There used to be a card store at the end of my block. I was 8. Every Saturday after my bowling league a few friends and I would go over there with about $5-$10 and spend it on cards. Collector's Choice was usually our main focus due to the stickers we could get. None of us ever actually used the stickers, we just liked to collect them.
We'd look through the cases and see all the "rare" cards that we couldn't afford. You know, like that 1989 Fleer Ken Griffey Jr. card that was priced at $50. "Man I'd do ANYTHING for that card!" was the most common thing said amongst us. We'd buy our cards and go back to the bowling alley and open them up.
My dad and I actually got to run the store for one day. Probably one of the best days in my 8 year old life. I just wanted to open all the packs, but I was stopped. The owner of the store did give me and my dad a bunch of packs for helping him out though, which I opened in the first 10 minutes of being there.
The store closed within 2 years. The guy barely made any money and his stuff was ridiculously priced. On the last day I wasn't able to make it to the store, but my friends did and they had boxes and boxes of packs they got for nearly half off, I was pretty upset about that.
I'll never forget the day I bought (at the time) what I thought would be the most expensive pack of my life. It cost me $5. It was Leaf Studio '96. My dad wasn't very happy when I returned with only one pack purchased and no money to give back, but this pack was going to give me the best baseball cards I've ever had.
I don't remember what I exactly I pulled from those packs, but I did get one of my favorite cards of all time. A Ken Griffey Jr. Masterstrokes Insert /5000. This was the first ever serial number card I had ever seen, and even my dad had no idea what serial numbers meant. Back then, /5000 was a huge pull. Now it's worth nothing. I was told to go back to the store and buy a penny sleeve and top loader for the card. I did just that.
1994-1998 were probably my favorite year of collecting cards. I was just finally understanding all the sports and actually knew who most of the players were in all the Big 4 sports.
The best part about all of this is looking back on my "prize card binder" which is still somehow intact after 14 years. The first page are Mickey Mantle reprinted cards. Second page is full of Griffey cards. My favorite page by far though is the one full of Fleer 95 cards. Bip Roberts, Doc Gooden, Marty Janzen (wtf), Mark Portugal (what), Andy Benes, Royce Clayton (haha), and Ricky Bottalico are the studs on that page. Another page has a die cut Jimmy Haynes card that I remember pulling and saying this card would make me rich. Well it didn't, but it did make a hell of a blog post nearly 15 years later.
Hopefully over the course of the next week I can get a really old scanner to work and upload some of my prized collection up to AI for everyone to be jealous of.