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How did Mr. Howell get that Wagner slabbed?

A fellow posed the question the other day on one of those Network 54 forum threads asking what percentage of their net worth was tied up in baseball cards or memorabilia, and as you might have imagined, just offering the question prompted a lot of interesting stuff.

It was not so much that the responses were terribly illuminating, since a majority probably declined to provide such a potentially significant personal financial revelation, but that raising the question about investment vs. collecting can be fascinating.

I still contend that part of the emphasis can be traced back to the 1970s, which, with current economic strangulation aside, was arguably the lamest decade I can remember in terms of the national economy.

When our hobby took off back then in the mid-1970s, there was still enough of a residual sense that baseball cards were something pursued by arrested adolescents, and the principal way that we countered that thinly veiled charge of immaturity was to say, “Hey, look at how much money these things are worth!”

The implication was that collectors were savvy investors rather adults still clinging to a childish pastime. I have little but instinctive or anecdotal evidence to back this up, but I would contend we have perpetrated a grand charade for about 35 years that was designed to protect that initial subterfuge.

Clearly there have been thousands of genuine investors who have entered the hobby over that span, but my perhaps naive view is that the first wave was really just guys who liked baseball cards adopting what seemed like a tolerable excuse for doing so past the age of puberty.

But the real reason I wanted to run this particular blog was so I could use the cool picture of Thurston Howell III that was nestled comfortably in one of those Network 54 threads.


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