Even with only two companies producing licensed baseball cards, over 30 different baseball products still hit hobby store shelves during the course of one year.
Is it too many?
Pure collectors will tell you yes. Life was much simpler back in the days when we had only Topps and Bowman (early 1950s). Or only Topps (1956-1980). Or even only base brands of Topps, Fleer and Donruss (1981-1987). You could still buy every major issue without going broke.
That all changed, of course, by the late 1980s when Score and then Upper Deck entered the fray. Who really needed five different sets of baseball cards?
Little did we know.
By the middle of this decade, there were dozens of different products on store shelves. Long-time collectors left in droves, offended by the overproduction and the fact that there was now truly no prayer of sampling everything, let alone having a set of all of them. The quality of the cards was better, but many times the product was not. At worst, it strayed from what cards were supposed to be about.
So now that we’re back to square one with Topps in command (sort of), let’s do baseball cards the way they used to be done in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s.
By series. Not just two big ones that are both on shelves by Easter. Real, calendar-mulching, old fashioned, checklist-checking series.
Go ahead and print some products full of the shiny stuff with autographs and memorabilia to appease those who prefer it, but take the base set back in time.
Topps would offer Series One in late January. Series Two by Opening Day. Series Three around Memorial Day. Series Four on the 4th of July. Series Five just before Labor Day.
It would be a tidy set. No frills. Just up-to-date cards at a reasonable price. 132 cards per series. 660 cards just like the old days. Slap stickers or some other kind of label on the wax boxes to indicate the series inside. A set that could chronicle the end of the last season and the bulk of the current one.
Stick bubble gum in the packs and maybe an insert set. Run coupons in newspapers and magazines or online. Buy one get one free to get collectors started building sets. Make sure there are boxes in every drug store and gas station.
I’m actually not much of a modern card collector. I sometimes buy them just because I feel like I should and to see what the companies are up to but I still prefer the old stuff.
Cards by series might win me over again.
Kids would anticipate the arrival of the new series just like we used to. Some things don’t change. But adults are the purchasing power these days and anyone who remembers cards before the 1980s remembers the reasons we collected.
Cards are supposed to be beautifully simplistic. This is one way to get back to that.
Just do it.