I was having one of my birthday lunches the other day with a friend (her treat!) and we were discussing the annual birthday BBQ that I host each year (mainly as an excuse to get a bunch of my friends over for a few hours).

During the course of lunch, she asked me whether I still had any of the comics left that I use to stuff Halloween bags.  Before I could ask why, she said she wanted to buy some for her boys (also coming over for the BBQ).  That part I didn’t need to explore…kids love comics.

Of course, I told her no, I had no comics to sell her.  I had plenty to give to her, though and said I would pack up a bunch for the boys.  Later that day, as I thought of the titles and characters that would be appropriate for each boy, a better idea occurred to me.  Why not just stuff a long comics box with various titles and let the kids pick out what they wanted?  And if some of the other kids coming to the BBQ wanted some, well, wouldn’t that be easier?  (It should be noted here that there is no room to hang clothes in my “guest” room, as it is completely filled with long comics boxes (they hold about 300 comics each) along with wrapping paper, bows, gift boxes and bags).

The idea was especially pleasing to me as it brought back memories of my youth when I was a big collector…of just about anything paper – stamps, comics, books, baseball cards, etc.  Back “then”, there were few places to go to truly collect stuff.  Oh sure, an occasional stamp store or used book store, but not much else.  Instead, the focus was more on scavenging for goodies.

The best times were usually at garage sales, where you could scrounge for hours, many of them under cover of the garage or carport (few of those still around) to avoid the sweltering Florida heat.  Since most paper collectibles were considered worthless in those days, some great old gems could be had for fractional value.

Second best locations to search were yard sales, which were almost always outdoors and frequently yielded some less than pristine quality, as much of the cheaper paper yellowed, bleached, faded or rolled in the Florida sun and humidity.  Some sales, like those at the churches or temples, would have canopies and be more organized.  Others looked like a windstorm whipped through the person’s closets and threw stuff on their lawn.

Another place of interesting discoveries were the multitude of flea markets. Unlike the few flea markets around today, those old-time flea markets were basically just people paying a couple bucks for a table and bringing a lot of cardboard boxes full of junk they were getting rid of for “Spring cleaning”.

There was a special joy in finding a long-sought rare item in particularly good condition.  There was an equal thrill in simply locating a story or stamp or card that filled a hole in a collection (say a Don Buford Baltimore Orioles card, not particularly valuable…unless you needed it to complete that past year’s team).

I used to ride to a lot of these sales on my bike and struggle on the way back with a bag of stuff (pre-backpack days).  Then I could spend the next few days simply flush with my victory at unearthing the “cool” items I had found.

If I can duplicate that, even in a tiny way, for the kids at the BBQ this weekend, I’ll bet I will be almost as thrilled as they will.

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