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Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession Hardcover – April 6, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 108 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It's a form of megalomania, of course, one famous card collector once said of his hobby—and, as Jamieson explains, there are plenty of people willing to cash in on collectors' obsessions; the secondary market for baseball cards may be as much as a half-billion dollars annually. It used to be even stronger: Jamieson got interested in the history of baseball cards when he rediscovered his own adolescent stash only to find that its value had plummeted in the mid-1990s. His loss is our gain as he tracks the evolution of the card from its first appearance in cigarette packs in the late 19th century through the introduction of bubble gum and up to the present. The historical narrative is livened by several interviews, including conversations with the two men who launched Topps (for decades the first name in cards) and a collector who's dealt in million-dollar cards. Jamieson also digresses neatly into curiosities like the Horrors of War card set, the legendary Mars Attacks, and a profanity-laced card featuring Cal Ripken's little brother. It's a fun read, but it also shows just how much serious work went into sustaining this one corner of pop culture ephemera. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Every time a rare baseball card brings a million-dollar price at auction, thousands of aging former collectors wistfully recall shoeboxes full of rookie cards and wonder if they lost a fortune when Mom cleaned out their rooms. The answer, according to Washington-based, award-winning journalist Jamieson is . . . probably not. Jamieson doesn’t supply lists of valuable cards (there are collectors’ journals for that); rather, he chronicles the history of collectible cards, profiles a few unique collectors, and tracks the development of the hobby and ponders its future. He profiles Jefferson Burdick, an almost forgotten man who donated what was probably the greatest collection of baseball cards ever assembled to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art over the course of a decade before his death in 1963. In tracing the history of collectible cards, Jamieson shows the extraordinary lengths to which the early cigarette and card companies went to separate young boys from their money, a penny and then a nickel at a time. A not uncommon tactic was to issue incomplete sets to keep collectors fruitlessly buying in search of a card that didn’t exist. This is a fascinating history that encompasses not only the nuances of serious collecting but also the business machinations and card-marketing strategies that contributed significantly to the rise of the cigarette and gum industries. Superbly informative and entertaining. --Wes Lukowsky

Product details

  • Item Weight : 1.04 pounds
  • Hardcover : 320 pages
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0802119391
  • ISBN-10 : 0802119395
  • Product Dimensions : 6.25 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Publisher : Atlantic Monthly Press; 1st Edition (April 6, 2010)
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 108 ratings