When I'm not scouring the web or local card shows for deals on vintage cards, I enjoy reading a good book.
I've discovered some excellent baseball card books over the years.
Here, I wanted to share a few different ideas for fellow collectors.
Not by any means an exhaustive list, so if you have a vintage baseball card book recommendation, please leave a comment below.
The 14 Best Baseball Card Books
The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book
It's somewhat dated (latest edition from 1991), but the book looks at some of the more obscure baseball cards from the 1950s featuring more than two hundred cards. If you collected baseball cards in the 1950's and 1960's, this book will elicit feelings of pure nostalgia. The author provides some witty and amusing details that at times had me laughing out loud to myself.
The Wax Pack:
A super fun read. Author Brad Balukjian orders a pack of 1986 Topps baseball cards from eBay and aims to find each of the thirteen ex-ball players in the pack. Balukjian travels the country in search of the players, some of which include some former stars, including Vince Coleman and Doc Gooden. A fun, enjoyable baseball card adventure for anyone in the hobby.
The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card
A story about the infamous 'Wayne Gretzky' T206 Wagner card and how this one specific example became embroiled in one of the sketchiest paths to wealth known to the hobby. Michael O'Keefe and Teri Thompson do a fantastic job in telling the backstory of the Gretzky Wagner and how each successive transaction became one other connection in what turned out to be a massive cover-up in more ways than one. This is a great book and I read this literally in two days.
Card Sharks - How Upper Deck Turned a Child's Hobby into a High-Stakes, Billion-Dollar Business
Author Pete Williams tells the story of the Upper Deck Company and how they transformed the hobby in the early to mid 90's. It's a fun and informative read, especially for any of us that were collecting baseball cards throughout the 1990's.
Sportscard Counterfeit Detector
The late Bob Lemke was a well respected editor of the ever popular SCD - Sports Collectors Digest. In the 1990's, he produced the first proper guide in helping to identify counterfeit cards. Lemke's book is in black and white, so collectors might get a bit frustrated with the lack of image clarity. However, Lemke provides some great details on some of the biggest counterfeit cards of the day, which remain true today.
The T206 Collection
One of two amazing books on this list from Tom and Ellen Zappala, the T206 Collection is a beautiful book that showcases the beauty and the unique history of the T206 White Borders set. The Zappala's break the book into six distinct chapters, dividing each player in the set into categories such as 'Hall of Famers' or 'Overlooked By Cooperstown'. The book provides a great overview of each player in the set, offering well-researched history, effectively bringing the set alive in many ways.
Classic Baseball Cards - The Golden Years (1886-1956)
This is a beautiful book. I was surprised at how massive the book is in size and pages (over 600 pages). This is one of my favorites. It's all photographs of baseball card sets from 1886 thru 1956, but includes all cards in each set from this timeframe. Ranging from Ty Cobb to Babe Ruth to Honus Wagner to Jackie Robinson. Frank Slocum created quite a beautiful piece. This is one you can leave on your desk and flip back to just to get an appreciation of some of the hobby's most popular vintage sets. Also features a foreword by Yogi Berra.
The Photographic Baseball Cards of Goodwin & Company 1886-1890
This one is more about the fantastic collection of beautiful photos, the Photographic Baseball Cards of Goodwin & Company is another great 'coffee table' book. It's a big and heavy book! But beautifully bound with a dust jacket, and nearly 500 pages and over 2500 photographs of the players and teams of the late 1880s. The book covers all of the landmark sets issued by Goodwin & Company a big tobacco manufacturer of the 19th century that issued some of the most important baseball card sets in the history of the hobby.
Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession
Dave Jamieson's Mint Condition book is a great resource for the history of baseball cards. Even those with the most advanced knowledge of the hobby's history will learn a thing or two Jamieson. He crafts a well told tale of the evolution of 19th century cards into the modern card era, while covering a lot about the business and speculation part of the card hobby. Highly recommended for collectors and non-collectors alike. Probably the best baseball book covering the history of cards.
The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players
Tom and Ellen Zappala do a wonderful job bringing the history of Cracker Jack cards alive with their "coffee table collectible sports book" - The Cracker Jack Collection. The book provides full color images, a history of the cards and comprehensive player stories on each card in the set.
Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards
This is a story about a boy (author Josh Wilker) growing up in the 1970's and detailing the trials and tribulations of his boyhood through the thing that appealed to him most - his baseball cards. Wilker weaves different tales of his childhood, while bringing everything back to a card from the 1970's that appealed to him. As an example in this ESPN excerpt of the book, Wilker tells the story of his hatred and yet eventual appreciation for HOFer Reggie Jackson. A must read for any sports card or baseball fan.
The American Card Catalog
The American Card Catalog was first written by collector Jefferson Burdick in 1939, with several later releases printed up until 1960. The ACC as it is commonly known was a reference guide created by Burdick in order to help catalog all of the baseball cards produced prior to 1951.
Burdick created a letter system to help catalog the various sets produced. For example, tobacco cards were catalogued with a T and a related number. Even more novice collectors might be familiar with the 'T206' designation provided to the 1909-11 White Borders tobacco set.
This book has become a bit of a collectors item in its own right and used copies are often sold for a few hundred dollars. It's more of historical piece in my mind and not exactly something you will be flipping back to in order to find something.
The Encyclopedia of Baseball Cards (Volumes 1-3)
The late Lew Lipset is know as one of the pioneers of the baseball card industry. His Encylopedia of Baseball Cards is considered as one of the must own books for any vintage card collectors.
There are three volumes in the set. The first covers 19th century issues, the second covers tobacco cards, while the third provides a review of Early Candy and Gum issues.
The version shown here that is probably the cheapest way to access the set of books is a later year reprint by the old magazine company 'The Vintage & Classic Baseball Collector Magazine'.
I highly recommend the books for any collectors looking for an in depth look at many of the first vintage baseball cards.
The Complete Guide To Selling Your Sports Cards
Shameless plug alert! This is our book and it might not be for everyone. But, if you've inherited a baseball card collection or have been sitting on baseball cards from your childhood, this could be a good resource.
We walk through the steps in trying to value and assess your collection from a grading perspective. The book also provides different ideas in trying to realize top value for your baseball card collection. If you've read it, please leave us a review on Amazon!
If you want a great collection of books for your children, the Baseball Card Adventures series by Dan Gutman is a great choice.
There are twelve illustrated novels in the series, each telling the story of Joe Stoshack, a boy that can travel back in time after touching a baseball card.
Using his superpowers, Stoshack gets to meet some of the legends of the game, each book providing a fun and educational look back in time.
I read a few of the Baseball Card Adventures books with my daughter and we both loved the books. Equal parts fun story and baseball history.
The first book in the series, Honus & Me, finds Stoshack discovering a T206 Honus Wagner card and traveling back in time to play baseball with Wagner.
The Babe Ruth (Babe & Me) and Ty Cobb (Ty & Me) books were also equally enjoyable.
I hope you enjoyed this list of the 14 Best Baseball Card Books. Please let me know if you have any other recommendations. Either shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment below.