We’ll never know what Jefferson Burdick would have thought of the current state of baseball card collecting. The man who knew more about cards printed prior to the 1960’s than any man alive has been gone for almost 50 years but he left behind quite a legacy.
The man who virtually invented the system still used today to identify various issues (T for tobacco and a number to identify the specific set, etc.) was a collector’s collector. He was active long before cards became truly valuable antiques, purchased for six and seven figures on a fairly regular basis. Heck, Burdick pasted his life’s work into albums. No top loaders or screw downs were available and besides, what was the point? Cards were for collecting, for learning for cataloguing. Not for investing.
Today, Burdick’s 30,000 card collection would be worth a small fortune but as the early onset of arthritis began to ravage his body, Burdick ensured his life’s work wouldn’t be forgotten. His collection was handed over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which insisted he catalog the whole thing. Months before he died, Burdick finished, muttering a phrase that to card collectors is like the final utterance of George Washington.
The New York Times profiled Burdick on Sunday and offered information on the Met’s plan to make sure everyone, anywhere will be able to see his remarkable collection.