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Vance Likins MAG
Vance Likins owns a collectibles store on Pleasant Street, strangely named "The Coin Specialist." Although he sells coins, most of his stock is baseball cards. Vance, as all the kids call him, is Marblehead's version of Red Auerbach. He has coached Little League baseball for seventeen years and probably will coach for seventeen more.
Today the smell of Vance's shop is a mixture of bubble gum, used cards, and Sam, short for Samantha, his dog. This is not the way it used to be, however. Until he moved into his new shop and stopped smoking, his shop smelled more like cigars than bubble gum.
I remember the first time I smelled those cigars. It was in 1981 and I was six. For a couple of weeks my brother had been coming home from a "card store;" and I, believing that he meant greeting cards, couldn't understand what was so interesting about it. Finally, after pestering him for about a week, I was able to get him to take me on one of his trips.
I was taken to the place where Eastern Surfboards is now located. When we walked in, I noticed that along with the cigars there was a man sitting behind some counters, which were filled with cards priced from 25 cents to $475 dollars. He was a medium-sized man with curly, light brown hair and a light brown mustache. He was wearing sunglasses and joking with the people who were in his store. From then on, I was a regular.
I remember all the times I spent at Vance's. With all the time I talked to Vance, somehow I always spent all of my money. Once I had to race my brother to the store for a 1981 Topps O-Pee-Chee Tim Raines rookie. When he had a contest to identify "the Scooter,"(Phil Rizzuto was the answer) I won a 1949 Leaf baseball card. Vance was always sitting there behind his counter.
One of the most interesting events at Vance's store was the weekly auction where people would bid on both new and old cards. The bids would range from five cents to five dollars; and every Saturday at noon the bidding ended.
Vance would then take down the cards and sell them to those whose initials were alongside the top prices. If the top bidder wasn't there, the card would go to the next highest bidder, and so on, until he found a buyer who was there. It was at these auctions that people usually got the best bargains.
I remember my disappointment when I arrived at his shop and found it closed; or my anticipation whenever he moved to a new location. He has moved four times since I've known him.
Over the years I began to collect less frequently, but I still would go there once in a while. He was usually sitting behind his counter watching a game or smoking a cigar. It was on one of these occasions that I earned the nickname "Big Dan." I guess it had something to do with the trial that was in the papers at the time; but, whatever the reason, Vance came up with it. It has stuck, and whenever I enter his store, he greets me with "Big Dan."
As the years passed and I became less involved in baseball cards, I realized that there was more to Vance than just "The Coin Specialist." I began to see him at many of my baseball games, whether it was as opposing manager, scorekeeper, or coach. Many times I had to leave his store suddenly when he had to close the store to go to a town baseball game. It was then that I realized why he had old team pictures and rosters hanging up around the store, and why he was in charge of the Little League.
When I go into his store now and see all the young kids, I feel that Vance will always be sitting there behind the counter. I feel that if I were to come back when I am sixty, I'll still see Vance sitting there, a little grayer, a little older, but still sitting there talking to the kids. n