Given the longstanding history of baseball cards, it should be no surprise there are a number of articles (e.g., this article from the Atlantic) and a wide range of books available on the topic.
Books about current prices, check! Old prices, too!
Tales of collector triumphs (and not.). Yep, those have been published, too.
And many more…
I’m going to cover a selection of them. So, if you (or your wallet) need a break from collecting #thehobby, then cozy up with one of these.
Beckett Baseball Card Guide 2019
Beckett was the original, definitive price guide. James Beckett began publishing baseball price guides in the 1970s, and eventually expanded into the other three major sports.
For that reason I think it appropriate to list the most recent edition first on a list of baseball card books.
Today, however, Beckett magazine is not necessarily the go-to it once was for sports card prices. Many rely on Ebay sold auctions, or perhaps websites like COMC.com, to pinpoint prices.
The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading, and Bubble Gum Book
The player references are outdated now by most standards, with my apologies to those of you who do recall the 1950’s clearly.
That said, the book reminds me of a good comedy movie: lots of memorably one-liners that you remember long past when you watched/read it last. And, you find yourself wanting to return to it, even if just to read/watch a couple of your favorite parts.
Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told through Baseball Cards
I enjoy a good memoir, particularly a person who is/was involved in the same career or who had the same interests as me. Despite not being as heavy into card collecting as many others, my childhood memories are filled with the baseball card hobby. And many of the things Josh Wilker discusses in his book resonate with me.
Mr. Wilker does a good job of using baseball as the backdrop for discussing important life issues. One example that standouts is blending discussion of bubble-blowing with the description of his relationship with his brother.
The book is ultimately as much an homage to baseball cards (and baseball itself) as it is a recollection of a single person’s life.
You can read book reviews at GoodReads or Amazon.
Game Faces is wonderful for the reason that it takes you back to the beginnings of baseball cards through the Library of Congress’s early baseball card collection (1887-1914) Li. A time when baseball cards were throw-ins with cigarette packs, and when most people (kids especially) did not know how their favorite player looked. Baseball cards were a gateway to a more enriched baseball experience.
You can read more about the book in this news story, or check our reviews on Amazon.
Confessions of a Baseball Card Addict
What makes the book for me is the authentic voice (and comedic tone); Tanner Jones uses throughout. His passion for the baseball card hobby shines through with each sentence, and it keeps you engaged throughout.
If you want a taste of what you would be getting yourself into, then check out Tanner’s website. The site itself is worth more than just a few minutes of your time.
The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History’s Most Desired Baseball Card
No card holds quite the mystique as the T206 Honus Wagner, which is worth over $2,000,000.
Investigative reporters Michael O’Keefe and Teri Thompson take readers on an adventure as they look at the history surrounding the card, as well as the story of the man depicted on it.
More that that, they took a look inside the collecting industry; specifically, at the underbelly that casts a long shadow on what was once, and some still may still think is, a kids pasttime.
If you’re a fan of baseball (which I presume you are if you are reading this) and enjoy non-fiction narratives, then this book may be for you.
Baseball Card Vandals
Baseball Card Vandals is a deviation from many of the books on this list. Many of them take serious–or at least not non-serious–looks into baseball cards.
This book, however, does the exact opposite: cards are defaced to humorous effect. I wish I could say no cards were harmed in the making of the book, but that may not necessarily be true.
Learn more about the Abbott brothers at their website, where you can also find their social media accounts.
Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession
In Mint Condition Dave Jamieson provides a detailed history of the baseball card collecting industry. Ranging back to its origin in the 1860s, Jamieson guides the reader through the over century-long rollercoaster ride that has been baseball cards: from their inclusion in cigarette packs to the crash precipitated by the wax pack era of the early 1990s.
Before there was Bubble Gum: Our Favorite Pre-World War I Baseball Cards
Before There Was Bubble Gum is another book that takes a look at the history of baseball cards, focusing on both well-known sets (T206 and Crackerjack) and more obscure sets like Tango Egg. Definitely worth adding to your collection if you are into card history.
Waiting for a Sign: Highlights and Inside Stories from a Lifetime of Collecting Baseball Autographs
I took a little liberty with the inclusion of this book, but Waiting for a Sign is too good of a book to not include on a list filled with baseball-related books. And it’s more than just tangentially connected–just how many of his autographs are on cards instead of memorabilia–that I don’t even feel bad.
As for the book itself, the author Kevin Keating shares personal stories involving many well-known baseball players.
Topps Baseball Cards: The Complete Picture Collection
Two of these coffee table style hardbacks have now been released: a 35-year history covering 1951-1985 and a 40-year history covering 1951-1990. Both have well over 20,000 card illustrations to pore over.
The only downside is that both editions are out-of-print, so you are the mercy of what you can find through Amazon used books, Ebay, or lucky yard sale finds.
Card Sharks: How Upper Deck Turned a Child’s Hobby into a High-Stakes, Billion Dollar Business
I appreciate that this book covers the range of baseball card history. But I especially enjoyed the emphasis on Upper Deck since most books spend more time highlighting Topps.
Sayonara Home Run! The Art of the Japanese Baseball Card
I must admit: I did not know much about Japanese baseball cards prior to looking into baseball card books beyond those I was already knew about. Or, really, I don’t much about baseball’s role in Japanese culture at all. This book aims to alleviate that.
Sayonara does a great job exploring the intersection of art, sport, and history that is Japanese baseball.
20,000 Baseball Cards Under the Sea
This is the first of two children’s books on this list. On its own it is a good book for early readers with lots of fun illustrations. Add in the baseball cards, and then you have a subtle way to possibly push your child into being interested in collecting. Not that parents would ever do that…
Honus and Me: A Baseball Card Adventure
Honus and Me is the start of a kid’s book series focused on baseball cards. The protagonist loves the game of baseball, but his on-field performance is below average. That doesn’t stop him from learning everything these is to know about the sport.
In this inaugural book, Joe Stoshack discovers the prized T206 Honus Wagner card. More than that he discovers that he has the ability to bring the game to life, and he transports back in time to the Honus Wagner baseball era.