Magazine article Addiction Professional

Trading Cards Could Be a Risky Gamble

Magazine article Addiction Professional

Trading Cards Could Be a Risky Gamble

Article excerpt

If you're part of the baby boomer generation and you collected trading cards in your childhood, you probably recall pitching them against a curb in the street, or wedging them into the spokes of a bicycle wheel. You grew up in the times before trading cards became commodities in the full sense of the word--before some collectors would pay hundreds or even thousands for one pack of cards and the chance of landing that one coveted superstar.

Michael Smith, co-founder of Chapter House Sober Living and Counseling Center in Dallas, recalls one of his first experiences as a young person during the trading boom period. Having acquired at age 13 a prized card depicting both Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, Smith says a dealer immediately offered to write him a $200 check to turn it over. His first thought after accepting the money: "Maybe I can get another," he says.

The discussion of whether trading cards represent a dangerous gaming exercise for too many people gets renewed from time to time in the national media, but appears to be a little-studied aspect of youth and young-adult behavior (overwhelmingly male) overall. Smith refers to prospecting for valuable cards as "an unspoken process addiction," one with which he says he was intimately familiar.

"When I was dealing heroin in Portland, Maine, I got to telling people, 'Go to the local card shop and buy sets of cards instead of giving me money,'" Smith says. "I'd give them heroin for cards."

Little acknowledgement

Smith says he has not recently seen examples of this behavior in the clients his transitional-living program for men serves, but sometimes he will hear colleagues in the field refer to a patient as a "collector" or someone who "prospects."

Arnie Wexler, a recovering compulsive gambler who has served as a leader in the National Council on Problem Gambling and who with wife Sheila has helped many individuals and families affected by problem gambling, recalls one individual he encountered who after 20 years in a 12-Step program relapsed and began collecting baseball cards, with the notion that he "was going to corner the market."

Wexler also said in an e-mail to Addiction Professional, "I just got off the phone with a guy who started with baseball and football cards and then went into all kinds of other stuff that came on the market, like Beanie Babies. He quit his job and was just buying things, collectables, until he went broke, and is now in recovery. …

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