Thursday, March 13, 2008

Baseball Cards

About the age of 5, which is kindergarten in school years, I took on the hobby of collecting baseball cards. It was intriguing how the flow of cards worked. By that I mean, where I lived seemed to spend time on the sets with the lower numbers -with numerous doubles- while the neighborhood where my grandparents lived (and we visited frequently) was about 200 numbers higher and had very few "doubles" for whatever reason. (Doubles were duplicates of cards you already had.)

I thought it would be interesting to go into the history of baseball cards because they were what got me so enamored with the statistical world of baseball.

From the late 1880s to the early 1910s, baseball cards were inserted into tobacco products to stimulate sales. By 1890, the American Tobacco Company dominated the cigarette market, so there was no reason to issue baseball cards, and the company phased them out.

In the years from 1909-1912, dozens of different sets were produced. T206 were extremely popular- 1 1/2" by 2 5/8" color lithographed and the 5" by 8" Turkey Red brand also known as the T-3 set.

Baseball cards have been issued in conjuncton with such diverse products as caramel, chocolate, cookies, Cracker Jacks, magazines, ice cream, milk, soft drinks, tea, meat products, dog food, potato chips, cereal, Jell-O, beef jerky, snack cakes and macaroni.

Bowman Gum Company, formerly known as Gum Inc., produced baseball card sets from 1948-1955. In 1951, Topps began producing cards. Over the next 5 years the two companies competed until 1956. In 1956, only Topps remained.

In 1989, Topps released a set of cards using the Bowman name.

A baseball card's value is dependent on market demand. card's condition, scarcity, age = important factors
Rookie cards, or the first cards issued for a player that depict him as a major leaguer, is the hottest segment in hobby today. (In 1990, a Nolan Ryan rookie card was valued at $1,100; Rod Carew rookie card at $350; Roberto Clemente rookie card at $1000 and Robin Yount rookie card @ $150.)

Money magazine rated baseball cards among the best investments of the 1980s.

Baseball card glossary:

Airbrushing: an artist's technique in which logos on uniforms or hats are altered or eliminated. Baseball card companies use airbrushing to depict a player with his current team if they do not have a photo showing him with that team.

Blanket: An early 20th century collectible consisting of a square piece of felt depicting a baseball player. Most popular are 5" by 5" B-18 "blankets" from 1914.

Blister pack: A blister pack is a method of card packaging in which cards are packaged in hard plastic on a cardboard backing, with 3 or 4 pockets of cards. Issued by Donruss (1987-present).

Boxed sets: These are sets produced by one of the major card companies usually in conjunction with business, such as K-Mart or Walgreens. Boxed sets usually contain fewer than 60 cards, most of which are star players. They retailed from $2 - 4 dollars.

Brick: A "brick" of cards is any grouping of cards with similar characteristics, such as a 100-card brick of 1975 Topps cards. Bricks usually contain common cards.

Cello Pack: A package of about 30 cards wrapped in a printed cellophane wrapper that allows you to see the top and bottom cards. There are usually 24 cello packs to a cello box. 16 cello boxes to a cello case. Cello packs retailed between .70 and .80 cents. Issued by Topps, Fleer and Donruss.

Coin-Topps 1988 coin set.

Common card: A card which carries no premium value in a set. "Common" is a blunt way of saying the player depicted is not a star.

Drakes: Ohio-based bakery which made baseball cards in the 1950s. And again from 1981-1988.

Error: If the error is corrected, it is called a variation card.

Fleer: Baseball card manufacturer (1959-1963, 1981 to present)

Food Issue: A set of cards or related memorabilia which was issued in conjunction with a food product, such as Post cereal or Hostess snack cakes.

Goudey: Manufactured cards from 1933-1936, 1938 and 1941.

Jell-O: Cards sold as premiums with Jell-O packages (1962-1963).

Key cards: The most important (valuable) cards in a set, such as the Mickey Mantle card, a "key" card in the 1952 Topps set.

Last card: The final regular card issued for a player, such as Hank Aaron's last card in the 1976 Topps set.

Rare: Difficult to obtain and limited in number. See SCARCE.

Reverse: Back of a card.

ROY: Rookie of the year

Skip Numbered: A set of cards not numbered in exact sequence. Some manufacturers have issued "skip-numbered" sets to trick collectors into buying more cards, looking for card numbers that didn't exist.
Other sets became skip-numbered when one or more players were dropped from the set at the last minute and were not replaced with another card.

Traded Set: An auxiliary set of cards issued toward the end of the season to reflect trades made after the printing of the regular set. Also called "update" sets, they may also include rookies not included in the regular set.

Wax Pack: A wax pack contains 15-17 cards. Usually 36 wax packs per wax box. 20 wax boxes per wax case.

Wrong backs: A card with the wrong back (player on the front of the card does not match the biography and stats on the back of the card).

Mint: A perfect card. Well-centered, with equal borders. Four sharp, square corners. No creases, edge dents, surface scratches, paper flaws, loss of luster, yellowing or fading, regardless of age.

Near Mint: A minor flaw will be discovered. A slightly off-center card would also fit this grade.

Excellent: Cards from 1981-present in excellent condition are valued from 20-40% of cards in mint condition. There is NO market for cards issued from 1981-present in less than excellent condition.

Very Good: Cards from 1948-1980 in very good condition are valued at 30% of cards near mint condition.

Good: Cards from 1948-1980 in good condition are valued at 15% of cards in near mint condition.

Fair: Shows excessive wear, along with damage or abuse, like thumbtack holes in or near margins, evidence of having been taped or pasted. Backs show minor added writing or missing small bits of paper, where the bicycle spoke was clipping it. Still, basically complete card.

Crease: A wrinkle caused by manufacturing process or by careless handling (bicycle spokes, perhaps?).
A crease greatly reduces the value of the card.

Gum Stain: The stain on a card caused by the gum inside the pack. A product known as "Ex-Wax" can remove gum stains and wax stains with little risk of damaging the card. Or gently rub a nylon stocking over the stain. A stained card is worth less than an unstained card.

Notching: Indentations along the edge of a card, sometimes caused by a rubber band. Also known as "edge dent."

Restored Card: A card which has its imperfections fixed long after the card was issued. A card restorer can fix corners, crease and restore gloss to the card's stock. Restored cards should be labeled clearly by the seller, and should be priced much less than unrestored cards in the same condition.

Zeenut Cards: Were produced by a San Francisco area candy company. They feature only players of the Pacific Coast League, from 1911-1938.

Milwaukee's Johnson Cookie Company (you could see the factory from the old County Stadium, in Milwaukee) Inserted Milwaukee Braves players' baseball cards into cookie boxes from 1953-1955.

An oddity in the baseball card world. There was a 1964 Washington Senators Rookie card that had Lou Piniella. In 1968, the Cleveland Indians had a rookie card with sweet Lou Piniella and Richie Scheinblum. In 1969, Piniella was on a rookie card for the one-year in existence Seattle Pilots. But some time during the 1969 season he was traded because he won the Rookie of the Year as a Kansas City Royal.

Kevin Marquez