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SnakebyteXX
07-26-2006, 07:24 AM
How baseball cards lost their luster.

By Dave Jamieson
Posted Tuesday, July 25, 2006, at 6:31 AM ET

Last month, when my parents sold the house I grew up in, my mom forced me to come home and clear out my childhood bedroom. I opened the closet and found a box the size of a Jetta. It was so heavy that at first I thought it held my Weider dumbbells from middle school. Nope, this was my old stash. Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of baseball cards from the 1980s. Puckett, Henderson, Sandberg, Gwynn, and McGwire stared back at me with fresh faces. So long, old friends, I thought. It's time for me to cash in on these long-held investments. I started calling the lucky card dealers who would soon be bidding on my trove.

First, I got a couple of disconnected numbers for now-defunct card shops. Not a good sign. Then I finally reached a human. "Those cards aren't worth anything," he told me, declining to look at them.

"Maybe if you had, like, 20 McGwire rookie cards, that's something we might be interested in," another offered.

"Have you tried eBay?" a third asked.

If I had to guess, I'd say that I spent a couple thousand bucks and a couple thousand hours compiling my baseball card collection. Now, it appears to have a street value of approximately zero dollars. What happened?

Baseball cards peaked in popularity in the early 1990s. They've taken a long slide into irrelevance ever since, last year logging less than a quarter of the sales they did in 1991. Baseball card shops, once roughly 10,000 strong in the United States, have dwindled to about 1,700. A lot of dealers who didn't get out of the game took a beating. "They all put product in their basement and thought it was gonna turn into gold," Alan Rosen, the dealer with the self-bestowed moniker "Mr. Mint," told me. Rosen says one dealer he knows recently struggled to unload a cache of 7,000 Mike Mussina rookie cards. He asked for 25 cents apiece.

For someone who grew up in the late 1980s, this is a shocking state of affairs. When I was a kid, you weren't normal if you didn't have at least a passing interest in baseball cards. My friends and I spent our summer days drooling over the display cases in local card shops, one of which was run by a guy named Fat Moose. The owners tolerated us until someone inevitably tried to steal a wax pack, which would get us all banished from the store. Then we'd bike over to the Rite Aid and rummage through their stock of Topps and Fleer.

Card-trading was our pastime, and our issues of Beckett Baseball Card Monthly were our stock tickers. I considered myself a major player on the neighborhood trading circuit. It was hard work convincing a newbie collector that Steve Balboni would have a stronger career than Roger Clemens. If negotiations stalled, my favorite move was to sweeten the pot by throwing in a Phil Rizzuto card that only I knew had once sat in a pool of orange juice. After the deal went through, my buddy wouldn't know he'd been ripped off until his older brother told him. He always got over it, because he had no choice: Baseball cards were our common language.

In the early 1990s, pricier, more polished-looking cards hit the market. The industry started to cater almost exclusively to what Beckett's associate publisher described to me as "the hard-core collector," an "older male, 25 to 54, with discretionary income." That's marketing speak for the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. Manufacturers multiplied prices, overwhelmed the market with scores of different sets, and tantalized buyers with rare, autographed, gold-foil-slathered cards. Baseball cards were no longer mementos of your favorite players—they were elaborate doubloons that happened to have ballplayers on them. I eventually left the hobby because it was getting too complicated and expensive. Plus, I hit puberty.

It's easy to blame card companies and "the hard-core collector" for spoiling our fun. But I'll admit that even before the proliferation of pricey insert cards, I was buying plastic, UV-ray-protectant cases for my collection. Our parents, who lost a small fortune when their parents threw out all those Mantles and Koufaxes, made sure we didn't put our Griffeys and Ripkens in our bicycle spokes or try washing them in the bathtub. Not only did that ensure our overproduced cards would never become valuable, it turned us into little investors. It was only rational, then, for the card companies to start treating us like little investors. The next wave of expensive, hologram-studded cards didn't ruin collecting for us—we were already getting too old for the game. It ruined baseball cards for the next generation of kids, who shunned Upper Deck and bought cheap Pokémon and Magic cards instead.

This year there are 40 different sets of baseball cards on the market, down from about 90 in 2004. That's about 38 too many. 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?

Seeing as the cards I once prized now fetch a pittance on eBay, I decided not to sell my collection. I figure my Boggs rookie is worth more as a keepsake of my card-shop days than as an online auction with a starting bid of 99 cents. The worthlessness of my collection gave me an idea, though. The card manufacturers and the Major League Baseball Players Association have launched a $7 million marketing campaign to remind a generation of children that baseball cards exist. Instead of spending all that money to tell kids that cardboard is cool, Topps and MLB should convince everyone that cards are worthless, suitable for tacking to the wall, flicking on the playground, or at least taking out of the package.

In that spirit, the other day I opened three Topps packs that I'd stowed away as an investment in the late 1980s. I even tried the gum, which was no staler than I remember it being 20 years ago. And as I flipped through my new cards hoping to score a Mattingly, I felt that particular tinge of excitement that a generation of kids have missed out on.


web page (http://www.slate.com/id/2146218/nav/tap1/)

eg8r
07-26-2006, 09:53 AM
Pretty interesting. I have wondered for a while what was going on with baseball cards. Our second child is due in September and it is a boy. My favorite sport is baseball, so I have given some thought to one day fooling around and pouring through baseball cards with him, but according to this article that might be gone.

eg8r

Rich R.
07-26-2006, 10:30 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote eg8r:</font><hr> Pretty interesting. I have wondered for a while what was going on with baseball cards. Our second child is due in September and it is a boy. My favorite sport is baseball, so I have given some thought to one day fooling around and pouring through baseball cards with him, but according to this article that might be gone. <hr /></blockquote>
Just because the cards will not result in a huge profit, doesn't mean that you can not enjoy collecting them and pouring through them with your son.
Collecting something you like doesn't have to be about the money. JMHO.

Deeman3
07-26-2006, 11:01 AM
Snakebyte,

It is the same old thing in that collectables are that until people figure out you need to save them. Only comic books back when we all threw them out have value. I get a kick out of people collecting modern coins as an investment.

The entire secret is to find something noone keeps and hold onto them for 50-100 years.

Deeman
maybe 8 track tapes?????

sack316
07-26-2006, 12:23 PM
wow, I probably have the exact same collection that snake mentioned in his post. I also went through the same joys of trading with friends (and also the same dissapointment felt when you make a "bad" trade). But it was all fun.

I also had the chats with my Dad, where he would help me put the really valuable cards in the hard plastic cases, and the rest were put into binders arranged by team and player. Along with that is the unopened full set from year to year, and then the good old smaller but necessary traded and rookie set that would come out later in the year. Me and my Dad would look through the becket and he'd point out all the cards he once had that his Mom through away when he was off in the air force. I remember thinking how rich we'd be if he still had those cards, and how I'd probably be a gazillionaire one day because I was going to keep all of my cards.

I guess I won't ever be a gazillionare off of those old treasures of mine... and from the sounds of things I may be lucky to make a grand off of them one day. But really, thinking back to it all... the memories that came from those times are reward enough for it all. I can still remember the smell of the pack when you opened it. I remember stuffing my mouth completely full of stale gum. I remember me and friends laying out hundreds of cards on the floor in the classroom and getting in trouble for not doing school work. And mostly I remember what a special day it was when my Dad would take me to the card shop for me doing something good.

Thanks for the post snake...and even though it doesn't seem you and I will find out retirement fund in a shoebox, I'm sure we can give our kids the same fond memories that we have from that special time.

Sack

wolfdancer
07-26-2006, 12:42 PM
R, I'm sorry to hear that your baseball card collection has lost it's value...however, I would be willing to trade you,my Beanie Babe collection, which is worth untold thousands, on the "secondary" market

eg8r
07-26-2006, 12:44 PM
[ QUOTE ]
Just because the cards will not result in a huge profit, doesn't mean that you can not enjoy collecting them and pouring through them with your son.
Collecting something you like doesn't have to be about the money. <hr /></blockquote> You are very correct. However, one of the cool things about collecting them was knowing certain ones were worth something. I have always been a Yankee fan, and for a long time (during my childhood) they sucked, but I still bought tons of packs a week hoping I could get every player on the team. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif

The worst part about being a baseball fan is living in a city with no team while at the same time being near another city with a team that sucks. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif If my son likes baseball I will buy season tickets to the Devil Rays, I just hope they pick it up by that time. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif

eg8r

onepocketfanatic
07-26-2006, 08:12 PM
Having collections is like a hoby. A good friend has been collecting hand made marbles for many years before it was popular to collect them (I never knew it was EVER popular to collect them). Every year he would go on vacation and get a marble from places he visited.
He has these slim "suite cases" filled with them. The cases are lined with foam and have places in them for marbles so they don't bump up against each other. Probably 30-50 marbles per case and at least 20 cases.
He recently sold several marbles to pay for his house to be reroofed, Hardy planked, new carpet, and a bunch of other stuff....he sold the equivilant of one case of marbles for to get all of this done (I estimated his cost around $30,000-$40,000)to have all of this done.
Seems unbelievable for some little round pieces of glass!

wolfdancer
07-26-2006, 10:17 PM
Dee, if you have an Eddie Gaedel rookie card to trade, I'd be willing to swap for my NBA defensive legend, Ernie D'Gregorio rookie card
I think Eddie played shortstop???

DickLeonard
07-27-2006, 06:08 AM
Deeman the new Coins with their altered appearances is the Governments Idea to have coin collectors and the thousands of new Collectors take millions of dollars out of circulation thereby loaning the Government millions of dollars at no interest. Once they start double stamping a few coins watch out.####

Rich R.
07-27-2006, 08:45 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote eg8r:</font><hr>However, one of the cool things about collecting them was knowing certain ones were worth something.
<font color="blue">As usual, we have a different opinion. /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif I thought the cool thing about collecting was aquiring the most complete collection possible. I have a several family members who have collected coins and they never even thought about selling the valuable ones. They wanted the complete collection.
However, if you think about it, now that many of the people have stopped collecting baseball cards, it may be the time to collect for the future. The cards not saved by everyone will be the valuable ones in the future. /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif </font color>

I have always been a Yankee fan,
<font color="blue"> I should have know. /ccboard/images/graemlins/tongue.gif </font color>

The worst part about being a baseball fan is living in a city with no team while at the same time being near another city with a team that sucks. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif If my son likes baseball I will buy season tickets to the Devil Rays, I just hope they pick it up by that time. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif

<font color="blue"> The worst part of being a baseball fan is being a season ticket holder to a team that sucks. You will find out, if you buy the tickets to the Devil Rays.

I know this from experience. I have had tickets for the Orioles for at least the past 9 years. /ccboard/images/graemlins/confused.gif </font color> <hr /></blockquote>

eg8r
07-27-2006, 09:52 AM
[ QUOTE ]
The worst part of being a baseball fan is being a season ticket holder to a team that sucks. You will find out, if you buy the tickets to the Devil Rays.

I know this from experience. I have had tickets for the Orioles for at least the past 9 years. <hr /></blockquote> I have no doubt you are right about this. However, every year I plunk down the money to watch the Braves in spring training and that is painful enough. Hopefully a miracle will happen and the Devil Rays will make some great changes and the 2 hour drive worth it. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif

eg8r

SPetty
07-27-2006, 10:05 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote eg8r:</font><hr> Our second child is due in September and it is a boy. My favorite sport is baseball, so I have given some thought to one day fooling around and pouring through baseball cards with him, but according to this article that might be gone.<hr /></blockquote>Your first child is a girl. Maybe she would enjoy one day fooling around and pouring (sic) through baseball cards with you...

SPetty
07-27-2006, 10:06 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote eg8r:</font><hr>If my son likes baseball I will buy season tickets to the Devil Rays, I just hope they pick it up by that time. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif <hr /></blockquote>And if your daughter likes baseball?

Deeman3
07-27-2006, 10:21 AM
SPetty,

Please P.M. me your mailing address. While I never could find those tapes I had promised (my Mom swears she did not throw them out) I have gathered a bunch of pool related books, videos and the like, yes, Mr. Poo as well, to send to you. Some books may be copies of things you already have but when I considered what to do with them, PettyPoint seems the most logical place for them to reside as my kids could give a flip and I can always claim I added more to the PettyPoint collection.

Gee, we miss you guys. Of course, there is not a place that comes close to "The Best Little Pool Hall in Texas" anywhere near Alabama and I often thnk of all the great late night we shared there before people finally would reluctantly go home.

Send me that address and save me a tomale.... /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif


Deeman
There are peope who have been to PettyPoint and those who dream of going.....

wolfdancer
07-27-2006, 11:37 AM
[ QUOTE ]
"The Best Little Pool Hall in Texas" <hr /></blockquote>
Good One !!

eg8r
07-27-2006, 11:38 AM
Not if her mother has anything to say about it. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif Joking aside, my daughter will be allowed to do whatever she wants as long as we can afford it and she is available to participate. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif

eg8r

eg8r
07-27-2006, 11:40 AM
As my reply in another of your posts, if my wife has anything to say, my daughter will not like baseball. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif Right now, she has no interest. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif

eg8r

DickLeonard
07-27-2006, 01:38 PM
Eg8r My daughter the Dr. was 5-1 pitching in the Majors. Her only defeat came when her manager wouldn't call ballplayers up from the Minors instead chose to play with just nineplayers. Two collided had had to go to the hospital and they forfeited the game leading 6-1.

When she wasn't pitching she played shortstop and when it came to all-stars her manager didn't nominate her. Women shouldn't be playing Little League. The othe managers were mad as hell.####

eg8r
07-28-2006, 06:58 PM
[ QUOTE ]
When she wasn't pitching she played shortstop and when it came to all-stars her manager didn't nominate her. Women shouldn't be playing Little League. The othe managers were mad as hell.#### <hr /></blockquote> That definitely sucks. If my daughter wants to play Little League she will have the opportunity. If her coach responds like that, we will surely have words.

When I first made it to the "Majors" in Little League I was nominated for the All-Stars but another coach took exception because I was so young and would have more opportunities than the other kids. I was drafted up into the majors from the minors 1.5 years before I supposed to. I was younger than all the other kids, but my bat never stopped. I was only a mediocre pitcher after majors, and when I made it to high school the coach told me they did not have a DH and my skills in the field would never get me any playing time. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif My career was over. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif

Then I found out about softball. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif My first hit in our company league went over the left field fence. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif Too bad it was the last homer for the season.

eg8r