Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When loose subscription cards were annoying

This was the end of the line for me and Baseball Cards magazine. It would be the last issue I would have delivered to my home and one of the last issues I would ever read (those later issues from the late '80s and then the Beckett spawn are completely foreign to me).

I would move off to college two months after the date on the front here. My interest in baseball cards was waning. The period between 1986-88 is a dark one in my collecting journey even as it was one of the best times of my life (what does that say about baseball cards?)

In fact, I'm not even sure how closely I looked at this particular issue. So let's look at it closely now, shall we?

I apologize in advance for some of the crooked scans. My scanner doesn't like working with anything that has any degree of thickness.

Ah, the Q&A section. Once again, this is where collectors wrote in, mostly in hopes of getting rich quick off of the error that they spotted in 1982 Fleer. The question "was this corrected?" pops up over and over.

My favorite questions in this issue are the one in which someone asks if the fact that there's no Reds emblem on George Foster's 1979 Topps card is a printing error, and the one in which a guy spots an error on the back of the 1970 Topps Lee May card and thinks he is the first one to discover it (that's right, it's been sitting undetected for 15 years waiting for you, buddy).

But there were a few informative answers in there, too, brought about by the questions of poor, unfortunate collectors who didn't have the internet yet.

For example, this is an error that I had heard about in the distant past but had never bothered to dig out the cards and examine them until I read about it in the Q&A today.

Jim C. Wright is on the left. Jim L. Wright is on the right. Different guys. But you'll notice that they each feature the same signature. That would be Jim C.'s signature on Jim L.'s card. I wonder if Jim L. refuses to sign that card now?

There was an interview with Whitey Ford in this issue, but I skipped that because I don't care. That's right, I don't care. I don't need to hear another story about how crazy Billy Martin was.

No, instead I am more fascinated by old advertisements. Old ads and TV commercials are great fun. This ad  touted some sort of baseball game, in which you used things that looked like tickets, called "Pursue the Pennant." Weird name. But the ad was so proud of the game that "makes all other Baseball board games obselete."

I like how baseball cards are featured, but no baseball cards are included with the game. The end of the ad says, "It is not necessary to purchase baseball cards to play Pursue The Pennant, their only purpose is to improve the attractiveness of the game."

Excuse me sir, this is 1985. We all know that baseball cards' only purpose is to make us rich.

This issue ran retrospectives of Topps' 1955, 1965 and 1970 sets (I don't know why 1960 was left out). I enjoy the year-by-year series in BCM, as long as they are certain to talk about the cards from that year. A couple of them are just ramblings about what happened that year in baseball.

Fortunately, these articles do a better job. I will have to re-read all of them, but especially 1955 because as a 1956 lover, I tend to turn my nose up at '55. But I shouldn't. Look at that wrapper! That alone makes '55 cool.

This is cool, too. This is a breakdown of how many cards were issued for each team for competing Topps and Bowman in 1955. As you can see, Bowman came out way ahead. And if you were a fan of the Tigers, White Sox, Indians or Phillies, you must have felt robbed by what Topps had to offer.

OK, this was the big drawing point of this issue. WIN $350 ROSE ROOKIE CARD!!!!!

We all know this is the Ken McMullen rookie card, but I humored them and filled out an entry form for the card. Each entrant was required to guess the day that Rose would get his record-breaking 4,192nd hit. I was way too optimistic about Rose's chances. I guessed August 4 and he didn't get it until September 11.

It's no matter, because as you can see, I never sent it in!

That's how much my interest in cards dropped off in '85. I was enthused enough to fill out the form, probably around April or May when the issue came out. And then a few short weeks later, I couldn't be bothered to send it.

This issue also came with what they called "repli-cards" (I always wanted to be the "replicard" when we played dinosaurs as a kid). There was a reproduction of Rose's 1965 Topps card and the Steve Carlton '65 rookie card. I know I traded the Rose card. I might have traded Carlton, too, as I can't find it.

The Talkin' Baseball article this time was with the late, great Dan Quisenberry. In the article, Quiz has kind of a cavalier attitude about cards that I found upsetting when I read these. These are the most important things in the world, dude!

Just to humor myself, here is my favorite card of Quisenberry:


Also tremendous.

Here is a story about the complete Dale Murphy checklist for all you Murphy enthusiasts out there. Of course, this checklist is now hopelessly out of date.

But here is a sampling, just because I know it will interest at least one of the 46 Braves bloggers.

I have conveniently skipped over the price guide again. We've all seen it before.

Instead, it's on to an article called "Card Wars," which is something similar to what I'm doing here on the blog. Determining the best set for each year.

At the time, this was just a battle between the Big 3. And the author examines only 1981-84. In his final analysis, he grades Donruss first, Topps second and Fleer third.

I don't understand his fondness for Donruss. In fact, in the article, he raves about this set:

OK, whatever. Go play with your tinker toys now. I still think if you told 500 people "design a baseball card," 425 would come up a bat and ball design.

I do enjoy some of his descriptions of the card sets from this period. He says 1982 Fleer had "no more than a small handful of cards (with) photos that weren't so blurry they looked like they ... had been taken by a 6-year-old with an Instamatic or by Aunt Maudie with the shakes," and " ... feeling that variations help sell cards, they came up with some more, not to mention some of the most inane and ludicrous multiple-player cards known to mankind ..."

And finally this indictment of 1982 Topps:

"The now famous (or maybe it's infamous) hockey stick design on the front, coupled with an almost unreadable back done in dark blue on dark green, makes this set one of the all-time losers."

Harsh. But funny.

Here is the story about 1970 Topps. I like the story because it mentions how unappreciated and "drab" the 1970 set is, but that it paved the way for the other sets of the '70s, incorporating some things like large set size (the 1970 set was the largest one Topps had put out at the time) that would become standard.

Most issues featured a "What's New" section with the various cards that had come out since the last issue. These are now-familiar items of the mid-1980s (although I was late to the party with many of these given my semi-hiatus at the time).

The article also mentions the giant 3-D cards that I didn't know about for decades until getting the Fernando Valenzuela one.

The "What's New" article is very similar to what blogging is today. Unless you're one of the blogs that deals solely in vintage. And there's nothing wrong with that at all.

1965 Topps. Third set in this issue's card trilogy. Of 1955, 1970 and 1965, this is my favorite, and why I am skipping right over 2013 Heritage and getting ready for 2014.

Finally, we come to the back of the magazine, which always listed the upcoming card shows. There are four pages of them in this issue.

Like I said before, I would look at these in hopes that there would be a show somewhere close to me. But there never was. Lots of stuff for people in NYC and New Jersey and Long Island, but nothing near me.

However, this Clayton, N.Y., dateline jumped out at me. I didn't know where Clayton was at the time, but today it's an annual stop on my card show list. The Thousand Islands Stamp, Coin, Postcard and Collectibles Show is still going strong and will be as long as rich people vacation in the Thousand Islands.

I'll be there again this July. For a recap, here is the best card I bought at each show for the last 3 years:

2009: 2004 Donruss Playoff Honors Hideo Nomo jersey card.

2010: 1951 Bowman Don Newcombe.

2011: 1954 Topps Gil Hodges.

Not a bad little show.

So that's the end of the last issue of my three-year long subscription to Baseball Cards magazine.

But it's not the end of these posts. I'm not going in chronological order, so I know there are at least a couple other issues that I haven't featured.

My scanner isn't happy about that. But he doesn't have a say.


  1. Man I still have tons of those Baseball card Magazines stored in my folks basement. All of them from the late 80' and early 90's. Good stuff.

  2. I like looking at old ads too. I can easily lose track of time watching commercials on you tube from the 80s.

  3. Lots of memories there. I used to get all the mags, Tuff Stuff, SCD, anyone remember "The Trader Speaks". Larry Fritsch ran ads on the back of all of them I think. I've always wanted to visit his place in Wisconsin and look thru all the stuff he must have collecting dust in the back. Unopened 1961 Nu-card Football packs, anyone?

  4. I miss this magazine as well as Tuff Stuff and Sports Collectors Digest. Now, it's just Becketts. Not a fan of paying 10 bucks an issue.

  5. I'll say bit again...I was a huge fan of the magazine as a teenaged collector. And the idea of people writing about the cards planted a seed in my own mind.

    Bob Lemke was the editor of that magazine back then, and someone I can still get in touch with today. I wonder if he even realizes the fact he played a part in my being a writer.

    I used to attend that show in Clayton every year. Great memories.

    By the way...I'm going to let the internal 14 year-old version of myself come out. Does anybody else think that image of The Chicken should be Photoshopped to have him sitting on a toilet? Heck, put a cigarette in his beak, too.

  6. OMG! There is a show in Clayton? My wife and I haven't been to the 1000 Islands in at least 10 years. We always stayed in Alex Bay, but vowed last time that if we ever came again we'd stay in Clayton.

    I could send my wife off to the Wooden Boat Museum and I could go to the show!

  7. What a great trip down memory lane! I wish I had saved my old card rags. Alas, they were tossed many, many moons ago.

    On a happier note, I am sending you the blue Uribe card I pulled last Christmas (along with some other cards). Sorry it took so long!

  8. I think I was out of collecting when most of those mags came out, but I've picked up a good stack of them at the antique stores for a buck each in the last couple years. Always wish I could go back in time and pick up a few vintage Mantles for the prices back then.
    I think I have that Raines Canadian card in my tradeables box...

  9. Two Christmases ago, my Mom pointed me to a corner of the basement..."That's your stuff. Are you keeping it or should we throw it out?" Keeping it meant I would have to take it home with me at that moment. One of my boxes was a big collection of 80s/90s Baseball Cards Magazines. I decided to pull out all the reprint "cards" from the middle and pitch the rest.