I've given tutorials on finding night cards before, but it's been rather scattered and I think people would be better served if there was a place where they could go for all their night card-finding needs.
This will be that place.
David, the guy who supplied that great card package in the last post, mentioned how difficult it can be looking for night cards, especially with cards made prior to the 1990s. I agree, which is why rule No. 1 of finding a night card is:
1. Don't make it so difficult.
I love this rule. Card collecting is my hobby. My mission is to make it as fun as I possibly can. There's no way I'm going to agonize over whether something is or isn't a night card, turning the pages of my binder and wondering "did that really take place after 8 p.m.?", waking up in horror after being tormented by a dream of unseen critics deriding me for my night card choices.
Therefore, if you're not sure whether something is a night card, eliminate it. It's not a night card. It's that easy.
So, scrap 'em. They ain't night cards. I can't be having stuff like this on my conscience.
2. Find something "nighty" about the card photo other than "it's dark."
The best complement to "it's dark" is a photo that is from a game that you know took place at night. World Series games like this one are wonderful. So are cards that depict other postseason activities, since just about every playoff game since the mid-1980s has taken place at night.
The 1997 Upper Deck set is great for this. I still don't know how UD did it, but they managed to find moments throughout the season and then caption them.
Both of these moments -- Clemens' first major league at-bat and Gooden's no-hitter -- took place at night. So, there you go, instant night cards.
The next best night-card indicator is that you can see electric lights in action. Unless it's the worst daytime storm imaginable, Jerald Clark is posing in a ballpark at night. There is no dispute.
However, just because you see lights doesn't mean you have a night card.
Adam Donachie -- whoever he is -- is obviously in some sort of indoor facility. It could be 8 in the morning for all we know. It could also be 10 at night. But there's too much doubt. Not a night card.
If you have no "big game" and you have no bank of lights, the next thing you look for is a general artificial glow about the player. The player, for lack of a better word, is "glistening." The best indication is that light is reflected on the player's helmet, especially on the top of the helmet.
Of course, there's the rare example of spectacles glistening instead of a helmet.
If a player is wearing a cap, not a helmet, it's a little more difficult to tell. But you can still see the top of Peavy's cap reflecting light (plus the player in the background's helmet is definitely glowing).
Of course, there is always the possibility that the game is taking place in a dome, which means you don't know if it happened during the day or at night.
That brings me to rule No. 3:
3. Don't discount the dome
Dome cards used to drive me nuts. For example, pre-Target Field cards like this, when the Twins played in the perpetually dark Metrodome. I never knew what to do with these.
But then I decided not to worry about it. Most dome games take place at night anyway, so chances are the game was at night. If I really like the "nightness" of a dome card THAT MUCH, I'll consider it a night card. No one is going to report me. And my conscience is clear.
I do have standards though.
This photo wasn't taken in a dome, but it's dark like it wants to be a night card.
It's not. Tim Conroy is shiny because some camera light is on him. But you can see daylight shining through old Busch Stadium. The clock on the scoreboard also appears to say "7:14" (it's hard to read), which means it's not night yet (not in the summertime anyway).
Sorry, Tim, you're not a night card.
My ideal night card is a card that screams instantly "NIGHT CARD." You know that the picture was taken during a playoff game or you can see a bank of lights. At the very least, you see that glistening helmet.
But that's about as specific as I can get, which brings me to Rule No. 4:
4. I'm no expert.
OK, I can see you rolling your eyes. "You're the only guy who gets into this stuff! If you're not an expert, who is?"
Listen, I've been online a time or two. It's filled with people who obsess over the most pointless minutiae I've ever seen. But they become experts on whatever it is because they have time to devote to it.
I don't have time to devote to much of anything. And this is as far as I want to go on my "expertise" on night cards. If someone out there wants to come up with 100 rules that confirm beyond all doubt that "sample A" is a night card then, go crazy folks, go crazy. I'll gladly step aside.
But until then, this has been Night Card 101.
If you've reached the end of this post, congratulations. You've passed.