Is your collecting getting out of control? Have you ever considered downsizing a bit? I certainly have, and have a stack of boxes waiting to be shipping out to this week’s interview guest! Commons 4 Kids gets donated cards into the hands of children who will appreciate them. The man behind C4K is Jerry Milburn. I caught up with Jerry and asked him about his collecting, the start of Commons 4 Kids, and just how many cards have been donated so far.
BU: Can we get a little background on you?
JM: I’m 40 years old- born and raised in Kentucky. I’ve been with my wife for 15 years and we have an 11 year old son. I played football and baseball growing up and I’ve written a few articles, poems, stories that have been published in the past. I’ve been super fat my entire life but recently started trying to lose weight on 01.01.2018 and I’m down 110.8 lbs and would love to move C4K more into fitness/anti-bullying stuff because it works in with sports cards- sports/exercising and then sometimes cards can bring kids together. I’d love to work it all in together somehow.
BU: How were you introduced to the trading card hobby?
JM: That is a bit of a sad story- my mom and dad got divorced and one of the very few weekends he actually spent with me, he bought me a pack of 1987 Topps from a little convenient store. That was the beginning of my collection- he didn’t collect or anything; just one of those “let me try to buy my kids love with a pack of cards.” To this day, the 1987 Topps set is still my favorite set of all time.
BU: What are you currently collecting? Any favorite pieces you’d like to share?
JM: I still collect Reds- when I buy a box, I keep the Reds and most of the other stuff just goes directly into donations- this ensures we always have “new” stuff to go along with all the junk era stuff we get. I am a huge Deadpool fan and collect anything associated with that character. I also collect playing cards (like the A, K, Q, J type of cards).
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I started collecting in 1987 but really got into it in 1989 and loved Ken Griffey Jr…as we all did. I bought a ton of packs but never pulled his 89 Upper Deck rookie. I could never get anyone to trade me one…I just couldn’t get my hands on JUST ONE…then, one night, my mom came home with a pack of cards and I pulled one! I later realized that she had bought the pack AND the card- opened the pack carefully and put it in there and resealed it but I was a kid so I probably didn’t even pay attention. I put it in a plastic case and literally carried it with me. Mom used to play bingo all the time and the ladies would have “good luck charms” so I always made her take that card. One day, I was upstairs and she yelled from downstairs (outside) for me to throw her purse down…well, she missed and it slammed on the sidewalk- broke the plastic case and put a huge crease in my Griffey. From that point on, it just got worse and worse- a bit dirty, rough corners, several creases but it’s currently in my home- framed with the first article written about C4K- not a Gem 10 version of it but that exact- destroyed card. While I love 1987 Topps, that 89 Upper Deck Griffey rookie IS my childhood so that is why we donate one of them every time we hit a million. We donated 2 of them when we hit our first million and then that card has been the exact million every other time. We are coming up on 9 million and I count the cards so I plan for it and try to do something special. I’ll hand out cards and manipulate donations until I’ve donated EXACTLY 8,999,999 so that a Griffey can be exactly 9 million; usually they are just “raw” but we did get a 9.5 donated once and that was a millionth card as well. That card and those memories are a huge reason why I’ve picked C4K up and run with it; that card is priceless.
BU: Where did you get the idea to start Commons 4 Kids?
JM: Honestly, I didn’t…it basically started itself. I was cleaning out my collection and didn’t want to trash the cards and I knew the market had fallen so there was no point in even trying to sell them. I grew up in Danville, KY and there was a place called Sunrise Children’s Home- I had went to school with a few kids that lived there. I called them up to see if their kids would like my unwanted cards and they agreed to accept them. While I was getting them ready I thought of another place called Stewart Home so I called them up as well. We made our first donation ever to Stewart Home and our 2nd was to Sunrise. The guy that runs Sunrise had called up the local paper because he loved the idea. Her story got picked up by the Associated Press and went all over the United States. About a week later I got a call from a lady in Boston (still no clue how she got my number) and she said she read the story and wanted to send me her cards so I could donate them as well. About a week after that I had a diaper box full of cards on my front porch. I got a few emails from folks telling me they loved the idea and wanted to send me their unwanted cards so I saw something there and came up with Commons4Kids and put our address out there and it blew up. As we got more cards, the word of mouth spread and then we had a guy email us our logo and was like “hey, thought you could use a logo” and it just built and built. It was never really my idea to do it.
BU: What types of organizations do you donate the cards to?
JM: At first we just went with local charities and then, as we started getting more and more cards, we started spreading out. After a year or so, we realized that we had donated to the bigger folks like children’s homes. I started doing some research and posting on Facebook Yard Sale sites looking for folks who worked with kids in any way. I just Google “children’s charities” or “programs for kids” and then call them up and tell them what we do. We’ve donated to Ronald McDonald House, Boys and Girls Club, Cub Scouts, little leagues, churches, camps…anywhere. We’ve been allowed to set up at Lexington Legends games and hand out cards to kids as they come through the gate. We’ve set up at our local horror convention called Scarefest to donate cards like Garbage Pail Kids or The Walking Dead to kids that are into that type of stuff. We’ve set up at local wrestling shows to donate wrestling/MMA cards to kids as they come through the door. We have donated to a few children’s hospitals but most of them have strict rules about unopened things due to sickness, etc. Everything has to be new and unopened so that makes it a bit more difficult. When we had a bigger van, we could load up and take cards with us on vacation- we’ve donated cards in St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Chattanooga and everywhere in between. We even worked with Sean Casey for his Miracle League up in Pittsburgh and took 250,000 cards up there. Our van died on us and we got a Kia Soul so we can only hold about 50,000 at a time now so that makes it a bit harder.
BU: Do you ever get to see the reactions of the kids receiving the cards?
JM: We did but it was a mix of good and bad so we’ve slacked off on giving cards directly to kids and mostly donate large numbers to charities and let them actually give them to the kids. I do have a couple memories that stick out there…good and bad. Sometimes we pack up Pokemon cards (when we get them) and hand them out at events when we are walking around, playing Pokemon Go.
When we went up to Pittsburgh, for the Miracle League donation, it was beyond amazing! Those cards were incredible and they loved the cards. My wife, son, sister-in-law and myself were handing out little baggies and the kids were hugging us and talking about their favorite players and going through the cards and trading them and it was amazing; Sean Casey even signed 100 cards for us to put into bags so every kid got an autograph.
The flip side of that was just about enough to force me to just stop though- we set up at a local little league opening day and the kids just grabbed and fought over stuff…a few kids enjoyed them but a large majority of the kids were just buttholes about it…honestly. Stuff like “these cards suck” or asking if we had any Mike Trout autographs and stuff like that. A lot of the kids were taking the packs of cards just to throw them in the trash- we had put a 1956 Hank Aaron in one of the bags as a hit and we even put it in a screw down case so the kids would know it was something different- I mean, that is a pretty sweet card. The kid that got it literally threw it in the trash can! Thankfully, there was a kid there that was really into baseball cards and he was getting them out. He left with two Kroger sacks full of cards that no one else wanted. That experience really pushed me from donating directly to kids to donating to or charities and letting them do that part.
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BU: How many cards have you donated so far?
JM: After our donations this weekend, our grand total is 8,457,133 but that does NOT include the comic books, Legos, Pop! Figures and all the other stuff that people have started sending in- that is just trading cards.
BU: How can people help the cause?
JM: Box up cards and mail them to Commons4Kids – 500 Forrest Dr, Lawrenceburg, KY 40342. We don’t accept cash donations but we do raise money from time to time, through GoFundMe or something like that if we have a specific need or request but we try to limit that to only a few times per year. If you have money and want to donate- just buy some new stuff at Wal-Mart or something and mail that- that way we have new stuff for hospitals. Don’t send cash….I don’t want that responsibility.
BU: Anything else you would like to share?
JM: The hardest part of this is actually finding a home for the cards…it’s a dying hobby or at least no longer kid friendly- at least how I see it. Stop “searching” packs at Target and Wal-Mart and taking a chance of pulling “a hit” from a kid who just talked his mom into paying $3-$4 for a pack. I think kids are leaving the hobby because there aren’t many baseball card shops these days and why buy a pack at a retail store when some adult has already gotten all “the good stuff”. Just my opinion.
We do have some “box breakers” and amazing people that send us new stuff to mix in with the old junk era stuff that we get (which is about 90% of it)…and we get a ton of autos and jersey cards so we can ENSURE kids get those hits we all love to pull. Also….kids are really into Pokemon now and that is our most requested, yet less received donations. We accept ANY trading cards – our most popular are Pokemon, Star Wars and non-sports….we get request for those about once a week or more.
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Commons 4 Kids