Saturday, January 14, 2012

what makes a card old? you be the judge.

What makes something old? Is it something beyond our years, or merely our perception on when something was created?

Take baseball cards. What do we consider vintage? Is it sets that were released before we were born, or is there a cut off point that we all pretty much agree on?

Personally I think vintage, I think of anything before 1980. No particular reason but it seems like a good point to draw the line.

Back when I was younger, my collection had a lot of this:
We all know them well. Of course I was collecting in the overproduction era, as any child of the 80's was. I had 87s for days and I think even more 88s. My collecting really hit my stride in 1991, when I started to purchase packs myself on a more frequent basis.

Back in 1988 though, it was a different story. 1987 was the oldest I had seen, rarely ever did I see these:
To me these were old, even if they were only two years older, my six year old mind thought they were. Look at them! They just look old! Or what ever I would have said at that age. I had maybe two packs worth of 1986 Topps back then.

And even rarer were these:
Somehow a couple of these found their way into my budding collection and I treasured them. I have no idea which cards they were. It didn't matter, I had 85s. Did they even make cards older than that? Are these baseball cards a new thing? Of course not but try telling that to a six year old, who had never seen a card older than three years ago.

Then in around 1993, I went into collecting football. I had a much more vast knowledge that yes, they did make old cards. Much older. I went to an antique show with my mother one weekend and one dealer had some old cards for sale. I'm foggy on what he had for sale but I did pick up this:
This is a 1966 Philadelphia Viking team card. Now we're talking. I think it was just a buck too. The oldest card I think I had ever held at that point would be a big deal for me until I stopped collecting sports cards altogether. This isn't my card, I've no idea where it ended up but I assume it would have been tossed, much like the rest of my cards. I was careless and didn't keep track of them or even keep them in a box. Just thrown about the closet and one day that closet got cleaned out. Yep, everything.

When I got back into collecting in early 2010, I was new to the game once again but only because I had missed so much. Jerseys, autographs, serial numbered parallels? What is the meaning of this? Wow, I guess I missed a lot but I adapted and I obviously never forgot about the vintage. It was shortly after that when I started to pick up some older stuff. Namely for my Topps history binder, in which I dedicated a page to each year of Topps from 1952 to now. I did aim my sights higher though and acquired my first:
Finally! A true vintage card and about 100 years old to boot. It was fascinating and I picked up more. I still am too, in fact you may remember it as one of my goals to complete that T206 page.

What I didn't tell you though is that I did have another goal in mind but I wasn't sure if it would have ever happened.

Well, it did. I aimed and took the shot:

My newest vintage addition and certainly the centerpiece of my collection. I had been looking for an Old Judge ever since I knew about them. I've never come across one being all that affordable and I've even tried bidding on a few here and there. I lost, obviously, otherwise you'd have seen it by now. I really can't get much older than this even if I tried. I wanted an original Ginter but there are very few baseball players in the set and they are all $1000+ cards. I remember bidding on one thinking it might end around $200. Nope, ended at $900. John M. Ward was the card. Surely, this will be the oldest item of anything I'll ever own. Oh and if you'll notice, he is a pitcher holding a bat. Dual purpose card!

So again, what makes a card old? Obviously something from 1887 is damn near ancient but what I consider old is actually pre-1976 cards. Anything after that is usually cheap and easily attainable. Of course perspective is changed dependent on the age of the collector, as anyone collecting 1975 Topps when it was new probably might not consider it old. For now though, we'll leave the cut off at that 1979 mark.


  1. I think you've pretty much covered it. As a rule of thumb I would think we'd agree that anything pre-1960 is vintage. After that it depends on how old we are. Being in the vintage category myself I probably shouldn't speak for those born in later eras. If you started collecting in 2000 would you consider 1990 vintage?

  2. "Old" is just a matter of personal perspective. I cringe when I see a cut off date for vintage of 1979...I graduated from high school in 1979, which means that I am "vintage"! In this post written when I was just getting back into collecting, I defined vintage as anything pre-Topps and labeled the stuff before 1980 as "Classic." That makes me classic, too, which sounds much better than vintage. At least that's the perspective of a classic collector.

  3. Congrats on the pickup! That Old Judge is a beaut! Personally, I consider vintage to be 1969 or earlier.

  4. My definition of vintage falls into the perspective category as well. My rule of thumb is any card made one year before you were born can be considered vintage. For me that makes 75 vintage, but 76 modern. This makes you feel not so old, until you get to that 16 year old collector that considers 1994 vintage.

  5. Great question. I dealt with this recently when I started building my "vintage" binder.

    I've always considered Pre 80's as vintage. But when I built my binder, I decided to add baseball cards up to 1986, because 1987 was the year I officially started buying cards in bulk (as an investment).

    As for other sports... I include cards up through 1989 for the same reason.

  6. my personal cut-off point is 30 years. yes, that means eventually 1990's cards will be vintage, as it should be.