I don’t know about the rest of the readership but I’m fascinated by the race for the presidency. As in many campaigns, there are many great sound bites and famous lines used. And insults aren’t a new thing. Way back in 1884 James Blaine and Grover Cleveland supporters exchanged sing-song chants. Backers of the incumbent president spewed “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine the continental liar from the State of Maine.” Republicans responded with a chant based on revelations of Cleveland having a love child in the 1860s: “Ma, ma, where’s my pa? Gone to the White House, HA HA HA!”
I always appreciate when I hear a good line in a debate. So when Jeb Bush went after Donald Trump by calling him the Chaos Candidate, I laughed but my collecting mind went back to the very first issue of Beckett Baseball in 1984. You see, one of Dr. James Beckett’s mottos was to “bring order to chaos.”
If you started in the hobby as I did just before the growth of price guide books and magazines, you realize just how unorganized our hobby was. Compared to today, we truly had primitive information and sometimes few ways of getting more details.
The original American Card Catalog (ACC), while spectacular work, would usually only list a set name and number of confirmed subjects. But there was no way of knowing who was card #204 in the 1933 Goudey Set or even what some of those cards looked like. Because the ACC was more than just sports, and most of the very early card collectors collected all cards, the broader definitions of sets were needed. And until the mid 1970’s and the beginnings of the fledgling hobby, that information and a few dealer price lists were all we had. In the early 1970s, it wasn’t even easy finding out who card #338 was in the 1959 Topps set. Today, of course, the complete checklists from those classic sets are easily accessible.
But even into the mid 1970s, we still had our challenges. I remember in putting together my 1962 Topps Baseball master set not having any idea who was on card #318 which was listed in the original checklist and therefore in the reference books of the time as “Action Card 8”. Well, it took a trip to Sports Corner to see the Mantle In Action card in the showcase and be able to put 2 and 2 together to realize what card I was missing. Yes, not all the names were listed or even always correct in those checklists.
I heard a story in which some 1959 Topps card of Gray got assigned the wrong first name and it took nearly four decades for someone to look at the cards, figure out the Beckett checklist was incorrect and fix the name. And yes, I think if you check a Beckett Book circa 1993 you will see the card listed as Ted Gray when it is really Dick Gray.
But, today these are minor steps compared to the monumental information piling which occurred in the early years of the Beckett books and annuals and the time Krause actively worked on their Standard Catalog. When the known world of sets exploded and the checklists as well, that truly was a great time for the hobby as we all could figure out what we owned and what we would like to own.
Sometime in the early 1980s, a collector would publish a yearly article in Sports Collectors Digest spelling out how much one of each baseball set would cost. Today, even just doing base and insert sets could break the bank and that’s even without relic and memorabilia sets. But that’s a different topic in terms of the price.
But it’s not a different topic in terms of the cataloguing and values. For without the yeoman work Dr. Beckett and his staff did and Bob Lemke and everyone who worked at Krause did for so many years in creating the great reference that is the Standard Catalog, we might still be in a world filled of chaos. And the hobby can use more order than chaos any day of the week.