Mint condition How baseball cards became an American obsession

Dave Jamieson

Book - 2010

"In 'Mint Condition' is a captivating history of this cherished hobby, as well as a look into the current state, where cards are largely the rarefied preserve of fanatical adult collectors and shrewd businessmen...'--Dust jacket.

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2nd Floor 796.075/Jamieson Withdrawn
Subjects
Published
New York : Atlantic Monthly Press c2010.
Edition
1st ed
Language
English
Physical Description
272 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN
9780802119391
0802119395
Main Author
Dave Jamieson (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Every time a rare baseball card brings a million-dollar price at auction, thousands of aging former collectors wistfully recall shoeboxes full of rookie cards and wonder if they lost a fortune when Mom cleaned out their rooms. The answer, according to Washington-based, award-winning journalist Jamieson is . . . probably not. Jamieson doesn't supply lists of valuable cards (there are collectors' journals for that); rather, he chronicles the history of collectible cards, profiles a few unique collectors, and tracks the development of the hobby and ponders its future. He profiles Jefferson Burdick, an almost forgotten man who donated what was probably the greatest collection of baseball cards ever assembled to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art over the course of a decade before his death in 1963. In tracing the history of collectible cards, Jamieson shows the extraordinary lengths to which the early cigarette and card companies went to separate young boys from their money, a penny and then a nickel at a time. A not uncommon tactic was to issue incomplete sets to keep collectors fruitlessly buying in search of a card that didn't exist. This is a fascinating history that encompasses not only the nuances of serious collecting but also the business machinations and card-marketing strategies that contributed significantly to the rise of the cigarette and gum industries. Superbly informative and entertaining.

Review by Choice Reviews

If baseball is the "national pastime," then collecting baseball cards has been the pastime of the national pastime. Initially--starting in 1869 with the first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings--baseball cards were advertising gimmicks stuck in cigarette packages. They soon became an obsession with young fans, and that obsession lasted for more than a century. By the 1980s, these "collectibles" had become big business. Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris provided the first account of baseball cards in 1975, with their nostalgic The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading, and Bubble Gum Book. The present title is now the definitive treatment of the subject. Jamieson (an award-winning journalist) takes the reader from the Civil War origins to the boom and bust of the baseball card, with appropriate genuflection to bubble gum associations and legendary labor organizer Marvin Miller, who in 1966 came up with the strategy of using proceeds from baseball cards to fund the baseball players' infant union. Though the book lacks an index and a formal bibliography, it does have bibliographic notes; those, along with the author's intelligence and the high-quality glossy reproductions of historic baseball cards, earn this reviewer's forgiveness for shortage of apparatus. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers. Copyright 2010 American Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

"It's a form of megalomania, of course," one famous card collector once said of his hobby—and, as Jamieson explains, there are plenty of people willing to cash in on collectors' obsessions; the secondary market for baseball cards may be as much as a half-billion dollars annually. It used to be even stronger: Jamieson got interested in the history of baseball cards when he rediscovered his own adolescent stash only to find that its value had plummeted in the mid-1990s. His loss is our gain as he tracks the evolution of the card from its first appearance in cigarette packs in the late 19th century through the introduction of bubble gum and up to the present. The historical narrative is livened by several interviews, including conversations with the two men who launched Topps (for decades the first name in cards) and a collector who's dealt in million-dollar cards. Jamieson also digresses neatly into curiosities like the "Horrors of War" card set, the legendary "Mars Attacks," and a profanity-laced card featuring Cal Ripken's little brother. It's a fun read, but it also shows just how much serious work went into sustaining this one corner of pop culture ephemera. (Apr.) [Page 38]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"In 'Mint Condition' is a captivating history of this cherished hobby, as well as a look into the current state, where cards are largely the rarefied preserve of fanatical adult collectors and shrewd businessmen."--Dust jacket.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Explores the fascinating world of baseball-card collecting from its roots in the tobacco industry to its rise in popularity to its bubble bursting in the 90s, in a book that looks at mad-genius designers, professional "graders" who rate the cards and the "doctors" who secretly alter them.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Explores the world of baseball-card collecting from its roots in the tobacco industry to its rise in popularity to its bubble bursting in the 90s, in a book that looks at mad-genius designers, professional "graders" who rate the cards, and the "doctors" who secretly alter them.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

When award-winning journalist Dave Jamieson’s parents sold his childhood home a few years ago, he rediscovered a prized boyhood possession: his baseball card collection. Now was the time to cash in on the ?investments” of his youth. But all the card shops had closed, and cards were selling for next to nothing online. What had happened? In Mint Condition, his fascinating, eye-opening, endlessly entertaining book, Jamieson finds the answer by tracing the complete story of this beloved piece of American childhood. Picture cards had long been used for advertising, but after the Civil War, tobacco companies started slipping them into cigarette packs as collector’s items. Before long, the cards were wagging the cigarettes. In the 1930s, cards helped gum and candy makers survive the Great Depression. In the 1960s, royalties from cards helped transform the baseball players association into one of the country’s most powerful unions, dramatically altering the game. In the ’80s and ’90s, cards went through a spectacular bubble, becoming a billion-dollar-a-year industry before all but disappearing, surviving today as the rarified preserve of adult collectors. Mint Condition is charming, original history brimming with colorful characters, sure to delight baseball fans and collectors.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

When award-winning journalist Dave Jamieson’s parents sold his childhood home a few years ago, he rediscovered a prized boyhood possession: his baseball card collection. Now was the time to cash in on the “investments” of his youth. But all the card shops had closed, and cards were selling for next to nothing online. What had happened? In Mint Condition, his fascinating, eye-opening, endlessly entertaining book, Jamieson finds the answer by tracing the complete story of this beloved piece of American childhood. Picture cards had long been used for advertising, but after the Civil War, tobacco companies started slipping them into cigarette packs as collector’s items. Before long, the cards were wagging the cigarettes. In the 1930s, cards helped gum and candy makers survive the Great Depression. In the 1960s, royalties from cards helped transform the baseball players association into one of the country’s most powerful unions, dramatically altering the game. In the ’80s and ’90s, cards went through a spectacular bubble, becoming a billion-dollar-a-year industry before all but disappearing, surviving today as the rarified preserve of adult collectors. Mint Condition is charming, original history brimming with colorful characters, sure to delight baseball fans and collectors.