Saturday, December 27, 2014

Beckett List

Your webmaster has been slowly reading through old issues of The Trader Speaks, one of the more famous hobby publications in what I think of as the "pre-explosion" days.  TTS was published from late 1968 until the Fall of 1983 by Dan Dischley (a co-founder of SABR) and then, following a sale, sputtered along for another six months or so before Krause Publications bought the mailing list and the magazine was shut down.  Krause, publishers of Sports Collectors Digest, attempted a 1989-90 resurrection as an SCD insert but pulled the plug, once and for all, after twelve issues.

It's been an interesting thing, reading them in chronological order and you can spot early trends this way.  There was huge interest in the Kellogg's 3-D cards in the early 1970's, a clear surge in hobby interest in the media and among collectors in 1973, the sprouting of collector conventions around 1974-75 followed by an influx of large dealers around 1976.

The focus of course, was on baseball. It was around the Bicentennial that a number of Price Guides sprang up as well, each seemingly larger and more comprehensive than the last.  Now, when you think of early guides you think of Beckett but he was a latecomer as a half dozen or so had been published before he had Dischley run a centerfold pricing survey in the January 1977 issue.

A few months later, the results were published in the April and May issues and you can see some clear indications of rare cards and sets in the data.  The first set of results covers Topps issues, among others (in good old IBM Selectric fonts):

As noted by Dr. Beckett, the pricing was for VG-EX cards.  The 1951 Blue Back pricing is consistent with current trends when compared to the Red Back set and the $8.00 assessment for 1952 high numbers is essentially sixteen times higher then a common. It's about nine times as much for a high number these days, which reflects the reality the highs are not all that difficult. Beckett also may have inadvertently started the notion that the 1952 semi-highs started at #253 as there were plenty of ads in early TTS issues that showed they began at #251.

The other 1951 Baseball Candy issues also show their scarcity.  The $38 for a Current AS (Major League All Star) is tied for the highest amount for any set surveyed by Beckett; those are not even double the Connie Mack All Star prices, while these days it's more like 2.5 times.  The Team cards that weren't shortprinted sell for less these days in comparison to the Connie Macks, less than half in most instances.  You could buy the Team cards fairly readily from TTS advertisers in the early to mid 70's and the occasional complete Connie Mack example but I have yet to find an ad offering a complete Major League All Star card for sale in the first 100 issues or so and there were numerous buy ads for them.The 1968 3-D cards were also impressively priced.

The comments on the 1970-73 high numbers are interesting and while the 1971 and 1973 nosebleeds are not all that tough these days, 1970 and in particular 1972 highs are thought of as relatively difficult now, considering the volume of low numbers produced in those years. Bowman PCL cards also remain near-impossible to find almost forty years later.

In terms of Topps issues, the second survey results only really had some of the Bazooka cards but they were capped at 1964 for some reason.  More fascinating reading generally though:

You can see that except for the 1954 Dan Dee Al Smith, which is a super short print, the Major League All Stars compare with the 1928 Fro Joy, Lummis Peanut Butter and 1955 Kahn's sets as the most expensive out there.  This is no longer true as the Fro Joys have dropped significantly while the Kahn's (which feature a half dozen Reds players in street clothes) have kept pace, or even slightly surpassed the Topps offering.  The SCD "big book" states the Kahn's cards were only given away for one day at a amusement park in Cincinnati, indirectly illustrating how scarce the MLAS's really are.

A year later, the April 1978 TTS issue (which also noted the death of Woody Gelman) had the next year's results:

Prices were coming more into focus the second time around and the PCL issue from Bowman in 1949 was now the king of commons. As an aside, a complete PCL set had been auctioned the year prior and instead of accepting a cash bid the seller, a Chicago sports store, took 900,000 baseball cards in exchange for the set!

As it turns out, Dischley was issuing the second edition of his Modern Baseball Card Checklist Book in the summer of '77 and it would include Beckett's first stab at pricing. I have the 1979 edition and while it includes pricing, I don't think it was Beckett's any more since his first Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guide (in conjunction with Denny Eckes) came out in February of that year.

I have further runs of magazines to go through as I continue my research and expect I will find similarly blog-worthy old school items along the way.


Fleerfan said...

Dave - great information from The Trader Speaks. Just curious - as you've been going through the issues, have there been any articles on any Fleer sets from the late '60's to mid '70's?

toppcat said...

Jon-yes, there are R.G. Laughlin ads in quite a few issues. I need to go back and look at them after I run through the issues for Topps info.

Fleerfan said...

I'll be looking forward to seeing what you find. Thanks!