On Patience, 1987 Topps, and He-Man

In the spring of ’87, as my Topeka Drive elementary career was winding down, I took stock of my days.  There were small changes.  Evan, the curly red-headed boy, wanted a girlfriend.  A couple of my friends were pairing off with cute girls, talking to them instead of playing after school handball with me.  We were prepping for our graduation dance.

And all I wanted was to complete my ’87 Topps baseball card collection.  The cards were beautiful with wood-grained borders and two Pete Roses.

The whole set screamed ‘investment potential’ and I put all of my weekly allowance, my school lunch money, and my Easter money toward the set.  The stars got a place in my album which I took to school each day so I could trade my duplicates.  By late April, I completed the base 792 card set.

Each 40 cent pack also included a bright red insert with a special offer.    If you collected six inserts and filled out the backs of each one, you could send them in with a check for $1 and get one of six special all-star glossy sets.  I waited until I had 36 insert cards and I painstakingly filled out each one with my name, address, and age.  I saved my allowance for three weeks and gave dad six dollars for a check and put my order in the mailbox.

This is the '87 Topps insert card.

I numbered the calendar 42-1 for the obligatory six weeks’ delivery time.  I started checking the mail the next day.  As soon as I got home, I bolted from the car, said a prayer, and tore open the mailbox.  Dejected, I went inside and drew an ‘X’ through the date, 41 days to go.

I spent most of each school day looking forward to checking the mail, telling myself that the cards probably weren’t there, but hoping and praying nonetheless.  Sometimes, when the mail was late, I checked it each time I heard a car squeaky enough to be the mail truck drive by.  On Saturdays, I sat on the curb and waited or played catch in the front yard or walked to the corner to see how many houses down the mail truck was, certain that if the mailman saw me waiting, he would be sure to give me the package.

And each day, I put an X on the calendar.  Each X meant two things:  the odds were even better that I’d get the cards the next day and the next day would pass even slower.

And one day in late June I woke up to four days left on the calendar, and it was time to graduate from sixth grade.  I wore a tie for the first time, put on shiny gray pants, and danced with Jenny, Lisa, and my Mom.  We went to Sizzler steakhouse for lunch and I ate four pieces of cheesebread.

Me and mom dancing during my sixth grade graduation. June of '87.

I got home and ran inside to tear off my fancy clothes.  I came back out to the living room and there it was, sitting on top of a pile of mail.  I jumped for the box and tore it open.  Six glossy, ten-card sets.  I cheered and showed them to everyone.  Jake started whining and I ran to my room to put them with the other set.

Dad came back a few minutes later and suggested I give Jake a few of my new cards.  It was my turn to whine.  I did the work.  I filled out the insert cards and sent them off and I waited for six weeks.  But dad didn’t relent.  I gave a set to Jake and he gave me a dollar – in quarters and nickels and five pennies.  He also gave me the insert card from the one pack of cards he had bought that year.

Two weeks ago, Zach and I started watching He-Man on Netflix.

Zach and I watching He-Man on Netflix.

He loved Battle Cat and clearly wanted some of the toys, so I ordered them for him.  And the wait began.

Each day for four excruciating days, I came home and asked my wife if a package came and each day she said no, I knew that the odds were even better that they would come the next day.  And then, as I was getting ready to come home from work, I received a text, “There’s more than me and Zach waiting for you at home!”  I rushed home:

That's Battle Armor He-Man in front with Battle Armor Skeletor, Two Bad, Mer-Man, and Man-at-Arms in the back row. I had each of these figures when I was little. Zach loves them, but I currently keep them at my office.

The complete 1987 Topps set is now worth $6.  I still have the set.  And one extra card.

The card on the right is the one Jake gave me for the All-Star glossy cards dad made me give him. It has his name, address, and age (7) on it. It's the only 1987 card that's still in my album.

About Jimmy

The stories herein are about a sentimental 80s child who cried at every showing of ET (the sad part where he was lying in the wash) and his families, then and now. His wife, son, parents, and siblings play their parts well. They have their exits and their entrances. Sometimes their exits are sad, but not as sad as ET.
This entry was posted in Elementary School, He-Man, memoir, Nostalgia, Topeka Dr and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to On Patience, 1987 Topps, and He-Man

  1. inkline says:

    It’s so exciting, Zach and I get to LOOK at your new toys!
    But I really think you should give one to Zach – one that’s not broken.

  2. magsx2 says:

    I think most of us are the same when we are expecting something in the mail. These days it is just nice to get something other than bills. 😀

    • Jimmy says:

      Agreed. Fortunately, I have a solid relationship with ebay, so I am either pleasantly surprised or hopelessly disappointed every other week or so.

  3. Dianna says:

    Smiling…. because the He-man (He-men) toys bring back memories of Marshall’s childhood. He didn’t have baseball cards; however, he DID manage to collect a complete set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cards. Hmm… wonder what they’re worth now….?
    (love the pic of you & Zach)

    • Jimmy says:

      If their values have followed the sports card trajectory, probably not much. The He-man figures, however, are loaded with enough battle and display values to make any six-year old giddy.

      I had a massive collection I’m slowly rebuilding. I’ll be talking about it on my blog someday, I’m sure.

  4. Coming East says:

    This brought back so many memories from the days when my brother and I collected baseball cards in the ’50’s. A card came in a package with a flat piece of bubble gum. Do the cards still come with gum? We also collected cards of our favorite TV characters like Davy Crockett. When we wanted to trade cards with friends, we’d flip them into the ground, and if another kid was able tomflip his card so that it covered yours, he got your card. Loved this post. And loved the picture of Zach on your shoulders.

    • Jimmy says:

      I grew up on a similar story from my dad where they’d flip their cards and the one that was closest to the wall took all the cards. I don’t think he ever had Davy Crockett cards, though.

  5. Maxi Malone says:

    My heart has melted … Zach on your shoulders staring at the image on your laptop. Can’t understand why dad made you give cards to Jake; to share a candy bar is one thing but a treasure?

    Good luck on rebuilding your collection. Blessings – Maxi

  6. Ann Marquez says:

    …”the whole set screamed “investment potential.”” Worth $6 now? 😉 Great story. 😀
    I love your blog!!!

  7. Zach is TOO cute, watching He-Man with you! The part of this post that really made me smile, though, is how your wife totally “gets” how excited you were about the toys and sent you a text that totally conveyed that. That’s cool.

  8. projectwhitespace says:

    Ok, so we are the same age. But somehow, your writing this stuff and how old it sounds makes me think you are way older. Because I’d rather think that than to think that I’m just getting so old!!
    I love this stuff.

  9. Nate says:

    I miss those memorable days. I was a big fan of Will Clark of the SF Giants and somehow accumulated over a dozen of his rookie cards. Poor Pete Rose, got a bum wrap for gambling even though he was an awesome bb player.


  10. bigron42 says:

    I’m just a guy with a limerick reply…

    There was a young lad from Canards,
    Who collected Topps baseball cards;
    He saved money to get,
    A whole beautiful set,
    Which were not worth much afterwards.

    Compliments of Humorous Interludes

  11. Great story! I, too, am the proud owner of a 1987 Topps Baseball complete set. I didn’t earn it quite like you did, but my grandfather bought it for me when I was about 11 or 12 (he loved buying me collectibles: mainly baseball cards and collectable coins fresh from the mint) and so it’s very special, regardless.
    As for He-Man, had them too. “Man-E-Faces” was one of my favorite action figures of all time!

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