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Monday, December 10, 2007

Price Guides, Past and Present

You may have seen a new Beckett Baseball Card Plus price guide out on the shelves and done a double take at the cover. Yep, that's Charlie Hustle there smiling on the front, the poster child for one of Baseball's forgotten scandals. Pete was scheduled to be the cover boy for the monthly issue (with an infinitely more obnoxious headline) but Beckett was bailed out when the Sox swept the Rockies. I finally saw it in the magazine rack this weekend and picked one up.

It's a typical Beckett Plus, 4 or 5 pages of articles you've read online already and the rest is solid card prices seven columns wide in about a 4 point font that will make you go blind. I really needed one to help me write my countdown of Bowman Heritage Sets, which I'll hopefully have ready sometime this week. I haven't bought one since about 2003, so I was overdue anyway. Pete is no stranger to price guides though. While cleaning out the garage last month I found this:

The Official Pete Rose 1983 Price Guide to Baseball Car. I cut out the D and S to use in an art project or a ransom note, I can't remember which. This is about the most pristine example of this guide I've come across and you can thank me for that. It's been in my sole possession since I got it in a Baseball Card Collecting kit back in '83. As you can see in addition to the missing letters, there's light wear to the cover, the binding has been reinforced with packing tape, the pages from 1973 Topps to 1982 Donruss have fallen out and are more or less randomly dispersed throughout the middle of the book and I traded Pete to the 1972 Oakland A's and Charlie Finley made him grow a full beard and handlebar mustache. The Harry Carey glasses Pete is wearing was a copy of my own, sadly. The back of the guide sums up the contents:

The thing I really love about this book is it is one of the few that acknowledges that 1951 Topps was their first standard issue. So what they look like playing cards and are the size of the smaller Bowmans, they were Topps' first set, not the massively overrated '52 set. Did Sy Berger dump a bunch of '51 Topps in the ocean? Nope, because he didn't have to. 1951 is a superior set in every way, not the least of which is that it's actually completable. Let's have a race: I'll put together a complete set of Red Backs while you try to find one card, any card from the '52 High series. I'll complete my set first and spend less money than you at the same time.

A sign of the times can be seen in that Burger King, SSPC and TCMA are considered mainstream sets. The book has complete set prices in addition to a complete roster of cards issued. It's refreshing to see such a book that is the size of a pulp novel and not a Cerebus anthology. At one point there was an exclusive Pete Rose collector card in there, but it is looong gone. There's also a bio of Pete Rose and his quest for 4000 hits, a brief introduction to card collecting, a suggestion to read other hobby publications as well at The Sporting News so the collector can actually keep up with who these players are and finally an exclusive checklist grading system. Here's the system:

I love this system because by using it, all my cards become instantly mint. I was nerdy and anal enough as a child to actually attempt to use this system with the half scribbled in boxes. The first time I got a card and entered it at Mint, then dinged a corner and has to erase the pen mark and put it back in as Excellent, then left it in my back pocket and sat on it so it had to be changed to a Good, and finally downgraded to a Poor when I got mad at the player for getting a hit against the Braves and crumpling it up and biting it and spitting it out on the floor and stomping on it a few times for good measure I abandoned the effort and just filled in all the boxes. Instant gem mint collection! And I did use this book for checklisting purposes as you can see here:

Here's some of the 1981 and '82 Topps I had back in early 1983. I didn't have the George Brett card worth a whole dollar and fifteen cents, but I did have the fantastic '81 Eckersley which was horriffically undervalued at 5 cents. That card is worth three-fiddy just for the hair alone. I do need to zoom in a bit to emphasize a small glimpse into my 9-year old psyche.

Apparently in 1983 I was a real big Andre Dawson fan. He probably pwned my Braves with a big hit in a game at some point to prompt me to deface his illustration thusly. I summed up career record with the single word "STINKS" and gave Andre a handlebar mustache Picasso would be proud of. To further emphasize the odoriferous quality of the card I renamed the Montreal franchise the Expostinkos, which quite frankly is a much better nickname than a lot of them out there. Washington Nationals? Please. Don't hand me that pandering jingoistic hogwash. Now the Washington Expostinkos, THAT'S a franchise we can all support! And quite indicative of the town's most famous denizens as well. The name just rolls off the tongue, like drool. Now, don't think that because I am a crabby jerk now that I was always a cynical little bastard. I was a happy maladjusted child as can be seen by the final scan of Pete's guide.

Yessirree, look how happy I was to have Del Unser and Jamie Easterly from that 1979 set. Ah, simpler times. Nowadays there isn't even an Expos franchise to make fun of and you certainly wouldn't chew on your Joba superfractor just because he beat your team. At least some things are still the same, publishers will put an inveterate gambler on the cover of their price guide if it will make them an extra buck.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Awesome. I love old, outdated stuff. That book was loved, which was all it ever wanted.

--David said...

Oh, man, this was hilarious! Thanks for sharing a piece of your childhood days! Brought back many of my own. :-)