Sports Card Collector: Mark Mariniello

This is only a small sampling of the football card sets that are a part of a massive collection that started almost 50 years ago. Photo Courtesy: Mark Mariniello

By Kelly Reed

The history of sports and sports cards in America goes back to the mid-19th century with baseball cards. Since that moment in time to present day, the relationship between sports, sports cards and collectors has grown tremendously. From being an advertising medium to a hobby to a business, sports cards are a part of our modern culture. Within the hobby of sports card collecting, the term “super collector” can be interpreted differently.

Moving forward, I’d like to present a series of articles regarding different perspectives on the hobby. These articles could be on collectors, dealers, manufacturers etc. for you, the reader to enjoy.  To kick this off, Mark Mariniello has graciously accepted my interview request. Here is his story…

Photo Courtesy: Mark Mariniello

Please share a little about yourself and how you got your start in the hobby.
I didn’t collect football at first. The first cards I collected were Wacky Packs and Planet of the Apes. My football card journey began in the late summer of 1974. My Dad took me to our local candy store for some cigarettes and magazines. I saw these beautiful green packs of cards with a football on the front. They really caught my eye. Dad bought me a pack. I ripped those babies open on the way home. The first card I saw was Bobby Howfield of my favorite team, the New York Jets. I was hooked.

You have an impressive collection of cards. Do you collect any other sports/non-sports as diligently? If so, which ones?
I collect all four major sports. My collection includes baseball sets from 1953-1991, football 1968-1991, hockey and basketball 1968-1991. My mancave includes not only cards but memorabilia from my four favorite teams: Jets, Mets, Knicks, and the Devils. I also have a complete run of NFL Super Bowl programs as well as MLB World Series and All Star Game programs from 1950-1990. My pride and joy is my Mets amalgamation. I have all the variations of yearbooks and programs from the team’s inception, autographed balls, cards, ticket stubs. You name it, I probably have it! It’s my escape from reality. 

Photo Courtesy: Mark Mariniello

Why did you decide to collect Topps Football sets from 1968-1991? Why start with 1968 and stop with 1991 instead of other beginning and ending years for your collection?
The majority of my sets begin with 1968 which is my birth year and stop at 1991, the year Topps stopped putting gum in the packs. My framed packs bring me back to a more simpler time.

Do you have a favorite football card? Set? 
I have so many favorites, but one stands out because it was the first set I completed as a kid. The 1976 Topps Football set. That fall and winter I must have bought over a hundred packs. Santa also left me a wax box that Christmas. It was a race between me and my buddies to see who could finish the set first. I won when I got D.D. Lewis in a trade with a kid who lived in the neighboring town. Picking a favorite card is easy. The 1974 Bobby Howfield. He was the first Jet I ever saw in a pack. Whenever I see that card (I still have the original), it brings back so many memories of my Dad.    

Photo Courtesy: Mark Mariniello

Is there a grail card or set that you’re currently trying to obtain or complete?
My grail card is simple: the 1965 Joe Namath rookie. I have a complete run of Jets team sets that go back to the 1960 Fleer when they were known as the Titans. The Namath rookie is a biggie, but someday I’ll get it. 

What do you enjoy most about collecting cards?
Collecting in general is collecting nostalgia. It brings me back to when life was a lot simpler. When I pour over my cards, it instantly rekindles my love of collecting. My collection is a personal time machine. I could go back in time whenever I turn a page in an album. 

How do you enjoy your collection?
Every night when I come home from a long day at work and pick an album to leaf through. It’s a great way to unwind. Sometimes I’ll put cards into sheets while sipping wine and listening to jazz. It’s a great way to decompress. 

How would you classify yourself in the hobby? Collector? Investor? Dealer? Combination of some sort?
I am and always will be a true collector. There is something about holding that piece of cardboard or slowly sliding a card to complete a set. My collection is like an old friend. It’s great to see them from time to time to remind myself of how great my childhood was.

Do you have many graded cards? Any thoughts you’d like to share regarding the grading companies?
I do not own a single graded card. If graded cards are your thing that’s great. Enjoy your collection however you like. It’s just not for me.

How do you see the hobby evolving over the next few years? 
I believe there will always be collectors. Some will collect vintage. Some will collect modern. However I don’t believe the newer collectors enjoy and appreciate their collections as much as the older collectors do, which is a shame. 

Bonus Question: Is there any advice you’d like to share with collectors who are new to the hobby?
Collect what you enjoy. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. Trying to collect everything is impossible. Pick a player or a team that you like and start from there. When you find your niche, it’ll only get better.

Do you have a hobby story or know of someone who would like to be featured in this series? Reach out to Kelly Reed at