Baseball cards were big in the 1980s, which led to overproduction. That overproduction spilled over into the 1990s, and so did some of baseball’s scandals. Between that, and so many people buying and preserving cards during that decade, there aren’t a lot of super-valuable cards from the 1990s. But that doesn’t mean all 1990s baseball cards are worthless, and you’re more likely to find a stash from the ’90s than the ’70s. So let’s take a look at the most valuable baseball cards of the 1990s. The decade includes at least one big surprise.
The 1990s featured a number of exceptional players. And by late decade, the manufacturers had mostly sorted out their overproduction issues. Late 1990s cards also tend to be very attractive, with vivid colors and high quality photography. So the 1990s can be a nice decade to collect, even if the 1980s jaded you like it did me.
When it comes to baseball cards, rookie cards are usually more valuable than non-rookie cards. But when we think of the Pantheon of valuable baseball cards, they tend not to be rookies. Instead, they tend to be scarce cards from hugely popular, iconic sets. The T206 Wagner. The 1933 Goudey Lajoie. The 1952 Topps Mantle. So what is the most valuable rookie card?
I recently decided to collect the 1948 Bowman baseball set. It has a number of things going for it. With 48 cards in the set, it’s attainable. Of those 48 cards, 18.75% of them are Hall of Famers. It’s also one of the two first postwar major-issue sets.
A partial box of unopened 1948 packs surfaced recently in Tennessee, so that’s as good of an excuse to talk about the set as any. No one knew any unopened 1948 Bowman packs survived. It sold at auction for $521,180.
Virtually every schoolboy who is interested in baseball cards knows the story of how Topps bought Bowman. After World War II, Bowman was the leading brand of baseball card, or, at least from 1948 until 1951. Then, in 1952, Topps released its landmark 1952 set. Bowman and Topps battled for baseball fans’ nickels and pennies until 1955. Then, in early 1956, Topps bought Bowman, and that was the end of Bowman until the late 1980s, when Topps dusted off the brand name and started issuing Bowman cards again. And Topps faced precious little competition in the baseball card field until 1981, when Fleer and Donruss won the right to produce cards.
That’s the story as I knew it. But there’s a lot more to the story, starting with the details of the purchase. In January 1956, Topps bought its once mighty rival for a mere $200,000. Normally a company sells for 10 times its annual revenue, and Bowman had sold $600,000 worth of baseball cards alone just two years before. The purchase price makes no sense, until you dig a bit deeper.
Dan Bowman kindly pointed out to me that former Commodore engineer Bil Herd wrapped up his discussion of the ill-fated Commodore TED machines on Hackaday this week. Here in the States, few remember the TED specifically, but some people may remember that oddball Commodore Plus/4 that closeout companies sold for $79 in 1985 and 1986. The Plus/4 was one of those TED machines. So was the Commodore 16.
What went wrong with those machines? Commodore miscalculated what the market was doing. The TED was a solution to too many problems, and ended up not solving any of them all that well. Read more
Dan Bowman sent me this link to Steve Gibson’s analysis of Truecrypt, a suddenly dear departed piece of full disk encryption software.
The important thing to remember right now is that we still don’t know what’s going on.
Johns Hopkins cryptography professor Matthew Green is heading up an effort to audit the Truecrypt code. Last month he said the code could be of higher quality, but at that point he hadn’t found anything truly horrible in there either.
That said, his analysis of the cryptography itself is phase 2. Cryptography is notoriously difficult to do–even when cryptography is your specialty, you can get it wrong.
So it’s premature to declare Truecrypt 7.1 as the greatest piece of software ever written. Green did find some flaws that need to be fixed. As far as we know, right now Truecrypt is better than nothing, but the most important part of Green’s work isn’t finished yet. Green has said he is going to finish his audit of the code. He probably won’t find perfection. He may find a fatal flaw that makes it all come crashing down. More likely, he’ll find something in between. But until those findings come out, it’s all speculation.
Gibson’s page on Truecrypt is a good reference page, but his cheerleading is premature. Gibson is a talented software developer in his own right, but cryptography isn’t his specialty. At the company where I work, we use Truecrypt for some things, and until we know otherwise we are going to continue to use it, but we haven’t made any final decisions on it yet.
Update: Here’s an analysis by Mark Piper, a penetration tester by trade, who explains the history and the issues today.
It seems like a good way to look at it. Every model railroad is a compromise. By my rough estimations, it’s 4.1 miles from Dupo, Illinois to Cahokia, but even if you model in Z scale, you’ll need 97 linear feet to model that line. I would think it would be very difficult to build a Z scale layout of that size–it would take a huge basement–and only put two towns on it. So, at the very least, people put their towns closer together and use a fast clock to make up for the compression. Some people compromise a lot more than that. Read more
Thanks to Dan Bowman for reminding me of this: Due to a bug in the compression engine in some Xerox photocopiers, copies aren’t necessarily identical from generation to generation. For example, it’s very easy for a “6” to become an “8.” Not good.
There was a Dilbert cartoon where the pointy-haired boss, to Wally’s chagrin, proofread photocopies. Suddenly that joke doesn’t seem quite so funny.
As cheap as storage is, I have a hard time understanding why copiers use lossy compression. There are good lossless compression algorithms out there that ensure each copy will be as close to identical as the scanning hardware permits. And I understand the desirability of image enhancement technology–it would make fuzzy documents easier to read–but such a feature should be optional, so as to avoid situations like this.
If you use Xerox equipment, be sure to bug your rep for a fix. Early and often.
This comes courtesy of Dan Bowman: If you’re an Evernote user (I’m not, at least not yet), it now has three new security features, including the all-important two-factor authentication. Those of you who rely on Evernote would do well to look into enabling two-factor authentication, at the very least.