Picking up a Street and Smith Yearbook from the newsstand or drug store was an annual rite of spring for many baseball fans. Since ESPN and the internet were nowhere in sight, annuals were one way to obtain updated rosters and prognostications for the upcoming season. Of course, the information was several months old by the time it reached the magazine rack. However, those of us in a non-Major League markets or rural areas especially relied on these publications to set the stage for the season.
In the 1970s, Street and Smith produced regional covers designed to attract fans of the local team. Prior to the Mariners arrival in 1977, Washington State baseball fans received covers featuring California teams. For instance, I bought this 1976 edition with Davey Lopes on the cover. But New England fans would find the same content covered with the photo of 1975 Rookie of the Year and MVP, Fred Lynn.
While looking through both versions, I was drawn to the advertisements for sports card dealers. Obviously, sports magazines were an excellent method of reaching the customer base. The 1976 Street and Smith Yearbook has numerous ads for dealers across the nation.
For example, mail order stalwart (still going strong in 2019) Larry Fritsch Cards in Stevens Point, WI, has an ad. The 1976 Fritsch ad is filled with tempting choices including the complete 1976 Topps baseball set for $12.95 plus postage. This is on the expensive side, since most of the other ads offer the set for less. Incidentally, $12.95 in 1976 dollars has the buying power of $58.44 today. Thus, a kid had to mow several lawns or, in my case, return a huge number of beer bottles to the recycler to afford the complete set.
I distinctly remember ordering my 1976 complete set from G. S. Gallery in Coopersburg, PA. The set was $7.95, plus a dollar postage. I remember the postal worker (Mr. Copeland-it’s a small town) at the Selah, WA, post office having to redo the money order after accidentally putting “Cooperstown” on it instead of Coopersburg. By the way, $8.95 has the 2019 buying power of $40.39 when adjusted for inflation.
Two other dealers in the magazine offer examples of the price range for the complete set. Stan Martucci of Staten Island-who urges buyers to “Go with Experience” based on his 22 years in the business-priced his set at a whopping $14. Meanwhile, collectors could shell out $9.99 to obtain the same cards from the only West Coast dealer in the magazine, Will Davis of Fairfield, CA.
In addition to new sets, the dealers offered sets from previous years. Wholesale Cards of Georgetown, CT, offered complete sets from the 1970s in all four major sports. Plus, you could pick up Topps Civil War, 1966 English Soccer or the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set.
Another merchant with a tantalizing selection of cards was Paul E. Marchant of Charleston, IL. The 1964 Topps “Giant” set was available for only $3.00. Also, SSPC sets could be had along with an address list for autograph seekers.
This ad uses the card of Glenn Abbott as an example for the 1976 set. An odd choice since Glenn was just starting out. I must point out that he would be the “ace” of the original Seattle Mariners in 1977, winning 13 games. At the time, his win total tied the record for most wins on an expansion team. The first to do it was Seattle Pilots hurler, Gene “Lerch” Brabender.
The Sports Hobbyist in Detroit offered a different way for collectors to obtain a complete set of 660 Topps cards in 1976. For $10, they sent 1,000 cards and guaranteed that “just about” a complete set could be assembled. A 50-cent coupon was included to purchase up to 40 cards to help complete the set.
Once a complete set was obtained, the collector needed some place to store the cards. A nifty tote box, divided into 26 compartments, was one solution. It was available for a mere $4.00 from ATC Sports Products of Duluth, MN.
Along the same lines, a Major League Baseball card locker could be had from the Royal Advertising Corp. for $2.95, plus 36 cents postage. You could even send cash! Note that Seattle Pilots outfielder Steve Whitaker’s 1967 card on the Yankees is front and center in the ad.
Although cards are not offered, there is an ad for the hobby publication, “The Trader Speaks.” I never subscribed to this trade paper but went with “Sports Collectors’ Digest” instead.
One negative feature of all these offers was the fact you had to wait four to six weeks to receive the merchandize in 1976. There was no expectation for faster service, and no reason given for the protracted processing time. My recollection was that it always seemed to take closer to six weeks than four. This process explains why I am such a patient man to this day.
I will close with two advertisements that were ubiquitous in magazines of this era: Manny’s Baseball Land and Charles Atlas. Manny’s had the same format for years with many of the same products offered as well. Of course, Charles Atlas offered to “make a man out of Mac” for decades. I’m still trying to get his body building method to work, and I’m damned tired of bullies kicking sand in my face at the beach!
5 thoughts on “Endless stream of cards and magazines”
Great post, Tim. I certainly wish I’d pulled the trigger on these sets as you did. I did, however, act on a mag ad in 1969, buying a 1968 season Strat-O-Matic game, and the Football game set 2 years later. So many days of entertainment provided. Without these pubs, and TSN, I’d likely not known about Strat.
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I remember those dealers well. For a couple of years, a friend and I would buy 1,000 cards each from G.S. Gallery, trade until we came close to a set, then send an equal amount of doubles back to G. S. for the cards we needed. Cheapest way to end up with a complete set.
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Charles Atlas may have persevered had they offered a free leopard skin bikini bottom with every order. Just imagine, sorting through your 1000 cards in nothing but your Tigers cap and leopard skin tights.
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Starting around 2000, maybe 2002, I began putting the 1971 Topps set together. I finished it a few years ago. I would gladly have paid the 2019 equivalent of $23.99 in 1976 (which works out to about $108 – let’s round it to $110) for the complete set. If anyone wants to sell a complete 1971 Topps baseball set for $110 I’m willing to listen. Perhaps Mr. Will Davis will honor that price point, despite the fact that I probably wasn’t born when the ad was printed.
By the way, in The Sport Hobbyist promo the actual cards pictured are 1975 Topps cards though the ad mentions 1976 cards. I’m guessing it’s a pre-sell of some sort with that homemade 1976 Baseball Cards card used to conceal the bulk of the design of that first card in the stack.
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Such fond memories this post stirs . . . I spent a lot of time each month perusing ads like these in not only Street and Smith but publications like The Sporting News and Baseball Digest, as well as the catalogs the larger dealers issued. Those prices are so tantalizing now, but your point about inflation is of course the important one; kids in the ’60s and ’70s dealt in nickels and dimes, not dollars, so most of that stuff stayed just out of reach.
I blame Bruce Yeko of Wholesale Cards for my lifelong completist approach to the hobby. Even as a 10-year-old novice collector in ’67, I was determined to complete every series, but it proved to be pretty tough going. So at the end of the summer, I put two dollars into an envelope and ordered the complete seventh series from Wholesale Cards, off one of it’s Baseball Digest ads. Of course, that series ‘ scarcity proved to be legendary, and I don’t think I ever saw seventh-series packs for sale in my neighborhood. If it hadn’t been for mail order, I wouldn’t have been able to complete my first set, and maybe I would have gotten frustrated and wouldn’t have spent the next 50 years adding to my collection. I could have saved a lot of money, but I also would have missed out on a whole lot of fun . . .
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