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The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card Paperback – Bargain Price, June 17, 2008

39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Lively and well-researched.” (Sports )

About the Author

Michael O'Keeffe is an award-winning journalist who is a member of the New York Daily News sports investigation team. He has been a reporter and editor for more than twenty years. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: It Books (June 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061123935
  • ASIN: B003H4RB4O
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,617,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl Sears on May 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I didn't have very high hopes for this book, since the subject matter (baseball card collectibles) isn't an area of interest for me, but an associate gave it to me to read on the train. I was very pleasantly surprised. Not only was it highly informative, it was extremely entertaining. I learned a ton about the history of baseball, how baseball cards got started, about Honus Wagner's life and the current, highly corrupted state of collectibles -- baseball cards in particular. This is a must for baseball fans and card collectors, or anyone who is interested in learning something about our national game.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It is the most valuable piece of cardboard in the whole world: the T206 Honus Wagner PSA 8 NM-MT. It was printed in 1909 to be included in cigarettes from the American Tobacco Company, and shows a stiff and blocky young man with his hair parted in the middle, with a "Pittsburg" [sic] shirt buttoned all the way up. It isn't much to look at, but it was most recently sold to an anonymous collector for over two million dollars. This is all true, but also it is unbelievable; there must be something wrong here somewhere. And there is something wrong, all over the place in the world of sports collectibles, according to the story in _The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card_ (Morrow) by sports journalists and investigators Michael O'Keeffe and Teri Thompson. You don't have to be interested in sports or collectibles to find this book amusing and enlightening, as it profiles collectors and their obsession with accumulation, and as it casts doubt on the integrity of many aspects of the enormous sport collectible market.

The authors admit that "Wagner's baseball card seems to have become more significant to twenty-first century baseball fans than Wagner himself." That's really too bad, for Wagner was a fine baseball player, inviting comparison with Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb, both of whom were selected with Wagner as inaugural entries into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. Cigarette companies in the 1880s started putting them into packs of ten cigarettes. Honus Wagner is the rarest card of the 1909 - 1911 set produced by the American Tobacco Company; There are around fifty of Honus Wagner's cards, each of them valuable, but most in poor condition.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sally Otos on May 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book was so much fun! I didn't know much about baseball or the hobby/big business of sports collectibles, and I learned a lot. Thompson and O'Keeffe vividly recreate the era when Honus Wagner played ball, when baseball cards came with tobacco, not bubble gum, then track the most valuable card in baseball and ask: Is it real? Did you know that opium and heroin were legal and available over the counter in 1900, even while some people were denouncing tobacco? I recommend this for Father's Day (but read it before you give it to him).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eddie Smith on December 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
Now that Bill Mastro has pleaded guilty to fraud and admitted trimming the Gretzky PSA 8 Wagner card, the book is a bit dated. But the book is still an interesting read that can be picked up for just a couple dollars. I have been a pre-war card collector for about 15 years, but only recently picked up this book.

At just over 200 pages before the notes section, the book is a quick read and can easily be finished in a day or two. The book essentially drifts among three different topics -- the PSA 8 Wagner card specifically, a history of the card collecting industry and a profile of Wagner's career and place in baseball history.

One point I disagree with the author about is the premise that Wagner would be almost completely unknown today were it not for his T206 card. Author Michael O'Keefe goes so far as to claim that Wagner would be almost completely forgotten today, like other Hall of Famers Tim Keefe, Mike "King" Kelly and Roger Bresnahan, were it not for his T206 card. Sure, the card has helped Wagner's eternal fame. But he is also an inner circle Hall of Famer; Bill James rated Wagner as the second best player of all-time in his most recent ranking of players. Even if the T206 Wagner card was not scarce relative to the rest of the set, he would still be a very famous name in baseball history.

I also thought O'Keefe wasted some space in the book by devoting a section to scammers John Cobb and Ray Edwards and their efforts to convince the card collecting community that their fake T206 Wagner is real.

The history of baseball cards in the book can be found in more detail in Dave Jamieson's "Mint Condition" book. But I did learn some things about Wagner the man in this book. The recollections from Wagner's granddaughter in this book were interesting.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jason A. Miller VINE VOICE on July 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
I spent most of the 1980s collecting baseball cards. I started with the complete 1977 - 1979 Topps sets, collected for me by my dad as a failed attempt at giving me an inheritance. Most of what I bought and traded for later I stored in shoeboxes (the 1980 Topps set is in the cigar box that originally heralded my sister's birth). My mother never threw my cards away; I still have them all, many creased from having been transported to summer camp in my pockets.

"The Card" is a fast, revealing read, and having lived the collector's life (in a penny-ante kind of way) I can say this is a must-read book for those of us over a certain age. It seizes on a single surviving 1909 T206 Honus Wagner card that recently re-sold at private auction for nearly $3 million, and how, through years of investigative journalism, the authors have fairly well proven that the card is not exactly what it purports to be.

Apart from the hours I wasted cataloguing and re-cataloguing my meager collections (I once traded the 1977 Chris Chambliss for a 1983 tandem of Ed Lynch and Dave LaRoche; dumb, dumb move) I've never spent a million bucks on a card of dubious provenance. I once laid down $10 for a 1957 Topps Luis Aparicio, too big to fit into the 9-card-per-page collector sheets that housed lots of 1987 Mark McGwires and Garbage Pail Kids at the time.

"The Card" is a terrific look at the dark side of the hobby. Since many of those noted as "villains" by the author declined to be profiled, the book mostly features interviews with collectors who've left the hobby out of heartbreak, or those who run honorable and transparent businesses trying to clean it back up. It's not just about baseball cards: it also touches on the grey market for "game-used" bats, autographs, jerseys and gloves.
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