Baseball card collecting a lifelong passion for Don Franklin
HARRISVILLE — Stashed away in boxes and binders, tucked away in tubs and situated on shelves throughout Don Franklin’s house is decades worth of baseball history.
Franklin, 80, is a lifelong baseball fan and a lifelong collector of baseball cards. By his own estimation, he’s got between 2.5 million and three million of them, spanning from the 1930s through about 1990.
“I obviously can’t count them. That would be hard to do,” Franklin said with a laugh. “But it’s fun…I’ve always loved baseball, even when I was a little kid. My brother, who was a little bit older than me, by about a year and a half, we’d play baseball. In the middle of winter, we’d go out and play catch.”
The memorabilia scattered throughout Franklin’s Harrisville home is a testament to his love of baseball and a 12-by-12 room, part of his garage, a backyard shed are evidence of the collecting hobby he’s had since the age of 9.
His collection includes some of baseball’s all-time greats — Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and Al Kaline — but Franklin said, even as a kid, that he never sought to collect cards of a certain player, certain team or collected cards for monetary value.
For him, it’s all about the fun of collecting.
He bought his first packs for a nickel as a kid in Lincoln — less than five minutes from his current home — at the former Lecureux Grocery Store. During a time when young collectors would ride with their favorite cards in the spokes of their bicycle wheels, Franklin kept his in a scrapbook, carefully gluing in corners to keep each card in place.
“We never favored the Tigers or anything, we just liked all the players — Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle — all those guys from my era. 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 go to get it.”
Franklin said he collected cards through his early teenage years. Years later when he retrieved his childhood collection from his mother’s house and sorted, Franklin realized he had about 1,100 cards and began expanding his collection.
He ran ads in local papers, looking to buy baseball cards and people contacted him about their own collections or cards they were just looking to get rid of. Over time, the collection grew and grew, filling boxes, tubs and eventually, rooms.
Though Franklin isn’t sure just how many cards he has, he’s spent hours organizing them and keeping them in good order. The cards, many of them in complete or nearly complete sets, have been meticulously labeled, sorted and stored. Other boxes contain unopened sets or loose single packs.
People still contact Franklin about collections, asking him to take a look at cards or whether he’s interested in buying. If Franklin sees something he likes for a reasonable price, he buys it.
Today’s sports trading card market is a multi-million dollar industry with single cards fetching millions of dollars. Last month, a Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle card sold for $12.6 million, the most ever paid for a sports card or piece of memorabilia. The previous record was set earlier last month when a buyer bought a T206 Honus Wagner — considered the Holy Grail of sports cards — for $7.25 million.
Franklin’s collecting philosophy has never been about chasing monetary value though. Any cards he does have of any significant value aren’t kept at home, Franklin noted. While he’s collected cards by the thousands for many years, he’s sold scores of cards as well, exhibiting at downstate trade shows and selling cards on Ebay when time permits.
When he’s not looking through or sorting cards, Franklin likes to keep busy. He’s been a fixture at Alcona High School sporting events for years as an announcer and helps out with area events. Over the last month, Franklin has been involved in several events celebrating Major League Hall of Famer and Harrisville native KiKi Cuyler, including baseball card evaluations last month.
“I sell enough stuff to support my hobby,” Franklin said. “It’s just fun. I enjoy it. I’ll go in there and get lost for three or four hours tinkering around with cards, sorting cards. It’s all just fun. Every now and then I’ll say, ‘I’ll put this together and I’ll run a little sale on eBay.'”