Friday, June 14, 2019

The road not taken

A couple of years ago I was at a crossroads in my collection. I had completed almost every major set from 1978 to 1994, covering the years I initially collected plus a few years earlier, and had many many thousands more from 1995 on. While certainly not bored of baseball cards, my collecting eye began to wander as I developed other interests.

As you can tell from my wallet card posts, I became more and more interested in "old things" - signs, advertising and other ephemera that harked back to early years, particularly the 1950s and 1960s. (I was born in 1977.) This was not because of any romantic notions of that era. I just found it fascinating to "time travel" - to peer into a past that was far enough away to be different, but close enough to be relatable. This was an era of immense social upheaval - for better and for worse - but it was also a time when people went shopping, got their car fixed, went out to eat, etc. In some ways very similar to today, in other ways very different.

What was holding me back? The first was price of course. With baseball cards you can get hundreds of cards for the price of one small sign or box or matchbook or whatever. Just as importantly, however, was the baseball card community. In other areas I did not see the same types of communities where people blogged about what they loved, and traded their extras to their peers, at least not anywhere near the extent that they are in this community.

A little more than a year ago, I came across a great Craigslist find of 1960s cards at a price that, while much higher than I ever spent on cards before, was actually a fantastic price. Some more beginners luck shortly after that got me most of the cards from the mid-1970s, including most of the big ones. I haven't had the same kind of luck since, but I have become a committed vintage baseball card collector, allowing me to enjoy collecting something older while remaining part of this wonderful community.

A while back, Matt of Once a Cub, formerly a blog but now only on Twitter, posted a card that I thought perfectly captured the two different directions my collection faced - the road I took (vintage) and the road not taken (general "old stuff"). One of my favorite things to find on older items is phone numbers with less than seven digits, either with letters in the exchange or just a shorter number. This card is a 1961 baseball card that someone stamped, presumably that year, with their name, address - and a five digit phone number! Once I got my own (unstamped) version of that card, I offered it to Matt in a trade. Now I own this card, and it is one of my very favorite cards in my collection.
I wonder how old this stamp was even in 1961. I found a great website called that says that Atlanta switched from six to seven digits (two letters/five numbers). About Columbus I learned just that they received dial service in the late 1940s, but some mid-size towns such as Valdosta did not get dial service until 1964.

Needless to say, if anyone else has a card like this, I'd definitely be interested in trading for it. I would also be open to trading baseball cards for any other kind of similar ephemera with defunct stores, old phone numbers, etc.


  1. You should write long pieces more often, Bo!

  2. Man do I have some stuff for you. Be patient and I will send some stuff here and there. Especially relating to that Valdosta phone number thing. Pretty sure I seen an old phone book with 5 digit numbers laying around. It's small and thin, not like today.

  3. OOps, I nearly forgot: I just wrote a post this morning with that very same checklist (well 2 of them). It will show up sometime over the next week. There are 3 versions of that card.

  4. If you were interested in older stuff, I'd say to look into trade cards, but since you're looking for mid-century, they probably wouldn't be of much use to you. But there is tons of cheap ephemera out there from the time period that you're talking about, I come across stuff like that at the antique mall that I frequent on fairly regular basis, but I'm interested in older stuff, so I never pick any of it up -- might have to start doing so though, now that I know someone is interested in said stuff.

    Also, I agree with Gregory about you doing longer posts more often :)