January 04, 2007

Ask Ben a Question (Volume 3)

I don’t know what’s up…maybe it’s global warming, maybe it’s that the holidays just passed and a whole bunch of people discovered their parents were using their old cards as insulation, birdcage lining and however else parents re-purpose their grown children’s priceless/worthless belongings…but in the past few weeks I’ve got an unreal amount of email. I picked a few at random for Ask Ben a Question (Volume 3), so if I didn’t answer your question here, I will answer it soon by email.

Dear Ben,

I loved what you said about the 1982 Fleer set. My question to you though is that because the 1982 set is so bad, wouldn't it mean that it should somehow be higher? Sort of like it's so bad that it's the best? Not that it's the best, but do you ever get the feeling that the 1982 set isn't that bad only because it's so horrible? Maybe I'm just having fond memories of my first cards, but that set was horrendous and yet somehow I think it's a great set!


David, I know what you mean—if only punk rock post-modern hipsters had figured out a way to break into Fleer HQ in the summer of 1981 (22 years before the publication of The Hipster Handbook), got high and masqueraded as the Fleer executives in charge of the 1982 strategy. That’s the only way this set could’ve been more unintentionally funny. But the same could be said about many sets from this time period, like 1981 Donruss, 1979 Topps and 1982 Topps.

Hello baseball card guy.....I've now come to a point in my life to appreciate a guy like you... I have some Leaf Studio ball cards, one is a complete binder (Studio 91) and the others are boxed/shrink wrapped. All are from the early 90's. Of course I am wondering of their value at this time, if any(?)

It's been a while but seems like I paid about thirty bucks or so for each box. I worked for Leaf at the time, which originally was Heath Toffee, and now The Hershey Company. They were supposed to be an "employee special price offer." Any advice you can give me will be very much appreciated indeed!!


Toni, I need more information to help you completely, but here’s what I’ll guess from your email: if it was the early 1990s, then the Leaf boxes could be from one of four years, 1990, 1991, 1992 or 1993. All four years had two series, so that would be a total of eight different boxes to choose from. Leaf Studio premiered in 1991, and offered strong attractive sets in 1992 and 1993 as well. I’m guessing your shrinkwrapped box is not from the 1991 Studio set, as that’s the one you have in the binder. So here’s my final guess on the boxes, complete with somewhat nonsensical Holmes-esque explanation. Drum roll please…

The fact that there was an “employee special price offer” suggests that the boxes are 1991 Leaf boxes (the company trying to spread the love and capitalize on its from-outta-nowhere super success in 1990) and the fact that you say that you paid about $30 each sounds about right for this set. So I’m going with 1991 Leaf.

Unfortunately, both sets don’t really have high monetary value. The 1991 Studio set, though, while we’re on the subject of unintentional comedy, is rife with it. It really makes me happy that you have this set in a binder. I bought this set a few years back for about $12 (around its current value) and immediately put it in a binder. The charcoal gray canvas background, the feathered hair on the white guys and the flat tops on the black and latino guys—the photography is just really funny.

The 1991 Leaf boxes are really not worth anything (if that’s what they are). Leaf let the presses fly on this set (you would know if you worked there during this time), and really that’s the reason it’s so worthless. Well, that and the fact that there are no significant rookies. I’m straying from the question here, but you get the point.

I saw your blog when I was looking for information on my 1983 Topps set of baseball cards I found in my old closet at my parents house over the holidays. The set is complete and all cards are, in my opinion, mint. I have been out of the baseball card collecting since I was a kid (I'm 38 now) and am not familiar with prices. I also have an additional half a set from 1983.

Could you maybe give me a ballpark figure on what this might be worth? I enjoyed your blog and thanks in advance if you can help!

Matt, Indianapolis

Matt, 1983 Topps is a great set (I ranked it #8 in the 1980s). The current Tuff Stuff (you know, I used to subscribe to Tuff Stuff in the early Nineties when each issue, I swear this is true, was over 200 pages…what happened? How does this publication compete with Beckett? They’re owned by Krause, which owns a ton of other hobby publications, though they mostly go head to head with Beckett across the board. I don’t understand how the hobby is big enough for the both of them. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy there’s both of them. In fact, the only reason I buy Tuff Stuff is for the ads. It seems like Beckett has an aversion to small space ads with 5-point text in large blocks. Remember Sports Card Digest? Or Baseball Card Monthly? Those were great, with great ads. That’s really how I learned about the hobby…reading small space ads in now-defunct hobby magazines…anyways…)

The current Tuff Stuff lists 1983 Topps at $75.00 for the full set, though in my humble opinion this seems vastly undervalued. You have rookies of three bona fide Hall of Famers, probably one of only two or three sets where this will be true in the 1980s (1987 and maybe 1989 the other years, further down the road). And in today’s world of having your cards professionally graded (where you send your raw specimen to a faraway laboratory and they give the card a grade based on a number of specifications like ‘centering,’ ‘corners’ and whether or not the card’s got creases or gum stains), $75 is a steal.

As to your half a set, I can’t assign a value mostly because I don’t know which half you have. If you were like a lot of other kids, you collected the set, you ended up with a ton of doubles and then you didn’t know what to do with the doubles. You told yourself you’d trade them, but then you didn’t. So the value depends on the individual cards. If you’re interested in figuring out the individual values, I recommend purchasing a monthly or yearly price guide (like a Beckett or Tuff Stuff, as mentioned above).

Hey Ben,

I collected baseball cards when I was young and I really didn’t put too much stock into them. Now that I've grown up a little bit, I'm more interested in the sport as a whole and I think I'd really love to get into the hobby once again for it's informational value, the aesthetics, and everything else. I was hoping that you would be able to share with me the things I need to know, or should know, before I jump in.

I love the layouts and designs and I love stories and interesting statistics. Any links would be helpful or anything of that nature. Any advice that you have would be immensely helpful. Any tips on starting a collection, links, tricks, any unique things to watch for, great kits or folders, or holders and anything of that nature. Also keep in mind I'm a poor college student and a starving art student at that.

Jason, Pittsburgh

Jason, It’s invigorating, yes? To come across something old that speaks to you in a new way. I really want to give you a full and detailed answer, but it’s getting late and I’ve written a lot about the stuff you’re interested in. So I don’t really want to draw attention to myself (or draw you off the site), but I address a lot of what you’re asking about in the interview I did with Marty Weil’s Ephemera Blog, which can be read by following this link. And, no, my head is not really that big—it’s just an enormous headshot.


Just found your site and I've been staying up hours past bedtime for the past two nights in a row just reading your stuff. It's great. I can't even explain to you how excited I was when you picked the 87 Topps set as the #1 set of the 80's. I know exactly what you're talking about [with] Frank DiPino's lips. What about John Henry Johnson's hair? Or Chris Codiroli? How about Ron Cey walking around like a pissed off penguin in his Cubs uniform?

Anyway, I read the Jay Baller post from this past October....how do I get a baseball card magnet?


Drew, very astute of you on the Ron Cey citation. When people ask me how the hell I chose 1987 Topps over other, more respectable sets from the decade, it always comes back to Frank DiPino’s lips. It’s something that Topps capitalized on that the other card companies never understood: the art of the airbrush, or more specifically, the art of bad airbrushing. It’s a characteristic that instead of alienating in fact made the set more likable, because it was like we as collectors were in on the joke. You know?

As for baseball card magnets, yes, you too can have a baseball card magnet to call your very own! All you have to do is email me and I’ll send you the details.

Well, that’s enough questions for now. If you’ve sent me an email and I didn’t answer it here, I will answer it eventually. Just give me time. And if you have a question, have a look around the site or drop me a line. Again, time for photo credits. The Butera is from Twinscards.com, the Cedeno is from Astroland.net and the DiPino is from The Baseball Card Project. Visit their sites if you have a chance.

1 comment:

Joseph said...

I remember that Studio91 set. It was one of the first sets that I bought. I think I paid like $4 for it and still have it sitting in the closet. Should pull it out and check out the great pictures on them :)