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Rich’s Ramblings: When Hobby News Was More Innocent

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When I first started collecting cards way back in the day and even when I started as a baseball card dealer, I never in my wildest dreams ever thought I needed to have a law degree as part of my collecting background.  Just in the first month of 2014, we had Brian Gray suing the Industry Summit about not being able to attend that event,
1997 Topps Jeter Bush MantleRogers Photo Archive offices  being searched by FBI agents and the allegations by Eric Inselberg that Eli Manning and the New York Giants were selling items as game-used when they really weren’t.  Of course, these suits still have to play out but it’s a testimony to how much of a role money plays in ‘the hobby’ when lawyers get involved.

Hearing about all those stories always make me more nostalgic for my early hobby days where our biggest stories always seemed to be about some seemingly big new “test” product or some discovery about one of our basic sets. Long before Bump Wills 1979 Blue Jays variationTopps put George Bush and Mickey Mantle on the background of a 2007 Derek Jeter card there was the 1979 Bump Wills Blue Jays error card in which he was placed on a major league team he had never played for (and would never play for).

That error card became the first card since 1974 with a legitimate and major variation. What made that interesting is some of the hobby publications later claimed the Rangers variety actually was printed in higher quantities than the Blue Jays version. Personally, I have handled far more Blue Jays version of this card then Rangers cards from my old-time dealing days to today.

T1980ToppsSupershe following summer the big baseball card story revolved around a set which has seeped deep back into obscurity: 1980 Topps Supers. These were sold individually and in 5-card packs in convenience stores and other locations.  During the summer, collectors could mail away to Topps and receive complete sets for $9 each and they were hoping they cards they received had “white backs” as during the print run, the back color changed from white to brown. The white back sets were also available to dealers by the case.

Would you believe there was actually a run on those white back cards and they were selling at a significant premium over the brown backs?  A few weeks into the promotion, I received my sets from Topps and was shocked to see I had actually received the white back sets. I don’t remember the next show I did but I brought those cards with me and was thrilled to get seemingly impossibly high prices as I wanted no part of them. Today, how many collectors really remember the mania which surrounded these cards?  Apparently quite a few have fond feelings for them (and they are packed with stars) based on a recent post on the Sports Collectors Daily Facebook page.

1979 Topps Test Comics boxOther sets in that period which had brief periods in the hobby headlights included the 1979 Topps Test Comics set (issued in three series) and the 1981 Topps Scratch Offs. Each of those sets had periods where everyone seemed to want these items before returning to easily acquired items. In a way these type of sets were precursors to the brand explosion of the earliest part of the 21st century in which it appeared every few days a new major set was being released. Sets like these are also part of the reason we remember both the successes and failures of those collecting days as we had many less options in 1980 than we do today in terms of availability as well as methods of collecting.

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And finally a shout out to Clay Luraschi of Topps who was nice enough to send us very generous door prizes for our upcoming show at Adat Chaverim in Plano, TX on March 9. We still have a few tables available and remember we are always looking for more dealers to set up (limited tables available), collectors to attend ($1 suggested admission and additional door prize tickets $1 each) and door prizes so we can have several of these drawings during the day. Remember all (or as close to all as humanly possible) of our proceeds will be used to help fund scholarships to send out younger members to summer camp, a much needed experience for many and one they’ll never forget.  Our website is PlanoCardShow.com.

Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]

About Rich Klein

Rich Klein has spent almost his entire life collecting baseball cards having begun at the tender age of seven. He has spent more than three decades in the organized hobby including editing the first 12 editions of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Card and Collectibles. He lives in Plano, TX along with his wife Dena and their two dogs. You can reach him at [email protected].

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