Thursday, February 3, 2011

When we were young and stupid

Like a lot of collectors in the 1980s, I subscribed to Baseball Cards magazine. I was on board from practically the first issue in the early 1980s. But I had stopped getting it by 1985. During the late '80s, I'd pick it up here and there, but I never kept them.

However, I did keep the ones that came to my home between 1982-85. For years, they were stored in a box in the attic. But since this blog started, I've pulled them out and read them occasionally. They're fascinating.

They're not fascinating strictly in a nostalgic sense. They're interesting both because of the informative articles therein and in how much the magazine differed from its unholy successor, Beckett magazine. The only time I ever look at Beckett is when I'm in one of those chain bookstores and I'm desperate for something to pass the time. I'll open it up, read a few pages and practically drop it in horror over what the hobby has become -- or what is worth emphasizing in that magazine anyway.

Baseball Cards magazine seemed to present the hobby with much more fondness and care. It was much like reading the blogs today, but with less venting.

One of the perks of reading 25-year-old magazines is how much smarter you seem. For many, the past is an opportunity to boost their ego, and there is no better ego-booster than reading the Collectors Q&A column in Baseball Cards magazine between 1982-85. Wow, were we idiots.

During the early '80s, the big new fad in card collecting was error cards. When I was a kid, errors on cards came up periodically. You sort of smiled about it and moved on. But when Fleer and Donruss came onto the scene in 1981, they issued sets infiltrated with errors. They were so apparent and on every third card.

Collecting error cards became a huge deal. I couldn't help but get excited about spotting an error, and I remember pining for a 1982 Fleer Al Hrabosky card (the one with his name spelled "All"). But I never went so far as to hoard error cards. Collecting mistakes wasn't my thing. It seemed a little mean.

However, it's not too mean to pick out people's old letters from the Collectors Q&A section and make fun of them! So let's do it!

I figured I'd do this for all the magazines I have. This particular issue is for April 1984. On the front, you see the Orioles Reggie Jackson that never made it into collectors' hands, and that very nice Bowman Pee Wee Reese.

Here are some of the questions we were asking in 1984:

The Collectors Q&A column was filled with these kinds of questions. And as the years went on, there seemed to be more and more of them. Collectors were treating their hobby like the lottery. Any card could be their golden ticket. You could just sense the letter-writer preparing to shout "Mojo!"

I was aware of this error when I pulled the Caldwell card in 1980. That was about a year before people started flipping out over errors, so it was worth nothing more than a chuckle.

You can see the error on the last line of stats.

This question was interesting to me because I wasn't aware of this -- or perhaps I was aware and had forgotten about it. I am impressed that the letter writer doesn't say "is this an error?" or "is this a rare card?"

There is the Lonnie card and his 1980 stats, which are apparently Reggie Smith's.

And if you click on the image of Reggie Smith's card back, you can see that the 1980 stats are indeed the same on both the Lonnie and Reggie cards. MOJO!!!!!

Here is a question that applies today, although they had no idea back then how bad this would get:

Heh. Funny, I have a couple of 2010 Topps Chrome cards sitting under seven full baseball card binders at this very moment.

One more question, just because I found it confusing. This is a 1965 Topps card of Jim Kaat, misspelled as Katt. Topps didn't correct the error.

The question:

No, that's wrong. You bought a Topps card of Jim KAAT that was misspelled as KATT.

Let's rely on the answer to clear up the confusion:

Uh. Well, the answer is correct, technically. But the error wasn't that his name was spelled "Kaat" because that's how his name is spelled!

And that's a trip back into early 1980s collecting.

Don't you all feel superior now?

Kind of like this?

More of these to come.


  1. Did you come across any ads for a Baseball Cards Magazine grading service? Because that idea would have been stupid.

  2. I loved getting this magazine as a kid!!!! I wish I had kept all my old issues as it would be pretty cool to take a look back and see where the hobby has come. The first issue I remember getting was at a card show, and one of the articles was on the "Horrors of War" and "Mars Attacks" artwork. I remember thinking ... oh, that's gotta hurt.

  3. ...and Lonnie Smith did end up hitting over 15 HR's in'89. Wonder if that person remembered his question when Lonnie had his power surge.

  4. Awesome post! I remember the BBC mag from the mid 90's. I believe my dad bought me a few before I got a subscription to Tuff Stuff when it started up.

    The only real memory I have of error cards is the reverse negative of Juan Gonzalez's 90 Donruss Rated Rookie. I thought I was super lucky to get one out of a pack!

  5. I occasionally bring that magazine up in my own blog (like with Burger King cards, which also seemed to get a lot of "my 1979 Topps card of X is #15 instead of..." questions).

    I was a big fan of that magazine.

  6. I was a huge fan of the magazine, subscribing from about 1984-1986, and started buying them again in 89. I wish that I would saved all of my issues. There was a gold mine of information in those old issues. I wonder if anyone has the old issues in PDF format. That would be a good way to share.

  7. This brings back a lot of memories. My first thought after reading the post... H.I. could have saved the trouble of wondering how many losses Caldwell had if he had just done some basic math, using the other years and the total.

    Great post!

  8. Great read!

    i too was a fan of BBC and SCD. i loved the "Heritage" style cards that came with (seemingly) every issue.

  9. My favorite early price guide was Card Prices Update (CPU) from the late 1970's - early 1980's though the price updates back then often made no sense. For example a Rickey Henderson Rookie would increase in value from $1.35 to $1.65 and make me wonder why the odd price increments?

    If you're curious what the magazine looks like, there are almost always a couple available for sale at any given time on eBay.

    Below is a link to an active auction.

  10. I grew up on Baseball Cards Magazine as a collector in the early 1990s.

    I'd read up on advice on how Luis Gonzalez and Royce Clayton were going to be the next future stars.

    At the time I thought Beckett was really for the 'cool, advanced collectors,' not just the kids like me buying up 1990 Topps packs, because they were sold in hobby shops [not in retail stories like in the last 10 years or so].

  11. Great read. Brings back memories.

    I saw that Bryant Gumble "what is the internet" spot this morning. It's so funny. It's hard to believe that was only 17 years ago.

  12. Never really read those mags when I was collecting, mostly 'cause I stopped before they really got going. But I have recently bought several from an antique store in PA that has a nice card booth and a whole rack of sports magazines and bunches of BBC mags etc. for about $2 each. Love how they refer to the junk wax sets as such superior products. And the ads are hilarious for pushing certain players as fortune makers for hoarders.