A rapidly expanding waist line is the compromise required to collect AFL Tazos packed into potato chips. I was a fit middle aged man running up to 25 games a week refereeing basketball yet I was carrying a gut. Well supersize me, I was hooked on potato chips not out of psychological habit, but to retrieve the tazo. And how to network with like minded collectors for swaps and product updates? You’ve got to own your addiction and declare publicly “my name is Michael Gwyther and I’m an AFL cardaholic”. This bold shameless declaration sees other long suffering folk step forward to help you, support you – trade with you. In my case a 12 year old boy from Warrnambool and a 67 year old woman who lived locally. Meantime your belt loses another notch, your cholesterol count is rising and you kid yourself that barbecue is really a nice flavour. Excuses that creep into your vocabulary during wholesale transactions – “they’re for my son” bring awkward silent decrepitude when your 20 year old appears from nowhere as the cash is about to be handed over.
You get bitter – like feeling jinxed when you buy and eat 3 packets of Chicken chips in quick succession only to score Brad Johnson in each pack. You become vulture like on two/three fer deals. Toward the end the chips themselves were an unconscious by product of an addiction that has no name. You get thirsty so you begin popping the tops of stubbies. You’re in a time warp that you’re meant to grow out of once your voice drops but you’re hooked, hooked I tell ya!
So, how to break the cycle? Sometimes it requires that disconnect that right wing economic forces deliver like cold water in the face at dawn.
I was gutted – literally – when the AFL tazos were discontinued back in 2011. My waist line returned to normal and the dead of night salt cleansing water glasses became a thing of the past. My skin recovers from the perpetual lightly fried oil attacks now glowing as a not quite right fire sale demo from the Ponds Institute.
Once as a young boy I saved up my coins by washing discarded “Joes” lemonade bottles for which you’d get 5 cents for returning the bottle. Joe’s commitment to sustainability was on every bottle – “Worth money to both Joes and You and I’m very precious empty too”. The Joes bottle was a wonder, thick black enamel depicting a silhouetted Joe sipping a glass beside a wonderful 50’s font atop a venetian blind musical score motif. Manufactured locally in the Swansea of South Gippsland Korumburra, their Sarsaparilla was the fizz Grange of it’s time. So I’ve washed about 80 Joe’s in a half 44 gallon drum sloshing with freezing damn water. I’ve then had em converted into cash and headed into town to buy a whole box of Scanlen’s footy cards with the logical thought that it contain the whole set. My rationale pointed to avoiding frustrating double ups, cards already collected and the obligatory sore jaw from chomping the on pink, dry stale stick of gum.
I learnt a hard lesson that day as I unpacked each individual wrapper to learn that out of 300 possible cards in the box, there were only 16 unique cards and the rest were duplicates. Until that very moment of time I had believed that the card manufacturers – whose location, motivation or operation was never understood let alone examined, questioned, challenged or contemplated – were on the side of little Mickey Gwyther from Leongatha.
Years later when Scanlens were acquired by Stimrol and after a season or two from the ashes arose the Select brand, that historically obligatory stick of gum was abolished from inclusion.
However, If you had pulled me aside when I was 8 and said that 45 years later I would lose countless nights staring at a screen in the endless pursuit of VFL/AFL card trades without having to jump on a bike to pay for em, I’d said “Show me the time machine”. This is the allure of eBay. My own Scanlens sets collected and collated meticulously during my pre teen years are scattered to the winds by the type of neglect that accumulates the thinking in those early shadow adult years. Recently I happened to witness an ol geezer on Facebook share photo after photo of his meticulous collection of Hawthorn trading cards So thorough and carefully organised and presented, it appeared as a mirage – a time frozen document from the silent era to the present day of both football intensity and fandom loyalty. I vowed on the spot to rebuild a collection that pays homage to the heroes, hacks and nobodies that collectively epitomise my own Hawthorn journey over 5 decades and 9 flags”. I tie my mast to wait lists, drive my scabbard into bold counter offers, don my gas mask to avoid the poison of being out bid, and aim my musket gun at vintage fading cards from the pre television VFL era of disposable heroes. After a flurry my mail is now collected in crates, my time preoccupied with feedback. But I reach the top of the first of many mountains – I am a good person to do business with.
In the slightly bastardised words of the great Glen Campbell, I’ve become an ebay cowboy.
I’ve been browsin’ these cards so long
Singin’ the same old song
I know every crack in these dirty card collections of Scanlens
Where hustle’s the name of the game
And nice guys get washed away like the packs in the rain
There’s been a load of compromisin’
On the road to my horizon
But I’m gonna be where the gold cards are shinin’ on me
Like a ebay cowboy
Riding out on a mouse in a Mac-spangled rodeo
Like a ebay cowboy
Getting cards and letters from people I don’t even know
And offers comin’ over the phone
This post was originally published on Micks Footy Blog