July 25, 2006

Requiem for a Rookie Card: How baseball cards lost their luster.

posted by justgary to baseball at 10:34 AM - 32 comments

Thankfully I was wise enough to invest my hard-earned kid dough in something sensible, like 5 different covers of X-Force #1, still in bags. Who-hoo! And all those McFarland Spidermans. Don't worry about a college funds for the kids, hon: I'm bagging it in mylar as we speak.

posted by yerfatma at 10:41 AM on July 25, 2006

Damn - there go my hopes for early retirement... At least I got the walk down memory lane - thanks for that!

posted by MW12 at 10:56 AM on July 25, 2006

Topps has apparently released these "throwback" packs of cards, with designs reminiscent of their early sets, and sticks of gum (individually wrapped, of course). Last weekend, my sister and I each bought a pack. We unwrapped the gum, and as we chewed we nodded to each other, "Just like it used to be." It was great. 30 seconds later we were wincing and hurling the gum into the garbage. "Yep, just like it used to be." Great article. Like the writer's, my card collection is a piece of my childhood. I wouldn't sell it any more than I would sell photos of my family. Well, most of my family, anyway.

posted by BullpenPro at 11:00 AM on July 25, 2006

That is just a shame, and sadly is for all sports cards. That story hit very close to home. I also have a stashed box full of rookie cards - Hasek, Lott, Montana, Rice, Monk, Taylor, Roy, B. Smith, E. Smith, Bradshaw, Swann etc... back to the early 70's. At one point was hoping it would be a nice college fund for my kids. Maybe the market will turn around at some...

posted by Stealth_72 at 11:00 AM on July 25, 2006

I've got a large collection of cards from the 60's and 70's, with several full sets of cards from the 1970s still in their original boxes. You can still find a market around if you look hard enough, but the hardcore collectors can't be dealt with. I've got a mint Carl Yaztremski rookie card that a Red Sox fan might give a good price to, just as I have several rookie George Bretts, Robin Younts, Mike Schmidts, etc. Cards today are ridiculous. There are so many sets and sub-sets you can't even get them straight. I miss the days when Topps was the only game in town, and you could buy a cheap pack (or several) without having to hand over several $20s, too. Baseball cards are still a favorite subject of mine, but the collection I have never really gave me a serious impulse to try and sell them off. Maybe someday, but more than likely they'll be handed off to one of the grandkids who cares enough about them, and the sport itself, to take care of them.

posted by dyams at 11:11 AM on July 25, 2006

My brother is going to be pissed. So much for my Ichiro rookie card buying my retirement home. This means basketball cards are REALLY crap then?

posted by jerseygirl at 11:15 AM on July 25, 2006

I blame Fleer.

posted by MW12 at 11:18 AM on July 25, 2006

I used to deliver prescriptions and medical supplies for a pharmacy when I was in high school. I remember there was one very nice man we delivered oxygen to who had a pretty impressive collection. The first time I brought the oxygen in he lead me to a decent sized study with bookshelves floor to ceiling throughout all holding rectangular boxes in chronological order by year. Upon inquiring he explained that he had bought the full set for each year since the year his first son was born back in the 40's. Every card, as I understood it. His son had moved out but he kept getting the cards, so many that they started to pile on the floor in front of the shelves. I thought of doing something similar for my son, then I found out that you can't get full sets like that anymore. Kind of a shame.

posted by YukonGold at 11:19 AM on July 25, 2006

This article is right on point. I vividly remember swapping old Topps cards in the 80s with my elementary school buddies, hitting the card shop for a few packs and checking Beckett for the latest price fluctuations. When Upper Deck and its ilk rolled in, jacking the price of cards way up, I checked out of the baseball card scene, along with almost everyone else. Nowadays, I like to use my old cards as amusing prizes: "win this Beirut tournament and you will recieve a Jim Abbott rookie card, a 'Joey' Belle card, and a Jimy Williams Blue Jays manager card!"

posted by Venicemenace at 11:41 AM on July 25, 2006

I recently agreed to sell most of my grandfather's collection at auction this October. You know, in case anyone is interested.

posted by scully at 11:50 AM on July 25, 2006

Oops. Messed up the important link to the cards.

posted by scully at 12:01 PM on July 25, 2006

I only ever bothered to keep one rookie card.

posted by Hugh Janus at 12:08 PM on July 25, 2006

Trade ya.

posted by BullpenPro at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2006

I grew up in the 70's and of course it was almost exclusively Topps. I still remember with pride the day I got the final card to complete my 1976 set. Every single one came from either a wax pack I personally bought or from another kid I traded with. I sold all of my cards in the late 80's and kind of wish I still had at least that full set as a momento.

posted by scottypup at 12:42 PM on July 25, 2006

When there were just two or three major sets on the market, we all had the same small pool of cards. Their images and stats were imprinted on our brains. The baseball card industry lost its way because the manufacturers forgot that the communal aspect of collecting is what made it enjoyable. How can kids talk about baseball cards if they don't have any of the same ones? This is silly. The existence of 40 different card lines instead of three doesn't make card collecting less of a "communal experience" than it was when I was a kid in the '70s. I occasionally buy cards -- especially Topps baseball, because that's what I collected as a kid. I couldn't believe it when card companies began producing lines that cost more than $25 per pack. That's strip-mining the hobby by getting as much money as you can from speculators before they wise up.

posted by rcade at 01:00 PM on July 25, 2006

I didn't really get into baseball cards till I was about 11-13 years old (1998-2000) but I do remember the excitement of seeing these cards unwrapped. I still have them stored away on a shelf hoping to either show them to my kids or sell someplace someday...

posted by chemwizBsquared at 01:08 PM on July 25, 2006

rcade is right. The concept of baseball cards being worth big bucks as collector's items was an artificial construct to start with. A private company churning these things out in arbitrary amounts on printing presses is great for kids with an extra 50 cents burning a hole in their pocket, but once desktop publishing became possible, and Topps, O-Pee-Chee or whoever felt they had to start geting funky and upmarket with the cards (with holography, etc) just to stay in business, they lost sight of their original target market. Now 7-year-olds don't buy baseball cards anymore, and they don't collect them for fun. The memorabilia business got big, then it corrected, and now cards are merely a fad that belonged to an earlier time. They may still be produced by some companies, but the days of eagerly anticipated megabuck card sets are, I suspect, pretty much gone. It didn't have to be this way, but a few people got greedy, and it's killing the industry, if it hasn't already.

posted by chicobangs at 01:15 PM on July 25, 2006

This is silly. The existence of 40 different card lines instead of three doesn't make card collecting less of a "communal experience" than it was when I was a kid in the '70s. All it did was saturate the market. I collect hockey cards, and nothing will devalue a card like having 40 different card lines. Although it is kind of neat to collect the special "die cut" cards or "jersey" cards.

posted by wingnut4life at 01:22 PM on July 25, 2006

As the article states, the collectors have themselves to blame for the most part. Card companies are in the business to sell cards as new, not as a collectors items, and they flooded the market. Folks who bought the cards and then wrapped them up for "the future," hurting themselves. Cards have value based on rarity for the most part. Once children started "investing" in their childhood the market was ruined. And I find it rather sad that children were "investing" in baseball cards (or comics, etc) rather than enjoying them for their original purpose.

posted by scully at 01:26 PM on July 25, 2006

Well our son and daughter will do just about anything to get some of their dad's cards. They have no idea of value or that they are investing in anything, they just love the cards and doing it with their dad. If we have to buy zillions of cards to keep this special relationship going that the kids have with their dad, we will!

posted by skydivemom at 02:33 PM on July 25, 2006

When we used to get hockey and baseball cards they were for trading, but also for playing games with, winner take all, and definitely not for keeping in any kind of good condition. The best game was to bet on who could throw the card and get it closest to the wall from 5 yards or something. The precision measurement and astonishment if someone threw a leaner were priceless. Of course the winner kept all the cards thrown. Of course doubles were for bike spokes. Goes without saying. Coming from that context I always found it sad that by the late 80s or early 90s the kids didn't actually seem to enjoy the cards for their own sake but simply because they might have some kind of monetary value later on. Cards were more akin to butterfly collections than anything else. I'm kind of glad that the market collapsed. Maybe kids will go back to playing with the cards like they used to.

posted by mikelbyl at 02:39 PM on July 25, 2006

The two main causal factors – kids hoarding cards for monetary value / drastic rise in price of cards – are probably intertwined in a bit of a chicken-egg argument. I can only tell you from personal experience that the cheap, awesome Topps cards were traded and played with frequently, and that a lot of the fun went out of card collecting BEFORE the market collapsed, when new cards became too damn expensive for the average kid to collect in bulk. I also have to say that kids of the 80s/90s did not pick up on the idea of valuable baseball cards on their own; instead, it was their parents saying “save your cards, save your cards, my parents threw mine away and it cost me a fortune!” that planted the seed in the minds of these young “investors”.

posted by Venicemenace at 03:55 PM on July 25, 2006

card collecting is a blast !! if you want to earn money its like in anything you research first! amen skydivemom!!

posted by DADSQUEST at 04:44 PM on July 25, 2006

recently agreed to sell most of my grandfather's collection at auction this October. You know, in case anyone is interested. terrapin, what type of auction ,may i ask thank you

posted by DADSQUEST at 04:45 PM on July 25, 2006

DADSQUEST: Link is in my post. Auction will be done by SCP Auctions in conjunction with Sotheby's.

posted by scully at 04:54 PM on July 25, 2006

Terrapin, I am impressed, what a great collection. I hope you get what you would like for them.

posted by mjkredliner at 05:27 PM on July 25, 2006

My love affair with card collecting began with The Garbage Pail Kids. I thought the cards were both gross and cool at the same time. One day I had an extra dollar or two so I bought some baseball cards. Later some football cards. Then basketball. I still buy cards once in a while, just for the thrill of finding a "rare" card. But my passion for collecting ended in a card store back in 1995 when an older gentleman invited me back to his house for some free cards his wife was making him throw away. I don't know if wine and cartoon porn would have been involved (a la the serious episode of Different Strokes) but I didn't want to find out. So ended my serious love affair with card collecting.

posted by forrestv at 07:41 PM on July 25, 2006

It's all my grandfather's doing. These are all his from when he was a boy. He passed away in 1986, and my dad died in 2004. They have just been sitting in a safe deposit box, and I am not a collector. I figured someone could/would really appreciate them. I have kept a few of the lesser valued ones as reminders of my grandfather.

posted by scully at 07:44 PM on July 25, 2006

I used to collect cards- no matter what sport they were. But as I got older, I shyed away from cards, and more towards autographs. My collection includes many great players, many of which are in the Hall of Fame. I personally enjoy collecting them more, and think that they're a safer investment. *My prized autograph is my Yankees hat signed by Yaz- I still dont know why the hell he signed it- lol.

posted by redsoxrgay at 02:25 PM on July 26, 2006

My prized autograph is my Yankees hat signed by Yaz Well, that's great, but according to your incredibly asinine screen name, he's gay.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 06:23 AM on July 27, 2006

Yeah about that, I might change my sn soon.

posted by redsoxrgay at 05:02 PM on July 28, 2006

Here are a list of some of the rarest, most valuable baseball cards ever. Its a pretty interesting list of cards.

posted by redsoxrgay at 05:41 PM on July 28, 2006

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