I started collecting baseball cards back in the late 1950’s. I didn’t collect cards because I thought they would be worth some money some day, I collected them because I loved baseball and we had no TV so the only way I had to see what these players looked like was through baseball cards or a picture in the paper now and then. I also collected baseball cards because they showed all the stats that a player had accumulated as he worked his way up from the “D” leagues to the big leagues. Today’s cards don’t have that, a damn shame I say.
On top of all that, if you happened to get a star player you had bragging rights with your friends. A favorite card could be anyone, it could be a star player, a player from your favorite team, or in some cases a player became a favorite of mine just because I liked how he looked on his baseball card. Oh the trades, we used to trade baseball cards every day during baseball season. Today fans follow MLB Rumors on the internet to hear about a big signing or a big trade, we made our own big trades day after day. I remember how tough it was to trade a favorite card even if it was for a card you really wanted. There was a life lesson to be learned when we traded those cards, you never get something for nothing. If you want something bad enough you have to be willing to give up something valuable to get it. Later on in life I learned it was called “opportunity cost”, any time you want something or want to do something there is an opportunity cost, you have to give up something to get something else. A valuable life lesson learned by trading baseball cards.
The years went by and I moved on from grade school to junior high and finally high school and the card collecting continued. It would have been fun to play for our school team but my parents were not big sports fans and living on a dairy farm, work always came first. In reality my Dad disliked all sports because he considered them a waste of time that could be better spent working. No one worked harder than my Dad but that is a whole different story for another time.
After graduating from high school my best friend and I joined the US Navy on the buddy plan, two weeks after we joined up we were split up and didn’t see each other again until we met in a Italian bar one day just by accident but that too is neither here nor there.
One day after getting out of the Navy after my enlistment ended I asked my Mom where my old baseball cards were because by then I realized I had some valuable cards although they probably weren’t in great condition because we handled our cards daily when we were kids. She said that they burnt them because they were taking up space and were worth zippo so they piled them up and had a nice bonfire. Dang near brought tears to my eyes, all I could see in my mind was a pile of money burning. In reality I didn’t have that many cards that were in decent enough condition to make me rich but still…..
I started collecting cards again and by then I could afford to buy complete sets but that was not nearly as much fun. What fun is it to buy a set of cards and not open or handle them because they will be worth more in unopened pristine condition. When we collected cards as kids we did it for fun, today’s parents tell their kids to collect cards because they will be worth money down the line. Believe me, it is no fun collecting something you can not touch, handle look at and admire every day.
In my mind the only baseball cards worth anything were Topps. Heck, when I first started collecting you could buy them for a penny or you could get the nickel pack, each had that terrible tasting gum but we chewed it because we saw big leaguers do it. Our local “dime” store sold nickel packs six for a quarter but quarters were not easy to come by back then and according to my parents, good money should not be wasted on baseball cards.
Over the years many other brands of baseball cards have come on the market but none have ever compared to Topps in my eyes. I dislike all the glitter and flash and the hard shiny surfaces on today’s cards, give me an old style cardboard baseball card any day. The new cards are hard to get a good autograph on while the old cardboard cards worked great. Today, Topps is still one of the most reasonably cards on the market. It is a shame the price of baseball cards has risen so much over the years, it is driving the kids right out of the collecting market. I still buy a pack or two when I see them at Target or others places I might be shopping it. Today I have a whole closet full of baseball cards that are just kind of sitting there doing nothing and I am not sure what I am going to do with them. Once you start to collect baseball cards you never really stop, the thrill of opening a new pack and seeing what cards you get never leaves you, at least it has never left an old guy like me.
I have wondered over the years who really buys baseball cards today. It used to be a kids market but now I rarely see kids buying baseball cards today, it is all adults and as the adults age and pass on to baseball heaven will the baseball cards disappear too? That would be a crying shame even if there is no crying in baseball.
But I am not here to tell you about the future of the baseball card market, I am here to point you to a blog that is run by SABR and is called SABR Baseball Cards.
In November 2016 SABR relaunched the Baseball Cards Committee, whose members contribute to this blog. Visit this blog (or better yet, follow) for articles, studies, or reminiscences about the 150-year history of making, selling, buying, collecting, sorting and trading pieces of cardboard that celebrate our greatest game.
If you love baseball cards and their history, than you must go to SABR Baseball Cards and check out their blog. There is some fun reading waiting for you there.