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Collecting Baseball Cards Today

Baseball card collecting today can be a frustrating endeavor. There are about 5 or 6 companies that produce major league baseball cards which does not seem like too many so that is ok. Each card company often produces up to twenty different sets a year. This many sets can be absolutely overwhelming and only seems to benefit the card publishing companies and not the collector.

Baseball card producers then seed the packs of these various sets with “chase cards”. These chase cards are not always part of the actual set but often very limited number editions of cards. These chase cards can have nothing to do with baseball. Chase cards can be pieces of a Babe Ruth baseball bat to a signature of former President Howard Taft and on. Collecting the chase cards becomes the point of buying packs of baseball cards as they can be very valuable and sell for a lot of money on eBay. The actual cards of the baseball players are an afterthought. Commerce has overtaken collecting.

Much of this craze can be traced back to 1989 when the Upper Deck Company produced their first Major League Baseball set. This set included the very first Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card. There were no chase cards or limited runs just the Griffey Jr. card. When Griffey Jr entered baseball he was a young phenom who people thought had the potential to break all of baseballs records and his early play seemed to attest to this. Baseball card collecting became a craze as people tried to get the Griffey Jr rookie card.

When I was a kid in the late sixties and early seventies there was one company making one set – this was Topps. Collecting these cards was simple – you went to the local drugstore and bought a pack after begging your mom to get you one. I would then go home and promptly “flip” the cards with my friends (a game) and immediately add wear and tear to my cards. Today collectors seem to want the cards for their potential monetary value and handle the cards like they were precious jewels – often putting them in thick plastic holders to prevent anyone from handling and thus damaging the card.

So is there a middle ground for a collector or baseball enthusiast? Yes there is. First take a look at the fine print at some of the $10 or $20 packs you are going to buy to hopefully get a chase card. The fine print will tell you that you have a 1 in 10,000 chance of actually getting a chase card (and not even one that collectors want potentially). So if you don’t get a chase card you will be left with five cards from the pack from a set. Unfortunately it will be a set nobody is looking to complete.

Collectors need to rein in their expectations and focus on being a fan of the game and remember that collecting cards can simply be an extension of their love of baseball. Focus on some of the basic sets that are not as chase card focused such as the basic Topps or Upper Deck set. Do not buy a pack of five cards for $20. Even baseball card companies are even beginning to realize that they have over-saturated the marketplace and are paring back the number of sets they produce.

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