by Rich Klein
When I did the final iteration of my Errors and Variations column for Beckett the absolute best part of the column was the interaction with the readers. I did my best to ensure that a reader or readers were always credited for submitting the inspiration for any article written. The article which drew the most reader response was one in which some reader discovered a spelling error on the back of the Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman 1968 rookie card. So many people wondered if that card was ever corrected. The answer is no, the 1968 Topps card itself was never corrected. And the person who discovered the spelling error was credited for finding that note with a comment which read something like this: “We’d like to thank xxx for bringing this card to our attention.”
When I got home last evening and started reading my emails I noticed one from a reader named Daniel Solzman who is getting hooked on Hall of Famer autographs thanks to some tweets by a couple of network news folks who are active collectors. Daniel, you will have a lot of fun doing that and I’m honored to have such highly respected journalists reading my work but I was also reminded about some people of the past and present who collected cards.
Long before Keith Olbermann became a major part of Topps promotional efforts and a well-known broadcast journalist, he was (and is still is) a collector of note. Most people do not remember this but in the late 1970’s Keith discovered a large amount of 1962 Topps Aluminum proofs. These cards are the precursors of today’s printing plate inserts and are definitely real (as a note these cards do not reproduce well in print but you can search ‘1962 Aluminum proof’ online and see a whole bunch of copies of what these cards looked like). Those cards were truly a great hobby find at that time and can you imagine if a lot like that turned up today just how much interest that would gather from collectors. In addition, Olbermann is mentioned on the 1976 SSPC Jimmie Reese card #630 as editing the card set backs.
One other quick note about Keith. When he started at ESPN, and was reporting a story about one of the seemingly never ending hockey labor/player issues he mentioned: “All this because of Marcel Paille.” Paille is considered the most difficult card in the Topps “Tallboy” (1964-65) hockey set and when we discussed that at Beckett, several people then on staff wrote him letters to say how much we loved the little reference dropped into the hockey card market.
At least no one probably has ever refused a check from Keith Olbermann. One of my favorite notes Frank Barning ever wrote in Baseball Hobby News was how dealers would refuse checks from Jane Fonda when she tried to purchase cards for her children. I can understand being upset if you did not like her politics in the 1970’s and I do understand many dealers’ possibly paranoid reluctance to have paper trails tied to some actions some saw as anti-American. Ah, but taking her check could only do you good. If the check was for a small amount then frankly the signature would end up being worth more than the cards purchased and if the check was for a larger amount of money then you threw away a nice sale. Either way, the only person you were punishing was yourself and not her.
A few years later at the 1990 U.S. Open Tennis Open, I finally realized just how massive the card collecting hobby had become. I was going to do stats on a match featuring the then #1 under-18 US player. When I read his bio, his primary interest was collecting baseball cards. I kept that little nugget in the back of my mind in case he ever developed but since his highest ranking on the pro circuit was #156 I do not think we ever needed to feature him in a Beckett story.
Much more recently, at the McKinney Texas show I regularly set up in the Craig Ranch area a very pretty blond woman started walking around with her husband. Since I watch very little television, I had no idea who she was but the other dealer informed me she was Jenny from Storage Wars Texas and her husband was working on a couple of card sets. I didn’t have any of the cards he needed but she was busy taking photos with many of the dealers at the show and was really just there to support her husband’s habit.
I’m sure there are many other famous or semi-famous folks who collect cards and memorabilia but these are some of my favorite stories. What are yours?
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected].