Skip to main content

The most "human" of card sets

I have been on a buying binge lately for one of my favorite "oddballs," the 1976 Hostess set.

This set is often ignored by collectors who didn't grow up in the '70s. Its charms are lost on those who are accustomed to their cardboard being sharp, shiny, perfectly centered and without blemish.

The '76 Hostess set is none of the above. It is ragged, wrinkled, soft-cornered with wayward lines and absolutely none of the cards are the same size. In other words, the '76 Hostess set is "human."

If you were to look at your sets as human entities, you would realize that what we want from cards is an insult. We objectify cards, we want them to be perfect specimens, some of us even seal them so they can't get out, can't age or depreciate, "experience life," or mingle with their card friends.

We categorize cards, those that aren't the greatest and latest, that haven't been issued by a popular company are shunned as uncollectible. What human being would be happy with being called "an oddball" or being graded by their appearance -- "poor," "fair," "good," "very good," "excellent," and "mint." Imagine how crushing it would be to be described as, "well ... uh ... you're near mint."

The numbers that, hopefully, are no longer applied to women (or men) -- she's a 10 -- are now measuring sticks for grading companies. "That card grades as a 4." And now there is a current obsession amid this new card world with discarding anything that isn't a "gem-mint 10."

To me that's not very human. Or realistic. And terribly subjective. It's why I appreciate sets like '76 Hostess.

No two Hostess cards are alike. There are too many variables. Each Hostess card grows up with its own story, its own background. One Hostess card lived with a kid who couldn't cut a straight line. Another Hostess card lived with a kid who ripped the cards apart. Another Hostess card tells stories about the little psycho who cut it off the panel with a butcher knife.

Every Hostess card has its own body type. Picture them all lined up in swimsuits. Some are taller, some are wider.

It's impossible to line up Hostess cards straight on the scanner. They're too human for that. Some tilt to the left or the right. None of the edges are straight. Ever. But what human features straight lines? We're a collection of curves, angles and bumps and none of those curves, angles and bumps are the same.

We feature wrinkles and marks just like Hostess cards do.

A lot of Hostess cards -- I mean A LOT of them -- feature one of my least favorite card defects -- stains.

I hate stains on cards. They gross me out. But this is where the human element comes out in Hostess cards and also in me. I love Hostess cards so much that I'm willing to overlook those stains -- no, willing to accept those stains -- with open collecting arms because I love them.

That's a healthy, loving card-collector relationship right there.

I admit, I struggle with selecting Hostess cards when purchasing online. It's a good test of my love for cards -- how much am I willing to take on to have that card? How much Hostess baggage will I accept?

I need to study pictures of Hostess cards, I won't accept them sight unseen. It's really like starting a relationship.

I'm not going to go dumpster-diving for my Hostess cards, just like I wouldn't do that if I was searching for a significant other. I do have standards. Not those weird graded, impossible standards, but I admit I will only accept cards that don't have pieces missing, that have clearly defined borders. Does that make me a lesser lover of Hostess cards? I don't think so. I just want a card to look like a CARD. I guess that's my basic requirement.

But I will accept various imperfections in Hostess cards that I won't in other "more perfect" kinds of cards, basically for the same reason I will accept imperfections in the humans that are closest to me.

To me, those humans are perfect, blemishes and all, and so are those '70s Hostess cards, featuring the players that I rooted for and watched as a kid, the players that I love the most, who also had their own failings and weaknesses. Maybe Hostess featured them the most appropriately of any of the card companies, stained, ragged, but beautiful just the same.

Yeah, even you, Darrell Porter. (Funny how he has the potential for the straightest lines of all).

I'm going to continue on my '70s Hostess journey, looking for the best versions of their Hostess selves but knowing that they're all going to have some sort of failing. Multiple failings.

Just like we all do.

(Happy birthday, Manny!)


I really need to get going on my Hostess, and Post set builds.
Nice post and philosophical approach to your Hostessing. That Bob Watson sure looked like one cool dude!
SO many comments to make... What a great shot of Porter! Is that Tommy McCraw in the background of El Tiante's card? Is Bowa wearing his warmup jacket under his powder blues? Is Shea Stadium about to slide into Flushing Bay on that card of Sangy?

I'm taking a break from acquiring cards and I was hoping that slowing down my intake would help me prioritize my goals, but after thinking "I need to get back to 1972 Topps" and "I should just get those last few 1964 Giants SP's", now I'm thinking "HOSTESS! I need to get back to Hostess!"
Nick Vossbrink said…
These and Posts. I shied away from them a bit too long because handcuts scared me. But you'e absolutely right. The handcut evidence of USE is what makes these wonderful. I am not seeking these. But I always do a search and try to add whatever low-priced Giants I can.
What a beautiful set. I also enjoy the fact that you would put the latest breed of "collectors" into convulsions if these were laid out in front of them.
sg488 said…
I always like my cards in as best condition possible,that is why I never bothered with Hostess.
CrazieJoe said…
It is a charming set. Not one that strikes me as something I need to collect, but I do appreciate it and it's human aspect.
Brett Alan said…
I generally didn't do a very good job of cutting out my Hostess cards when I was a kid. But I love them anyway. I'm with you on that.
It's liberating to not be so constantly concerned about card condition. Totally with you there.

As far as the cards, all I'll say is that when you look up 1970s in the encyclopedia (online now, I suppose), there should be a picture of that Darrell Porter card.
Fuji said…
Hostess cards from the 70's will always welcomed in my collection, because they remind me of my childhood. But the 1976 set is by far my favorite, because of the red, white and blue design. Plus... there are so many cards featuring the Oakland Coliseum in the background.
Big Tone said…
Great post! '76 must have been the year of portly little kids running around with miscut baseball cards.
CaptKirk42 said…
Not trying to get too political here but I stand with you on the "Hostess Cards Matter" front.
CinciCuse Bill said…
I’m always tempted, but never do, clean up my poor cuts from my kid days. Fun post!
AdamE said…
I don't know, anymore I think I would be happy to be referred to as Near Mint.
bryan was here said…
My very first card was a Hostess card. 1979 Omar Moreno. It looked like a seven year old cut it off the box. A few years later I trimmed it up and it looks a lot better. It still has the pinhole where I put it on my little corkboard in my bedroom.

I was still living in Pittsburgh back in 1979, and Hostess cakes were a luxury in my home back then.I had vague recollections of seeing them on boxes before, but this was the first time I had spied a Pirate on the box. It was Twinkies, and they weren't individually wrapped if I remember correctly.

As far as the '76 set, which is very underrated, I've been chasing a Jerry Reuss for a while now. Every time I find one, it usually sells soon after.