Mike Blaisdell, vice president of Bunce Rental, Tacoma, Wash., is one of those lucky guys whose mother packed away his baseball cards and never threw them away.
Soon after he graduated from college in 1984, he found out the value of baseball cards at a swap meet he went to with his wife, Leslie, who was then his girlfriend.
“There was a booth selling cards and I told Leslie I had this card, this card, this card and so on. Some were priced at $30 or $40 each. We left from there, drove to my parent’s home and I asked my mother, ‘Do you still have my cards?’ She had saved several boxes and that got me into collecting again. I soon started meeting people in the hobby and going to shows,” Blaisdell says.
However, instead of joining in on the frenzy, he sold his baseball cards and decided to concentrate on finding football trading cards and collectibles. “It seemed like nobody cared about football cards at that time and they were inexpensive to buy. I started setting up at shows, with a good friend of mine, to sell my extras. No one else at the shows was buying football cards, so when anyone had football to sell, the other dealers would direct them to the ‘two nuts in the back that buy football cards.’ We would even have dealers that bought collections just give us the football stuff because they didn’t want it.” Blaisdell says.
The hobby became both a passion and an obsession as he compiled complete sets of cards and focused on rare items that have resulted in Blaisdell becoming one of the more advanced football collectors in the United States. His younger brother has a similar passion, but has focused his collection on University of Washington football.
“He has all programs from the late 1890s on up and he probably has the most complete University of Washington football collection there is. He often puts things on display in their hall of fame,” Blaisdell says.
Blaisdell also has written several articles as an expert collector and is listed as a contributing writer for Gridiron Greats Magazine, which focuses upon the history and memorabilia of the North American football game.
One room in his home has become somewhat of his personal museum, dedicated to the collection that includes football programs, trading cards, card wrappers, vintage display boxes and much more.
“I have artwork from Topps and uncut sheets from Topps and other trading card companies. I have the wrappers the cards came in, display boxes back to the 1920s and different advertising for the cards. I’m into the history of the game and the cards,” Blaisdell says.
He also has a unique collection of items related to Red Grange, nicknamed the Galloping Ghost and one of the most famous football players of the 1920s. These include dolls and cards as well as different products Grange endorsed, such as an athlete’s foot powder.
Blaisdell’s prized possession is a complete 1894 Mayo Tobacco set of 34 football cards, which he was able to put together in the early 1990s. One card in the set — Anonymous (John Dunlop, Harvard) — is perhaps the rarest football card in the world, with maybe a dozen known to exist.
“This is the football equivalent of the extremely rare T206 Honus Wagner baseball card from the early 1900s. It’s one of the neatest things I have,” Blaisdell says.