Collect-A-Books

As Mark noted in his post about Jim Bouton, his cards are collectable because of his position in the history of the game. For me and my generation of card collectors,* this influence extends beyond just Ball Four as Bouton is a big part of a few other products we remember fondly.

*Junk wax aficionados who came of age in the late 80s and early 90s.

Big League Chew of course is the big name here but I also grew up with Collect-A-Books and owned them before I’d even had a chance to read Ball Four. It was cool to read the book, learn about his life as an inventor in Ball Six, and realize that all those Collect-A-Books I owned were in fact a product that Bouton actually invented and owns the patent for.*

*Bouton has one other patent for something which he calls “Collect-A-Bats” in his book but which were actually produced by Good Humor under a different name and which you can come across on occasion on Ebay if you feel like buying something that a random seller may have sucked on thirty years ago.

While I liked them as a kid for being different, I found myself really appreciating them as objects once I revisited my collection as an adult. As a print and design geek these are super nifty.

Bouton’s patent is for a method of creating booklets through just folding and gluing. No staples or traditional binding, instead the sheets are printed, folded, glued and then you have a strip of booklets that just needs to be trimmed on the tops and bottoms. The covers are double-thick compared to the inside pages and the end result is just about perfect.

It feels like a baseball-card sized book without any of the worry about staples keeping the pages together. Nor do they feel any worse for wear after three decades in storage. Slides out of the pocket easily and even the glue is still holding.

Many of my magazines have rusty staples and pages that are pulling out even though I haven’t abused them. No such worries here. It handles like a card and flips through like a book and I don’t have to treat it with kid gloves.

Flipping through the booklets is a lot of fun. Not the best design but an interesting thought experiment about what you could include on a baseball card if you had seven times as much back space. So we’ve got a page of stats, a page of biography, a page of career highlights, an inspiration quote and facsimile signature, a cartoon caricature, a page of vital information, and four additional photos.

In some ways this is almost too much space and after putting literally everything that’s usually on the backs of cards things still feel nowhere nearly as information dense as they should be.

I had three sets of twelve booklets from 1990* and very much enjoyed them. Looking at the checklist now is a wonderful who’s who of the big names of the day—both stars and hot rookies—as well as a nice sample of nine all-time greats. The most-interesting thing about these 36 cards though is how few of the players were notable for multiple teams since this suggests something that would’ve been very fun for the insides.

*I never saw the 1991 ones.

All that space and all those photos offer a great way to show guys playing for different teams and at various stages in their careers. Unfortunately there’s precious little of this. There’s one photo of Nolan Ryan as a Met and Warren Spahn’s card depicts him in a Boston uniform as well as a Mets uniform. No Rickey Henderson as a Yankee. No Hank Aaron with Milwaukee. Bob Feller and Ted Williams are old in all their photos.

But that’s all minor stuff. The real issue for me is that I want to display these better moving forward. 9-pocket pages are obviously insufficient. Instead I’m going to switch to 4-pockets and pick which inside spread I want to show on the other side. These deserve better than to be encased all closed up with only 25% of their content visible.

Author: njwv

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

9 thoughts on “Collect-A-Books”

  1. Nice post and good to learn something about the CAB’s. I avoided them when they came out. I was interested in older stuff at the time with few exceptions. Loaded with stars, very cool and very affordable today. And there are NBA and NFL issues, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve bought a lot of small box sets from the 80s and 90s and I’ve never seen the 1991 booklets (I have the 1990 set). It looks like they were packaged a little different – according to the 2003 Beckett Almanac the 1990 set was distributed in a set manner (3 boxes, each with 12 known booklets – there are red, yellow, and green boxes) whereas the 1991 set was distributed with 8 booklets randomly packaged in boxes. eBay confirms that. I’m guessing the 1991 boxes were opened more frequently given the random nature of the packaging which is why I haven’t seen them in those bins of boxed sets at shows.

    And of course the Good Humor Ice Cream Stick of Raines that I purchased the other day arrived today. I got one in a lot a while ago but it is pretty faded – the printing on this one is much darker. I’ll try not to think about where it has been.

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    1. I should look into picking up the 1991 Giants books. But yeah I’ve just never seen them. I’d’ve bought a pack or two in 1991 if I had. And none have even popped up in trade packages the way 1990 ones have.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I somehow have a Gooden – didn’t recognize it from the front of the booklet when looking at pictures online but recognized the back where he’s decked out as a doctor.

        I just bought two complete sets (one to keep complete, one for player collections) on eBay from a seller called saybucks. They were $6.95 each with free shipping, and I’m not sure they’ll come any cheaper than that. There are two left. The seller also has unopened boxes. It’s not the first time this site has led me to make a purchase – someone wrote about the Williams Shift card and I went out and grabbed a copy of that. Now back to trying to figure out the difference between the 2019 Donruss Optic Blue and Teal Velocity cards.

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  3. Hi there. As soon as I saw the “Collect-A-Books” title, this brought back memories from well over 25 years ago. I definitely remember that somewhere in my parents’ house, I have two of these. Definitely the Kevin Maas one and I believe, the Tony Gwynn one. Trying to remember where I got them … pretty sure it was the 1991 All-Star Game FanFest in Toronto. That was when baseball card trading was at its peak. I can remember two halls in the convention center filled with all sorts of vendor booths and giveaways and the Collect-A-Books must have been a promo item.

    Thanks.

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  4. The follow-up to my eBay purchase is that both sets arrived in fine condition. However, they were wrapped – cards 1-18 were wrapped in one package and 19-36 in the other. I’m assuming they were wrapped that way by the manufacturer because I can’t see why an eBay seller would go through the trouble of wrapping and sealing them. So perhaps they were also available in a complete set, or half set, version rather than in the individual 8-booklet boxes.

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