I’ve been a bit obsessed recently with Topps’ silver-age business model.
Now, I admit I’m no Adam Smith, but I’m completely baffled at how producing baseball cards in the ‘60s and ‘70s was ever a profitable endeavor.
I mean, I can grasp the current business model easily enough. Ten cards per $2 base-set pack, distributed through mass-market retailers, plus packaging variations on that basic theme. Then, a slightly more robust version of that base set is sold through to hobby dealers at a higher price point.
And really, the base set is just meant to function as a gateway drug to higher-end product—the $50 packs out of which the majority of users… er, collectors… will pull an Andre Dawson memorabilia card with a street value… er, average eBay sale price... of $5.
But 1970? That I don’t understand.
Topps offered cello packs and racks back in 1970, but let’s look at the dominant configuration: wax.
A 1970 wax pack contained 10 cards and a stick of gum, and retailed for 10 cents.
Now consider at least some of the expenses that went into that 10 cent pack:
Printing/material costs for the cards and wrappers, plus production costs for the gum.
Staff expenses, for everyone from designers to product jobbers.
Distribution to all the mom/pop stores across the country.
Payouts to the players (around $200/per, if my memory of Ball Four serves me).
And let’s not forget the scratch-off inserts and such that were a mainstay in packs from this era.
I have a water-damaged 1942 letter from club executive Larry MacPhail in response to a missive from my 11-year-old dad.
Family lore tells that dad had recommended that the Dodgers adopt a particular tune-of-the-day as their official fight song. There is nothing to support this notion in the text of MacPhail’s response, which is quick and polite:
“Thank you for your letter of April 10. We are happy to know of your interest in the Dodgers and thank you for the good wishes you extend.”
Like many grieving Dodgers’ fans, dad picked up on the Mets when they came to town back in ’62, comforted no doubt by the presence of guys like big Gil here.
By the time I became aware of the Mets, he was a full-fledged fan, and I can still hear the elongated vowels of his frequent rallying cry: “Cleeooooon baaaaaaabyyyyyy!”
Dad died in ’77, and I am now the same age that he was when he passed.
And now Duke is gone, and there are very few of those old Dodgers left.
So rest in peace, dad. Rest in peace, Duke. Rest in peace, Gil.
Rest in peace, all good men and women of Brooklyn…