Often a card’s sentimental or nostalgic value has far less to do with the card itself than some larger, surrounding circumstance. That could not be any more the case than with the triplet of wax packs of series one Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trading cards from 1989 that I purchased one weekend in San Francisco.
After what involved a rather treacherous three-hour car ride through embattled cartel territory in central Mexico in the rain and pre-dawn pitch of night and then another six hours of air travel not including layover, I finally reached my destination: the land of fog and redwoods to celebrate the wedding of my younger sister. However, I was feeling anxious; perhaps the jet lag lingered, yet I doubt I traversed more than one time zone. Or maybe it was the wedding. Even though I sensed my sister’s fiancé was a fine, upstanding, and overall perfect match, the whole elaborate affair and swirl of emotions was nevertheless an uneasy experience for me as “the elder brother” (whatever that antiquated, patriarchal title is supposed to mean). So when not caught up in all of the pomp and preparations, I was determined during this weekend wedding to do anything I could to distract myself.
Said distractions included me looking up a nearby card shop in Nob (“Snob”) Hill. To be honest, though, despite the misleading directory listing and even its pitifully designed but specifically promising signage, the establishment was less a card specialty shop than an all-around convenience store. But that is understandable given the current state of the card market (i.e. its overwhelming and absolutely necessary relocation to the internet realm). Nonetheless, I was curious and, again, in need of distraction. Outside of the shop’s entrance, a curiously ornate brass dragon emblazoned a portion of sidewalk, though perhaps this had more to do with some previous residents in this largely Chinese immigrant neighborhood. The interior did not impress as much. The inside was more cramped than my old dormitory room and in similar dire need of dusting and reorganizing (or purging). Only a couple of narrow strips of walking floor space existed for the customer in front of the cashier’s L-shaped counter. For the most part, I was initially disappointed by both the store’s modern-day card offerings (I usually prefer pre-1981 ephemera) and neighboring condom packs and myriad bottles of lubricants and salves.
Then I saw some familiar “heroes in a half shell.” Until that moment, I never knew that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trading cards existed, though it really should not have surprised me with proliferation of publishing subsidiary rights and marketing machines being what they were in the 1980s. While I believe the proprietor charged me a little more than the original twenty-five cents per pack (priced from more than twenty years ago), I still felt vindicated by the utterly random find.
So forget the Alcatraz paraphernalia, Golden Gate Bridge sweatshirts, and Fisherman’s Wharf postcards and trinkets. This was exactly the kind of souvenir I had sought out all along. And of course I will never forget that I bought these few packs of 1980s pop culture schlock while visiting San Francisco for my sister’s weekend wedding.
Image courtesy of COMC.com.