If I had taken the money I’ve spent on old World Series programs, NFL playoff programs and other publications and bought high grade, vintage baseball cards my collection would probably be worth more money.
If I hadn’t spent a small fortune on police and regional sets in the 1980s, I’d probably have completed my run of 1950s and 60s baseball and football sets a lot quicker.
But we buy what catches our eye and in my case, I have to say that I don’t regret buying some of those ‘weird’ things, especially old publications. In fact, I think it’s a really overlooked and underrated part of the hobby.
About 16 years ago, I bought a 1919 World Series program at a show on the west coast. It cost me about $1200, if my memory is correct, which was more than I’d ever spent on any one piece of sports memorabilia. Is it worth three or four times that now? No. And I have no idea why. When it comes to history, the program is about as close as you can get to the Black Sox without being a relative or owning a baseball used in the Series. Whenever I pick it up, I can’t help but think that it once sat in someone’s lap as the odd play on the field unfolded. What did the fan who bought it think? It oozes American history–not just baseball history. It’s easily my favorite piece. I’d look at it more often if I was sure it wouldn’t start falling apart faster.
I’ve also got a 1937 Series program and a bunch from the 1950s and 60s. They’re great to page through this time of year. More fun, really, than any baseball cards I own. Yet you can buy programs from these frozen moments in time for less than $150 in most cases. Often times, they’re available for less if you hunt eBay long enough to spot a bargain. When you think of the numbers that survived the passage of time, it’s still a pretty rare item.
I like the history angle and another program I own is from one of the more controversial decisions in NFL history. Just days after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, commissioner Pete Rozelle decided that Sunday’s games would go on. Not everyone was happy about that, and witnesses describe the atmosphere in the stadiums as depressing, but Rozelle felt the need to press on. I’ve got a program from one of the games held that weekend.
I don’t own a 1942 Rose Bowl program from the game that was moved to North Carolina after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but I’d like to have one.
Huggins and Scott’s current auction has a program from that Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, when the Redskins played the Eagles. Fans went into the game that day in a happy mood. They left with the nation at War.
The first couple of Super Bowl programs aren’t especially hard to find, but they weren’t produced in mass quantities and the first one alone should be worth a lot more than the $300-400 you’ll pay for a really nice one.
The NBA Finals is a huge event these days. Ever try to find a 1970-71 program? Not exactly the hobby’s holy grail, but it’s one I’ve been looking for–if only to see those old concession prices again.