A few recollections and some notes in this edition of Rich's Ramblings, which lives up to its name in this post...
We are only a few months away from the 20th anniversary of one of the hobby’s most transforming moments: the baseball strike of 1994. I was on a show trip the weekend the strike occurred and I still remember going to a dealer’s table and asking about the prices of cards featuring current players. The dealer told me no one had asked him about those cards since the strike began earlier in the week. And that, frankly, became an ongoing theme during the strike: collectors losing interest since the current players were not on the field. Some smart dealers started turning to vintage cards since the players’ careers were much better established.
This also helped to accelerate the process of the tougher insert cards since we as a hobby had to find ways for a continually smaller group of collectors to feel good about their purchases.
Last week, I reviewed the latest Topps online exclusive product, 2014 Turkey Red.
You have to open a lot of boxes to build a base set but it's being done. In fact, two Turkey Red baseball sets are on eBay. You can check the bidding here.
The last two sets offered sold for $210 and $255.
I recently received an email from Lew Lipset about the book he is working on about his many years as a collector/dealer in the hobby. If you’re not familiar with him, Lew is one of the most knowledgeable guys around, an expert on many different early baseball card sets. He’s written extensively on them, too.
It was really nice to reconnect with Lew and I'm truly looking forward to his hobby book. If anyone can tell good stories, it will be Lew. And besides, I owe him a lot because—speaking of books-- he once rode halfway across the country with a box of my sports books on his lap. It was a lot I’d picked up at a National Convention auction for all of $10 on a Saturday night and on a Sunday morning I had made about $50 already. I miss those book deals but my back does not.
Back in the 1970's, a young man named David Rubel, who was a year or two behind me in school, was then a part-time sports card and memorabilia dealer. David also found a little surprise one day when looking at an Sports Illustrated offer about back issues. You see he discovered they still had a big stock of Issue #1 with the baseball card insert and I believe they were selling those issues at the current cover price. He bought all he could and sold a ton of them into the hobby at $10 each.
There is a good chance if you have an original Sports Illustrated issue #1, you have David Rubel to thank.
I was also thinking about just how fertile the late 1980’s-mid 1990’s were for baseball movies. We had Bull Durham, Minor League (and the continually worse sequels), The Sandlot, Little Big Leaguer, Cobb, 2 different movies (even if made for TV) about Babe Ruth), A League of Their Own and probably some others I missed over that few short years.
To me, a good idea for a card maker would be to create a set of baseball players who appeared in these movies. I was watching the credits for Little Big Leaguer and noticed that among the players making cameo appearances as themselves were players such as Leon Durham, Kevin Elster and Brad Lesley were in the closing credits with up close pictures. Using sites such as IMDB (Internet Movie Database) could help to make this a really fun project.
Another 1980s memory from my travels on the show circuit back when you could find a card show or three virtually any weekend anywhere in the country. I arrived in Indianapolis around noon on a Friday, went to a few mediocre shows and then what locals thought of as the "big show" at the fairgrounds. Well, the show at the fairgrounds was so mediocre that I decided to take a road trip. Yankees’ star Don Mattingly had a restaurant in his hometown of Evansville about 3 hours southwest of Indy called ‘Mattingly’s 23’.
I hit the road, arriving in Evansville just in time for a late lunch. On the way I also stopped at Larry Bird's ‘Boston Connection’ restaurant in Terre Haute. It was pretty remarkable to have two big time stars with restaurants just two hours apart in southwest Indiana. Needless to say, the ONLY card I picked up for our Beckett cataloguing the whole weekend was a card they sold at Mattingly's. The drive was better than either show.
Ironically, about 25 years later, I’m writing for Sports Collectors Daily, which is located in Evansville.
It’s a crazy world.