I Threw It All Away (At A Hard Brick Wall)

We were sitting on a gold mine and just didn’t know it. Why didn’t anybody tell us?

beliveau cardWhenever we got a chance outside school, we’d throw Rocket Richard and Gordie Howe cards against the school’s brick walls to see who would come the closest. We did the same with Doug Harvey and Frank Mahovlich and Jean Beliveau and all those helmetless, legendary, magical names of yesterday. In fact, we ruined pretty well every card we owned. We’d bend them and put them in our bicycle spokes and wrap tight elastic around them, and of course fire them against walls. 

We’d buy our cards at a little kiosk at the corner where the two main streets met, a place run by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the man who worked there couldn’t see a thing. I always wondered how he did it – taking money, making change, reaching for the right thing stacked among so many other things.

We could’ve taken anything within reach at that little store and that man would never know, but we didn’t. We were there to spend five cents a pack on cards and try to get our sets completed. And we’d usually get them all, or lose most of them by doing like I said; firing them against hard walls to see who got the closest.

These cards would be worth thousands and thousands of dollars now. Rookie cards of every name you’ve ever heard of from the NHL of the 1950’s got dinged and bent and mud splattered on them. We loved our cards, but you always hurt the one you love.

And I think how it would have been if I’d kept some of those five cent packs still in the package, never opened. Visions of dollar bills dance in my head, and it’s making me dizzy. I remember when I was about eight years old and I needed only one card to complete my Montreal-Toronto set, and on a winter evening my dad came home from work with about fifty packs for me so I could finally find that one missing card. I imagine what those fifty packs of unopened 1958 cards would be worth now and my eyes widen. I was holding on to gold and no one told me.

Of course, my mother and all my friends’ mothers eventually did their spring cleaning and threw our cards out. It’s what mothers did. They fed us, taught us, and threw our cards out. They were born to throw their son’s cards out.

We were just goofy kids throwing cards against walls until girls got interesting, and anyway, we were of a different mindset. For us, keeping Jacques Plante and Tim Horton mint, or even keeping them at all, didn’t really matter. It was the game that counted. Getting rich just wasn’t in the cards.

12 thoughts on “I Threw It All Away (At A Hard Brick Wall)”

  1. Great post Dennis. I always cringe when i hear about cards of the Rocket or Gordie Howe getting thrown against walls and put in bike spokes. Like you said though, who would have known those cards would turn out to be worth what they are today. I did a little home work on what a pack of 1958 parkhurst might be worth today in mint shape and from what I found out it would be around $4000 dollars, times that by 50 and you got a small fortune.

  2. My grandma had an old wooden stick signed by all of the Montreal Canadiens around the time of the Rocket, Elmer Lach and Toe Blake. She kept it for a while, but my uncle some how got his hands on it and decided to play with it. He managed to rub all the names off of it.

    Now all my grandma has left is a dry-cleaners business card signed by Lach, Richard and I the last one I can’t make out.

  3. I think it’s basic laws of economics, here.

    I’ve heard/read so much about people from your generation who did the same thing with the old cards.

    Doesn’t it seem that if everyone in the 50s and 60s treated their sports cards with the same reverence as kids today, there’d be a glut of them on the market, therefore decreasing their value?

    By destroying your cards, you’ve made the cards that are still intact, valuable.

  4. DK; I have all those mint condition cards & I’ll send them to you when you send me my stubby Molson X bottle back ! You know the one after feeding me copious quantities of illict drugs that I some how lost my senses & gave to you .
    Cheers from The East
    Les Canadiens Toujours !!!!

  5. Bryan, You see, this is the kind of guy I am. Sacrificing my wealth for the future of others. What a generous person I am!

  6. Great stuff Dennis.

    Some years ago, my father got back into collecting hockey cards… he’s always been a fan of the Red Wings from the original 6 days (but I think he’s a closet Habs fan)…. he used to have boxes of all those old cards and he thinks they were given away to a cousin or something (we don’t have rich cousins…. so I doubt if they were cashed in)…

    Anyways, I went to a collectibles shop and bought an old Gordie Howe card for him… it wasn’t mint, but it was in pretty good shape. Can’t remember how much I paid. He was quite pleased.

    There’s not much of a point in my comments here…. but your article has reminded me that he has a ton of cards put away in storage and there are also many cards from when I was younger (like 1982ish…).

    So I think I’m gonna take a peek and see what I find.

    Thanks for reminding me!!!

  7. Right on, Yves. Childhood is such a magical time (sometimes) and hockey cards were as important as anything back then. I’m actually very proud that because of my age I saw original six teams play live and on TV, and saw so many legends in the flesh on the ice. I saw the Rocket play at Maple Leaf Gardens, and Harvey and all those guys. I have no problem being older because I was able to see and do this. I also saw the Beatles at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1966.

  8. Thanks for the memories although mine are about 20 years later.

    That was when collecting cards took time and effort. First beg a parent for some change, agonize whether to buy yummy candy or take a chance on cards. After opening cards, chewing the stick of crappy gum was consolation for not going for the candy. Then it was crunch time. Would I finally get that Lafleur all-star card I was desperately hunting for? Unfortunately it was usually yet another !@%*$ duplicate of a !@%*$ player from a !@%*$ expansion team that I didn’t give a !@%*$ about.

    I didn’t throw the good cards at a wall or put them in my spokes but their fate wasn’t much better. I’d bundle them together in elastics and carry them around in my back pocket to show them off to my friends or just to reread the statistics.

    Nowadays you can walk into a store and buy a complete set. No wonder they’re in mint condition, there’s no need to open the box to see what’s inside.

  9. The whole culture of cards has changed. They look at them with microscopes now for invisible fingerprints and such. And I’d forgotten all about the gum – gum was that fantastic for eight seconds and then got old.

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