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Wednesday, September 18, 2013




Growing up in the fifties, there was one economic law that every young boy knew only too well; the law of supply and demand.  That economic rule was hammered home very clearly to every boy that collected baseball cards.

In the fifties you could not just go to the store and buy a complete set of every baseball card Topps made for the year, you bought your cards in packs of five.  A pack of cards cost five cents.  Each pack had five cards and a flat piece of bubble gum.  Sometimes we actually chewed the gum, but it was not nearly as good as the roll of six pieces of bazooka you got for a nickel.

Opening the pack to see what cards you got was always exciting.  I lived in Long Island, New York.  If you got a card of any player from any of the three New York Teams, it was a big deal.  I’m guessing that if you lived in St. Louis, New York players were a dime a dozen.  In New York they were rare. 

The rarest yet were the big three, centerfielders Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Duke Snider.  We gambled for baseball cards by flipping them, first heads up wins, or flinging them against a wall, closest wins.  No one ever used one of the NY centerfielders in a flip or wall game.

We used baseball cards in our bikes to simulate a motor sound.  A clothes pin held the card into the spokes, and the resulting snapping sound was considered very cool.  No one used Mickey, Willie or the Duke in their spokes.

We also traded cards in an attempt to get a full set, or at least get all the players from your favorite team.  Unless you somehow had duplicates of  Mickey, Willie, or the Duke, you would never trade them.  If you had duplicates, they would fetch many cards in trade.

Mickey, Willie and the Duke were in very short supply and the demand was unlimited.  Some cards of other players seemed to be in almost every pack and had zero value except for flipping or jamming in your bicycle spokes.

Two players stick out in my mind.  Virgil “Fire” Trucks was a very successful pitcher.  In 1952 he became only the third pitcher to ever pitch two no-hitters in one season…and yet…Virgil seemed to be in almost every pack.  Bobby Shantz was a left handed pitcher who was the National League MVP in 1952, and yet in 1955 his card was a rare as a blade of grass.

One thing about the law of supply and demand, it made it a thrill        when-ever you opened a pack and found one of the rare cards.  It made it exciting every time you tore open a nickel pack with the great anticipation of finding a player with an interlocking NY or a Brooklyn B on their cap.

It is little wonder that cards from the fifties and before can be worth thousands of dollars today.  Many were rare, and they had to survive bicycle spokes, flipping, bends, folds, rubber band dents, and mothers who threw them away to make space while you went off to college.

Kids today get all the cards of all the players of all the teams in one big purchase. 

“Happy Birthday son…baseball cards!  Don’t use them, don’t touch them, file them away in plastic covers.  In thirty years they will be worth a fortune!”

No they won’t dad.  Everyone has them.  You just buy them. 

Simple and easy just like lots of stuff today and everyone saves them untouched and pristine so someday they will be valuable.  But they won’t be valuable because they are in easy supply and the demand will be small.

Demand will be small because today’s young boys will have no pleasant memories of playing with those cards.  

They will never have experienced the thrill of getting lucky enough to find in that little nickel pack a Mickey, a Willie, or a Duke.

It is simple Economics 101; it is the Law of Supply and Demand.


  1. We used an old deck of cards instead of baseball cards for our bikes. Mom didn't want us to have bubble gum and it was a rather "expensive" treat for us so we didn't get baseball cards very often.

  2. The baseball players of today ... are fighting drug charges. No more M & M and all those guys I remember.

    not very good role models today... I don't think so.

    Nowadays the young boys have Miley Cyrus to admire. Wonder if she is going to start a ... hey! all the women today who like to show their crotches to everyone ... make crotch cards...

    girls never had such ... except collecting Barbie's which was after my time. what did I collect... stuffed animals maybe

    had a diary.

  3. Wow, did that take me back. Those were simpler times, better in some ways.

    Even in New England a baseball card with a Yankees player was treasured. Or maybe that was just my street.

    Mom is a Red Sox fan, Dad was a Yankees fan. Baseball was "interesting" in my home. Very "interesting".

  4. Yes, even chubby kids like me who hated playing baseball still collected baseball cards. I can't remember what happened to those cards.I don't remember ever having a Mickey Mantle card.

  5. I remember fondly the cards on the spokes of bicycle tires, and I always wondered how boys made that work. Ex hubby had an extensive baseball card collection, which I used to hate moving around. Litlte girls just used to collect Barbies and boyfriends back then. Nowadays, I don't want to know what they collect.

  6. My grandson owns what is purported to be an extensive set of Pokemon cards. Does that count?

  7. I was a Partridge Family gum-and-cards gal myself.

  8. I well remember these cards and seeing all the boys with huge 'decks' of them with a rubber band holding them together -- all grubby from looking through them and trading them and doing all the things you've described ... and so true the Bazooka bubble gum was much better! Didn't that come wrapped in a little cartoon?

  9. I remember my kids scooping up all their money to run to an elderly man who sold them Baseball Cards.

  10. Yup. I always give My Mom (good-natured) grief for having thrown out my almost complete set of 1965 Topps, but I certainly realize that the reason they and other cards I had would have been worth a relative fortune is precisely because she and other moms did that. I everybody's mom had just kept the cards in our possession, they'd still be worth about 5 cents for any 5 of them.

  11. As I'm a girl who was a kid in the 70s, we had 'swap cards'. These had illustrations or designs on them, mostly illustrations of pre-teen girls in patchwork jeans and floppy hats, or photos of puppies or kittens. You bought the cards singly in newsagents for 5 or 10 cents each. We all took them to school and sometimes some got swapped, but mostly we just looked at them!
    I loved my swap cards. Have no idea what happened to them.


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