As many of you know I spent much of formative hobby years “consulting” for Baseball Hobby News before the term became a normal part of our work verbiage. I first met owners Frank and Vivian Barning when I was still in high school and yes, we still talk all these years later. Now, almost all of our chats are over the Internet and there is little doubt that they still enjoy their past hobby experiences.
My most important consulting role back in the 1980’s was putting out the BHN “fish bowl” at shows, where we asked customers to vote on their favorite player, putting their name and address on the ‘ballot’ and thus, gathering names for BHN’s mailing list in an effort to boost subscriptions (they also gave some away).
Twice each year, BHN would create a sample newspaper with a mix or reprinted articles and new ads which we used as giveaways for votes, sort of like a ‘hey, here’s your free sample, now how about voting?’ sort of thing. There were a lot of wives and girlfriends who filled out ballots while their significant other was shopping. I learned from doing this exercise how important a mailing list really is whether it is an old-school list like this one was or a modern electronic list.
The front page had various sample cards from sets that had been produced early in the year. To me the most interesting card was the Star Company Steve Carlton. Star, of course, is best known as the company that had the NBA’s trading card license from 1982-83 through 1985-86.
Page 2 had a recap of the favorite player contest and Pete Rose was overwhelmingly named the winner by collectors who put their ballots in the fish bowl. Rose outdistanced Mike Schmidt by more than double. It is hard all these years later to comprehend just how popular the big three Philadelphia Phillies were in the early 1980’s.
Between the hobby popularity of Rose, Schmidt and Carlton and those insane twice a year shows at Willow Grove and it was quite a time to be a collector in the Mid-Atlantic states. At the Philly Show back then, if you saw an item you liked, you probably needed to buy it right then because it would rarely be there on the next stop. The halls were simply jammed and collectors were almost always in a buying mood.
The next page has an article by Chandy Greenholt about adults’ responsibilities to young collectors. Chandy is still going strong in the hobby more than three decades later and I’ve never heard a bad word about him. And his National tables have some amazing $1 items in giant boxes or just piled on the table. He always has neat stuff.
Page 15 has an article about which players would be hot in 1984. We got the normal responses along with this very line from John Broggi (current co-promoter of the National) in his reply: “I believe there will be a great many other players (in addition to Darryl Strawberry) who will probably attract a great deal of attention”. He then specifically mentioned Don Mattingly of the Yankees and Julio Franco of the Indians. Although John was then and still is a Yankees fan, you have to give him credit for a great prediction with those two players. Remember, entering 1984 Franco had just had a 1983 Topps Traded card while Mattingly had nothing produced until 1984. He was a fine prospect, but a long way from greatness at that point.
Page 20 has my favorite article Frank ever wrote about the time as a young lad he stole some Coke Baseball Tips cards. Today, in a roundabout way, those cards helped to form a life-long friendship.
And then on page 28 are a couple of interesting ads. The first one was selling 12 inch stuffed San Diego Chicken dolls. I don’t own many items from before I moved to Dallas but I still have my Chicken Doll and keep it on my desk at work along with a Buddha like snowman. If you love in Dallas and go through any summer, the snowman helps to keep me cool—at least mentally. You can still find those original Chicken dolls on eBay today.
Another ad on page 28 was from Paul Goldin who was looking to buy 1930’s through 1970’s baseball cards. You might know Paul’s son a bit better today as Ken Goldin, head of Goldin Auctions.
There were many other highlights and a lot was crammed into these 32 pages. Looking back, the sample publication was a very nice thing to give to collectors who at the time, had precious few outlets for information and hobby knowledge. They were certainly worth putting your name and address in a fish bowl.
And by the way, if you love reading about the hobby ‘back in the day’, you can find back issues of BHN here.