I grew up collecting trading cards like everyone else in my small town. Buddies and I would trade cards, open packs in search of that rare rookie card, and ride our bikes to the local card shop. It was a fun, cheap, and safe hobby that we enjoyed (and our parents approved).
While Beckett and other companies were wise to go digital, there was something about having a physical guide in your hands that made what I was doing feel valuable. Hell, there may not have been a buyer within a 500-mile radius of where I lived, but if that guide said a card had value, that's all that I cared about.
While I still have some cards that are worth some money, they feel like an heirloom to me: something that almost needs to be passed down.
Today, we explore books focused on sports cards. I'll leave the guides out of the discussion and shift the focus more to books that can either add value to your collecting strategy or entertain you (or both).
10 Books on Sports Cards Worth Reading
1. The Card by Michael O'Keefe and Teri Thompson
Published in 2007, this book investigates the mysterious 1909 Honus Wagner T206 baseball card, considered the most valuable and famous sports card in history. Only a few dozen copies of the Wagner card were ever produced, making it exceptionally rare. One copy sold for $2.8 million in 2007. The book explores the origins and scarcity of the Wagner card, including theories that Wagner refused permission to print the cards bearing his name.
2. Cardboard Profit by Ryan Sever
Sever himself has a card collection worth six figures, and he shares his strategies in this new book. I'm one of those guys that doesn't like to take advice from people that haven't actually done what they're talking about. Case in point why I like this book. Sever covers it all, from how the trading card market works to how to think about your cards as both short and long term investments.
3. The T206 Collection by Tom and Ellen Zappala
For those that love baseball history, this is an awesome book. Featuring stories about players such as Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Tris Speaker, the book is really cool way to look back on the 1909-11 T206 baseball card issue.
4. Confessions of a Baseball Card Addict by Tanner Jones
This is a book for collectors, plain and simple. Not only did Tanner acquire 10 million cards, he managed to both sell his collection for a profit and also spend time at Jose Canseco's house eating cupcakes. He even ends up creating his own cards.
5. Got'Em, Got'Em, Need'Em by Jon Waldman and Stephen Laroche
292 pages of the experts debating the top 100 sports cards of all time. Covering baseball, basketball, football, hockey, boxing, and golf, the authors go into great detail about each player mentioned and also touch on some of the miscues by trading card companies.
6. Mint Condition by Dave Jamieson
Jamieson's parents sell his boyhood home, and he rediscovers his card collection. A tremendous writer, Jamieson then traces back the history of baseball cards that were first used for advertising and then pivoted into collector's items found inside of cigarette packs. A great read for baseball fans and card collectors alike.
7. Card Sharks by Pete Williams
This is the amazing story of Upper Deck. Trading cards were invented in the 1880's, but they were purely a hobby for a long time. Williams, who was a US Today Baseball columnist in 1995 when he wrote this, did his homework and dives into the often shady world of card trading.
8. House of Cards by John Bloom
Bloom tells a fascinating story of baseball card collecting in the Midwest during the 1980's and 1990's. Bloom, a history professor at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, has written 5 other books on sports, including biographies on Barry Bonds and Howard Cosell.
9. The Wax Pack by Brad Balukjian
I love the concept of this book. Balukjian took a single pack of baseball cards from 1986 and then set out to find all of the former players (he even chewed the 30+ year old gum in the pack). Balukjian's quest takes him to 30 states in 48 days, and like other stories, discovers quite a bit about himself in the process.
10. The Bubble Gum Card War by Dean Hanley
Bowman and Topps were the brands when it came to baseball cards from 1948 to 1955. Hanley pens a tremendous history book about how the business battle resulted in tremendous enthusiasm for cards themselves (by 1960, 89% of American boys were baseball card collectors).
I hope you enjoyed this list! For a related article, check out the history of Donruss.
Please explore the site for more sports articles and book recommendations.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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