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Rich’s Ramblings: Unopened Packs and Card Show Wars Just Part of Hobby’s Always Interesting Stories

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We talk a lot about vintage cards on this site as that is my real collecting love. While I love ripping packs, and have done so since the late 1960’s when I was living in New York and thrilled to get Mickey Mantle.  The last time I ever opened a pack and got a Mantle card from his playing days took place one day at John Broggi’s old store Richs Ramblings where he had just received part of the famed Paris, Tennessee find of 1954 and 1955 Bowman packs and 1960 Topps packs.

This was back before vintage packs were considered gold all by themselves.  We opened some of the 1960 packs and when 1960 Topps baseball packMantle popped up (and it was gorgeous) out of the second pack I opened, I realized I hit the best card and retired from opening those packs at that point.

I also remember opening a few of the 1955 Bowman packs later.  They were the packs that had nine cads for a nickel (and you wonder why Bowman was so receptive to Topps buying them out before 1956) and it seemed like every card in the packs was a slightly different size. Who knew nearly six decades later if you pulled a card which was “short” from those packs, no matter how legit, no card company would ever grade it.

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We all have projects in life we never complete. One was to do a ‘hobby remembers’ book with features about well-known collectors. That is why I’m so excited about Lew Lipset’s venture. While he is writing his hobby memoirs to keep busy, some of my favorite hobby readings in other realms have to do with people-oriented stories. I always loved reading the Q David Bowers books not because I knew as much about coins as I did baseball cards but because he always told interesting stories about the collectors and dealers who bought and sold coins.

The stories are endless.  Some I picked up while chatting with Al Rosen on a plane coming back from a National (as I actually did for three straight years and learned his persona in a one on one conversation was totally different than his hobby persona).   I remember the crazy stuff like the Mike Gordon/Tony Taggio Parsippany Card Show War in which there were actually shows across the street from each other at the same time. One year Mike sent out a letter with these words:  “Speaking of garbage, please don’t invite any of the dealers from that show to your table” or something to that effect.

I was not a big fan of personal insults then or now as I recently pointed out in the COMC comment thread when one poster called the Beckett staff “trash” after their announcement of their cataloguing divorce from Beckett. The people who are still at Beckett when I was there as well as the newer analysts are all good hard-working people who frankly have an impossible job. The amount of items they have to keep up with never decreases.  The current wave of super short prints guarantees it and with the exception of the time I accidentally deleted the 1989 Topps Set from the Beckett data base, usually nothing even leaves.

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Speaking of Beckett, there was one project I always toyed with but never completed:  to collect  marked checklists (or even scans) from the 1957 through 1973 period to see what cards were always needed back in those days. I wonder if by verifying checklist, you can match which cards are harder than others. The other good way is to look at uncut sheets and see if anything pops up which matches what we suspect. Sometimes, as I have pointed out with the 1961 fifth series, our guesses are proven and other times we have to keep searching till we find our answer. I’d love to see a 1968 6th series sheet because I’ll wager Joe Sparma, Lee May, Tommie Agee and the Tigers team (among other cards) are all in the same row. Show me the row those cards are on, and we’ll solve the 1968 sixth series short print mantra.

1972 Topps Football 3rd Series boxAnd the other aspect I’d love to solve is where certain cards got released.  In a recent column, I discussed 1969 Topps White Letter variations showing up regularly in Albany and Iowa but did you know 1972 Topps Third Series football cards (which are brutally tough elsewhere—except for the Larry Fritsch Cards warehouse) were released in the Dallas-Ft Worth area?  I remember when I first moved here in 1990 I could find a few at every small show I went to and  my suspicions were confirmed by Dr. Jim Beckett.  But if you think about this, that decision makes a ton of sense as Texas was always a football area (then and now) and the Cowboys had just won the Super Bowl for the first time. Why not release the high number football series in the Dallas area to see how they sell?  I still see a few hi numbers at the few local stores but not as many as 20 plus years ago.

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I was on Beckett’s new internet radio show today, talking about the decline in live card shows and licensing issues in each sport.  It’s a 60-minute show and my segment is about 21 minutes in.  Listen below:

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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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