“Baseball is 90% mental; the other half is physical.” ~ Yogi Berra
Sports collectibles are among the hottest in the ﬁeld. They’re also among the most reproduced, copied, faked and forged of all collectibles. It has been estimated, as reported in an FBI investigation, that more than 80% of all sports memorable are either falsiﬁed or simply wrong: not surprising, baseball takes the biggest hit (no pun intended).
Collecting baseball cards was a big deal in the 1950’s. We remember spending a nickel to get a bunch of cards AND the bubble gum (the best part). Cards were quickly examined and discarded. Maybe one out of the whole lot was saved (because it was a Yankee), only to be traded, ﬂipped, or perhaps cloth-pin-clipped to a bike frame near the spokes to create instant mufﬂer sounds.
We saved them, but not for monetary purposes. They were part of our childhood, our playthings. Believe it or not, we actually handled them. We drew faces, mustaches, and X’s on players after bad games. We even read the backs (yes, they have backs). Our storage system was a shoe-box, and our moms were constantly telling us to clean up our messes and put the cards away.
If nothing else, “baseball cards” created the whole new category in the world of collectibles. Most folks never knew about the rarest Honus Wagner T-206 baseball card (and nobody cared) until they started writing books and price guides. Once someone assigned a value to a card, it turned into a business instead of a hobby, the game changed.
Cards became like money. You could still barter (like we always did), but now you could also buy and sell. You didn’t even have to like or dislike a player or team! Someone, somewhere, was telling us that the value of a card was worth a whole lot more than we had in our pockets. They were also telling us that saving them would be like putting money in our little metal banks shaped like Yankee Stadium. Someday, we might be RICH!
Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case. To be sure, the rarest cards, in the best condition, have appreciated over the years, but the common cards and the less than stellar condition cards have not done well.
That ‘condition’ factor, we later learned, became the fundamental ingredient to any collectible item, particularly for any item that was mass-produced and was not 100 years old. So the markets changed, the hobby changed, our perceptions changed, and the world of the baseball collectible became “ofﬁcial.”
Gone were the days of innocence. The game has become more than a pastime and a young boy’s dream. It has become a ‘ﬁeld of dreams’ – – – the dream of getting rich by collecting sports cards and sports memorabilia. For some uniformed collectors, that dream turned into nightmare.
Our advice to collectors is: “Collect what you like, not what you think will make you rich.” Chances are you won’t get rich, but you’ll have lots of fun learning about the exciting world of sports memorabilia.