If old-timers like Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette had some inkling about the baseball card business in the 1950s, it was probably predicated on the idea that this was a diversion for children without a great deal of gravatas beyond that. Remember, in the 1950s, the Topps baseball card was in the process of becoming an American cultural institution and a rite of passage for several generations of young boys, but it wasn’t there yet.
Teammates Spahn and Burdette approached the annual photo shoot with the Topps photographer with enough whimsy for the antics mentioned previously, which may have been a reflection of the overall import of the moment. Players received a welcome but hardly princely sum of $125 annually for appearing on a Topps baseball card, or could opt instead to pick out some swell prizes from the Topps gift catalog.
Contrast that to today when the now New York City-based Topps rolls out an initial public offering (IPO) of an eTopps card of pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg.
His first eTopps Major League card was limited to just 1,999 at a price of $8 each. I am hardly an expert in this kind of thing, but presumably that figure will be gobbled up long before the alleged deadline of June 20. I assume the 1,999 cards are already accounted for as I write this.
Ah, it’s a serious business now. The initial Strasburg rookie card that was made available through Topps’ Million Card Giveaway redemption program the night of his debut was a mainstream media sensation, only days after his Bowman Chrome SuperFractor sold for more than $16,000. The company is also selling autographed Strasburg memorabilia on its website and released a minor league card of Strasburg in its eTopps line, featuring him in a Harrisburg Senators uniform.
I would typically be shaking my head in amazement at such data, but now I just applaud the fact that the hobby is getting such widespread positive attention.