Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Club - Mint Condition by Dave Jamieson

One of the great things about having a daughter who works at the library is that I often hear about new acquisitions by the library long before the book hits the shelf. Knowing my obsession, my daughter sent me a text message when she finished cataloging this book asking if I would like her to put it on hold for me. "Of course", I said.Overall, I think that this book is must reading for any baseball card collector who collects for pleasure. If you're just in it for the money (if there in fact is any money in this), the history of card collecting may not be of interest.

Jamieson covers the past 100 or so years of baseball card collecting. The history is pretty light on the years 1920 through 1950 but not a lot was going on then. Parts of the book are duplicative of "The Card" by Michael O'Keeffee and Teri Thompson but Jamieson nas a broader focus. I particularly liked the chapters on the history of Bowman and long-time Topps card designer, Woody Gelman. Because of this book I bought on-line a card from Bowman's 1938 "Horrors of War" set and one of Topps "Civil War News" cards from the 1960s. I'll feature them in a later post.

I got into collecting in 1985, just as the 'baseball cards as an investment' craze got started. Since I never believed that baseball cards were a good investment, I kept at it through the bust of the mid-1990s (although my love of baseball, and collecting, was really tested in the 1994 strike). My collecting peaked in 1994 and I've not purchased as many cards in any year since that I did in 1994.

The investing craze chapter is another good one in the book. Jamieson describes a guy who bought $75,000 worth of cards in the early 1990s thinking the return on this investment would pay for his daughter's college. I guess this can be called the 'baseball card bubble'. Not as destructive as the housing bubble of a few years ago but maybe the same mentality. Cards are worth more this year than they were last year and this trend will continue forever.

Jamieson paints a grim picture of the future of the baseball card market. Unlike me, most collectors got into this as a kid. They may have stopped collecting for awhile, but something reconnects them and they start again. This is what happened to Jamieson. His mother was threatening to throw out his cards from the 1980s. He picked them up and got interested again. Interested enough to write this book.

The problem today is that kids aren't buying baseball cards. The secondary market for vintage cards is still strong, but one dealer confided in Jamieson that when the current generation of adult collector's (in their 40s to 60s) passes on, the next generation will be much smaller. And there may not be a generation behind that.

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