Thursday, August 9, 2012

Defining a baseball card

I like to think that my collection is a "melting pot" of sorts.

The majority of my cards are your standard 2.5 inch by 3.5 inch pieces of cardboard.

While I love those "ordinary" cards, the others never cease to fascinate me.

First, we've got minis of all shapes and sizes. Allen and Ginter, Topps 206, Topps Cracker Jack, you name it.

Then, we've got the ugly, needlessly-oversized binder cards. (Yes, I'm looking at you, 1989 Bowman.)

Finally, there are the beautiful works of vintage works of art that Topps produced from 1952 to 1956. The width of those cards don't allow me to store them in my binders, so they're strategically placed across a couple of my bookshelves.

It's one of the focal points of my room/man cave. (Am I too young to have a "man cave"?)

But then there's those other pieces of memorabilia. The ones that have me questioning whether it should even be labeled as a "baseball card" or not.

I'm talking about pieces like this Yogi Berra, which comes from the Exhibits set of the 1950's.

I read somewhere that the Exhibits cards were the first to not be sold with anything else, the focus being on the card itself. Old "tobacco cards" were obviously sold with packages of cigarettes. Goudey and Topps were sold with pieces of gum. Early Fleer cards were packaged with "cookies". (I put the term in quotes because I've heard that they tasted like actual pieces of cardboard.)

The Exhibits cards were sold in vending machines for a penny each, which netted you the card and nothing else. Just a penny.

If time travel is ever perfected, I'm going back to the '50s and scoping out one of those card-filled vending machines, that's for sure.

I acquired this Exhibits issue of Berra right around the time when I shifted my collecting focus to more low-end material. All I had to give up for it was the silliest of all the game-used items I've ever owned, an Ichiro "game-used" base. (Who's to say whether he even touched that particular base or not?)

It's one of the better trades I've ever made.

While it's stored separately from my binders, I do indeed consider this Yogi Berra a "baseball card".

Let me say it right of the bat.

These are awesome.

I've found a few of these in dime boxes over the years. Each time they've popped up, I've put them in my "purchase pile" without a second thought.

I'm sure they were issued as a complete set at one point, but the playing cards must've gotten split up and forgotten about somewhere along the lines.

Which is where my bargain-hunting self comes into the picture.

These are most definitely "baseball cards" in my book. In fact, they're among my favorite cards sitting in my binders right now.

You could even play blackjack with them on a rainy day.

As is the case with a few of these "oddball" issues, I have no information about this card.

I plucked it from a dime box at last year's National, simply because it was a Roger Maris item that I had to have.

When I dumped all the day's "finds" onto the floor later that night, I noticed something that made me love this card a hundred times more.

Maris is pictured with the Indians here, which is something that is extremely rare in the world of baseball cards. Rightfully so, most of the Maris cards I own depict his time with the Bronx Bombers.

Other than a couple reprints of his '58 Topps rookie card, this is the only card-related item I own of Maris during his days in Cleveland.

One question always comes to mind whenever I come across this particular issue, though.

What the heck is it?

It's flimsy to the touch, just like an ordinary piece of paper. There's absolutely nothing on the back, just a rectangle full of plain white space.

While there's still a sense of mystery to it, I still consider this one a baseball card.

One of the highlights of my Indians binder, for sure.

These present a bit of a challenge.

I recently received this one from the ever-generous blogger TTG, author of "Friars on Cardboard".

I'm guessing that he included it because he thought it would be right up my alley, as I don't collect cards of Jeter.

He was right about that one.

Beside the fact that peanut butter is one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind, this is definitely one of the most intriguing pieces of my collection.

These cards are circular, so I'm guessing that they came as part of the lid on jars of Skippy peanut butter back in '01. (As if I would've needed more incentive to buy peanut butter.)

The other circle-shaped card I own is a Vladimir Guerrero insert from Upper Deck's short-lived "Standing O" release. (Shaped like this.)

While I don't store them in my binder, I do still define these circular issues as "baseball cards".

These have come to represent a major turning point in how I view the term "baseball card".

I found them inside an otherwise innocent-looking assortment of dime cards a few years ago. In fact, I almost passed on the opportunity to buy them because they just didn't fit into my idea of what a "baseball card" was at the time.

After staring at it for a few seconds, I came to a realization.

Baseball cards are anything you want them to be.

With that thought in mind, I happily threw these onto my "purchase pile". There was no way I was going to leave them behind.

Judging from what I can tell, these were used as autograph tickets at a card show on January 11, 1997. (It's neat that I can track them to a specific date.)

While I also took home autograph tickets from Ernie Banks and Lou Brock, the Santo was easily my favorite purchase of the three.

I still rate them as a few of my greatest-ever dime box finds, just because of the impact they had on how I view this hobby as a whole.

From that point on, I've whole-heartedly embraced anything that might be construed as a little "out of the ordinary", whether they be from jars of peanut butter or from a deck of playing cards.

After all, being "ordinary" isn't what my collection is about.


Mike said...

I got news for ya,pal....your room has been a "man cave" since you were about 6 years old!...

Mike said...

I got news for ya,pal....your room has been a "man cave" since you were about 6 years old!...

Mark Aubrey said...

The Maris card looks like a 1957 Sohio Gas Indians image. Those were blank backed, but 5"x7". Here's an image from PSA.

My criteria on baseball card is that is if the item is cardboard, semi-rectangular, and features a baseball related item, then it is a baseball card. I include 7-11 Slurpee coins, Holsum bread discs, those crazy steel cards. I don't count pins as cards, but do collect them for certain players.

I would accept a ChemToy Superball into my collection, but it isn't a baseball card.

Chuck's Used Cards said...

This is defining the indefinite. I have found coin, pogs, stamps and other items that are closer to cards than other objects - but not actual cards. Then there is the non-licensed cards which are nicer than some of today's manufactured cards. (lots of those popping up these days)

Very good article.

AdamE said...

Sounds like you need some 8 card vintage pages for all those 50s and your 89 Bowman.

ecaseyjones said...

Interesting take on the definition of a baseball. I just found your blog today and you've got some good stuff here.