Compiling a list of the top 100 sports trading cards is a harder job than it sounds. Sure, you have the obvious choices, like the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, the 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan, the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky and — for those with really deep pockets — the T206 Honus Wagner.
But what comes next? In “Got ‘Em, Got ‘Em, Need ‘Em,” co-authors Stephen Laroche and Jon Waldman take on the unenviable task of listing the top 100 cards of all time. The duo does not focus solely on high-value cards. Instead, they select cards that have transcended the boundaries of their sport or that have made a historical impact on card collecting. It is a fascinating book that every collector should read.
That is not to say that valuable cards are not discussed. Many of the cards shown in the book are pricey. But all of these cards, whether worth $1 or $1 million, have made their mark on the hobby. The list kicks off with the Wagner card — a little piece of cardboard so virtually unattainable that the authors dub it “The God Card.” Ranked after that, at number one, is the 1952 Topps Mantle; no surprise there. Most seasoned collectors can probably guess many of the cards that make up the list. What really makes the book fascinating is not so much the order that the cards are presented, but why they were selected.
The authors do a great job of explaining just that. Granted, many cards in the book are rookie cards of iconic, hall of fame players, from Joe Namath to Gordie Howe. Of course, a rookie card is usually the card to have of an elite athlete. Each card listed in the book has two or three pages detailing what makes it significant, along with a full-color picture of the card’s front; no picture of the back, though. Many times, anecdotal information is included, such as a quote from the athlete, the photographer or a hobby expert.
While reading about some of the most valuable sports cards ever made is certainly fun, “Got ‘Em, Got ‘Em, Need ‘Em” is perhaps the most interesting when discussing the not-so-valuable cards. The book highlights quite a few “junk wax era” gems — 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken error card, 1992 Classic Draft Picks Manon Rheaume, 1990 Score Bo Jackson, among others — that were huge back in the day and helped evolve the card collecting hobby to where it is today.
Worth mentioning to hockey fans is that 22 of the 100 cards listed are hockey cards.
Laroche and Waldman also put a few short “sidebar” lists in the book: the Top 11 Hobby Innovations, the Top 10 Blunders by Card Companies and a look at 1990s gimmicks. They also include their own personal lists of their 10 favorite cards. As both are Canadian, their personal lists are heavy on hockey, which makes the book even more enjoyable for puckheads.
Quote that epitomizes “Got ‘Em, Got ‘Em, Need ‘Em”: A photograph is found on virtually every card ever created, but this all-important element is often taken for granted. Too frequently, collectors will pass over what are at times spectacular photos or renderings in favor of a name or serial number, ignoring the simple beauty of a card. This kind of error could very well have meant that cards like this would be overlooked.
What I like about “Got ‘Em, Got ‘Em, Need ‘Em”: The book is an excellent primer for the most important sports trading cards ever made; again, not just the most valuable, but cards that made an impact in collecting. It also fills you in on some of the greatest athletes of all time and what made them great.
What I don’t like about “Got ‘Em, Got ‘Em, Need ‘Em”: Pictures of the cards’ backs should have been included. The closest I will ever get to a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle or a 1911-12 Georges Vezina is this book, so including pictures of the backs would have been a service to readers.