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Army barracks in 1911 with T206 White Border cards ...

Here's one that will probably sound unbelievable for younger collectors who can’t imagine what it was like in the old days of the hobby before the convergence of collecting/investing seemed to give it an aura of respectability.


The various Veterans Day ceremonies yesterday prompted me to dig out the photo you see shown here of a 1911 barracks. It’s a wonderful photo for a number of reasons, not the least of which from a hobbyist’s perspective, would include the T206 White Border cards that are displayed on the bulletin board bottom and sides along the back wall.

Baseball cards in a military barracks! Who knew such a thing was possible? Fast forward 58 years to a Navy barracks in the Philippines where I had to grease a fellow sailor to get him to buy me three or four packs of 1969 Topps at the Base Exchange. I wanted to get a look at the new issue and I was too embarrassed to buy them myself.

So how come these salty-looking GI’s got to have T206’s posted on their wall and I had to slink about Subic Bay Naval Base trying to surreptitiously purchase 40 cents-worth of Topps cards? The short answer is, I think, that the T206’s came from cigarette packs, while the Topps cards were quite fairly linked to childhood and bubble gum.

In the photo, which I realize is reproduced here essentially too small to make out the T206 cards or even much detail of the cool postcards and advertising pieces nearby, there are lots of other neat details to ponder even aside from baseball cards. Like the antique light over the table itself, or maybe the leather pockets on the corners. I even got a kick out of the “pill” bottle sitting atop the wooden rack on the wall on the right. I don’t know how much “Pill Pool” is played anymore, but I played a bunch of it in the 1960s in New York poolrooms that could have been used as locations for 1940s gangster movies.

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