The Golden Age of Baseball Cards™

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Vintage Baseball Card Blog

Old Baseball Cards vs. Vintage Baseball Cards

May 1, 2008

by William Szczepanek

Maybe it’s just semantics. But, I was wondering if my baseball cards from 40 to 50 years ago are vintage or just old. I’ve often referred to them as my old baseball cards in the shoeboxes. I’ve never said to myself, “I think I’ll look at my vintage baseball cards.” It just doesn’t sound right.

There are a lot of Web sites out there that pertain to vintage cards and quite a few that also use the word old to define both the cards and the site. Is one way more correct than the other, and are we doing the cards an injustice by just calling them old? Let’s pick this apart a little.

The word old seems to conjure up a time of the past. Conjure even sounds like an old word. In many ways the word old seems to have a negative connotation to it. It more often refers to something that is aged, elderly, very mature, or even getting on in years. With respect to the past it seems to mean from way back, ancient or long forgotten. That’s not how I think of baseball cards.

Baseball cards from my youth don’t seem like they’re vintage to me. Vintage cards are those that displayed players in uniforms that looked strange, with baggy pants and funny hats. Come to think of it, the uniforms of today seem a little strange to me. I wonder what that means.

Now, vintage has a different ring to it. It seems to refer to an important era or time period of the past. It has the connotation of antique, classic, pure, prime or first rate. These words seem to give it a value that is better than average. Epoch is a word that is synonymous with vintage, but I’ve never heard anyone refer to their epoch baseball card collection.

So would a common card of the fifties be just old, whereas a Mickey Mantle card from that time be vintage. I don’t think so since vintage seems to refer to the period rather than the quality. There are vintage cars and vintage lamps that have value, though often they don’t have as much value as new lamps and new cars. Vintage is often used in wine-making to mean the process of picking grapes and creating the finished product. A vintage wine is one where the grapes are grown and harvested in a specified year. The usage also applies to wine that is particularly of a high quality. Vintage clothing makes me think of the turn of the century, even though clothes from the 70s can definitely be called vintage.

This also brings to mind an aspect of life today that is very puzzling to me. For instance, let’s consider music. Music from the 50s and 60s still appeals to a wide audience. Kids in their teens today will listen to music from the 60s without much thought about it even though they may prefer their own music. That’s a range of about 50 years. It would be like me listening to music from 1910 when I was a kid in 1960. My parents didn’t even listen to music from 1910 in 1960. They may have reminisced about the 1940’s, but they didn’t listen or talk about 1910. Very strange.

That settles it. Out of pure respect I should call my baseball cards, “vintage”.
Someday you young dudes will look back at the cards you purchased after the millennium and think of them as old. Will they really ever be vintage? I hope so, because it means that baseball card collecting will still be alive and well.

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