“Were always the fashion” – Barry Manilow
Yes, I love music and I love this Barry Manilow hit from 1978, and I’ll tell you what else was “in fashion” and what else I had a “passion” for in 1978 – trading cards. If you like trading cards AND Barry Manilow, then this post is for you! “Cards and The Copa” – I challenge you to find any other blog post combining both.
A few months ago, I bought my first pack of football cards since I stopped buying football cards sometime in the early 80’s. The Panini Contenders “value” pack of 18 cards was $4.99 at a local Barnes & Noble. Value? Eighteen for $4.99 – that’s almost 28 cents per card! I remember my dad buying me a whole pack of Topps football cards for 25 cents back in 1978. Fourteen cards and a stick of “gum” for less than two cents per card. Well now I just sound old and disgruntled. Hmpf.
Although I love baseball cards more and have way more baseball cards than football, my first love and venture into the world of tradings cards was the 1978 Topps football set. I actually wrote a piece that I published on here a few years ago I titled “Missing Roger Staubach.”
I didn’t actually open the “value” pack I purchased right away though. I put it up in the closet. I had grand thoughts of hanging onto it unopened for 30 years and selling it like the one above. I eventually gave in and opened it, but only after opening my first official pack since the early 90’s – a pack of 2021 Topps Update baseball.
I have a friend and co-worker who is an avid collector/buyer/seller in the trading cards industry (shoutout Kerry!) so we talk about cards a lot. I’ve learned a ton just from asking him questions and attending a few card shows where he has a table. And yes, there are still card shows probably like you remember them in the 80’s or 90’s if you ever attended one.
And, in case you didn’t realize it, the card industry is exploding once again. It’s very reminiscent of the mid to late 80’s when I was a young collector stocking up on Gregg Jeffries and Mike Greenwell rookie cards that were going to fund my retirement one day! I remember dad always commenting about how many thousands of dollars worth of cards I must have and how valuable they’ll be one day! Uhhh… sorry dad.
Well, that ’84 Donruss Don Mattingly rookie I have that was going to be worth thousands can now be picked up for about $40 – maybe closer to a hundred bucks if it’s an officially highly graded card by one of the grading companies. So, if you’ve been out of the trading card game like I have since the late 80’s/early 90’s then you’re in for quite a shock if you step back in. I’ve spent the better part of the last few months figuring out what’s what. I feel like a transfer student who just completed the equivalent of basic 9th grade math stepping onto the campus of Harvard and enrolling in their “Math 55” course.
Chrome cards, purple parallels, gold parallels, rainbow parallels, short prints, super short prints, oh my! Autos, inserts, relics, patch cards, die-cuts, and the new vocabulary list and combinations seem endless. Add in graded vs. non-graded, various grading companies, slabs, sleeves, breaks, etc., and you have yourself quite the mountain to climb if you’re going to understand the world of trading cards today.
I’ve seen cards of Nascar drivers called “Race Day Relics” that include a piece of the sheetmetal or of a tire from their car in the card! There are baseball cards with pieces of the bat or their jersey included in the card. And apparently, Pokemon cards are big business as well. And things are not cheap. You can still pick up “commons” (cards that are not considered important for any reason) around 50 cents to a few dollars each, but rookie cards, autographed cards, relics, and the like can command hundreds and thousands (if not millions) of dollars.
“His name was Rico. He wore a diamond.”
A rare Kobe Bryant basketball card sold for over two million dollars recently, but Lebron James still holds the hoops record with his 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection RPA parallel card selling for $5.2 million in April 2021. See? If you’re not into cards, how much of that description did you understand? The year and maybe the brand – Upper Deck. The Upper Deck collection is the “Exquisite Collection,” and “RPA” stands for Rookie-Patch-Auto, so it is his rookie year card with an autograph and a patch of his jersey.
Of course the most famous card of all-time is the T206 1911 American Tobacco Company card of baseball hall of famer, Honus Wagner. His best (non-altered; a whole other story) conditioned card sold for over $6.6 million last August after being the first card sale to surpass the one million dollar mark in a sale in 2000.
I’m amazed at the world of cards in 2022, and the business it has grown into. For me, I will always be a collector first, investor second. The 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 pieces of cardboard are more than an alternative stock market. They are pieces of history, statistics that tell a story from a different year or different era. They are faces frozen in time – some young and eager to begin a journey full of possibilities and others winding down an injury-riddled, unfulfilling career, while others may be capping off a hall of fame career.
And oh yeah, these pieces of cardboard occasionally take me back to 1978.
“Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl. With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there.”
Brooklyn-born Barry Alan Pincus is now 78, and we know time seems to accelerate the later we get in life. So instead of waiting for a dedication post to the one-time “next Sinatra,” after he passes, I’m taking the time now to honor the great Barry Manilow.
A model of consistency, this guy didn’t take a break. Since his debut in 1973 (approximately 49 years ago), he has put out 31 studio albums, 6 live albums, and 13 compilation albums! The man is a machine and that type of consistency must be recognized and respected!
I loved Barry Manilow before it was not cool to love the man. My pre-pubescent 70’s self would hear “I Write the Songs,” “Mandy,” or “I Made It Through the Rain,” and sing right along. My interests drifted to top 40 and country and hair metal and rap and grunge as we moved into the 80’s and 90’s, but through all of that, it (wait for it)… looks like he/we made it (hold that last note)!
“Tony sailed across the bar. And then the punches flew and chairs were smashed in two. There was blood and a single gun shot. But just who shot who?”
Today’s song was one of my favorite songs from 1978, and my favorite Barry Manilow song ever. I didn’t know where Havana was or that the Copacabana was actually a real place, and I didn’t care. All I cared about was the funky beat and the story Barry weaved for my seven year old ears. The single was released in 1978 with the remix and subsequent video being released in 1993 for an average of 1985-86. Math! Barry also turned the song into a 1985 made for tv movie musical starring Manilow. The movie, which I don’t ever recall watching, won an Emmy later that year.
The actual Copacabana club is probably worth a separate post all on its’ own, but it opened in 1940 and closed in 2020. Many stars passed through the storied club including the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., Sam Cooke, The Temptations, The Supremes, and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were regular performers there as well including their final act together in 1956. The club also garnered some notoriety when in 1957 a fight broke out involving New York Yankees’ Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Hank Bauer, Yogi Berra, Johnny Kucks, and Billy Martin when a group of drunk bowlers started hurling racial slurs at Sammy Davis during his act. The club later became a discotheque in the 70’s and inspired today’s classic. It moved a few times and closed during the pandemic yet to reopen.
Well, let’s go back for a few minutes and enjoy a Grammy winner and seller of over 85 million records, Mr. Barry Manilow singing about “the hottest spot north of Havana”… at the Copa…. Copacabaaaaannnnaaaa…
Thanks for reading and be wary if you know anyone named Rico. And thank you, Mr. Manilow!