Will Baseball Cards Continue to Exist?
December 12, 2011
by William Szczepanek
Tick... tick... tick... that's the sound of time slowly passing by. With each tick the world changes slightly. Baseball cards have existed for nearly as long as the game itself. It seems safe to say that as long as baseball exists, then so too will baseball cards. In some respects it depends upon how you define what a baseball card is. Does it need to be cardboard? Probably not. A plastic card could be a viable alternative. Does it need to be a certain size. Certainly it should be a size that someone can comfortably hold in their hand. But then, why should you have to hold it in your hand? Even today the photograph is evolving into another type of image that is more often viewed on a digital device such as a computer tablet, digital picture frame or phone. People are keeping entire photo collections on social networks like Facebook and now can more easily share them.
Encyclopedias are gone. Paper books, a long time collectible item for research and enjoyment are disappearing. So too are the stores that sell them. The bookstore, once a meeting place and a haven to relax, have a cup of coffee and peruse volumes will soon be extinct. Newspapers also are disappearing, replaced by digital news. Typewriters and payphones are things of the distant past. Cameras with film have bitten the dust. Landline phones will soon go the same route.
Even digital files or their storage media are disappearing. Floppy disks are long gone as well as VHS tapes, and CD and DVDs are soon to go... into the cloud. Paper maps are now a thing of the past with easy access to various computer maps that get updated regularly.
So, is a digital image considered a baseball card if you can still hold it in your hand, like on your phone? I would say, probably not. The heyday of baseball card collecting occurred fifty to sixty years ago. Much of what were everyday items back then have now disappeared, mostly due to technological advances. When I was five years old I played with clothespins, like a few other weird kids. They made good missiles in a sandbox and if you connected them in a cross, they made good airplanes. It helped to have a good imagination.
We are entering an era where just about everything happens either through or with a computer device. Handwritten letters and thank you notes are rare, though still considered proper. How long will that last? Even friends are now defined differently since we probably have many more computer "friends" than personal friends. Much of this change is good and will take us into the future better prepared to cope with the accelerating changes in the world. Some of them will not be so good, since we will become more dependent upon these digital devices to help us think and remember, therefore we will not need to remember as much. So, remembering is also becoming obsolete. Google and all of the other modern devices will help us manage our lives. Facebook will enable us to manage our friends. "If you enter it, it will be remembered." should soon become a catchphrase from either Google or Facebook. Remember ─ you heard it here first.
Board games of the past have been replaced by computer and video games. The world is turning inward, as introverts are now able to more easily have exchanges with others via the computer. This article will be read by people in countries around the world, many of whom have had no prior experiences with baseball cards. So will they know what I'm talking about? With cell phones providing all sorts of information, including time, wristwatches will go the way of the dinosaur. Dick Tracy's 2-way wrist radio (1946) and later 2-way wrist TV (1964) exists today as our current cell phone.
Years ago people collected things because of the joy of collecting. What will people collect in the future? Everything is becoming more temporary and long term value is hard to find, whether monetary or altruistic. As kids, people my age remember their first baseball cards, like kids today likely will remember their first cell phone, but will they remember their first digital baseball cards? ...even the ones with 3D holographic moving images that are now produced by Topps. Will these cards continue to work in the future as technology and webcams change?
It is certain that cardboard baseball cards will soon disappear, and in a few years people will no longer exist who collected them in the 50s and 60s. At that point something magical will be lost and that will be the motivation to collect baseball cards for the sheer joy of doing it and the memories associated with it.