Thursday, January 10, 2013

Winter Reading: Mint Condition

A few weeks back, I posted about my experience of purchasing old school baseball, football and basketball trading cards from Economy Candy on the Lower East Side. This sparked up pangs of nostalgia from my childhood. While at home for the Winter break, my mother motioned towards the attic when I asked where all of my old trading cards were. After whipping out the trusty ladder, I was pleased to discover books filled with thousands of trading cards that I'd assembled as a teen. 

I was in awe of how big of a collector I actually was. 

On New Year's Day, my buddy Adam Ginsberg outed himself as a former collector after reading my post. Then he recommended "Mint Condition" by Dave Jamieson. 

The book read beautifully for the most part. The author gives a very detailed overview of the history of trading cards; as they started out primarily as a peculiar accompaniment to cigarette and tobacco. As the evils of tobacco began to rear their head, there was a shift towards pairing up the trading cards with candy and bubble gum. 

As the sport grew in popularity, competition over dominance in the trading card marketplace (primarily for baseball) intensified. So much so that an antitrust case was brought against Topps and the MLB players union (a fact that I'd heard absolutely nothing about prior to this reading). Jamieson then pushes forward to highlight the birth of Upper Deck and the "modern trading card" that helped to fight rampant counterfeiting. 

Yet despite all of the advancements and all of the wealth that had been spurred by the hobby, it was ultimately oversaturation of the market and the MLB work stoppage in 1994 that would serve sort of a death blow to the hobby. Some firms went out of business, while others are but a shell of their former selves today. 

I can't lie. I miss the joy that I felt when collecting cards as a kid. I, much like the author, didn't do it in hopes of getting rich. Instead, there was some unique joy attained when ripping open a package and seeing what treasures lie within. As a continuation of this guilty pleasure, I immediately hopped onto Amazon after finishing the book and purchased $20 worth of unopened wax packages from the 1980s. Hopefully I'll get lucky!

PS - Look up "Billy Ripken FUCK FACE" and "Ken Griffey Jr Suicide Attempt". So many fun facts in this book...

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