The just-released fifth edition of the “Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards” remains a sturdy reference guide for collectors. Packed into 696 pages are more than 250,000 values for cards issued between 1863 and 1980, with most broken down into three conditions (near mint, excellent and very good).
In the book, cards are organized alphabetically and then by year, and there is an alphabetical and chronological index for quick reference. Featuring 5,000 photographs of vintage cards, the book includes an eclectic array of cards — tobacco, food issues, regional and promotional cards, and vintage minor league cards.
There also are listings for non-card items like coins, pins, statues, figurines, pennants, felts, silks and marbles.
Each set entry offers a short “bio,” telling collectors how the set was issued and offering basic info.
Checklists have been updated, and more variations are included for cards dating to the 1860s. The authors also put together a five-page primer, explaining how to use the catalog. Topics such as numbering, grading, identification, rookie cards and card values are targeted.
While this book is exhaustive, the authors caution that “this catalog’s comprehensiveness will always remain relative.” Simply put, there are sets out there — new and old – -that the editors haven’t included for one reason or another. There are some modern era regional type sets that are not catalogued, likely because of simple lack of resources.
Nevertheless, the number of sets is staggering, starting with the four-card, 1863 Jordan & Co. product. This set is recognized by some as the world’s first baseball card product, and doubled as a ticket for benefit games in New Jersey between teams from Brooklyn, New York and all-stars from Hoboken.
The Standard Catalog contains listings and checklists for all the major vintage card companies, like Topps, Bowman, Fleer, Goudey and Leaf. But what makes this book so valuable–and fun–are the offbeat sets scattered throughout its pages.
There are sets like the 1888 Allen & Ginter Girl Baseball Players, or the 1909-10 German Baseball Stamps. There’s also the 1937 Goudey Thum Movies, 1966 Fleer All Star Match Baseball and 1963 French Bauer Reds Milk Caps.
Food issues abound, with familiar names like Jell-O, Twinkies, Post and Kellogg’s. But there are also some interesting regional and offbeat sets, like the 1948 Gentle’s Bread Boston Braves, the 1915 General Baking Co. cards, 1916 Holmes to Homes Bread and the 1962 Gehl’s Ice Cream set. Gold Medal Foods, the parent company of Wheaties, issued a special set in 1934 to commemorate the World Series between the Cardinals and Tigers.
The Tigers also were featured in a 1953 Glendale Hot Dogs set, while Cleveland Indians players adorned Hage’s Ice Cream cards in 1951.
Another interesting item was a 10-card set featuring Boston’s Rico Petrocelli, distributed by Kelly’s Hamburgers in 1968 to capitalize on the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox team that won the American League pennant in 1967.
Postcards are part of the checklists, and some of the interesting ones include 1948 Gunther Beer (Washington Senators), 1907 Grignon (Chicago Cubs), and 1954 ABC Freight (the only player unearthed so far in this set was Cincinnati Reds slugger Ted Kluszewski).
Gasoline companies issued cards, too, like the 1968 Atlantic Oil Play Ball Game cards, Ashland Oil Grand Slam Baseball (1967), Arco (1971) and the Schumacher Service Station cards of 1949, which pumped Gulf gasoline but whose location remains unknown to this day.
Cards from the Cuban Leagues include the 1923-24 Tomas Gutierrez set and the smaller-sized 1949-50 Aceb0 y Cia cards. The latter was issued in matchboxes and includes Kevin Connors, who went on to fame as actor Chuck Connors.
Minor-league issues feature the Zeenut cards of the Pacific Coast League (1911 through 1930), Bowman’s 1949 PCL set, plus various team sets.
Oh, and if you want to know the authors’ value of the Holy Grail of baseball cards — the Honus Wagner T206 white border card from 1909-11 — the answer lies on Page 429.
For 25 years now, the Standard Catalog has been a valuable research tool and a book that will teach you something just about every time you open it. The research by the editors and the information for every set is fascinating.
The 2015 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards is available on Amazon.com for around $24. Even if you’d rather get pricing online, the information available on vintage baseball cards and sets continues to be unsurpassed.