I got through 3/4's of the book last night and finished the rest today before supper. It is a very easy read, and very interesting too.
Among the things I never knew...
The baseball card industry was/is not very nice. There were some pretty cut-throat tactics in a business that presents itself as something fun for the kids.
This guy, DeWayne Buice, who I never heard of, was a part of the beginnings of Upper Deck and ended up with a $17,000,000 settlement from the company. Its kind of ironic that the baseball player that lent a hand to get the card company going made far more from cards than he ever did as a ballplayer.
This card was never corrected by Upper Deck because they didn't want the same negative publicity that Fleer got from the Billy Ripken card. If you can't find the error, then you are not looking at the billboard in the background. So who gets them insured, Dolly Parton?
A man named Tom Geideman was in charge of selecting the players for Upper Deck's first set. It was his decision to print a card for Ken Griffey Jr. even though Junior had never played a game in the majors. They didn't have a photo of Griffey in a Mariners uniform, so they fired up the ol' computer and did a photoshop kind of thing.
Geideman didn't like the Dodgers, so for the first few years a Dodger was given the card of the devil, #666. The honor in the 1989 set when to Kirk Gibson, who has hit his famous World Series home run off Dennis Eckersley the previous fall.
Upper Deck president and CEO Richard McWilliam has earned the nickname Upper Dick. He was a bean counter who stumbled into the start of the company, put up some of his money, and ended up running it, even though he had very little sports knowledge or background. The way he is portrayed in the book, the most important thing was making money. And that he did, millions and millions.
The book was written in 1995 as the rookie card speculating bubble was blowing up. Prices mentioned for a Don Mattingly rookie card were much higher then than they are today. Its a shame that Upper Deck helped fuel the change in the hobby from collecting to speculating. A lot of people lost a lot of money. And many collectors (like me) got away from the hobby.
Last week I bought a factory sealed set of Upper Deck 1992 baseball cards. I paid $3.26 for the set. On the back was the original price tag from Osco, a drug store chain with lots of stores in the Chicago area. Although faded, I could still make out the price from 16 years ago. It was $49.99. I guess the cards had a bit of a problem holding their value.
Author Pete Williams gave fascinating and disturbing insights into the industry side of the hobby. I would definitely recommend the book.