Top Four Books Every Sports Card Collector Should Read

Top Four Books Every Sports Card Collector Should Read – So Twitter is telling me that it is officially #ReadABookDay. A great number of books have been published on the sports collectibles hobby through the years and narrowing them to a manageable list isn’t necessarily easy. However, with that in mind, we present a look at the Top Five Books Every Sports Card Collector Should Read.

Top Four Books Every Sports Card Collector Should Read

Top Four Books Every Sports Card Collector Should ReadThe Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History’s Most Desired Baseball Card

This must-read book reads like a movie script written by an investigative news journalist. The storied history of this card, which last sold for $2.8M to Ken Kendrick, owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is one of deep intrigue.

Another version of the card sold in 2016 for a record setting $3.12M. It’s a testimony to what many hobbyist believe that, good or bad, a rising tide lifts all boats. Since the book’s writing, the hobby has learned a lot about the truth on how The Card managed its illustrious condition.

From the publisher (2008):

Only a few dozen T206 Wagners are known to still exist, having been released in limited numbers just after the turn of the twentieth century. Most, with their creases and stains, look like they’ve been around for nearly one hundred years. But one—The Card—appears to have defied the travails of time. Its sharp corners and still-crisp portrait make it the single-most famous—and most desired—baseball card on the planet, valued today at more than two million dollars. It has transformed a simple hobby into a billion-dollar industry that is at times as lawless as the Wild West. Everything about The Card, which has made men wealthy as well as poisoned lifelong relationships, is fraught with controversy—from its uncertain origins to the nagging possibility that it might not be exactly as it seems.

In this intriguing, eye-opening, and groundbreaking look at a uniquely American obsession, award-winning investigative reporters Michael O’Keeffe and Teri Thompson follow The Card’s trail from a Florida flea market to the hands of the world’s most prominent collectors. The Card sheds a fascinating new light on a world of counterfeiters, con men, and the people who profit from what used to be a pastime for kids.


Top Four Books Every Sports Card Collector Should ReadMint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession

Chances are its either happened to you or you know someone with a similar story. You rediscover your childhood baseball card collection, circa 1987-1993, only to learn that 99.9% of the cards aren’t worth the cardboard on which they are printed. However, a concentrated effort to research the modern hobby reveals that all is not last. Things are just different and that’s OK. A insightful read that respectfully looks at how the hobby has evolved and what it means for new and returning collectors alike.

From the publisher (2011):

When award-winning journalist Dave Jamieson rediscovered his childhood baseball card collection he figured that now was the time to cash in on his “investments.” But when he tried the card shops, they were nearly all gone, closed forever. eBay was no help, either. Baseball cards were selling for next to nothing. What had happened? In Mint Condition, the first comprehensive history of this American icon, Jamieson finds the answers and much more. In the years after the Civil War, tobacco companies started slipping baseball cards into cigarette packs as collector’s items, launching a massive advertising war.

Before long, the cards were wagging the cigarettes. In the 1930s, baseball cards helped gum and candy makers survive the Great Depression, and kept children in touch with the game. After World War II, Topps Chewing Gum Inc. built itself into an American icon, hooking a generation of baby boomers on bubble gum and baseball cards. In the 1960s, royalties from cards helped to transform the players’ union into one of the country’s most powerful, dramatically altering the business of the game. And in the ’80s and ’90s, cards went through a spectacular bubble, becoming a billion-dollar-a-year industry before all but disappearing. Brimming with colorful characters, this is a rollicking, century-spanning, and extremely entertaining history.

Top Four Books Every Sports Card Collector Should ReadThe Bubble Gum Card War: The Great Bowman & Topps Sets from 1948 to 1955

The cards from this era some of the most coveted, collected and valuable cards in the hobby. This book does an amazing job of documenting the story of the business battle between Topps and Bowman for control of the lucrative baseball card market. However, neither of the chief players of the time would ever be able to envision how the market has developed all these years later.

From the publisher (2012):

In 1951, Bowman’s short-lived baseball card monopoly was broken by Topps and the great Baseball Gum Card War was in full swing. Consumers almost always benefit from competition in the marketplace and the card collectors were no exception during the Baseball Bubble Gum Card War. The result was the birth and rapid evolution of the modern baseball card.

Each spring during the years of 1952 to 1955, American boys had their choice between two great sets of baseball cards. The boys would cast their votes for their favorite issue of the year by sliding nickels across the counter of America’s dime-stores to purchase baseball cards from either Topps or Bowman. These wonderful Topps and Bowman sets of the early 1950s sparked the addiction of an entire generation of boys to the hobby of collecting baseball cards. By the end of the decade, 89% of American boys would be collecting baseball cards.

This battle between Topps and Bowman, for control of the baseball card market, became known as “The Great Baseball Card Bubble Gum War.” This contest was fought with such ferocity, that shortly after the war began it became clear that only one company would be left standing at the conclusion of hostilities. The winner would take all.

This epic conflict for the control of America’s favorite collectible is brought to life by the author, Dean Hanley, who is a long-time collector and the founder of, which has the largest online inventory of vintage sports cards ever assembled. Dean writes a popular blog and has had dozens of articles about vintage baseball cards published in the “Sports Collectors Digest.”

Mr. Hanley is also the co-author of the eBook, “Before there was Bubble Gum: Our Favorite Pre-World War I Baseball Cards.”

Mr. Hanley combines his love of vintage sports cards, over forty years of card collecting experience, and extensive research to bring to life this fascinating battle for control of the bubble gum card market. Hanley examines each of these vintage baseball card sets from the era, details the evolution in the design of the cards, the companies that produced them, and the two visionary men that made these wonderful cards a reality and started a hobby that continues to this day.

“The Bubble Gum Card War: The Great Bowman & Topps Sets from 1948 to 1955” is a must for baseball card collectors and a fun read for fans of any age.

Top Four Books Every Sports Card Collector Should ReadOperation Bullpen: The Inside Story of the Biggest Forgery Scam in American History

The repercussions of this sophisticated forgery ring are still being felt in the hobby today. A well organized, meticulous and greedy group of individuals who conspired to defraud thousands of people out of tens of millions of dollars. This book is not for the feint of heart and will leave you questioning if any of the purchased autographs in your collection are genuine.

From the publisher (2006):

The Inside Story of the Biggest Forgery Scam in American History. The first full account of the case that made national headlines and has been featured on CBS, CNN, Court TV, Primetime, HBO and more. Filled with the exciting, at times comical real-life criminal escapades of the gang that ripped off American consumers for $100 million and created the notorious Mother Teresa baseball, this is a terrific, fast-paced nonfiction true crime and sports story.

Author Kevin Nelson wrote a feature article for Sports Collectors Digest that serves as an update to this classic hobby read.

Top Four Books Every Sports Card Collector Should Read