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Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  336 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
When award-winning journalist Dave Jamieson’s parents sold his childhood home a few years ago, he rediscovered a prized boyhood possession: his baseball card collection. Now was the time to cash in on the “investments” of his youth. But all the card shops had closed, and cards were selling for next to nothing online. What had happened? In Mint Condition, his fascinating, e ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published 2010)
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Community Reviews

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May 19, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it
An enjoyable yet sad tracing of the history of cardboard nostalgia collecting. My only peeve is that the description of the very early days of collecting - 1870s-1930s - is much stronger than the latter day explanations. Having lived through the booms and busts of the hobby, one I still love, this book provides a better context as to the current state of the hobby and how it has fallen on such hard times. It illuminates all of the key contradictions: The Beckett Guide which is supposed to track ...more
May 19, 2016 bamlinden rated it really liked it
Being a sportscard fan for most of my life, I'm surprised I haven't read more about the hobby I enjoy. When a friend suggested this book and dropped off a copy for me to borrow, I thought I'd give it a shot.

It only took two years before I finally put it at the top of my queue.

I'm kicking myself for not reading it earlier. It's a great book. The overall arc of baseball card history is nicely divided up into stories that define the eras. Be it the initial diehard collectors like Michael Gidwitz
David Ward
Jan 19, 2016 David Ward rated it liked it
Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession by Dave Jamieson (Atlantic Monthly Press 2010) (796.357075). This is the exhaustively researched story of the collectible trading card in America. The main thing I learned is that the bottom has fallen out of the market for baseball cards a la Tulipmania in Holland and that cards from the 1980's forward are essentially without value. Who knew? The author cites two principal reasons for the demise of the hobby: (1) the business of co ...more
John Gorman
Aug 31, 2014 John Gorman rated it really liked it
Shelves: baseball, memorabilia
This is a must read for anybody who had once been or who still is a baseball card nut. Jamieson covers a large swath of collectible history, when boys haggled their fathers into using certain kinds of tobacco so they could reap the cardboard rewards. The book chronicles the history of collecting, albeit through collectors, but also the card-producing companies involved. It's fascinating to see how hungry Topps had become in cornering the market and how they went out of their way to gobble up eve ...more
Sep 13, 2010 Ryan rated it really liked it
This is the book that I've been wanting to write - so much for the various articles I've stored in my "baseball card" file. Jamieson catalogs the history of the trading card industry, covering everything from tobacco cards to the formation of Topps to the strange world of collectors - including card art and Wacky Packs. Truly a well-researched and informed look at the history of the industry.

Jamieson also captures the heart and soul of the collector: the pursuit of the missing card, the mystiqu
Feb 20, 2012 Jeremy rated it really liked it
I'm not giving this book 4 stars because I, like so many people who have read this book, happen to have thousands of cards (which we now know to be worth less than we thought they were!) stashed in a basement. The book deserves a good review not only for purposes of nostalgia, but because it is a solid history of a subculture that has attracted a few books, but none yet that take a macro view of the hobby, from its 19th century beginnings to now. The book aims to be the definitive take on baseba ...more
Mark Deegan
Jan 30, 2016 Mark Deegan added it
Shelves: sports
A very entertaining journey through the evolution of card collecting, specifically baseball cards. The book follows the hobby from its early days of association with cigarettes and other products to the touchstone moment when Topps tied trading cards to bubble gum to the inevitability of cards sold on their own merit sans gum. In the middle he chronicles the Junk Wax Era when Topps and it's upstart rivals grossly overproduced their products due to the marked increase in value of older cards (Top ...more
Joe Healy
Aug 13, 2015 Joe Healy rated it really liked it
First, I feel that it's important that I disclose that I'm singularly the target audience for this book.

I was born to parents who hoarded late-80s and early-90s baseball cards in hopes of one day using them to pay for my college education. I was an avid reader of Beckett and collector of my own cards in the mid-to-late 90s as a pre-teen. Then, in the mid-to-late 00s, I went through another collecting phase right at the height of the card companies' push to include bigger, rarer, and more outlan
Jan 01, 2011 Pierre rated it really liked it
I learned a lot about the origins of baseball cards and what fueled their growth and led to their downfall over the past 130 years or so. Author Dave Jamieson clearly went to great lengths to research and interview the key events and people that made up this unique American phenomenon (it captured me in the late '80's to mid-90's) known as baseball card collecting. The only piece that I felt was missing was how much other sports have recently grown in popularity (partially to the detriment of ba ...more
Phil Simon
Apr 03, 2012 Phil Simon rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
Jamieson is an excellent writer, certainly better than I was at his age. Yet, as the other reviewer pointed out, his first book is missing something. It appears as if Jamieson focused the story around those who would give him the most interview time, like the guys at the end who graded cards. While interesting, the same space should have been used to describe the halcyon age of baseball cards: the mid-1980s. Insufficient detail is provided to the explosion of the market with nary a mention of Sp ...more
May 06, 2010 spencer rated it really liked it
Piles of baseball cards sit inside my parents' coat closet. They will make a nice source of fuel when the apocalypse comes, but besides that, not a lot else. Yet when I read Mint Condition I got so nostalgic at times that I wanted to call up my parents and have them ship my cards out so I could look at them again. Yet the book goes a lot farther into baseball cards than just the bust-and-boom of the 1990s. In the tradition of books that elevate an inanimate object into something that changed the ...more
Chris Theule-vandam
Feb 16, 2015 Chris Theule-vandam rated it it was amazing
Did you ever collect baseball cards? This is a book for you.

Side note - I sold 3 or my 8 1980 Rickey Henderson Rookie cards in 1991 to fund my college spring break trip!
Pete Lares
May 22, 2015 Pete Lares rated it really liked it
A fun read that brought me back to the late 70s and early 80s when I collected baseball cards. I knew very little about the early history of baseball cards until I read this book. I have a bunch of cards in 3 ring binders with poly sheets, some boxes and some hard cases for what were my very favorite cards. I never collected for the value of the cards; it was all about my favorite players and teams.
Christopher J.j.
Feb 16, 2015 Christopher J.j. rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Good but sad. Sad that we all were duped into thinking baseball cards would be worth something. An interesting read for those who collect, but be read to be sad.
Jul 23, 2010 Lew rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports, books-owned
I was in my late thirties when I got back into card collecting and it was the same time David Jamieson as a kid started collecting baseball cards. David's book is a fascinating look at the history of Baseball cards and how card collecting reached it peak in the late 80s and crashed after the 91 strike. I especially enjoyed his alternating chapters where he focused on one collector or contributor to the hobby/industry of baseball cards. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who has colle ...more
Paul Schulzetenberg
Apr 25, 2012 Paul Schulzetenberg rated it liked it
Eminently readable, and a good history. The chronicle of baseball cards is matched by good analysis of the industry, particularly rich when it reaches the mid-20th century.

The baseball card industry has become rather soulless, with chase inserts as the norm, and with progressively graying collectors age and fail to be replaced with fresh blood. The book outlines a lot of the process that’s led up to it.

Sure, Baseball cards are rather trivial in nature and appeal, but it’s a bona fide industry, w
Paul Hilton
Jan 16, 2014 Paul Hilton rated it liked it
Great read if you wonder why that collection in your closet only held its sentimental value.

Dave does a great job of detailing the rise and fall of card collecting while relating his own experiences. Spoiler Alert: Baseball got greedy, big surprise.
Kai Palchikoff
Nov 16, 2014 Kai Palchikoff rated it liked it
Atlantic Monthly Press
Nov 28, 2010 Jeffrey rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
A great nostalgia read for kids who collected cards growing up (like me) as well as an insightful business look into why the baseball card market went from an underground niche to a mainstream investment craze then crashed. The author relies on the stories of individual players in the history of cards and their sometimes outrageous personalities to keep things interesting, and overall the tactic works very well. However, a little more hard facts and figures might also have helped to round out th ...more
Tom Thims
Mar 20, 2015 Tom Thims rated it it was amazing
must read for any baseball fan or card collector
May 07, 2012 Hollis rated it really liked it

Really an interesting read on the booms and busts of baseball card collecting. As a kid growing up with cards in the 80s and then leaving the hobby behind during, high school, college and beyond, I was amazed to see how much the industry has changed. Since my time, it has been totally turned upside down. Reading Jamison's book taught me how it got there and the many pitfalls of a highly speculative industry.
Feb 22, 2013 Kevin rated it really liked it
Great book about the history of baseball cards. The author is a 30 something who was faced with the decision about what to do with all his old baseball cards (something I had to do this Summer). When he realized that they were worthless, it lead him to investigate how the baseball card boom in the 80's/early 90's came about. It's very interesting and well written.

Aug 09, 2010 David rated it really liked it
For baseball fans only, Mint Condition is amusing, informative, and fun. Jamieson covers the history of premium cards of every sort from the nineteenth century to the present and pays special attention to the speculative rise (and subsequent nose dive) of prices.

His view? Collect cards for pleasure, not for profit.
Sean Asbury
Dec 25, 2012 Sean Asbury rated it it was amazing
Shelves: baseball
I expected an entertaining read but I didn't expect a book that would change the way that I feel about my childhood hobby and the boxes upon boxes of cards that I have in my basement. I feel like my eyes have been opened and I can clear them all out of my basement.
May 11, 2012 Dganstine rated it liked it
I liked the historical account of the rise of baseball cards but was less enthused by the accounts of contemporary collectors. The battle for the market for cigarettes and the stories of the first cards was really interesting but I was bored by the end.
Jan 15, 2012 Mark rated it it was ok
Not awful. If nothing else ... just sort of boring. I consider myself a moderate cartophile and I can't help but feel I want to learn more. Interesting little profiles on individuals breaks up timeline of development of the hobby. Meh.
Dec 20, 2010 Laura rated it it was amazing
I will admit that I loved this book in part because I adore the author...but even if you like baseball a little, you will like it. An interesting book about baseball cards-that's impressive, no?
Charles M.
Aug 01, 2013 Charles M. rated it liked it
General overall history of baseball card collecting. This book could have been much more interesting with details of the rich history of year by year issues of some rather interesting cards.
Aug 13, 2013 Robert rated it really liked it
All you'd ever want to know about baseball cards - from childhood hobby to the world of contemporary investments: they were and remain just pieces of cardboard.
Quinn Lavender
Apr 28, 2013 Quinn Lavender rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
Wow...that's a lot of information about collecting cards. But it managed to hold my attention.
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