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Sixty-Something: Baseball Card Collecting Up During The Pandemic

T.J. Clemente

The author's collection. (Photo: T.J. Clemente)

With the fear of the lethal dangers of Coronavirus worldwide, and so many quarantined, it's only natural there have been after effects. One after effect of the pandemic amazingly enough on the East End, and also a coast-to-coast phenomenon, is the collecting of old baseball cards and the rising value of old baseball cards. Yes, those cards with the players photos on the front and all that information on the back are very popular again.

I was at closing night for the 2020 season at the iconic "The Dock" in Montauk this last week. We were talking about lobsters when Anthony Sosinski, the famed Montauk lobsterman, mentioned how everyone is talking baseball cards. He actually said, "COVID has brought back baseball cards, it may save baseball!" So, when I went home, I researched and found articles saying just that. A recent article [from last week] by Jasmine Garsd titled "Baseball Card Collecting During Pandemic Hits Prices Out of the Park" proved Anthony to be correct. In the piece, Garsd says collecting is up because "folks have been cooped up in their home wishing for the good old days."

So, I had to dig out what's left of my baseball card collection to take a look. If you are sixty-something, you can remember when a pack of Topps baseball cards were a nickel and came with a flat piece of bubblegum. If you purchased a recently shipped pack of baseball cards, the gum was soft. If the gum was hard, you knew that pack wasn't so recent.

In my single digit years of little league baseball, we would flip cards. There is a timing technique of rolling it gently out of your hand that if you do it correctly can make the picture side or the information side land upwards. In grammar school [OLPH], I actually flipped cards often against Steve Dolan, now affectionately known as "Puck," the long-time bartender at The Montauket. One could go to school with a dozen cards and go home with one hundred - if you had a hot day flipping. However, if it was windy, anything could happen.

The cards of lesser players were often used in the spokes of bikes to make the bike roar and them sound like a motorcycle. I remember going ballistic when my sister not knowingly used my best cards for her bike.

There is a history to baseball cards. They came about the same time as photography and players were photographed on cards called trade cards in the 1860s! A sporting goods company called Peck and Snyder out of NYC actually sold team photo cards starting in 1868. They are considered the very first. Next, at the turn of the century as baseball grew in popularity, the cards were printed and distributed by tobacco companies. It is those cards that seem to fetch millions of dollars. For those on the East End in old family homes, you may find those in a box your great grandfather left in the attic, the barn or garage. Good luck.

In the 1930s, baseball cards became very popular. Topps baseball cards didn't actually start production until 1952. It is these card that I have known my whole life. I still have some, even after my mom would clean out my room and literally throw away my collection. Only when in her eighties did she understand why I cried every time she threw them out.

So, to get inspired to compose this article, I dug up some artifacts for the photo. The photo consists of my NY Mets Subway World Series hat from 2000 that I wore to work in the Grace Building [42nd and 6th] during the series, along with my suits. A baseball signed by Pete Rose, my actual little league/high school glove that was hardly used after I became a catcher and some recent cards, including a Mariano Rivera card! Maybe in 50 years my granddaughter can get $1M for that one.

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