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The Card

2007 non-fiction book by Michael O'Keeffe and Teri Thompson

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A cutthroat industry populated by hustlers, con men and counterfeiters.

  • Oct 3, 2009
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My goodness!  The world has certainly changed a lot since I was a kid growing up in the late 50's and early 60's.  Back then it seemed that just about every boy in elementary school and junior high collected baseball cards.  Not a one of us had any idea that one day many of these cards would be worth a kings ransom.  We pitched them in the schoolyard, traded them with our friends and stuck them in our spokes to make our modest Columbia or Schwinn bicycles sound something akin to a motorcycle.  Then in the early 1980's all of this seemed to change.  Now collecting and selling baseball cards was big business.  A host of new card companies got into the fray and thousands of card shops opened across the country.  The price of vintage cards skyrocketed and the 12 year olds who used to collect baseball cards simply for pleasure were now wheeling and dealing at their own stands at flea markets.  So what had happened to cause the dramatic shift in this venerable hobby?  Michael O' Keeffe and Teri Thompson have come up with a splendid history of baseball card collecting in their marvelous new book "The Card: Collectors, Con Men and the True Story of America's Most Desired Baseball Card".  Spotlighting the "Holy Grail" of baseball cards, the T206 Honus Wagner card issued by the American Tobacco Company in 1909"The Card" offers a fascinating look at a hobby that so many Americans fondly recall from their youth.  This is an important piece of Americana that really needed to be told.

In "The Card: Collectors, Con Men and the True Story of America's Most Desired Baseball Card" O'Keeffe and Thompson document the origins of baseball cards.  I was surprised to learn that the first baseball cards appeared sometime in the 1860's even before the formation of the National League.  However, it was in the early part of the 20th century that baseball cards began to appear as a premium with a whole host of products.  Baseball cards were packed with cigarettes, candy, gum and ice cream.  But it was not until 1952 that Topps decided to sell baseball cards in packs.  It was this development more than any other that made the buying and trading of baseball cards such an important and enjoyable hobby among youths of that era.  Fast forward now to the early 1980's.   A number of new players began producing baseball cards including Fleer, Donruss and Upper Deck.  All of a sudden it was fashionable to buy and trade baseball cards.  And what's more lots of adults figured out that there was a ton of money to be made in old cards.  A new industry sprung up virtually overnight.  In "The Card" Michael O'Keeffe and Teri Thompson introduce us to some of the key players in this new business.  Some of those you will meet are extremely honest while far too many others have rather unsavory reputations.  Readers will also learn about how valuable cards are graded and authenticated and why the term "buyer beware" should be uppermost in the minds of those purchasing such items.  It turns out that there are myriad ways to alter a baseball card.

I must tell you that "The Card: Collectors, Con Men and the True Story of America's Most Desired Baseball Card" held my interest from cover to cover.  I fondly recall the days of my youth when I had so much fun with my cards and I am saddened to see what has become of the hobby.  This is a well-written book that can be read and enjoyed by people from 10 to 90.  A real gem!  Highly recommended!
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Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Since its limited release just after the turn of the twentieth century, this American Tobacco cigarette card has beguiled and bedeviled collectors. First identified as valuable in the 1930s, when the whole notion of card collecting was still young, the T206 Wagner has remained the big score for collectors who have scoured card shows, flea markets, estate sales, and auctions for the portrait of baseball's greatest shortstop.

Only a few dozen T206 Wagners are known to still exist. Most, with their creases, stains, and dog-eared corners, look worn and tattered, like they've been around for almost a century. But one—The Card—appears to have defied the travails of time. Thanks to its sharp corners and its crisp portrait of Honus Wagner, The Card has become the most famous and desired baseball card in the world.

Over the decades, as The Card has changed hands, its value has skyrocketed. It was initially sold for $25,000 by a small card shop in a nondescript strip mall. Years later, hockey great Wayne Gretzky bought it at the venerable Sotheby's auction house for $451,000. Then, more recently, it sold for $1.27 million on eBay. Today worth over $2 million, it has transformed a sleepy hobby into a billion-dollar industry that is at times as lawless as the Wild West. The Card has made men wealthy, certainly, but it has also poisoned lifelong friendships and is fraught with controversy—from its uncertain origins and the persistent questions about its provenance to the possibility ...

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Books, Nonfiction, Baseball History, Baseball Cards, Collectables


ISBN-10: 0061123927
ISBN-13: 978-0061123924
Author: Michael F. O'Keefe
Genre: Antiques & Collectibles
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Published: May 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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