Baseball card collecting a lifelong passion for Don Franklin | News, Sports, Jobs

News Photo by James Andersen Surrounded by card racks, Harrisville’s Don Franklin talks about his lifelong passion for collecting baseball cards. Franklin bought his first deck of cards when he was nine and estimates he has at least a few million cards in his collection.

HARRISVILLE – Tucked away in boxes and folders, hidden in bins and lined up on shelves throughout Don Franklin’s home, is decades of baseball history.

Franklin, 80, is a lifelong baseball fan and a lifelong baseball card collector. By his own estimate, he has between 2.5 million and three million of them, spanning from the 1930s to about 1990.

“Of course I can’t count them. That would be hard to do,” Franklin said, laughing. “But it’s fun… I’ve always loved baseball, even as a little kid. My brother, who was a little older than me, about a year and a half, we played baseball. In the middle of winter we went out and played tag.”

The memorabilia strewn around Franklin’s Harrisville home are testament to his love of baseball, and a 12 by 12 room, part of his garage, and a backyard shed are testament to his collecting hobby, which he has had since he was 9 years old.

His collection includes some of the greatest baseball players of all time — Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, and Al Kaline — but Franklin said even as a kid, he never attempted to own cards by a specific player, squad, or team collect collected cards for monetary value.

News photo by James Andersen Don Franklin thumbs through a binder of baseball cards at his Harrisville home.

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For him, the fun of collecting is in the foreground.

He bought his first packs as a child in Lincoln — less than five minutes from his current home — at the former Lecureux Grocery Store. At a time when young collectors were riding their favorite cards in the spokes of their bicycle wheels, Franklin kept his in a scrapbook, carefully taped corners to hold each card in place.

“We never preferred the Tigers or anything, we just liked all the players – Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle – all those guys from my time. We didn’t look at the value of a card, it didn’t mean anything to us,” Franklin said. “If I needed a Joe Smith and you needed a Bob Jones, I knew where to get it.”

Franklin said he collected cards in his early teens. Years later, while retrieving and sorting through his children’s collection from his mother’s house, Franklin realized he had about 1,100 cards and began to add to his collection.

He placed ads in local papers to buy baseball cards and people contacted him about their own collections or cards they just wanted to get rid of. Over time, the collection grew and grew, filling boxes, tubs, and eventually rooms.

News Photo by James Andersen Boxes of sorted, organized and labeled cards sit in a storage room at Franklin’s home. Franklin’s childhood collection of 1,100 cards has now grown to between 2.5 and 3 million cards.

Although Franklin isn’t sure how many cards he has, he has spent hours organizing and keeping them in order. The cards, many of them in complete or nearly complete sets, were carefully labeled, sorted and stored. Other boxes contain unopened sets or loose individual packs.

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People still contact Franklin about collections, asking him to look at cards or if he’s interested in buying. When Franklin sees something he likes at a reasonable price, he buys it.

Today’s sports trading card market is a multi-million dollar industry, with individual cards raking in millions of dollars. Last month, a Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle card sold for $12.6 million, the most money ever paid for a sports card or memorabilia. The previous record was set early last month when a buyer bought a T206 Honus Wagner – considered the holy grail of sports cards – for $7.25 million.

However, Franklin’s collecting philosophy was never about the hunt for monetary value. Any cards he has of noteworthy value are not kept at home, Franklin noted. While collecting cards by the thousands for many years, he has also sold dozens of cards, exhibited at state fairs and sold cards on Ebay when time permits.

When he’s not reviewing or sorting cards, Franklin likes to keep himself busy. He has been a fixture at Alcona High School’s sporting events for years as an announcer and assists with regional events. Over the past month, Franklin has been involved in several events celebrating Major League Hall of Famers and Harrisville’s KiKi Cuyler, including last month’s baseball card evaluation.

News Photo by James Andersen A collection of Topps baseball cards featuring the 1984 Detroit Tigers is on display in the card room of Franklin’s home. Franklin’s collection spans several decades and includes cards from many Major League Hall of Famers.

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“I sell enough stuff to support my hobby,” Franklin said. “It’s just fun. I enjoy it. I go in there and get lost for three or four hours, tinkering with cards, sorting cards. It’s all just fun. Every once in a while I’m like, ‘I’ll put this together and make a little sale on eBay.’”

News photo by James Andersen Franklin shows a signed card from Al Kaline at his home. Franklin traveled to Alpena to meet the former Detroit Tiger and have him sign the card when Kaline came to Alpena years ago to open a Domino’s Pizza.

Boxes of sorted, organized, and labeled cards sit in a storage shed at Franklin’s house. Franklin’s childhood collection of 1,100 cards has now grown to between 2.5 and 3 million cards.

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