You’ve got to love hobby history—even when it comes to old price guides and not just because of how those prices have changed. Earlier this spring, thanks to a donation for our local charity show, I picked up a copy of Card Prices Update (CPU) from 1982 as well as the fourth edition of the Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guide. Going through that book was a blast from the past because it not only brought up some of the reasons collectors always looked forward to the annual tome but also because of some of the Beckett memories it brought back.
In today’s Beckett annuals, any ads are generally placed in the front of the book. That way nothing interferes with the pricing section. That wasn’t the case back in the 1980s. We noticed ads mixed in with price listings and the advertisers included such hobby legends as Lew Lipset, Kit Young and Ron Oser (who has recently joined Huggins and Scott) among many others. There was even an ad for First Base, which was the leading Dallas area store at the time.
Another really cool feature were the color display of various type cards including great items from Lew Lipset’s 19th century collection and pictures of the “Big 3” from the T206 set including Honus Wagner, the 1933 Goudey Lajoie and the 1952 Topps Mantle. There were photos of other rarities too, which were all very interesting to many who picked up those magazines. Remember, this was long before the internet and there were even few magazines with color photos of the cards. A lot of people never got to see what some of those rarities really looked like unless they lived close to a major show where someone happened to have them.
Seeing the old Beckett book also brought back memories of some “oops” moments we had in producing the annual guide. For some reason, these mistakes usually occurred in the football book. The first came about 1993 or 1994. Somehow the book ended up having the same number of pages as the year before but we knew we had added sets since then. We quickly discovered that sets starting with the letter S had disappeared entirely. Considering that meant the popular Score line would not be included that was a major issue.
We were able to contact the printer in time and send them the missing pages but in doing so, we also took away any of our profit from the annual book because of the unexpected last-minute change. Better to break even and have a complete book rather than getting all those phone calls we would have received from upset collectors.
A couple of good things for me came out of that experience. From that point forward, I always kept a list of the alphabet (and other things such as ‘Canadian’ and ‘College’) on two pieces of paper. As I proofed sets beginning with each letter, I would cross it off the list . By 2006, when we had the Almanac, somehow some of the cards from the 1993 Topps baseball set were missing. We actually had collectors call asking for their money back because of that seemingly and easily correctable issue. Eventually I realized we could print out the page with the full set listing from the 2006 baseball annual and send that in an envelope to customers who asked us for them–sort of like kids in 1933 who realized they were missing a card, wrote to Goudey and received that now very valuable Nap Lajoie.
OK, well maybe not.
The other aggravating miscue had to do with advertisements in one of the football guides. You see, our production department, in order to save time and effort, decided since most of the ads from the previous year were in the new edition and the text was fine we did not need to proof the football book front matter. Well, sure enough the only ads which were printed were those which were newly designed for that year and not those from the previous year. Let me tell you, there is nothing like having to talk to dealers who were justified in being upset with us. Many of our football book advertisers were major contributors and are still the leading dealers to this very day in these collectibles. Somehow we got through that experience and from that point on, we always proofed everything to ensure all the advertisers got what they were supposed to.
The books were a challenge and often a headache. We had a hockey analyst, who was only with us for a short time, get so frustrated during his first hockey book cycle that he actually broke his computer mouse with a hammer. I was on a show trip that weekend so I did not see that occur but when I came back on Monday, he was no longer employed at Beckett.
Despite all that, I personally enjoyed working on all the annuals because it really broadened my knowledge of both sports and cards of all kinds. And years later, we can laugh about some of those problems that at the time seemed like no laughing matter.