Revered Collector Lionel Carter Dies

One of the last true pioneers in the sports card collecting hobby has passed away.

Lionel Carter, who began collecting baseball cards in the 1930s and was one of the first ever to write about the hobby, died last week at age 90.

Carter, who lived in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, had been hospitalized for the last several weeks according to friends in the hobby.

His massive collection of over 50,000 vintage baseball cards, many of which were among the highest quality known, made national news when he decided to sell it last spring. Carter had been the victim of scam artists who gained access to his home and stole many of the sets he’d collected for decades. The cards were recovered but Carter said police advised him to sell them to preserve the personal safety of he and his wife, Irma. Carter consigned them to Mastro Auctions and virtually the entire collection was liquidated by the company throughout 2007 and early 2008.

Mastro Auctions partnered with SGC to grade and authenticate Carter’s collection, encasing them in special holders that identify the contents as part of the Lionel Carter Collection.

While the auction proceeds netted millions of dollars, Carter was shaken by the loss of his collection and lamented turning it over in an interview with National Public Radio last year.

He often expressed disappointment that baseball card collecting had turned into a big money business, something that was surely not his motivation when he began collecting the 1932 DeLong cards during the era of Ruth and Gehrig.

“What I would have really liked is to have people over, neighbors, kids and let them just look at the cards,” said Carter. “But because of how much the cards are now worth, I knew that wasn’t possible.”

The cards in Carter’s collection that were graded can often be found on eBay, with the label carrying the ‘Lionel Carter Collection’ pedigree.