is needed to retreat, and it’s cute and I really want it." At which point he ran out of air.
"Oh," I said.
And there went twelve bucks.
A few weeks ago, I found the Clefairy card on a paper plate with the remnants of a snack, soaking up the oil from some leftover sweaty cheddar. Gone was the splendor of its vibrant color, cute face, potent hit points and stunning energy capabilities. All that was left was an oily, rubbery card with a runny face.
For twelve bucks, you’d think it could at least overcome the power of cheese.