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Sports card collectors enjoy trip down memory lane

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING
Andrew Potter and Rich Heckner look at Heckner’s collection of baseball cards during a get-together Saturday afternoon at the Marshalltown Public Library.

They are a small group with members in the upper single-digits to the low double-digits depending on the meeting. Sport card collectors are not a dime a dozen. They are an increasingly rare sight.

But they are as passionate as any big convention about their common hobby.

Saturday afternoon, in the cafe of the Marshalltown Public Library, their eyes lit up at each notable card they saw — and there were hundreds, if not thousands.

There are books of basketball cards brought in by Rich Heckner that include Hall of Fame head coaches Pat Riley and Phil Jackson.

Cards from players on the Miami Dolphins’ undefeated 1972 team brought by Kipp Johnson.

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING
A baseball signed by baseball star Ernie Banks and dedicated to Kipp Johnson. Johnson brought the ball to Saturday afternoon’s sports card collector gathering at the Marshalltown Public Library.

A young new member named Kayler Morris brought in decks and decks of sports cards, including Peyton Manning from his time with the Broncos.

The one thing in common is a love for sports card collectibles — and organizer Andrew Potter says the group is always happy to welcome more members.

“It’s open to anyone who wants to join,” said Potter, the city’s Director of Tourism.

The group first met two years ago. Johnson said Saturday was his second meeting, but he’s been collecting cards since he was a kid.

“I was probably 5-10 years old, I started collecting football cards,” Johnson said. “I’d go down to the store and get a couple of packs of football cards. I probably started buying them because they had the stick of gum in them.”

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING
Colin Potter’s collection of sports cards. His father Andrew Potter helps organize the sports card collector gatherings in Marshalltown.

One of Johnson’s prized collectibles is a packet from a charity golf event held in Iowa City in 1982. The signatures in the packet include PGA Tour winners Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, as well as other athletic figures like Ernie Banks and Johnny Orr.

He said when he comes to events like Saturday’s gathering, one thing he tries to look for is memorabilia of former Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams — his father’s favorite baseball player growing up.

Then there’s Heckner, a Milwaukee Brewers and Green Bay Packers fan who began getting cards of Packers players as a kid and collecting as many as he could. It spread to baseball, basketball and hockey, and now he carries books full of cards. He has some of his more valuable cards in cases to ensure integrity.

One of the cards he shows off is a Julius Erving card from the 1970s — just one of many sought-after cards collected by members of the club.

The meeting Saturday only lasted an hour, but the sports card collectors of Marshalltown could talk about their favorite players and memories for days. It’s a ticket to the past and to the present — from a 1909 T-206 baseball card to LeBron James and Peyton Manning.

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING
A page full of Pittsburgh Steelers football cards (and Seahawk Jim Zorn) brought to the Marshalltown sports card collectors gathering by Kipp Johnson.

Heckner loves these events.

“I do it for the sentimental thing,” Heckner said. “It takes you back to your childhood when you see these guys.”