While looking through the sports shelves of my local library the other day I came across this book. I was published by Consumer Digest in 1988 and is "a guide to making intelligent and profitable decisions in the baseball card hobby". Wouldn't we love to have a book like this today? It's divided into 3 sections. The first features current (that is current in 1988) players; the second features players from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s; and the third features the Stars of Yesterday.
So how did the book do on making predictions about 1988 players? For each player they give a short biography, major league total stats, career highlights, a list of "representative baseball cards", and and some card pictures. The players are listed alphabetically, except, for some reason, Don Mattingly is listed first. I'm going to eventually get through the whole 100 Stars of Today at about 5 cards at a time over the next few weeks. Anything in quotation marks is a direct quote from the book.
Don Mattingly - In 1987, a survey of 100,000 readers picked Mattingly as "the most popular current player" in baseball. "Investors should be wary of any 1984 Donruss Mattingly card which has a glossy surface". They list this card for $65. Beckett currently lists this card at $30. Just to have kept pace with inflation this card should be worth $119.03 today. The book doesn't make any career predictions. Of course Mattingly had a pretty good career, but probably not a Hall of Fame career. Of the 5 cards I'm listing here, this one has held it's value the best (but still not real well).Harold Baines - "Collectors are finally waking up to the long-term potential of this perennially underrated slugging outfielder". The best card they list is his 1981 Topps rookie at $3 (Inflation adjusted to $5.49). Beckett still lists this card at $3.00. Another pretty good player who, despite the efforts of Steve at White Sox Cards, may not make it to the HOF. He retired in 2001 after a 22 year career.
Jesse Barfield - "Barfield's card stock can only continue to accelerate - we believe his best years are yet to come. Purchasing his cards for the long term would be a wise investment." They list his 1982 Topps rookie card at $4.00 (inflation adjusted at $7.32). Although he continued to play until 1992, it looks like his best years were already behind him by the time this book was published. Beckett lists this card as a common at $0.15.
Buddy Bell - It lists his 1973 Topps rookie card at $2.50 ($4.58 after inflation) but suggests it wouldn't be a good investement. "Wiser speculation strategy might be to invest in his newer cards out of the commons boxes, because they too will increase several times in value if he makes the Hall of Fame, and the downside risk per card is only pennies". So let's say you bought 100 1988 Buddy Bell cards for, I don't know, 10 cents a card in 1988. Today they are worth 5 cents a card. But the downside risk was small. His rookie card is a common as well, at $0.50. In 1988, did anyone besides Consumer Digest think Bell at a shot at the HOF? Sure he was a 4-time All Star and a 6-time Gold Glove, but he'd hit only 200 home runs and a career batting average of about 0.280. And 1989 was his last season.
George Bell - I always like George (or Jorge) Bell and collect his cards, but his cards were never a good investment. The book lists his 1982 rookie card at $4.50 ($8.24). He was originally drafted by the Phillies but they left him unprotected and the Blue Jays got him in 1980. "The consensus is that superstardom is right around the corner for Bell and that his card prices will escalate rapidly in the near future". Maybe in the near future they did but in the far future of 2008, his cards are commons, which makes is 1982 card worth 15 cents. Did he become a superstar after 1988? No. His post 1988 stats are similar to his pre-1988 stats with one exception. In 1987 batted 0.308, hit 47 home runs, and had 134 rbis. He never approached anything like that again.