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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

How Baseball Cards Got Weird

One night not long ago, with my 3-year-old son finally asleep and my wife wisely heading to bed, I settled onto the couch, beer in hand, to catch some baseball. Well, not really baseball. I opened my laptop, navigated to breakers.tv, and prepared to watch a pair of rubber-gloved hands in East Wenatchee, Washington, open an entire case of baseball cards—more than 4,000 cards in all.

On the strangeness of modern card collecting.

jmurph Posted: October 15, 2019 at 11:30 AM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: baseball cards

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   1. salvomania Posted: October 15, 2019 at 01:48 PM (#5890715)
Headline is misleading... the article has almost nothing to do with baseball cards, and instead focuses on modern acquiring, grading etc., with an overview of how it has evolved from kids in the '50s and '60s to today.
   2. jmurph Posted: October 15, 2019 at 01:58 PM (#5890721)
I stopped into a card shop on a nostalgia trip one day a few years ago and there was a live break happening at the time. Just exactly as described in the article.
   3. Scott Lange Posted: October 15, 2019 at 04:04 PM (#5890752)
the article has almost nothing to do with baseball cards, and instead focuses on modern acquiring, grading etc

The acquiring and grading of what?
   4. the Centaur Nipple Paradox (CoB). Posted: October 15, 2019 at 04:15 PM (#5890756)
Speaking of baseball cards, I just cleaned out a storage space and now have 2 small/medium sized cardboard boxes of cards sitting in a closet.

Mostly (80%+) 87 Donruss with a smattering of earlier stuff.

Anyone got any bright ideas on what to do with them?
   5. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 15, 2019 at 04:20 PM (#5890757)
Commons 4 Kids accepts donations, but you have to pay to ship them. One of these days I'm going to go through the tens of thousands of cards that I still have at my parents' house and get rid of a ton.
   6. eric Posted: October 15, 2019 at 04:31 PM (#5890761)
I did the great cleaning just a few years ago. I sold on CL/ebay anything with reasonable value. I kept a few things with emotional value (My Wade Boggs Toppps RC I begged my parents for and got for Christmas 31 years ago, for example). The other 99% I put into a few boxes, listed them on craigslist, and some guy came by and took them all off my hands for free. When your main collecting years were 1987 - 1993...you don't have a lot of cards of value.
   7. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 15, 2019 at 05:16 PM (#5890776)
When your main collecting years were 1987 - 1993...you don't have a lot of cards of value.
That overlaps almost exactly with my prime years. I did get into vintage cards as a kid, so I have some from the '50s-'70s, but of course nothing in Extra Super Perfect Untouched Unbreathed-Upon Gem Mint such that they would have some value. I still want to keep one set (or as close as I have) from each of the manufacturers for each of the junk wax years, just for sentimental reasons.
   8. salvomania Posted: October 15, 2019 at 06:41 PM (#5890798)
The acquiring and grading of what?

You do understand that an article about activities related to the thing aren't the same as articles about the thing, right?

The headline would be accurate if it was "How Baseball Card Collecting Got Weird."
   9. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 15, 2019 at 06:46 PM (#5890799)
That overlaps almost exactly with my prime years.

Same here. I did the big cleaning about 5 years ago when my parents sold their house. I kept a few small boxes of "valuable" cards and my parents offered the rest to the movers, one of whom was very happy to take them for his son. I'm guessing I could get a few hundred dollars for 99% of what I held onto.

I do have one card, however, that I won in a contest as a kid, which came direct from Topps in a glass case. At the time it was "only" listed in Beckett as a $250 card but now I see that PSA9-graded versions are selling for around $7500 (and one sold for $14k), so I really should get mine graded.
   10. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 15, 2019 at 06:56 PM (#5890803)
The headline would be accurate if it was "How Baseball Card Collecting Got Weird."
Well, that does it for today's Pedantry Prize.
   11. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 15, 2019 at 06:57 PM (#5890804)
I do have one card, however, that I won in a contest as a kid, which came direct from Topps in a glass case. At the time it was "only" listed in Beckett as a $250 card but now I see that PSA9-graded versions are selling for around $7500 (and one sold for $14k), so I really should get mine graded.
Nice! The Ryan/Koosman rookie comes to mind - was that it?
   12. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 15, 2019 at 07:06 PM (#5890809)

It was actually a 1952 Warren Spahn card. I told the story here before, in this thread.
   13. salvomania Posted: October 15, 2019 at 07:25 PM (#5890813)
Well, that does it for today's Pedantry Prize.

Maybe be so, but I literally clicked the link to read about "weird" baseball cards---I was intrigued, wondering what that meant.

I was disappointed that the article had nothing to do with weird baseball cards, and was instead about "unboxing" videos, and PSA grading, etc.

I love baseball cards, I have thousands, most from when I was a kid, along with the few dozen to few hundred I buy in packs each year just for the fun of it. I still have some great, beat-up cards from the '50s and '60s I got from a neighbor as a kid, as well as complete and almost-complete sets from the '70s when I was "seriously" collecting, as in spending every single dime I could get my hands on on packs of baseball cards (yes, they were a dime a pack when I began collecting).

I don't really care about the industry of collecting, and grading, and multiple variations created for scarcity's sake, etc.
   14. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: October 15, 2019 at 09:01 PM (#5890887)
The headline would be accurate if it was "How Baseball Card Collecting Got Weird."

Well, that does it for today's Pedantry Prize.


Which I guess makes me a pedant, too. I had precisely the same expectation as salvomania.
   15. PreservedFish Posted: October 15, 2019 at 09:52 PM (#5890919)
Pedants don't just notice problems, they complain about them.
   16. Cris E Posted: October 16, 2019 at 11:12 AM (#5891050)
But they don't just complain, they need to create an opportunity to exhibit minor knowledge or highlight distinctions without difference.
   17. Lassus Posted: October 16, 2019 at 11:20 AM (#5891054)
I would ACKNOWLEDGE the problem, but not really care about it overmuch.
   18. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: October 16, 2019 at 11:32 AM (#5891059)
I dunno. If you write an article with the title of, say, "When Punk Got Weird," would you expect it to be about record collecting?
   19. Lassus Posted: October 16, 2019 at 12:04 PM (#5891071)
Disparity of varying degree - from "curious" to "idiotic" - between headline and article seems to be a long-held staple.
   20. PreservedFish Posted: October 16, 2019 at 12:17 PM (#5891076)
I'm not even sure that the headline is misleading. Much of the article addresses the "manufactured scarcity" of modern cards:

Last year, by contrast, the Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani appeared on at least 2,700 distinct rookie cards manufactured by just two companies, Topps and Panini... nearly all of the variants produced in limited runs.

That certainly seems weird to me.
   21. PreservedFish Posted: October 16, 2019 at 12:21 PM (#5891078)
I dunno. If you write an article with the title of, say, "When Punk Got Weird," would you expect it to be about record collecting?


Not a great analogy, as collecting seems much more inextricably part of the baseball card experience (it's the one thing that everyone except 7 year old kids associates with the product) much more so than collecting is part of the punk experience. But even so ... if the article actually addressed how punk bands had dramatically changed the way they released music in response to weird fan collecting behaviors, then no, it might not be too inaccurate.
   22. spycake Posted: October 16, 2019 at 01:02 PM (#5891089)
If you were listing it as a hobby, "baseball cards" and "baseball card collecting" would by synonymous / interchangeable. I see no difference in using the terms interchangeably in this headline.

And as PF mentions, the article does talk about the production/manufacturing of cards -- so even adding the word "collecting" to the headline wouldn't really make it any more accurate. It's really about baseball cards, in general -- but not about baseball cards, JUST the actual physical cards and nothing else.
   23. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: October 16, 2019 at 01:43 PM (#5891102)

Not a great analogy, as collecting seems much more inextricably part of the baseball card experience (it's the one thing that everyone except 7 year old kids associates with the product) much more so than collecting is part of the punk experience.


Somebody isn't on the KBD list, I see.

(Actually, I'm not either. Signed out once I stopped flogging my old punk vinyl on eBay. May those days never return.)

That comparison was off the top of my head, of course. Probably comics would be far more apt.
   24. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: October 16, 2019 at 03:15 PM (#5891127)
There are some sections of the baseball card hobby that are only minimally weird. (I mean, above the baseline of weirdness that's inherent in collecting baseball cards.) But it's really just the vintage stuff. A crisp T206 card, or one of the pop art cards in the 1949 Leaf set, can be really satisfying to have. And there's significantly less nonsense involved in collecting those cards.

And yeah, I'd tell the kids to get off my lawn, but they're not on my lawn, they're watching box breaks on their phones.
   25. bbmck Posted: October 16, 2019 at 03:24 PM (#5891131)
How the spelling bee became weird, the tip of the iceberg involves an obsession with the Scripps National Spelling Bee quite possibly to the detriment of the development of the child. How card collecting became weird, the tip of the iceberg involves an obsession with PSA 10. How card collecting isn't weird, the vast majority of transactions revolve around seeing a card or pack in person and deciding whether or not to purchase it. Checked in with the local card shop, he does buy stakes in openings and then since there will already be shipping he will purchase bulk Jays commons as well and I then purchased some of those for $20 and left. Openings that are hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles from the purchasers require live streaming, rarity has added an element of gambling to card collecting, neither of those things are at all weird.
   26. eric Posted: October 16, 2019 at 04:15 PM (#5891144)
rarity has added an element of gambling to card collecting


Just an element? The card-collecting hobby now is nothing but. Rarity has made card collecting into another form of gambling.

(And, to be clear, I'm not knocking gambling. We just have to be honest about what's going on.)
   27. Ithaca2323 Posted: October 16, 2019 at 06:29 PM (#5891170)
26 seems to align with what I see a lot of. It’s not about getting a certain player‘s card. It’s about getting the 1/1 autographed platinum refractor
   28. TJ Posted: October 16, 2019 at 07:05 PM (#5891175)
I admit to being a baseball card geek and find the mass-produced era of the mid-80s to mid 90’s still fun. You can get boxes of that stuff cheap or free, and I still get a kick out of going through them and pulling out the HOFers, my beloved Detroit Tigers and Steve Avery cards. (I grew up in his hometown and played ball with his older brothers). Sure there is no money in them- so what? I’ve been addicted to baseball since I was two years old and those cards are a cheap fix....
   29. PreservedFish Posted: October 16, 2019 at 07:36 PM (#5891180)
What's the cheapest modern pack? Whenever I see baseball cards in Target (next to the Pokemon, Magic, etc cards) I always blanch at the price for just a dozen. I'd like to get my kids a whole bundle, and I think modern cards would be more satisfying than the '88 Donrusses I've got stashed at my dad's place.
   30. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: October 16, 2019 at 08:04 PM (#5891183)
It’s not about getting a certain player‘s card. It’s about getting the 1/1 autographed platinum refractor

Not just the autographed platinum refractor, but the "1/1" orange-background alternate-road-jersey batting-pose green-tint-flipped-back (intentionally)-misspelled-name-error blue-autographed platinum refractor which, while being a "1/1", is essentially no different than any of the other countably infinite permutations of the same card of the same player in the same set.

And I'll gladly cosign [26].
   31. dirk Posted: October 16, 2019 at 08:40 PM (#5891191)
also a 87-93 collector. when my mom cleaned out her attic I took them all home and put them under my 7 year old's bed. at bedtime I pull out stack and tell him everything I remember about each player, he loves it, and it's a bunch of fun.
   32. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: October 16, 2019 at 09:50 PM (#5891198)
countably infinite permutations


Just you wait, they're trying to figure out how to get up to aleph-1.

at bedtime I pull out stack and tell him everything I remember about each player, he loves it, and it's a bunch of fun.


That sounds great!
   33. dirk Posted: October 16, 2019 at 11:06 PM (#5891204)
my son will be able to look back and remember his dad remembering guys. in 20 years that may be a deadspin video feature.

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