An Hour Inside the Devastating Flood at the Baseball Card Shoppe

Madison, Wisconsin was hit with heavy rains and flooding two weeks ago. Between 13 and 15 inches of rain fell within a 24-hour period on the west side of the city.

It cause widespread damage causing many businesses to close temporarily, and some even permanently. Unfortunately it appears my local card shop, the Baseball Card Shoppe, falls under the latter.

Since I moved to Madison in 2014, it has been my local card shop. Over the last four and a half years I’ve gone in to browse, pick up supplies like monster boxes and odd sized top loaders, binder pages, packs, and hobby boxes.

Tom Daniels owns the shop, and is usually behind the counter. When he’s not, his son is, and both are extremely friendly and great to talk with.

I had no idea the shop had flooded until earlier this week when I saw some tweets. Jon Arias, a Madison broadcaster, tweeted about it and even started a GoFundMe. As the week went on many other media outlets picked up the story.

With some free time on Saturday, I wanted to see it for myself. I need closure. And I hoped to catch Tom and let him know how much the shop has meant to me.

As I approached on Whitney Way, I saw garbage bag after garbage bag lined up on the sidewalk out front.

I pulled into a small lot to the north of the shop that has just a couple spaces. As I descended the few steps down to the sidewalk, the musty smell of wet cardboard immediately hit me.

Another customer was talking with Tom inside as I walked in. It was a devastating scene. It wasn’t because I will no longer call it my local card shop, or because hundreds of thousands of dollars in cards and memorabilia are ruined. I felt for Tom. And his wife. Tom isn’t like many shop owners. Many people imagine a Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons type of owner when it comes to cards and memorabilia. Over the years I’ve ran across many of those types. Unfriendly, maybe a bit sketchy. Tom is the exact opposite. He’s inviting, courteous, honest, and you can talk with him once and it’s like you’ve been friends for years. I felt for Tom. He’s not gonna have this place to converse with customers. That’s the hard part. It’s not about ruined cardboard. It’s about the loss of a shop that Tom has had for 35-plus years.

The shop sits several feet below street level, and Tom said there was four feet of water inside the shop. Flood water had burst through the north wall as seen below.

We talked for an hour. He shared stories about the hobby from the 1970’s, before the hobby blew up. One story he shared was from a collector that offered just shy of (100) 1952 Topps baseball cards for a little over $100. Half were high numbers. He had Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and more.

Another story was from 1981, when Fleer and Donruss came on the scene. He shared that he ordered the most 1981 Donruss of any dealer in the nation when it came out. Tom also said that Donruss was shipped in (100) card stacks held together by rubber bands. Yes, from the distributor to dealers in rubber bands.

He doesn’t really know what’s next, but will likely not reopen the shop. He will sell online, and set up at shows.

There were some packs that were saved, and selling at a discount. I grabbed 15 packs of 2016 Topps he had for $1 per pack and gave him $50.

Outside, the garbage bags. Waterlogged top loaders, singles, binders of cards. He had a soaked binder with a set of 1973 and 1974 Topps football.

As I peered at the pile of wet sports cards, I saw a Cubs logo. A 2004 Fleer Classic Confrontations Mark Prior/Albert Pujols. I picked it up and it’ll be a part of the collection. Something to remember the unfortunate and untimely demise of my local card shop.

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