Antique baseball scorecards

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2015-06-26 11:15:12

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Antique baseball scorecards are baseball scorecards, initially designed by Harry Stevens, which were used by fans from as early as 1880 and often carried advertising.

Background

During the early 1880s, entrepreneurial businessman Harry Stevens revolutionised the way in which baseball fans watched live matches by inventing the baseball score card (which is also known as the roster card). These scorecards worked the principle of interactivity and employed a fairly simple numerical system as the means by which fans could identity individual players. Programmes containing these scorecards soon followed.

Advertising scope meant that the cards were quickly taken up by tobacco companies, banks and various other businesses interested in promoting their products and services. These companies bought the blank spaces on cards in the hope of attracting new customers.

One of the more interesting niches for baseball-memorabilia collectors are vintage programmes and scorecards published in the first half of the 20th century by Ivy League colleges. Many or these documents printed for games played by Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth were nothing more than scorecards, but sometimes full-fledged programmes were published. In the 1930s, the going rate for such programmes was usually a quarter.

A further subset of baseball programs are those printed for the "Negro League" games, which were played between world wars. "Negro League" ephemera is rare and therefore highly sought-after by both sports fans and historians, who prize such printed materials for the details and statistics they offer scholars.

Among professional teams, Yankee programs and scorecards are always in demand, thanks to the team’s large fan base and legendary roster of players, from Babe Ruth to Mickey Mantle. Other former-New York teams, the Giants and Dodgers, are also collected, owing to their roots in the Big Apple, as well as their new fan bases in San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively.

At the outset of World War II, patriotic imagery such as the American flag and illustrations of soldiers listening to a game on the radio, began to be incorporated into the programme designs. Programmes from the 1950s tended to be illustrated, while many of those from the 1960s had a Mid-century Modern look to them. By the 1970s, colour photography and bold graphics had largely taken over. As such, score cards and programmes offer some insight into the historical, sociological and technological status quo of the era in which they were produced.

Collector's Guide

There are many different types of score card enthusiasts: some collect only score cards from a particular team or featuring a favourite player, others might only collect cards from a specific era, year or event. There are, however, several general rules that can be applied across the board.

Consider design

Score cards which are pleasing to look at are generally more collectible than score cards which are not. This is especially true if the cover design includes images relating to a very popular player or team. Even scorecards from as far back as the late 19th and early 20th centuries were heavily illustrated, in colour. Aslant to this, advertisements hastily assembled many years ago are now considered unusal and interesting.

Consider condition

Fragile paper products are usually intended to be transient. Most collectors of vintage score cards and baseball programmes are very interested in condition, collecting only those items and artefacts that are in as close to mint condition as feasibly possible. Collectors tend not to be interested in score cards and programmes that exhibit evidence of damage and wear. Stains and spots also adversely affect a scorecard's value. It is not unusual to see scorecards decades old with a slight crease in the middle as they were often folded and stuffed into someone's back pocket.

Consider the historical or social significance of any antique baseball scorecard

Antique scorecards from games when records were tied or broken or when a significant event occurred obviously command premium prices in the open market.

Consider the team

Scorecards from championship teams command higher prices, as do these items from a team's inaugural year, last game or other significant event. Interestingly, there seems to be added interest attached to defunct teams and other scarce programs such as minor league scorecards featuring the early years of an eventual major league superstar.

Valuable scorecards

A scorecard from 1903 which advertises the "World's Championship Games" between Boston and Pittsburg is currently the most valuable scorecard known to collectors. As the "crowd" that appeared at the first World Series numbered fewer than 10,000 patrons per game, very few of these cards were ever given out and only two are known to survive toady. The card itself, which has a deceptively plain appearance, sold for approaching $50,000 last time it came to auction.

Price guide

A 1920's Hilldale Daisies "Negro League" scrapbook containing, amongst a wealth of other baseball ephemera, an unused scorecard for a 1926 "Colored World Series" game, was sold for $15,000 in October 2008 at Heritage Auctions.

A 1906, Chicago Cubs, World Series "Souvenir Score Book" sold for $4,250 in May 2012 at Heritage Auctions.

A 1883 Harry Wright signed scorecard sold for $1,600 in April 2010 at Heritage Auctions.

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