There’s been a bit of a debate on the SABR Baseball Cards Facebook page the past few days on the merits of “fake” cards, DIY imaginary cards that people love, or hate, or are confused by. (I weighed in on this earlier in the month). Andrew Aronstein, son of TCMA founder Mike, posited a pretty solid theoretical – “What is a “fake” card? Let’s start there.”
I bet we all have answers to this, but I think all of our answers end up wrong. The real question, to me anyway, is “What do we like and how does that effect what we buy?” From the late 1960s to the early 1980’s, Robert (R.G.) Laughlin, artist/illustrator/cartoonist (I don’t know anything about him), produced wonderful sets. From the 1968 World Series set that he self-marketed,
to the official Fleer issues (there are many), each Laughlin subject was a joy. I bought a 1971 World Series set, a 1975 Fleer Pioneers of Baseball set
and packs of Fleer issue – Famous Feats, Baseball Firsts, Wildest Plays and Days. I never, never, bought sets Laughlin issued on his own.
It’s a shame, really, that I was mired in what my young mind thought was a “real” card (i.e., something put out by a company), and what I liked. Talk about being brainwashed by corporate branding! McLaughlin’s Super Stand-ups, All-Star Games, Diamond Jubilee, Long Ago Black Stars, Great Feats (God, there are so many) were not a secret. Dealers I got catalogs from would sell these sets for $5 (I’m guessing. Most were issued in the $3 range), and, though they looked incredible, I demurred. They weren’t “real” cards. Topps was real, Fleer was real, Laughlin wasn’t.
I rediscovered my Famous Feats cards when I was making a trade and I’m working on the set. It’s a manageable cost, and I have Ruth, Gehrig, and Cobb, which command a bit higher price. Why, I don’t know. Much to my dismay, the other sets are pretty pricey. I’ve been casually looking for random sets but, when they come up, they go for a lot, from $50 – $200. I think I’ll eventually grab a few if I can get a deal, but I feel the ship has sailed on many of these.
A card is a card. Some made by card companies and some are not. Are old Laughlins any less “fake” than a current DIY card? Or any less “real?” They’re both made by fans with an eye for something unique, created to fill a void. I see now that that’s good enough for me.
I attended SABR 48 in Pittsburgh last week. It was a great convention – excellent presentations, great conversations. One of the nicest parts of my Wednesday to Saturday attendance was the outpouring of thanks from fellow SABR members about my blog posts. I wasn’t expecting so much enthusiasm, but it was intensely gratifying to know people enjoy my posts as much as I enjoy writing them.
Now go buy some cards, join SABR (if you haven’t already) and share your stories.