Book Review: Mint Condition by Dave Jamieson
Have you ever stopped and wondered about the history of baseball cards? How did the T206 cards received that designation? What gave Topps the edge in the great card wars of the early 50s? How did Upper Deck break into the trading card industry? It's hard to believe, but there is a single source where you can find all of this information, plus a whole lot more. Mint Condition - How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession by Dave Jamieson is a chronological account of the trading card industry from the early days of tobacco cards all the way through the most recent developments in the industry with Topps being awarded the exclusive license to produce MLB cards.
While collecting baseball cards has traditionally been associated with youths, the companies that have provided these collectibles have not always proven to be as innocent as their customers. There is speculation that in 1933 the Goudey Gum Co. did not produce any cards of Napoleon Lajoie even though his name appeared on the checklist as card #106. The theory behind the alleged scandal was that kids would buy more gum chasing the elusive #106 Lajoie card in an attempt to complete the set. It didn't take long for a few kids to start complaining to their parents, who then started writing to the company. In 1934 Goudey produced a limited number of #106 Lajoie cards and sent them to each of the customers who filed a formal complaint. Years later, when uncut sheets of the card set surfaced, the mysterious card #106 was not found on them, adding to the suspicion of the company. It's estimated that only 600 of the '34 Lajoie "correction cards" were ever produced, and they have become some of the most valuable cards on the secondary market, second only to the 1911 T206 Honus Wagner card.
In the late 1980s there were new collectors pouring into the hobby on a daily basis. The card companies began to produce huge amounts of cards to keep up with the demand. Collecting had turned into an investment opportunity. As a result, many unsuspecting collectors fell prey to the forged cards that unscrupulous individuals were producing to make a quick buck. Paul Sumner, who at the time was in the printing industry, saw an opportunity to produce trading cards with a hologram that would prevent the cards from being forged. Together with Bill Hemrick, owner of a trading card store named The Upper Deck, the two men formed a company by the same name and began producing cards, the most famous of which was from their inaugural baseball set in 1989, the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie.
If you're even remotely interested in collecting baseball cards, Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession is a must-read. With all the stories about the history of trading cards, it was almost impossible to put the book down. While Dave Jamieson has created the closest thing this hobby has to an encyclopedia, and an excellent reference book for the collector, it reads like an intrigue novel, holding your interest page after page. The information found between the covers of this one book accounts for over 150 years worth of history of these small pieces of cardboard. It belongs on the shelf of every card collector, right next to their binders filled with the cards this book is about.