To this day, sports memorabilia collector and dealer Al Gordon said his mother still apologizes to him for throwing out the shoebox of baseball cards he had as a kid growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., during the 1960s.
Gordon, whose family later moved to Phoenix, comes from an era when kids bought packs of cards with the pink slab of bubblegum for a nickel at the corner candy store and then "flipped" them up against a wall attempting to win more cards of their cardboard heroes from their friends.
What a difference a few decades can make.
Although Gordon has managed to recover a few of them in his many years of collecting, he said he has forgiven his mother for discarding the cards.
"I thank her," Gordon said. "I tell her she was one of the many mothers who helped create the market for what it is today."
Today, those cards, among other sports-related items - whether vintage or newer - are valuable and still sought after items even in a bad economy.
And, they may make great or surprising gifts for the holidays in lieu of the usual shirt or tie.
For the man - or the sports fan who you think has everything - take a look around Sports Expressions, a sports gift and memorabilia shop at Superstition Springs Mall in east Mesa, opened in time for holiday shopping.
Gordon, 56, and Ken Adelson, 44, another longtime Valley sports memorabilia collector and dealer, teamed up to open Sports Expressions inside the mall at 6525 E. Southern Ave.
Gordon, a Valley real estate agent, is a fixture at sports memorabilia shows throughout the Valley and Adelson, a St. Louis native, have known each other for 20 years. They named the shop after Adelson's business, Sports Expressions, a Valley-based high-end sports memorabilia company. Adelson's company oversees sports and military benefit auctions and also decorates sports bars around the world with memorabilia that fits the teams in that city.
If you don't have a certain item, or if you're looking for it, Gordon and Adelson may have it resting on the shelves among dozens of bobbleheads figures, displayed on the walls, or hanging from the ceiling of the shop. It is chock-full of team-focused items such as card sets, pennants, autographed pictures and baseballs and limited edition statues.
Gordon and Adelson might also be sitting on something you have to have for yourself, such as a row of three original green plastic ballparks seats that were in the former Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field). The seats were in the stadium from 1998 to 2003. The middle seat is autographed by former Diamondbacks star Luis Gonzalez.
The price tag for the seats is $695, but there areo lower-priced items in the shop, many of which relate to Arizona's professional and college sports teams and the Major League All-Star Game held at Chase Field this summer.
Other items range from the bargain price of 99 cents for unopened wax packs of 1988 and 1989 Topps and Donruss baseball cards (you never know who's rookie card you might find inside) to $5 to $20. Then there are the custom-framed commemorative autographed jerseys of former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash and baseball Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and Pete Rose.
"We try to carry a little bit of everything," Adelson said. "If you like sports, there's bound to be something in here you'd like. Or, if there's something you would like to get as a gift for someone, chances are, you'll find it here. A lot of the items that we have are geared for the holidays."
Gordon said, "A lot of people who live in Arizona are from somewhere else, so we also have a lot of items relating to people's favorite sports teams, such as the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs."
Adelson and Gordon both said they enjoy the chase of locating hard-to-find items.
A program from the Arizona Cardinals first football game at Glendale Stadium (now University of Phoenix Stadium) from Sept. 10, 2006, a piece of a brick from Braves Field in Boston where the Braves played from 1915 to 1952 before moving to Milwaukee, and rare "ad-back" cards of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig issued by Filson's Cities Service Station in Alva, Okla., in 1953 may catch someone's eye.
"We've been busy," Adelson said. "Business is picking up."