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A House of Cards: Baseball Card Collecting and Popular Culture

Volume: 12
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 160
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A House of Cards
    Book Description:

    From interviews with collectors, dealers, and hobbyists as well as analyses of the baseball card industry and extensive firsthand observations, John Bloom explores what this hobby tells us about nostalgia, work, play, masculinity, and race and gender relations among collectors. “An important exploration of the persuasiveness and meaning of commodities in American life.” --George Lipsitz, University of California, San Diego.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8772-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    During the late 1980s and early part of 1990, I spent a great deal of time attending baseball card shows in the metropolitan area of a major city in the upper midwestern United States. It was not hard for me to locate a show to attend, as each week I could easily find groups of men and boys, sometimes accompanied by, but almost never in equitable companionship with, women or girls. They would gather for these events at local hockey arenas, gymnasiums, hotel conference rooms, or shopping mall plazas. Many would come wearing sports paraphernalia: baseball hats, sports jackets, windbreakers,...

  5. 1 The Baseball Card Industry
    (pp. 16-27)

    Between 1975 and 1980, the baseball card collecting hobby among adults grew rapidly in the United States.Baseball Card Boommagazine asserts that “serious” collectors increased from 4,000 to 250,000 during this time period, making baseball card collecting the fourth largest hobby in the nation. The number of annual shows increased as well, from twenty to six hundred. Over the next ten years, the hobby continued to grow, involving between 3 million and 4 million people by 1989 (Larson 1990). In 1979, James Beckett and Dennis Eckes published the firstSports Americana Baseball Card Price Guide, one of the most...

  6. 2 Venues of Exchange and Adult Collecting
    (pp. 28-46)

    The adult baseball card collecting hobby in the Upper Midwest was booming during the time period in which I observed it. This boom provided a unique opportunity to examine how audiences participated in the use of “mass culture” commodities to produce a relatively grassroots form of popular culture. Perhaps the most public arenas I observed for such expression within the local baseball card collecting hobby were the regular shows that took place each weekend. These attracted thousands of adults and children from across the Upper Midwest. Beneath the festive surface of these events, however, there were a number of subtle...

  7. 3 Collecting Sets
    (pp. 47-74)

    During the period of my research, adult collectors in the Upper Midwest experienced their hobby both publicly and privately. It would be a profound understatement to say that no two collectors engaged with their cards in exactly the same way, yet there were noteworthy commonalities and trends in collecting behavior. One of the most important was the phenomenon of collecting sets. Most collectors used the termsetto refer to all of the cards produced by a company during a particular year. Collectors also sometimes created their own sets, defining a particular category and attempting to complete it. The collection...

  8. 4 Adult Male Baseball Card Collecting, Nostalgia, and the Cultural Politics of Gender and Race during the 1970s and 1980s
    (pp. 75-97)

    Of all the baseball card sets Topps produced between 1952 and the present, one of the most striking is the 1972 issue. Unlike the predictably banal fronts of cards produced in many previous years, these had bright orange-and-yellow borders stylized to look like a 1930s movie marquee with team names exaggeratedly printed on the top border as if they were emerging toward the viewer. Rather than picturing players only in stock poses with a “caught-in-the-headlights” look on their faces, this set featured a number of special cards showing players “in action.” For the 1972 set, image was everything; Topps did...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 98-120)

    The epigraph, cited from sports journalist Luke Salisbury, refers to a common cliché that circulates among baseball card collectors: that mothers throw away their sons’ baseball cards. Salisbury’s passage and the cliché to which it refers illustrate some of the undeniable ways in which the nostalgic orientation of adult baseball card collecting is intricately linked to ideas about race, class, and, perhaps most important, gender. Most scholars who have studied the relationship between sports and masculinity have observed how athletic competition makes “men” out of “boys,” ritually and symbolically affirming the power and privilege of men in a male-dominated society....

  10. Notes on Methodology
    (pp. 121-126)

    The title for this book was inspired in part by Joel Kovel’s remark about patriarchy and the nuclear family in the contemporary administrative state: “Bourgeois patriarchy is like a house nibbled away by termites: it looks fine for quite a while, but then collapses all of a sudden” (1978, 15). Unfortunately, as many discover daily, the old house is still holding up remarkably well. But this does not mean that Kovel’s observation is entirely off the mark. This book is about a response by men to contemporary structures of patriarchal authority, a response that emerges from the competition and insincerity...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 127-130)
  12. References
    (pp. 131-136)
  13. Index
    (pp. 137-142)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 143-143)