Home Business Tech Markets Entrepreneurs Leadership Personal Finance ForbesLife Lists Opinions Video Blogs E-mail Newsletters Portfolio Tracker Special Reports Commerce Energy Health Care Logistics Manufacturing Media Services Technology Wall Street Washington CIO Network Enterprise Tech Infoimaging Internet Infrastructure Internet Personal Tech Sciences Security Wireless Bonds Commodities Currencies Economy Emerging Markets Equities Options Finance Human Resources Law & Taxation Sales & Marketing Management Technology Careers Compensation Corporate Citizenship Corporate Governance Managing Innovation CEO Network Reference ETFs Guru Insights Investing Ideas Investor Education Mutual Funds Philanthropy Retirement & College Taxes & Estates Collecting Health Real Estate Sports Style Travel Vehicles Wine & Food 100 Top Celebrities 400 Richest Americans Largest Private Cos World's Richest People All Forbes Lists Business Opinions Investing Technology Opinions Washington & The World Companies People Reference Technology Companies Events People Reference Companies People Companies Events People Reference Companies Events People Reference

Book Review

Ode To Baseball Cards

Steve Schaefer, 04.07.10, 12:01 AM EDT

Dave Jamieson's ''Mint Condition.''

There are boxes upon boxes in my parents' house, stuffed to capacity with baseball cards. Rookies, All-Stars, scrubs--I had them all when I was growing up. Invariably I would embark on some ambitious new system to sort my treasures, but wind up adding to the collection before I could complete the task.

My passion for collecting waned as the industry overheated and produced more sets than even the most ambitious teenager could follow, but every time I return to my parents' house I still take a few minutes to poke through some of the boxes and binders.

Article Controls







In Mint Condition, an enjoyable read from Dave Jamieson, the author explores the history of card collecting through an entertaining cast of characters--the visionaries and villains who turned a gimmick designed to boost tobacco sales into a billion-dollar industry.

Jamieson's book begins with a story from when his parents sold his childhood home. Among the belongings he had to return to collect was a massive box marked "BASEBALL CARDS."

He doesn't pull punches over some of the agency's missteps, from exclusive contracts for certain card providers to the rating agencies and explosion of sets that drove many casual fans from the hobby since its peak in the early '90s.

In many ways, Mint Condition strives to be a museum of baseball card history--each chapter is a room that tells a different story, from the earliest tobacco cards, like the fabled 1909 T206 Honus Wagner that has sold for millions and been the subject of books of its own, to the gum cards that inspired another generation to start collecting and the autographed, game-used "chase" cards that debuted just before the industry started to stumble under its own weight.

Behind Jamieson's words you can sense something of a lament, a plea for a simpler time when billions of cards weren't being printed every year, when collecting was about Little Johnny going down to the corner store for a nickel pack in search of his favorite All-Star--instead of adults with fistfuls of cash buying cards by the case in hopes of getting an elusive insert card with a lock of Abraham Lincoln's hair.

The pictures in Jamieson's book are captivating, a veritable art gallery of the industry from its infancy in the 1800s to the slickly produced versions of today. And the author's overriding, albeit unstated, argument that things were better in the old days gets some reinforcement from the card companies themselves, which have shown an affinity for producing retro sets in recent years featuring the players of today on cards mirrored after the styles of decades past.

Jamieson will surely lose some casual fans at points but as a new baseball season dawns, for anyone who can recall being excited to rip open their newest pack of cards, Mint Condition is a treat.

Next >