One of the best things about being a collector these days is that you can get into the hobby at virtually any price point—from singles and sets that won’t cost you more than a fast food meal—or less—to cards and memorabilia worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Amazingly, one of those levels is basically free. How can one build their own collection without spending a dime? The answer is to create your own “cards that never were” and use the original designs and some vintage photos to create a card which may have never been issued in the original format but can exist today.
This has always been a popular topic going back to my earlier days at Beckett where about 20 years ago we all created the first cards that never were. Not all of these cards were pre-rookie or post-career “tribute” cards. Sometimes they were just of players who were missing from a specific set for one reason or another. A good case in that point is the 1993 Donruss George Brett card which we discovered was not issued because the powers at be at Donruss thought he was going to retire before the 1993 season and thus never issued his card.
You might remember us discussing the players missing from the 1973 Topps set. Twenty years later, companies were still reluctant to put players in a set who were not going to appeal to young collectors. Although there was a large adult population of collectors by 1993, the younger folks were still an important driving force in the market and, one surmises that Donruss didn’t want to seem behind the times by putting a card of a retired guy in their set. And, of course, with very few exceptions, kids do not have the depth of understanding about historical perspective that older people do and probably wouldn’t be all that crazy about a ‘tribute’ or ‘retrospective’ card.
However, this has become a really cool trend in today’s older collector-driven marketplace. Some better efforts include John Hogan's 'Cards That Never Were' blog, John Rumirez and his ever-expanding 1952 Topps set, Bob Lemke who does his own creations and Keith Comforti’s ‘Cards That Never Were’ web page. Heck, our article about 30 cards we would like to see in an Topps Archive set inspired one collector to build his own ‘set’ and good friend Cary Smith posted on my facebook page his versions of a 1988 Steve Carlton and a 1964 Denny McLain.
I'm reasonably sure there are other collectors as well who build their ‘what if’ cards just for fun and I don't think anyone has ever gathered all the attempts into one story. So today, we here at the Rich’s Ramblings World Headquarters will begin the process of gathering the sites into one location and beginning a contest to determine what your favorite card that never was is.
So, if you have created ‘Cards That Never Were’ or know of someone who has, please contact me at the email address below and include your name and hometown so we can begin our list. While we have no prizes at this time, we hope to build this contest up as the years continue to provide better winning gifts each and every year. Again, we’re not just looking for you to tell us ‘they should have made a card of this guy’. We want to see those cards. So, let’s begin the process and rock and roll and with your help, we'll determine the best ‘Cards That Never Were’.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]