Skip to content

Panini America Collector Perspective: Why I Collect the Indianapolis Colts (with Gallery)

March 28, 2012

Editor’s Note: Tom Gaydos is a passionate collector — primarily of Tim Hudson and the Indianapolis Colts — with a strong presence on YouTube. What follows is the entertaining, personal account of just how he came to collect the Colts. Have a similar story you’d like to share with The Knight’s Lance readers? Let us know via the comments section at the end of this post. 

By Tom Gaydos

The phone rang in my Connecticut home late on the afternoon of Nov. 24, 1993, as my mother was in the midst of preparing a Thanksgiving feast for eight more people than we could possibly fit at our dinner table. I was charged with answering it and my 10-year-old brain relished the responsibility. My mother was simply expecting my father to be calling before he left work. Instead the voice on the other line was a different family member, my Uncle Ulys.

My mother’s brother had lived in California my entire life and while we hadn’t met in person, we still had a nice relationship over the phone. He knew I was a big sports guy so after the pleasantries he told me a quick yet influential story:

“Tommy, I don’t go to many sporting events. But I had the opportunity to join a friend to watch the San Diego State Aztecs play BYU last Saturday. There’s a running back on the Aztecs that is going to be something special, you should watch where he goes and follow him in the pros.”

Those of you who are big football historians know who I’m talking about already, others may recognize him from an autographed card found in some of Panini’s Black Friday packs this past year.

On April 24, 1994, the Indianapolis Colts used the second overall pick in the NFL Draft to select Marshall Faulk. And on that day, I became a Colts fan.

I started scouring my boxes for every Colts card I already owned. And there were quite a few, since very few Colts fans lived in my area. Unfortunately, not many of them were worth much as the team hadn’t been good in quite a long time. As each product was released that year, I tried to pick up a Faulk rookie: One of my favorites was the 1994 Pinnacle #198 with an (albeit sweaty) picture of Faulk still in his SDSU uniform in a tear-like design with eye-catching gold foil at the bottom. It was fun despite the team not doing particularly well; the future Hall of Famer was quickly becoming a force in the league despite the team’s win-loss record.

As the 1997 season rolled around, I began to fear he would be yet another excellent player who would be stuck with a team that would not allow him the opportunity to become great and that my collection would be de-valued as a result. As the season ended, however, my hopes began rising as the team’s record was falling.

A few months before the season ended, I sat at a very nice table in a very expensive restaurant in downtown Boston, a guest of my father’s on a business trip turned brief family vacation where we were meeting two of his bigger clients on what turned out to be a large deal for his company. One of the parties was from Knoxville, Tenn., a fan of and contributor to the University of Tennessee. At that dinner, during a break from the boring “adult talk,” he asked me if I liked football. I said “yes” and he responded that there was a quarterback at his alma mater who was going to make a big splash in the league after he completed his upcoming senior season. I think you can guess who he was referring to and who the Colts chose No. 1 overall in the 1998 NFL Draft.

So now armed with a direct, personal connection to two of the team’s star players, I began avidly collecting the team. But it was a daunting task for a 14-year-old without a paper route. So I modestly assembled what cards of theirs I could, settling for a Peyton Manning Score Rookie at a show while drooling over the Contenders card in the showcase. I picked up a few Marvin Harrison pieces as he was growing to become the team’s main receiving target at a mall show from young male dealers more concerned with the women walking by than the true value of what was in their “miscellaneous” box. The team still wasn’t any good, but I was dedicated.

Despite the team’s history and myriad stars, some of the acquisitions were relatively affordable when purchased at local shows and shops. This was prior to the ascendance of online shopping, so local dealers often discounted out-of-market items substantially as the demand for them was often minimal. I took advantage of that whenever possible; the dime box occasionally uncovered some treasures.

Even with Faulk being traded prior to the 1999 NFL Draft for a pair of picks after a series of “misunderstandings” with Colts owner Bill Polian surrounding his contract, I was still hooked (it pained me to see him become the catalyst for that Rams team, but I was secretly happy he found success somewhere). I became enamored with the history of the team and the legendary names that stopped playing years before I was even born. This was cemented many years later with my reading a book that was unfortunately released posthumously about Colts legend Johnny Unitas that was as much about his upbringing and personal struggles as the formation of professional football as we know it.

I learned that the old man I knew as the Patriots’ coach when I first started collecting, Raymond Berry, was the man who worked with a young Unitas on some of the first route-based passing the NFL would see. The list of their greats was impressive: Jim Parker, Weeb Ewbank (the winning coach of the two best professional football games ever, in my humble opinion), John Mackey, Lenny Moore, Art Donovan, Gino Marchetti, Earl Morrall (the savior of Super Bowl V), Lydell Mitchell, Eric Dickerson and so many more.

Despite their “hiccups,” like moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis in the middle of the night (I grimace every time I see the brand of eighteen wheel trucks they used) and the John Elway draft fiasco, I felt quite a bit of pride about this organization.  With history like that and a future so bright, I thought “who wouldn’t want to be a Colts fan?”

As the years passed, the team got better and, as a result, the cards became more expensive, too. Any fan of a team with the degree of success they experienced understands my wallet’s pain. It also didn’t help that they seemed to favor offensive skill-position players like Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark in early draft rounds, but they were the highlights of many Colts victories along the way, including Super Bowl XLI. But I collected what I could, when I could.

To me, that’s what collecting any team or player is really about. It’s easy to get caught up in the rich-kid syndrome: Being jealous of the kid up the block who can drag his parent into the hobby shop and clean off a shelf or buy any card in the showcase he wants. But to me, collecting — in my case, the Colts — isn’t about what someone else has. It’s about what YOU have and appreciating that. Looking through that binder or box and feeling a sense of satisfaction about what you have assembled while filling with hope about what could be added in the future.

Players will come and go, the uniform will go through revisions (Buccaneers fans are likely very happy that the orange pastel “creamsicle” era is over) and the team may even relocate. But if you’re a true collector of a team, you will stick with it.

My story is possibly a bit out of the ordinary; a lot of fans inherit their fandom from their parents or base it on geography. Far more convenient choices I’m sure. I still haven’t made the pilgrimage to Indiana to see a game in the home stadium and future prospects aren’t looking very good on that front, either. But every Sunday I don apparel emblazoned with the blue-and-white horseshoe. I proudly represent the team I love (in retrospect, the blue Mohawk I added to the ensemble in a primarily Jets bar for the 2009 AFC championship game may have been a bit excessive). Many of those same Sundays, I sit watching the game with my collection in front of me; sorting, sleeving, top-loading and otherwise organizing while taking time to appreciate what I have managed to amass.

I didn’t write this to incite a comment debate regarding what team is better to follow. That’s incredibly subjective and almost impossible to decide. I was inspired to write this to explain the path to my own fandom and hopefully to spark some introspection from all of you. Often, we get caught up in the minutia of our team and the sport in general so we lose sight of why we started following our team in the first place. Hopefully in reading this, you will recall that and relay your story as well.

As a new era is about to begin in my team’s history, I approach it with the same guarded optimism I did after receiving that serendipitous phone call from my now-late Uncle Ulys and sitting at the table with my father’s now-late business partner. I collect for them too, since this hobby is as much about the people as the cards themselves.

I remember why I began collecting in the first place and how it has afforded me a phenomenal opportunity to network with some of the finest people I have ever known. Even as I put this piece together, my collection was growing: A nice 2011 Panini America Plates & Patches Delone Carter patch autograph will be on the way to my mailbox as soon as I pay the seller. While your path may be different, hopefully you feel the same sense of pride in your team as I do in mine, apply it to collecting them and realize the same satisfaction in the results as I do.

In summary: GO COLTS!

28 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt Gilman permalink
    March 28, 2012 12:32 pm

    Another great thing that Panini does….sharing collectors collections.

    Great write up and very nice collection

  2. March 28, 2012 12:49 pm

    Thanks for the opportunity to put this out there Tracy, it was a pleasure writing it for the Knight’s Lance.

  3. Bryan Smith permalink
    March 28, 2012 1:22 pm

    I know exactly what it is like to have a certain fandom. I go through the same thing every year before each season starts. I am a true Braves and 49ers fan and I have been rattled on every year, every game day (especially since I live in Texas).

    • Bryan Smith permalink
      March 28, 2012 1:26 pm

      by the way, I have a huge collection of Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, and Marvin Harrison and I am selling my collection. Let me know if you are interested.

      • March 28, 2012 1:38 pm

        Thanks for the empathetic comments Bryan, please contact me via private message on YouTube and we can discuss what you have.

  4. Ryan permalink
    March 28, 2012 1:52 pm

    Tom, check out my Raymond Berry Auto collection at http://www.raymondberryautographs.com

    Let me know what you think.

    • March 28, 2012 2:46 pm

      Epic single player super collection, as a Tim Hudson Supercollector myself I can truly appreciate the work and dedication it takes to amass something that detailed. Feel free to check my photobucket which has a Raymond Berry subfolder to the Indianapolis Colts Collection, I have a few modest pieces of his. His signature is so careful and nice looking I can totally understand why you would select him to focus on, it doesn’t surprise me to learn he is a good player to meet in person as well. Thanks for sharing!

  5. John G. permalink
    March 28, 2012 4:47 pm

    Really enjoyed the article; could really feel the passion. Oh, the possibilities if only you were a Red Sox fan!!!!

    • hudsonfan15 permalink
      March 28, 2012 5:16 pm

      Thanks John, as one of my oldest and best friends I appreciate you supporting me through the years!

  6. deloreanfan81 permalink
    March 28, 2012 10:51 pm

    awesome story Tom

    • March 29, 2012 5:41 am

      Thanks for reading it Ryan, your support and being a friend the past few years has meant a lot

  7. March 28, 2012 10:57 pm

    Great read, love your passion for your PC players!

  8. March 29, 2012 12:01 am

    Love the article/blog, Tom! Great read and although I’ve known about when you bacame a Colts collector – I never asked you ‘why’ you did. Wish I had! This is (I believe) unique yet somewhat similar to how we all become fans and therefore collectors of a team. It only takes something as simple as an uncle or a father’s business partner to mention a ‘good ballplayer at a local college’ and boom, new collectors are born. Thanks for sharing your story, Tom, and thanks to Panini for supporting the collectors by making this public!
    -C3

    • March 29, 2012 12:07 am

      Great stuff, Chad. Thanks for commenting.

    • March 29, 2012 5:57 am

      Thanks for checking it out Chad, you’re one of the main reasons why I’m on YouTube and more importantly thank you for being a friend!

  9. Joe permalink
    March 29, 2012 10:38 am

    Nice collection and story, but I have to reiterate that Hall of Famers Berry, Parker, Unitas, Moore & Mackey had nothing to do with Indianapolis – they were BALTIMORE COLTS – it is a complete injustice they are part of Indy’s record books. My Ravens collection doesn’t have any Jim Browns or Otto Grahams in it. Just sayin’

    • March 29, 2012 12:25 pm

      Joe,

      I totally agree with you. In fact when I submitted this story I don’t believe I had the word Indianapolis in the title and if I did that was an oversight on my part. Their histories are intertwined with a common name unlike your Browns/Ravens statement so it’s a bit easier to blur that line, like many Rams fans would attest to, but it still needs to be acknowledged. I’m not sure how emphatically I would have collected the players you mentioned if the team had changed names, point well made!

      • Joe permalink
        April 1, 2012 9:38 pm

        Makes me appreciate your collection even more reading your response. Being from Baltimore, it still stings that Indy has guys like Unitas in their record books and when you go to the HOF in Canton, those players are in the Indy Colts section – many people tell me to get over it, sorry, I have nothing against Indianapolis, the NFL just needs to do the right thing. Best of luck to you in your collecting in the future.

  10. March 29, 2012 1:12 pm

    Great stuff. Thanks Tracy for infusing collectors into the Lance. I’ve said it many times, but I hope Panini realizes what a valuable asset you are to their brand and to the collectors. You have done fantastic things in bringing this “Foreign unknown sticker company” into the mainstream and bedrock of collecting. Whatever they pay you, it should be more.

    • March 29, 2012 2:33 pm

      You are far too kind. I love the opportunities I have here to do what I do. Your kind words mean a lot. In fact, I’m going to save this comment for my next review! :)

      Thanks again.

    • March 29, 2012 2:37 pm

      You do some pretty great work over on SCH yourself Ryan, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my story. Your points on Tracy are spot on as well.

  11. anthony permalink
    March 29, 2012 9:22 pm

    This was a great read Tom! You know how much i respect you and it was great to read about how you got started. I hope to see more soon! :)

    funky d.

    • March 30, 2012 12:09 am

      Thanks Anthony, you’re a great collector and a good friend. I appreciate your support and hope to have more articles on here in the future!

  12. Josh Tullia permalink
    August 9, 2012 1:36 pm

    I can’t believe I am finally reading this article about you Tom! Very awesome story and by the way you are writing, I say Panini should make the smart decision and hire you buddy!

    • August 9, 2012 2:03 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to read it Josh, I’m humbled by everyone’s kind words and support of my writing efforts. It really means a lot to me!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,706 other followers

%d bloggers like this: