Baseball Memorabilia

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Baseball memorabilia has been around almost as long as the game itself, which Abner Doubleday is credited with inventing in 1839, though this has been contested by quite a number of scholars. Back then, there was no formal trading card industry, though years later fans would begin to collect photos of their favorite players, mostly from magazine publishers who advertised their sale in their periodicals. Even then, it wasn't until the 1950s that the hobby truly took off.

The very nature of baseball memorabilia collecting was radically different than it is today. Baseball cards were thought of more as frivolous playthings than historical documents and often found their way into the dirt bike spokes of kids looking to amp up their intimidation factors by simulating the growl of motorcycles. Had cards been thought of as anything more, scores and scores of exasperated mothers wouldn't have tossed them out in the name of "cleaning house."

The Other Value of Baseball Memorabilia

Today, few people fail to realize the huge commercial value of rare collectibles and memorabilia, but there's an entirely different sort of value connected with these items. Baseball memorabilia is in fact history itself, documents that tie us to a simpler time when heroes were held to a higher standard and their off-field reputations went more or less unnoticed. Today, there are few paragons of the ideals upheld by players like Sandy Koufax, Curt Flood, and Jackie Robinson. Instead, contemporary players are known for their endorsement deals, unconventional or even criminal behavior, and any number of scandals.

True collectors turn to baseball memorabilia for reassurance about the traits and attitudes we look for in American sporting life, things such as grace and graciousness, modesty, and excellence. It's easy to see how plaques commemorating the 1969 "Miracle" Mets or 1976 Reds affirm our deepest hopes in sports' ability to surprise, transform, and redeem. So long as we do that, the hobby of collecting will continue to pay emotional (if not financial) dividends.

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