This is mostly tongue in cheek, but it has its merits. Plus I am using this as the platform to do some creative writing/thinking that will require your participation (yes, a prize will be awarded if you need motivation). Kind of a choose your own adventure with puzzles that would hopefully make Dr. Robert Langdon proud.
In the annals of Western Civilization, society has been host to many secret organizations. Some are conjecture, such as The Illuminati, and some are confirmed like The Freemasons and Yale’s Skull and Bones, but each has one common thread, a secret. In nearly all Societies, the secret is carefully guarded, rarely spoken, and if written, it is coded and hidden behind a labyrinth of puzzles and metaphors. Sometimes the secret is revealed to all the society’s members, and other times it is kept from members until they have reached the highest echelon of their Order.
Surely you are confused, and are questioning how is this relevant to 2½ by 3½ inch cardboard? Until yesterday, I was confused as well, my friend, but the truth has been revealed. Unbeknownst to us all, if you are reading this post, or have read any writings of the fine sampling of collectors listed to the right, you are a member of a Secret Order, an Order that worships the Cardboard Gods.
Bear with me now. I understand the wave of emotion overcoming you at this moment. You question, when did I become a member? What is the secret? Who are my fellow brothers and sisters? Patience my friend, all will be revealed in due time.
Looking back through my collecting years, I have noticed a pattern. One does not idly find a fellow collector. No, they are usually ferreted out in a carefully choreographed dance. In most circles, it is decidedly un-cool to be a 25 to 75 year old person that, in essence, spends exorbitant amounts of money for an essentially worthless piece of cardstock. As a result, very few people outside of my wife, parents and siblings know I collect cards.
Card collectors are unlike any other adult “order” that willingly participates in a child’s hobby. Other “orders” wear their society like a badge. For instance, Star Wars fans are so brazen as to create costumes of their favorite characters to wear in public, and Trekkies have their own language, for Klingon’s sake. To date, I have yet seen a card collector parading down the street covered in a suit of penny sleeves containing their Cardboard Gods; and our language only consists of unintelligible acronyms like UER, RC, DK, RR, etc.
Thusly, card collectors are typically isolated souls that surreptitiously congregate at bi-monthly/quarterly shows, or find safe haven on the internet. Undoubtedly, when a non-collector finds out you are a collector, they only ask the questions we dread, “How much is a 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey worth? How much is the 1987 Topps set? What’s your most expensive card?” To all of those questions, I philosophically reply “REDACTED.” This response never goes over well.
Still not convinced, are you? Well, here is more proof of my encounters with The Order.
After purchasing a 600 card starter set of 1974 Topps, the seller wanted to meet me at a nearby gas station. He saw me pull up, and we both quickly exited our vehicles and met at his truck’s tailgate. I opened the box, saw that roughly 600 cards were present and I handed over my cash. We just began to talk cards, when a police officer fueling his cruiser walked over and interrupted our discussion on mid-70s Topps. To the officer, it appeared we had just made a drug deal. He made me open the box, and I showed him the cards. His response was more or less that cards are for kids, etc. You know what I’m saying. It was a decidedly un-cool moment.
A second encounter that alerted me to The Order was when I sold my old car last month. The dealer appraising my car saw a package of vintage cards I had received in trade. He turned to me and said “Do you collect?” I cautiously answered “Yes.” Next he pulled out a piece of paper, wrote down his name and email, and told me that he was into vintage cards and we should trade. Just then his boss showed up, and the conversation quickly steered away from cards. We never spoke of it again that day, but we have been working out a trade online.
The final encounter, which happened yesterday, was when I was walking back to my office from the post office. On the way back, I passed my local brick and mortar, which is usually a ghost town. However, yesterday, a dapperly dressed man exited carrying a small 50 count case and some 9 pocket sleeves. I asked him if he got some good ones, and he stopped. I’m sure he was sizing me up, wondering if I was going to ridicule or if I was truly a collector. He cautiously said “Yes, got some 1965 Topps for my set. I’m 90% done.” I looked them over with him and congratulated him on his findings. I told him about the card blogosphere and he was dumbfounded. He was amazed there are “others” and that we are organized. That is when I finally realized The Order exists.
You still doubt The Order’s existence, don’t you? Does the blogosphere not convince you? A loosely organized legion of devoted collectors spread across the entire globe that are all literally linked to one another through varying degrees of separation?
In addition, allow me to present more proof in the form of aliases. Night Owl, Collective Troll, Captain Canuck, The Wicked O’, GCRL, Doc T, etc. Not until one is firmly entrenched in The Order does the facade of such name trickery fall aside, such as when a trade is completed. At that moment, you have been entrusted with the true identity of a fellow collector, and in some cases given their home address, but one must pay a price. You must share your name and address.
Finally, you ask, what is the secret?
Well, in the words of Joshua, “Shall we play a game?”
You didn’t think I would just type the secret, did you? Remember, it is coded and hidden behind a labyrinth of puzzles and metaphors.
(I’m dry running this adventure through a friend of mine for fine-tuning purposes and to ensure it is not impossible to solve, so Part One of The Code of the Cardboard Gods will begin soon…)