Thursday, June 3, 2010

In Between Naps - June 2010

One of Rob Dewolf's passions is collecting cards of Cleveland Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie. A former minor league baseball player who advanced to Triple-A in the Padres organization, Rob's current job in the newspaper field requires him to get up at 4 a.m., six days a week. Hence the name of his column, which happens to be when he finds time to write about various aspects of the hobby. Rob lives in central Ohio with his wife and daughter.

The Trader Still Speaks

by Rob Dewolf

Few things from my high school days delivered as much of a thrill as opening the mailbox and seeing the latest issue of The Trader Speaks nestled among an assortment of bills, fliers, catalogs and other mail for my parents. On that one day each month, the walk from mailbox to family room was filled with anticipation as to what might be within the 80 or so pages. For sure there would be the semi-regular columns -- Lew's Corner by Lew Lipset; The Lyons Roar by George Lyons; Tom Reid on Non-Sports; So This is Real Collecting by Bill Heitman; Exhibit Baseball by Elwood Scharf; Ye Old Autograph Hound by Neil Sussman; and of course, Collecting News by TTS editor Dan Dischley.

All of these articles would be read in their entirety. But the ads in my favorite hobby publication would be scoured first, repeatedly, and with the intensity of a New York Times copy editor.

It's probably hard for a sports card or memorabilia collector who entered the hobby in the Internet age to understand the importance back in the day of hobby publications -- printed versions that actually were mailed to readers, for Google's sake. The content within was limited to the number of pages (unlike today's blogs and message boards that have unlimited space), and the ads were compiled weeks before (unlike new listings that appear on eBay every minute of every day). Instant info, this was not. Yet publications like The Trader Speaks and Sports Collectors Digest were a lifeblood to many collectors.

SCD's pages were physically larger and more numerous in a typical issue, and it published more often -- biweekly before becoming a weekly publication. But I preferred TTS and its 7 x 8 1/2-inch format. Part of the reason was the anticipation. Absence did make the heart grow fonder, because beginning on the 25th or 26th day since the most recent TTS had been delivered, the clock in my collector's head started counting down the days until the next issue was due to arrive.

Even though Sports Collectors DigestThe Trader Speaks was a Cadillac and SCD more of an Impala. provided a collecting fix on a more regular basis, Not that there's anything wrong with the latter -- my first car was an Impala and one that always will have a special place in my heart. But when prom time rolled around, it was Dad's Caddy that I borrowed for the night (and early morning, much to his chagrin).

Not only did I think that the articles in TTS covered more of the advanced (and, to me, mysterious) cards of our hobby, the ads also offered more cards and memorabilia that appealed to the advanced collector. Not that I was one, of course, but it still was awesome to see stuff like Kalamazoo Bats, 1949 Bowman PCL cards, complete Goudey sets and obscure pre-war type cards sold and auctioned on a regular basis. I still remember a quarter-page ad for an auction of a T206 Honus Wagner buried in the middle of one TTS issue. Today such an auction would command the first two pages in a major auction house's catalog and enough flowery prose to earn the envy of a garden club president.

Simply put, The Trader Speaks, in the 1970s and early '80s, was classy. Sadly, it eventually changed hands, went to a tabloid format and not long thereafter lost most of its importance in the hobby.

The enjoyment that TTS provided me 30 years ago continues today. It's been fun trying to put together a complete run of issues, starting with No. 1 in November 1968. In addition to collecting the issues, I also enjoy browsing the ads and wishing I could go back in time. A full ticket from the 1939 All-Star Game for $35 (October 1979), T206 common players for $1.40 each (August 1979), a Harrington Ice Cream Babe Ruth for $40 (January 1980) ... I need to stop now.

I'm 10 issues away from completing my quest, one that actually has sparked another. I'm in the process of indexing and scanning every article printed in TTS. The articles will be converted to .pdf format and entered into a searchable database that any collector can access online. I hope to also include scans of some of the more interesting ads through the years.

The Trader Speaks was important enough that it deserves to have a permanent place in the hobby in one form or another. Plus, for as much as it gave me, the least I can do is give something back.

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