Is It the Cards, or Is It the Baseball?

“Beatle cards, Beatle cards!”

Beatles

I was a late talker, but somewhere between two- and three-years old, I got it. My Great Aunt used to tell me that I would howl about Beatles’ cards from my crib (Are two-year olds still in cribs?). The love of cards was strong with this one from early on.

Yes, this is a baseball card blog and, partially, this is a baseball card post, but it’s clear from what I gather of my own personal history that my love of cards began with Topps’ Fab Four, not ’64 baseball, cards.

Baseball cards are absolutely the vast majority of my cards. The sets are bigger, I’ve been buying them longer and continuously and, when I became the recipient of the card collections of friends, their shoeboxes were always dominated by baseball cards.

So what came first, the baseball or the card? That I’ve always bought lots of cards, of all sports and some non-sports, means that, for me, it’s always been the cards first, the baseball second.  Cards are talismans, direct memories of the past, but they can also be indirectly evocative. When Munsters’ cards came out in 1996 and 1998, I bought them. When Twilight Zone cards came out from 1999-2002, I bought those sets too. Same for the 2001 Planet of the Apes cards. Though not the original issues ( the 1964 Leaf Munsters and the 1967 Topps Planet of the Apes cards are a tad pricey), the recent sets were good fun, brought back great TV and movie memories, not so much from the time like a 1972 Gary Gentry would, but looking backward. They were definitely as much fun as those year’s baseball cards. The ’96 Grandpa Munster cards were as good, if not better, than the ’96 Derek Jeters.

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Is this off topic? Kinda, but I’d like to know what is at the core of the card collector. How many readers of this blog only collect baseball cards? How many collect other sports? How many collect non-sports? I want to know who’s harboring a secret Partridge Family set.

These days I am fully immersed in baseball cards, but that doesn’t mean I’m averse to picking up the occasional 1959 Fleer Three Stooges card, if the price is right.

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Author: Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.

10 thoughts on “Is It the Cards, or Is It the Baseball?”

  1. As a kid I collected all four sports, and occasionally non-sports. In the late 1980s I sold most of my non-baseball stock as a way to fund my baseball card collection. I wish I had all of it back, but I finished my 1966 baseball set by selling off early 1970s hockey. I have had to make these tradeoffs.

    I do like the prices though, and have been working on finishing football 1968-72.

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  2. I collected Garbage Pail Kids for a few years before I got into baseball cards. I’m pretty sure I peeled most of the stickers on that collection although I may still have the backs someplace in my parents’ house.

    Once I got into baseball at the end of 1986 I switched to baseball cards. I’ve got a few football and basketball cards because of random gift wax packs, etc but I was a baseball fan first and foremost and budgeted my allowance accordingly.

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    1. I’m almost exclusively baseball these days, but I recently did go back and finish my 1972 Football set (Series 1 and 2 only). I like cards so, if I see a design or subject that grabs me, I’ll get ’em.

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      1. I’ve been out of the hobby since 1994 but this blog is tempting me back in. But now that I have two kids I also have to figure out how much I want to potentially invade their thing. I’d love if they got into cards but I also want them to do the collecting themselves.

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  3. I collected Dark Shadows cards. I still have several Barnabas Collins cards. I collected all 4 sports. I have my football and hockey cards but sold basketball.

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  4. I collect all 4 major sports cards along with NASCAR, soccer, and wrestling cards.
    As for nonsports cards Star Wars is what I have the most of, but the A-Team cards were some of my favorite as a kid

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  5. Mostly baseball at the moment. Went back recently and completed my 70-79 sets for the other three major sports. Pick up the occasional new card of the other sports if something catches my eye. Also grab the occasional non sport just for a type collection. Yes I do have a handful of Partridge Family.

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  6. Definitely the baseball. The first collecting I remember doing is 1981 Topps Stickers, so it wasn’t even cards. I didn’t really start collecting cards until a few years later (1986), at which point baseball cards basically supplanted Star Wars action figures as my main “collection”. I have some football (Barry Sanders, about an album’s worth of Lions cards, some Tony Gonzalez, and some FSU players), a little basketball (mostly Stockton and Malone), and probably more 1988 Donruss Keith Hernandez cards than I have total hockey/non-sport/other sports cards. Except racing, but that’s only because I bought a stack of full 3200-count boxes that were all labeled “baseball,” only to find out that one was actually a box full of NASCAR cards when I went through it.

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