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Cardboard Crack
May 12, 2009 5:39 PM   Subscribe

The Baseball Card Movie is a short documentary set in a baseball card shop frequented by collectors. Showcases the customers' different styles of collecting and the strange ways the card manufactures mange to sell packs for $100+. It's not for kids anymore, but it's not all bad. (Via)
posted by The Devil Tesla (32 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
i feel like a fuck face for not knowing anything about baseball cards other than the stuff that everybody knows.
posted by the aloha at 5:57 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've never been able to enjoy collectible cards outside a TCG context.
posted by LSK at 6:08 PM on May 12, 2009


I find this immensely depressing.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:16 PM on May 12, 2009


I find this immensely depressing.

But they are all so happy! So what if it's for something silly? *goes to play video games*
posted by The Devil Tesla at 6:24 PM on May 12, 2009


Video games are cheaper than trading cards. Sure, most entertainment products are ultimately frivolous—movies, books, video games, music, what have you—but most entertainment products also offer better value for money. For a lot of people who buy manufactured collectibles, the entire pursuit is based around the "box rush," the feeling you get when you open them. That's a ten minute high, sometimes costing hundreds of dollars. When you're done, you have pieces of cardboard that usually get stacked in binders and never looked at again.

A video game costs $20-$30 if you're willing to wait for the price drop, and can deliver dozens of hours of entertainment. A book can be $7-$15 and, likewise, can over many hours of entertainment or edification. Netflix is $13/mo. for the most common subscription and at a rate of two movies per week delivers about sixteen hours of entertainment per month for that price.

Trading cards just seem exploitative to me.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:31 PM on May 12, 2009


You can buy a sealed wax box of something like 1987 Topps (with 36 packs) for about $15-20 on eBay. I picked up a few a couple of years back and handed out packs to my mostly twentysomething co-workers. People were pretty excited about the nostalgia of opening old packs. So while the cards themselves aren't worth that much, the experience is a lot of fun if you grew up on it.

And yes, you're damn right I ate the gum.
posted by dhammond at 6:41 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Every once in a while I go on a trading card kick. I really like the design of some of the cards. The Topps American Heritage set is great, for example, with an appealing theme (American history) and design that apes classic Topps baseball sets.

There's a definite rush of opening packs that's kind of like playing scratch off lottery tickets, and an empty feeling when you don't get one of the special inserts (or the player you're looking for).
posted by MegoSteve at 6:53 PM on May 12, 2009


nice little film, thanks.
posted by ioesf at 6:58 PM on May 12, 2009


Video games are cheaper than trading cards... most entertainment products also offer better value for money

I rather think you've missed the point. Maybe these guys don't like video games or other more cost-effective types of recreation. Maybe they get more endorphin units for that "box rush" than you get from a 100% completion of Grand Theft Auto: Scranton. Even if you're right about it being a colossal waste of money, measuring these things per capita simply doesn't work.

When push comes to shove, these guys are adults making their own decisions, and their chosen hobby is just about as objectively harmless as it can get. Criticize them for blowing their cash on this instead of donating their money to aid Darfur, maybe, but don't tell them they've just chosen the wrong form of entertainment.
posted by Riki tiki at 7:11 PM on May 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is it evil of me to fantasize about being rich and coming into one of these stores, buying the whole stock outright, and then immediately punching holes in the cards to mount them in a chintzy looking binder right in front of the patrons?
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:19 PM on May 12, 2009


I just checked out the Topps website, and a complete set of the basic baseball cards, is only $59. That's not too bad for 600 cards. Reasonable inflation increase from my youth. Although now the packs only have 7 cards... they used to have 15 or 20, I think.

Did you know they make Obama trading cards too?

Those vintage style Topps Allen and Gintner cards actually look pretty tempting. Although it looks they've even crapped them up with slice of bats and junk.
posted by smackfu at 7:22 PM on May 12, 2009


Riki tiki, it's not that I think the card buyers themselves are harmful. They seem like nice people. It's just that this hobby is so artificial and reliant on addiction. I used to play Magic: the Gathering when I was young, and looking back on it I regret every cent. The companies have developed a system by which they can raise the price incrementally every year or so without complaints, and by which they can manipulate their audience into buying more and more cards. Notice how most of the boxes in the store are advertised as having things like "two signatures per box?" Yeah. A box has something like 30 or 60 packs, depending on how they're packaged.

In the "good old days," trading cards didn't have manufactured rarity. They just had cards, randomly selected, which became "valuable" when the player became successful or when there was a severe error on the card. They also cost a dime for fifteen cards. That was an innocent hobby, a fan's pastime. Now, it's easy to spend $250 on one box which might have two "good cards" and hundreds of pieces of crap. If you try to play a trading card game with any seriousness, you have to shell out hundreds of dollars every year to keep up with expansions and the like.

Are there equivalents in video games? Sure, there are micropayment schemes (downloadable horse armor, only $5!), but in general video games have actually gotten cheaper in the last twenty years. Same for books outside the mass market format. Same for movies and music.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:27 PM on May 12, 2009


What's the set with the Charles Dickens card in the movie?
posted by roll truck roll at 7:36 PM on May 12, 2009


This one, it's the Topps Allen & Ginter set.
posted by smackfu at 7:41 PM on May 12, 2009


They also have a clever Billy Mitchell card, of King of Kong fame.
posted by smackfu at 7:45 PM on May 12, 2009



As a kid (in the 40's) we would buy a pack of bubble gum. Tops?
Anyway what we did with the cards was flip them against a wall. All kinds of rules. Touching the wall, leaners, covers etc. Not too different from pitching pennies, nickles and quarters which we graduated to later. It was not unusual for a skilled card pitcher to walk off with a stack of a hundred worn and frayed cards held together with a big rubber band. In fact the more worn and frayed, the better they pitched.
We never thought of them as having any value beyond our using them as play toys. That was back before kids play was organized and supervised by adults. Stick ball in the street, skinny dipping in the river (Passaic-Newark), pick up baseball and football in the park. Ahh. Them good old days.
posted by notreally at 7:46 PM on May 12, 2009


You can't talk sports cards without talking about Don West. This dude was the soundtrack to my post-college summer nights staying up late at my parents' house. Mesmerizing stuff at 2am.
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:52 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


smackfu: Oh god that's all sorts of awesome. It's tempting.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 7:53 PM on May 12, 2009


this hobby is so artificial and reliant on addiction

I don't feel like you're being too mean to the poor innocent collectors, but I do think you're not understanding them. For some people, fulfilling a compulsive need (even if it's just for ten minutes) is entertainment. If they weren't doing this, they'd be collecting stamps, or eating a Big Mac in every state, or unplugging their refrigerator so that they won't hear a power hiccup on their $50,000 stereo system when the compressor clicks on. That, or they just wouldn't be as entertained as they could be.

I'll leave it to smarter minds than mine to say whether this is just diff'rent strokes or whether it represents a spectrum of OCD tendencies in our society. Regardless, I think arguing the merits of one form of entertainment over another simply because of cost effectiveness isn't really productive.
posted by Riki tiki at 7:57 PM on May 12, 2009


Well, Riki tiki, maybe arguing the merits of one form of entertainment over another is my compulsive need!
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:00 PM on May 12, 2009


For what it's worth, I do agree that the card industry probably isn't as "pure" as it once was. I expect that's because cards today are a product unto themselves, whereas (I assume) they used to be a marketing tool to get people to go to baseball games.

I wouldn't be surprised if this was robbing Peter to pay Paul... MLB opted for short-term gains in merchandising and in doing so destroyed the fragile social ecosystem that made it the national passtime instead of The National Passtime™.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:07 PM on May 12, 2009


maybe arguing the merits of one form of entertainment over another is my compulsive need!

Oh, oh I'm sorry, this is Abuse. You want 12A next door.

...stupid git.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:12 PM on May 12, 2009


Wow, I'm kind of in love with the Allen & Ginter cards.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:24 PM on May 12, 2009


How many of these guys have a secret habit of buying Beanie Babies on QVC?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:50 PM on May 12, 2009


I don't find this immensely depressing at all. I loved the card shop of my middle-school aged life, I spent so many wonderful hours there trading, bartering, browsing for baseball or magic cards. I miss the smell of paper that is stored in a baseball card way, I miss the contention, the competition, the little plastic slides you put cards into.

Of course I would never go back there, if that card shop still exists. I would never enjoy an experience like that in the way that I did when I was younger.

But I see many of you all condemning the card-shop attending lifestyle as pretty stupid, a farce to make fun of! Of course I now think it is silly. But I would never make fun of it. I can understand the mind games many of the people in the video are perpetrating on themselves as they buy more cards. I'm no longer there. But I think it is silly to off-handedly laugh at them from across the internet. People everywhere do pretty wierd shit everyday, including you. And if you think you're immune, well, just wait for the wierd.
posted by localhuman at 10:13 PM on May 12, 2009


As a kid (in the 40's) we would buy a pack of bubble gum. Tops?
Anyway what we did with the cards was flip them against a wall. All kinds of rules. Touching the wall, leaners, covers etc. Not too different from pitching pennies, nickles and quarters which we graduated to later. It was not unusual for a skilled card pitcher to walk off with a stack of a hundred worn and frayed cards held together with a big rubber band. In fact the more worn and frayed, the better they pitched.
We never thought of them as having any value beyond our using them as play toys. That was back before kids play was organized and supervised by adults. Stick ball in the street, skinny dipping in the river (Passaic-Newark), pick up baseball and football in the park. Ahh. Them good old days.
posted by notreally


Eponysterical!

I've waited years to do be able to do that.
posted by Bageena at 10:14 PM on May 12, 2009


The Devil Tesla: *goes to play video games*
sonic meat machine: Video games are cheaper than trading cards.

Nuh-uh! They definitely are NOT cheaper. *thinks about the ~$100 in quarters he fed into a Pac-Man machine while mastering the patterns, back in the day* Get off my lawn!

sonic meat machine: I used to play Magic: the Gathering when I was young, and looking back on it I regret every cent.

Oh, that is such a sad thing to read. I was playing M:TG 15 years ago, and found it to be an incredibly imaginative game with a lot of excellent play mechanic and subtlety that was unexpected. I have to admit, some of my friends DID get a bit out of hand with their pursuit of the perfect deck. I never did that, still have my cards, and do play now and then. (although never with "current" players... jeez. they'd eat me for lunch)
posted by hippybear at 12:36 AM on May 13, 2009


Collecting baseball cards is a frivolous waste of money. Now I'm off to the comics shop to buy Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:25 AM on May 13, 2009


I've got a bunch (well, a couple shoeboxes--I dunno if that's a bunch of not, by card-collector standards) of Yo! MTV Raps trading cards. What the hell should I do with 'em?
posted by box at 9:47 AM on May 13, 2009


I've got a bunch (well, a couple shoeboxes--I dunno if that's a bunch of not, by card-collector standards) of Yo! MTV Raps trading cards. What the hell should I do with 'em?

Make a documentary of you visiting all of the people featured on the cards and requesting them to autograph them. You'd get to visit mansions, prisons, and oil change shops.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:49 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, I do agree that the card industry probably isn't as "pure" as it once was.

Although "once was" is pretty far back now. Probably when Upper Deck first came out back in 1990 or so, on the premise that "these cards are fundamentally better than Topps or Donruss or Fleer and you should pay more for them."
posted by smackfu at 10:32 AM on May 13, 2009


Here's an interesting tidbit - Keith Olbermann's first love is not politics, or broadcasting, or sports in general - but baseball cards! He first started writing about the cards when he was a kid and they were actually published in the card hobby magazines. He has gone on to be what many consider to be the hobby's premier expert (not to mention having one of the largest collections in the world). He is also on the Board of Directors of Topps baseball cards.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 9:36 PM on May 13, 2009


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