Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Remembering Baseball Cards Magazine

Card blogs all over the internet have been abuzz lately with the latest round of Beckett bashing. Personally, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Sure Beckett is a big name in the hobby, but would card collecting come to a screeching halt if we woke up one morning and they had vanished? I doubt it. As long as there are card manufacturers and people willing to buy their products, this hobby will continue. Beckett, along with other hobby publications like Tuff Stuff and Sports Collectors Digest, is just riding the coat tails of that essential pairing. The bottom line is that I see good points on both sides of the argument and am therefore declaring myself neutral and am not getting involved.

That said, I have never been a Beckett guy. In fact until just this year, I never owned a single copy of a Beckett publication. When I was collecting back in the late 80’s and early 90s, I subscribed to Baseball Cards Magazine. Baseball Cards Magazine (BBCM) no longer exists (I’m not exactly sure when they ceased publication but it was sometime after I left the hobby in 1993) and I’d like to take advantage of this whole Beckett hoopla to remember, by way of comparison, what a great magazine BBCM was.

BBCM wasn’t just a great hobby publication, it was a great magazine. Unlike a lot of the other hobby “magazines”, every issue of BBCM was loaded with articles, player interviews, reviews of products and checklists. And while every issue also featured a price guide, BBCM never felt like a price guide first with some fluff thrown in to justify the cover price. I bought the magazine just as much for the informative, professionally written articles as for the price guide. I actually still have several of the articles filed away in an old manila folder though the magazines themselves went the way of the circular file long ago (the cover images were pilfered from Ebay - I believe the Will Clark issue was the first BBCM issue that I owned). One of those articles, featuring a history of the Fleer Corporation and their battle with Topps is a perfect example of the quality of writing featured in BBCM. Although sadly, the last sentence of the article, proclaiming that "over the long haul you can be sure: Fleer will be there", was not to hold true.

Another of my favorite BBCM features was the bonus cards that came with each issue. These were great inserts that featured (then) current players on vintage Topps card designs. Sound familiar? BBCM was (I think) the originator of the heritage movement. It just took 20 years for it to catch on. I have two or three complete series of these that I'll feature in separate posts in the future.

Its a shame that BBCM is no longer published. Beckett may be the standard in price guide publications (again, like it or not), but in my estimation they fall short as a hobby magazine. Their articles just aren't memorable and their reviews... well I think we all know about their reviews. There's avoid in the magazine department that is just aching to be filled. I for one would be first in line if someone published a magazine on the level of BBCM again.


White Sox Cards said...

Baseball Cards Magazine was awesome. Beckett had the prestige reputation back then, but BBCM was the one that had the best articles and the one that the kids my age were talking about more.

Beckett was more for saving for the covers. BBCM was more for reading.

night owl said...

I'm like you: I've never purchased an issue of Beckett (I've read plenty of them, though). But I had a subscription to Baseball Cards Magazine. I still have several of them, and may very well feature some on my blog at some point.

Anonymous said...

I liked the covers of Beckett better. They had quality photos on the front and back covers, and featured artwork on the inside of those covers. When they started to go away from that, I started losing faith in Beckett.

Although I subscribed to Beckett, I would often buy BBCM at the grocery store because of the custom cards. I loved those things. Although I don't have many of them today, I still have a few here and there.