Early Reading Material about Sports Cards

By Ed Kobak

It is good to be back with SCD. I’m not referring to being a writer, which is great, but as a SCD subscriber. After nearly two years away due to travels in Asia, I re-subscribed to SCD last May.

A lot has changed with SCD since I last was a subscriber back in 2009. Since that time, SCD has gone to being a bi-weekly publication instead of a weekly, which I actually like better, as there is more content in the pages of SCD when it hits my mailbox, as I just missed too many issues of SCD with my travels when it was a weekly.

As with the declining newspaper industry, losing readers to the Internet through online news sites, sports hobby publications over recent years have been hit hard, not only losing readers and advertisers to online auctions sites, but worse – simply seeing their printing presses go silent into the night.

Every facet of our great hobby has had to adjust to the Internet, from sports hobby publications still alive today, to the national convention, local sports collecting shows, hobby dealers and sports card shops, card manufacturers and suppliers, as well as the everyday collector. Everyone has changed with the times. You had to, or you were gone.

In as much as the sports collecting hobby has changed over the years, so has SCD over that time, unlike most other publications of this era that have long since ceased publication. Gone are the days of monthly sports hobby publications of the past decades. All of this leads me to one important topic – the sports hobby papers of the past and how they brought us to where we are today.

Taking a nostalgic look into our hobby’s past years and in particular, into our hobby’s sports collecting publication’s of the past, it was a great era in time.

I first began sports collecting in 1965, long, long before the advent of the Internet, when the only link to other collectors was either trading with your buddy down the street, through the mail with other collectors and hobby dealers (who were usually everyday collectors themselves), as well as reading sports collecting news through the sports hobby publications of the day.

Following my college days in the late 1970s, I was lucky enough to experience my first sports card show at the “eastern national” convention outside of Philadelphia. I later visited early sports card shows in St. Louis and Detroit, visiting with the pioneers of the hobby (who then were just your collector friends but had a little head start on you in years), such as Frank Nagy, Bill Gradzewicz, Bob Jaspersen and others whom I had only known through the mail, all due to my link to the sports collecting world through those very sports hobby publications.

I know exactly when my interest was piqued with collecting baseball cards back then – when I saw my friend Jimmy thumbing through a shoebox of his cards in his parent’s driveway that summer – but I can not recall how it came about to read my first sports hobby publication, The Sports Hobbyist. I don’t know if it was from maybe seeing their ad in The Sporting News or maybe an issue of Boy’s Life, but however I was led to them, it changed my life forever.

I do remember my first issue of The Sports Hobbyist in 1965 came with several baseball tobacco cards simply for being a new subscriber. I was hooked.

These early sports hobby publications and the collectors who were their publishers and editors, along with their subscribers, were the ones who formed our hobby from the early stages to what it is today. They were the early pioneers of our hobby. Being a subscriber to The Sports Hobbyist led me to these pioneers on a more personal level, through buying and trading with them.

Long before I read my first issue of The Sports Hobbyist, hobby pioneer Jefferson Burdick had published Card Collector’s Bulletin (CCB), which began in the 1930s. CCB was the first hobby publication. CCB was later edited by Charles Bray in the late 1940s and continued through the 1960s. Later, in 1958, Gordon B. Taylor began publishing Card Comments. Finding old issues of these early sports hobby papers are extremely rare and will set you back a few pennies. The wealth of information in these publications from hobby pioneers Burdick, Bray, Lionel Carter, Bob Solon and others is a step back in time to the beginnings of our hobby.

The Ball Card Collector was another paper in the early years, same for Sports Collector’s Journal, which traces its roots back to 1968.

The Sports Hobbyist
The Sports Hobbyist (TSH) began its first issue in May 1956 with subscription rates being $1 for the year for the bi-monthly publication. Charles Brooks of Detroit was one of its first publishers and editors, later being published by L.A. Isenberg of Dorsey, Ill., who also ran a sports mimeograph service. In 1962, Frank Nagy of Detroit took over running TSH. Some of the early contributors to TSH were longtime Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell, who wrote a column on baseball guides and books. Longtime collector Lionel Carter, Charles “Buck” Barker, Preston D. Orem, Frank Nagy, Bob Thing, Mike Anderson, John Sullivan, Gene Angeley, Bill White and Julian White were early contributors, along with autograph guru, Jeffrey Morey, who wrote a shared article with Barker and two others on Philadelphia All-Time All-Stars (and K.C., too). I loved the column called My Hobby Collection, which shared the thoughts a collector when he began collecting in 1933!

Some of the early articles featured the All American Football Conference (AAFC) by Gene Angeley, the phantom Continental League of Baseball that was to begin in 1960 with teams in New York, Toronto, Buffalo, Denver and other cities without major league teams. Other article subjects were on The Ramblings on Cartophily, a wonderful article by Carter on the Delong cards, Barker’s article on Honus & Tobacco, Early History of Cigarette Cards by Mr. Orem, wonderful articles and checklists of Salada-Junket coins, Tarzan Bread, Glendale Meats by Frank Nagy along with Nagy’s monthly auctions, which is how I came to know Frank.

The classifieds were wonderful snippets of collectors and their card collections. Early advertisers were Wirt Gammon, James Elder, George Husby, Steve Vanco, along with Nagy, Morey, Barker, Harwell selling his early Reach and Spalding guides and early World Series and All-Star programs, and Charles Brooks selling The Card Collector’s Catalog and Dormand postcards for 10 cents each. You could also find the ADCO Sports Book Exchange in Los Angeles, run by the late Goodie Goldfaden, along with others over the years. It was literally a Who’s Who of the early pioneers of our hobby selling some amazing card sets and sports memorabilia. It was the place to pick up a complete set of 1948 Bowmans for $8, a set of 1951 Topps Blue and Red series for $12 or a set of 1952 Red Man for $10! It’s where you could buy 50 different sports matchcovers from baseball, football and hockey for only $6, all offered in the classifieds with so much more!

The News Mart section of TSH was another favorite section I always read. Where else could you learn that Bob Jaspersen was starting up his sports hobby publication, Sport Fan? Where else could you find information on joining The Association of Sports Collectors, or Charles Brook and Bob Jaspersen’s question to readers on whether anyone was interested in attending a convention for sports collectors, which later evolved into the early Detroit card shows. Frank Powell was inquiring whether collectors would pay $50 per week “to enjoy your hobby at a retreat just for hobbyists.” He envisioned a year-round retreat for all hobbies. I wonder how that went over with collector’s wives?

It was also where I read that on July 21, 1960, (I collected back issues of these papers) there was a Sports Collectors Day held in St Louis with collectors attending the Cards-Phillies game that day with a dinner in the evening at Stan Musial’s Restaurant.
These were the early formative days of our hobby, and I was reading and living it through the pages of TSH, which I believe had its final edition in 1971, at least that is the final copy that I have in my collection.

One of my favorites about TSH was its cover page chocked with black-and-white photos of Bob Pettit, Bill Skowron, Yogi Berra, Early Wynn and others, along with wonderful photos of cards from the Hassan Triple Folders, Glendale Meats and Tarzan Bread sets that adorned the front cover.

The Trader Speaks
I was also a subscriber to Bob Jaspersen’s Sport Fan, which if I recall, was a wonderful bi-monthly paper devoid of photos but with a wealth of collecting information and articles, all from another great pioneer of our hobby.

In 1968, Dan Dischley put Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y., on sports collector’s maps with The Trader Speaks (TTS). TTS was a serious monthly publication for the advanced collector. Now, I was not anything close to being an advanced or veteran collector by the time I subscribed to TTS in the early 1970s, when I was biding my time between junior and senior high school, earning just enough dollars from shoveling neighbors walkways and drives in the winter and mowing lawns in the summer to support my collecting habit.

TTS was a wonderful hobby paper with articles by Bill Haber on the Seattle Popcorn sets, articles and cover photos of cards from the 1910 Tip Top Bread set. The T-222 Fatima cigarette cards were featured on another cover and article in the August 1979 issue. A cover photo and article on Old Judge cigarette cards was in an early 1980 issue. So many of the old and rare card sets were covered in TTS, the closest I would ever come to these cards. Articles by Neil Sussman, Colin Sinclair, Lew Lipset, Jack Smalling and other great collectors/writers of the time graced the pages of TTS.
Dan Dischley was a police officer by day who ran TTS from the beginning until he sold it in 1983 to Krause Publications, the parent company of SCD at the time. The last issue of TTS was in March 1984.

Sports Scoop, SCD
The 1970s-80s was a wonderful era for sports hobby papers. The early-to-mid-1970s saw two other great papers crank out monthly editions. Sports Scoop popped up from the Pacific Northwest. John Stommen put Milan, Mich., on the map when he started printing SCD, years before Krause Publications bought out the Stommen family.
Sports Scoop began a 20-issue lifespan in 1973 until its demise with its final edition in October 1974, when Earl Averill was featured on the front cover with the words “1975 Hall of Fame?”

Jeff Morey found his way from The Sport Hobbyist to the pages of Sports Scoop with his column on autographs. Other writers and contributors were Mike Aronstein (co-founder of TCMA Cards), Don Steinbach, Patrick Quinn, Larry Fritsch, Charles Buck Barker, George Husby, George Brace, pubs specialist Allen (Murf) Denny with his column on football guides and checklists, Frank Caruso with his column Coast News and articles on early PCL sets and Sonics Shur Fresh Bread cards and Lloyd Toerpe with The Auction Game.

Other regular writers were Victor Luhrs, Steve Mitchell and Ron Greenwood, as well as Keith Olbermann with his column News from New York, which was penned long before his days with ESPN and MSNBC. I actually bought some cards from Keith back in the ’70s when he lived in Hastings-on-the-Hudson.

Lew Lipset once referred to Sports Scoop as “arguably the hobby’s best early magazine,” and he was right. Wonderful photos of Babe Ruth, Averill and other immortals graced the front cover of each issue, with a wealth of collector information on the inside pages.

Collector’s Quarterly & others
Following the demise of Sports Scoop in 1974, Collector’s Quarterly made its entrance with its premier issue in the winter of 1975, taking along some people from Sports Scoop. Aronstein of TCMA fame was the publisher, Olbermann was the editor, cartoonist Robert Laughlin of Fleer and Laughlin card fame was the art director. The premier issue included 18 cards from the SSPC set. Writers included Bill Madden, Ted Taylor, Bert Randolph Sugar, autograph guru Jeffrey Morey, George Lyons and Ron Greenwood, among others.

One issue featured a cover story on “The Uniform Scandal, Probably the Greatest Rip-off in Hobby History.” Were the counterfeit Pete Rose rookie card and Star Card Co. scandals not making news then? Maybe card counterfeiting came along later. Collector’s Quarterly was around for a cup of coffee in 1975 and 1976, but I’m not sure if it lasted beyond that.

In 1975, Sports Collector’s News, produced in Deer Park, Wis., made its mark, albeit, short-lived. In 1976, the National Sports Collector out of Maryland came out with its first issue. The second issue was delayed (not sure if it was ever published), then a third issue was printed. And then it was gone.

There were others.

Toward the end of the 1970s-80s, SCD, along with The Trader Speaks, were the main hobby publications of the day.

There were others in the 1970s, but there were more into specialized hobby interests, such as The Hockey Forum out of Sherbrooke, Quebec, run by Andrew Pywowczyk of Cartophilium, a major hockey dealer during its heyday. Cartophilium also published the Hockey Checklist Guide; both were nice publications that were limited to one year.
The 1980s saw the likes of Baseball Card News, as well as Baseball Hobby News by Frank and Vivian Barning in San Diego that began a 12-year run in 1982. Short-run hobby publications such as Baseball Hobby Card Report in 1982, with Dale Murphy of the Braves on one of its covers, and Sports Collecting Confidential in 1985 and 1986, also appeared during this time.

There were also specialty collector-oriented papers such as The Soccer Collector; Sked Collectors Monthly; Uniformity, run by uniform collector Dave Miedema; Boxing Collectors News; and The Olympin Collector (based on Olympic pin collecting); along with England’s Football Programme Monthly and The Autograph Collector’s Magazine, which began in 1986.

Jeffrey Morey’s The Autograph Review has been long running. Lew Lipset published Old Judge. Most were more like newsletters but were fun to read. A couple of these are still around today!

Collecting in the late 1980s, 1990s
Tuff Stuff magazine out of Richmond, Va., joined the ranks (another Krause acquisition later on) as we head into the later 1980s and 1990s. Sports Card Trader came around in 1990 for a short run.

Around the early 1990s came Alan Kaye’s Sports Card News & Price Guides that included free cards on Nolan Ryan, Hank Aaron, Jerry Rice, Sergei Federov, Trevor Linden, Alonzo Mourning and others, designed to entice subscribers as this was the era of the promo card rage.

Another great publication of its time was Baseball Cards Magazine, which began sometime in the early 1990s. This was a wonderful hobby magazine full of great articles from great writers on cards, player interviews and hobby information with fantastic price guides in most issues. The article on the Topps vs. Fleer battle was one of my favorites.
The Beckett publications, with their monthly magazine/price guides for baseball, basketball, football and hockey, were a major sports hobby player. They made their impact on collectors from the early 1990s through today.

In March 1995, along came Vintage & Classic Baseball Collector, “The Magazine for the Serious Collector of Baseball Items,” with vintage collector/writers Lew Lipset, Barry Sloate, Judson Hamlin, Mark Rucker and Mark Macrae offering wonderful photos and articles on Obaks, Cabinets and 19th-century tobacco cards and baseball in general. Vintage & Classic Baseball Collector ended a run of 38 issues in June 2004. For me, that magazine was like a later version of The Trader Speaks with its veteran collector/writers. This was a great opportunity for younger and less advanced collectors to get a whiff of the early years of baseball and its cards.

Following Baseball Collector, along came another vintage publication named Old Cardboard, “Your Information Source for Vintage Baseball Cards,” with its inaugural issue in the fall of 2004, ending its 22-issue run in the spring of 2010. The editor was Lyman Hardeman. Several of the same writers that were in VCBC, such as Mark Macrae, John Esch and George Vrechek wrote for Old Cardboard.

One publication north of the border that began in the late 1990s was Canadian Sportscard Collector based out of St. Catharines, Ontario, later shortening the name to Canadian Sports Collector, which was run by Morris Media, the publishers of The Charlton Hockey Guide. CSC, which was a monthly, was a fabulous sports hobby publication that rivaled any hobby paper in the states with its content, quality writers, beautiful glossy color cover photos and great checklists on hockey and CFL cards, along with a quarterly supplement that included a great non-sport card price guide.
CSC ceased publication in the mid-2000s, never really losing the stigmatism of a Canadian hockey hobby paper. This was an amazing hobby paper that many American collectors never knew was in existence. I was sad to see them, go as it gave me a Canadiana aspect to the hobby.

Since the demise of CSC, Canada has two new sports hobby magazines with The Insider’s Edge from Hobby Insider, which covers all aspects of the sports card world and even has news from the non-sports card sector. Their other national publication is The Want List, Canada’s sports memorabilia magazine that focuses on the rabid hockey craze. Both were in production this past winter.

On the foreign front, the current notable is Card Collector’s News, published by the London Cigarette Card Co., which used to print under the long title of The Cigarette Card News & Trade Card Chronicle. It has been published monthly since 1933. Another long-running English collecting paper has been Cartophilic Notes & News, put out by the Cartophilic Society of Great Britain.

Another English publication was Card Times. A recent review of the publication’s website doesn’t show updates since 2005. The Cartophilic Society of New Zealand publishes its quarterly Card Lines to all members and covers a wide range of card collecting.

A few specialty collecting papers and magazines still exist today. The Journal of Sport Philately averages 36 pages an issue and has been long-running. The Rathkamp Matchcover Society still issues its paper to members.

On the non-sport side of card collecting are the still-active Non Sport Update Magazine and Les Davis’ The Wrapper, as well as Paper Collector’s Marketplace which covers all sorts of ephemera. There are a couple others still hanging around.

All of this brings us back to SCD, which is still very active and has been around since the 1974. With the mainstream sports collecting hobby turning to the Internet nowadays, there are many of us that still are sort of old school and enjoy receiving our sports hobby news via print form that arrives in our mailboxes.

Final notes
Another great way to relive our rich history of sports memorabilia collecting is to collect old copies of regional and national sports collector convention programs. A wealth of information on card pricing and collectors can be found in these programs. Old dealer catalogs from Bruce Yeko’s Wholesale Card Co. and the Card Collector’s Co. out of Franklin, N.Y., are still floating around and pop up once in a while. It is fun to see the card prices from these early catalogs and convention programs.

Many old sports collecting magazines, especially early issues of SCD and The Trader Speaks, with a smattering of Sports Scoop, can be found in online auctions with listing prices in the $5-$15 range per issue.

Another fun collectible is the old sports collectors almanacs and price guides that listed directories of collectors, along with dealer and collector ads.

John Stommen of the original SCD fame came out with The Sports Collector’s Yearbook by Stommen and Dan Even. I have copies from 1980 and 1981, but I’m not sure how many years these were issued.

In 1967, the Directory of Sports Collectors was issued by JFC Publishing – a wealth of information on old collectors. Irv Lerner’s Who’s Who in Card Collecting, which began in 1970, is also loaded with early collector data. The Sports Collector’s Bible by Bert Randolph Sugar is another great book. I still have my 1975 first edition. The later Beckett guides are chock full of hobby information from the 1980s.

You can find these, along with back copies of sports hobby magazines from decades past, on the Internet and through collectors and dealers who have a dusty stack somewhere on their shelves in the back room. Check with older card shops that you frequent.

Researching the past history and the pioneers of our great hobby is a wonderful way to keep the future of sports collecting alive and healthy today.

Ed Kobak is a long-time sports memorabilia collector, sports reference book author, publisher and distributor. He also is a freelance adventure travel and sports writer. He may be reached at ekobak@yahoo.com, as well as through his website, www.sportsbooksempire.com.

3 thoughts on “Early Reading Material about Sports Cards

  1. Ken Moore on said:

    Wow, Wonderful article! Brings back so many memories through the years! Thank you very much Ed!

  2. Patrick McMenemy on said:

    Rumors of Old Cardboard’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

  3. With some slight error correction and a little expansion (all of Beckett media and Baseball Card Magazine summed up in about 6 sentences?), this would be a great essay on the history of the hobby media.

Leave a Reply