Why Should Kids Today Collect Baseball Cards?
October 1, 2007
by William Szczepanek
Since this website extols the values of previous generations and the benefits derived from collecting baseball cards in the 1950s, 1960s and into the 1970s, you might think that I feel that kids today should follow this example and have better lives because of it. That is not necessarily true.
Baseball card collecting changed significantly in the 1980s and will never be the same. But let’s reflect on the toys of today and see how baseball cards can be positioned in the lives of today’s kids.
Kids today are definitely of the video game generation and they need more stimulus than can be provided by pictures on cardboard. In truth I have thoroughly enjoyed certain video baseball games during my life. The Earl Weaver and Tony LaRussa games were good as well as the newer games like High Heat. I wish I could play some of these games, but they don’t work anymore on my computer. In interviews with kids where we question why they don’t collect baseball cards, the answer most often given was that they opened the package and found cards like Greg Maddux, Albert Pujols or Barry Bonds and after their initial excitement wore off they came away with the feeling that everyone else also has these cards, therefore, there is nothing special about them.
Nothing special about them? Okay, well then let’s put some bat chips or uniform cloth in the card to make them special. Same issue — it’s really cool that I have this card that has a part of a bat that was actually used by this famous player, but so do thousands of other people. I have a card like that of Ted Williams that my daughter gave me as a present because she knew that I liked Ted Williams when I was younger, and I have told her the story of meeting Ted Williams and shaking his hand. I like the card because my daughter thought of my interests when buying the card. The card itself does not have as much impact as the act of her giving it to me. So, it is a special card to me because of the history of the card in my life.
Some of the cards I have from the 1950s have a special meaning to me. The 1956 card of Ernie Banks that is torn and worn has significant meaning to me. It was a card that I convinced a younger person to trade me. It was a deal that I was proud of at the time. I now look back and think that I may have taken advantage of that person because they were only six years old. But the card wasn’t worth more than a nickel at the time and its value hasn’t appreciated significantly because it is in very poor condition, but the card still has significant value to me because of its history in my life. I can remember the time and places where I actually saw certain cards for the first time.
And what has happened to the baseball card companies? They certainly want to maximize profit like any other companies. They don’t make money just because an old card has monetary value. But, do the kids today actually know what to collect or how to collect baseball cards? I did some unscientific research by searching through a Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide. What I found most interesting was that the majority of the guide was devoted to cards that have been printed since 2000. There are so many card sets and so many options that no one knows what to collect. You can easily see that there was very little to collect prior to the 1950s. The number of cards listed is fairly consistent though the 1950s and 1960s. There is a significant drop off in number of cards in the 1970s as card values drop. Things were still fairly consistent in the 1980s when a few other companies hopped on the bandwagon and the number of cards produced increased, but values dropped further. The 1990s found expansion of the market and more cards and more varieties, and then in the 2000s the market explodes into an enormous number of variations including remakes of old sets, and the irony that the new players should be placed on cards designed like the 1950s. The designs of the 1950s do not compare to the quality of today’s printing and photography, yet they continue to draw interest. Again that is why I contend that the 1950s and the 1960s comprise the Golden Age of Baseball Cards.
Getting back to video games, I spoke with kids who have computer or video games that were favorites of theirs, but they can no longer play these games because the video console or computer no longer exists. So the game is now worthless circuitry. Even now the addiction to video violence is something I hope that adults of the future do not take satisfaction in reminiscing about. But as I’ve said before, the world is changing. They might say something like, “Hey, remember back when we played Mortal Kombat. The blood was nowhere near as real looking as it is now." I wouldn’t doubt that we’ll see games where real blood is drawn by hitting your opponent in the face with the controller. I hope I haven’t just given someone a new idea.
With everything being made in China now I would expect that we will soon hear of a new set of cards being recalled because lead paint was used in their production. So, that leaves me with a weak argument that a baseball card today that has been handled or played with can be more valuable and rewarding than many of the games of today.
Let’s face it. We’re in the age of broadband Internet and video interactivity. We will likely be looking more at video images of pictures than actual pictures that you can hold. It’s easier to find the images of baseball cards on the Internet than to sift through cards in shoeboxes. There is some satisfaction from actually holding the cards, and that is especially true for cards that are less than perfect, which comprises the majority of my collection.
For some reason I feel like Andy Rooney right now, and I can hear a younger person somewhere asking, “Who?”