Thrift Treasures XLII: “The Baseball Bubble Trouble”

“The most furious trading in the U.S. nowadays goes on not on Wall Street or the Chicago grain market but among youngsters out to collect a connoisseur’s fistful of baseball trading cards.  The cards come as dividends with the purchase of a one-cent or five-cent package of bubble gum.  But the dividend seems to have more pull than the puff-and-pop stuff.” — Sports Illustrated, Aug. 16, 1954.

That’s the opening paragraph from Sports Illustrated writer Martin Kane’s piece titled “The Baseball Bubble Trouble,” which appeared in the very first issue of Sports Illustrated. The article documents the legal woes in 1954 between gum manufacturers Topps and Haelan Laboratories. (Note:  SI.com has the entire article available for your reading HERE)

Before this week, I knew one thing about the first edition of the popular sports magazine:  It contained a tri-fold of reprinted 1954 Topps cards, something that I have been wanting to get a hold of.

Well,  look who finally got one … from a thrift store!

Now, before you start drooling all over your keyboard or touch screen phone, I’ll be very clear about this:  This is a reprint of a reprint.  This is a reproduced edition of the very first Sports Illustrated, which was part of a gift set given to someone in 1999 and somehow remained in its sealed package until I unearthed it at a thrift store on Tuesday.

I saw this thing sitting on the shelf behind the showcase and stopped dead in my tracks.  And when I saw the $10 price written on it, my heart sank because I thought it was too much.

Yeah, I was an idiot.

Two minutes later I took the item from the shelf and guarded it with my life until I was ready to check out.

I am VERY happy I did not leave this thing behind.  The reprinted editions aren’t super tough to find ( about $30 on eBay), but in my dozen years of thrifting, I have NEVER seen one for sale in a second-hand store.

When my wife and I got home, she noticed that I had opened the cellophane wrapping and removed the magazine.  This piqued her interest.

Wife: “Babe, you opened it?!”

Me: “Yeah …”

Wife: “That’s weird.  Doesn’t that hurt the value?”

I love that my wife notices the value in leaving things in their original packaging.  But this case was different.  I explained to her that the resell value of the magazine was not one that warranted keeping this gigantic box somewhere in our house.  The magazine’s value to me was greater than that of its resale bounty.

Besides, how was I going to enjoy the contents of the magazine if it were entombed in cheap plastic?

Then I showed her the tri-fold poster and the article that accompanied it and she fully understood.

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