Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Club: The Card

There have been several posts on the blogs about this book over the past year or so. But I thought I'd add my 2 cents worth anyway. I'd been looking for the book in my library for months and finally got them to order it for me.It's a pretty good read. The book tackles three related subjects: the life of Honus Wagner; the sorry state of affairs in the baseball card and collectibles market; and the history of The Card.
I think the book does a pretty good job on all accounts but falls down a bit on the history of The Card.

I can't say I knew anything about Wagner before reading this book. Apparently he was a great baseball player.

The status of the collectibles market was enough to make me sick. I'm old enough to realize that when big bucks are involved, corruption and sleazy practices are likely to follow. But it was sad to read about it. My eyes were really opened on the subject of card grading. I'd considered getting some cards graded in the past but could never justify the expense. The authors have made me glad I didn't bother.

They do a good job, I think, of following the history of the card from it's original discovery by the market in 1985 through to the most recent sale at over $2 million. In the prologue the authors write:

"So why are there all these gaping holes in its history? How did it survive wartime cardboard drives? Why wasn't it destroyed by bicycle spokes, damaged in a card-flipping marathon, or discarded by somebody's mother? How did the Gretzky T206 Wagner beat overwhelming odds to remain in near-mint condition almost a hundred years after it was printed? What's the big secret?"

Pretty good questions which the authors never come close to answering.

They also present a lot of speculation about the card: was it cut from a panel of T206 cards?; has it been trimmed or otherwise altered? These and other speculations are raised but no proof either one way or the other is offered.

Here's the best modern era Honus Wagner card I own. Its a 2003 Fleer Fall Classics Pennant Aggression die-cut card. I paid $3.74 for it on eBay in December 2003.

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