Vintage card sites, books and related things I recommend. This hobby needs more of everything except (get ready…) crooks, shysters, thieves, villains, con men, fraudsters and more crooks.
Forums & Reference Sites
Facebook has a lot of groups connected with the hobby. I broke loose of the Zuckerberg machine, so I can’t tell you which ones are best but you’ll figure it out.
Blowout Forums – Heavily focused on modern issues, this is the best forum for covering hobby activity, too much of it nefarious.
Vintage Baseball Card Forum – this forum has been running since 2001.
Vintage Non-Sports Cards Chat Board – the only non-sports cards forum that covers 19th c. and early 20th c. material, plus plenty of modern.
Old Cardboard is the single best reference site if you want to quickly get the basic information about a set. Ignore the prices they provide, as they’re badly out of date.
There are now far too many auction sites and I’m not going to the effort to list them all here. Old Cardboard has a decent events calendar and the “Auction Report” below is similar.
eBay was once the best place to build a collection by far, but it’s now largely a waste of time after they idiotically chose to treat collectibles like commodities and ruined their own thriving category.
Robert Edward Auction (REA) – now many times a year. Along with Heritage, the big player in the hobby.
Brockelman Auctions – My choice for most consignments. Charges very low BP of 12.5%, which means sellers get more of the proceeds.
Sterling Sports Auctions – Frequent auctions aimed at collectors. Good replacement for eBay.
Love of the Game Auctions – Well-respected in the hobby, good material.
Auction Report – This site maintains a somewhat complete list of auctions. However, since they charge too much for participation some auction houses don’t bother to sign up.
It’s almost always either SGC or PSA, although some people would also offer Beckett (BVG) as an option. All others should be avoided. If you submit to PSA or SGC now, be prepared to wait for many months to get your material back unless you pay their highest tier fees.
I’m glad to add other hobbyists’ sites here, but I don’t add seller sites unless I know them personally.
Vintage Ball – Postcards, real player photos, miscellany, detritus
Vintage Card Reference (non-sport) – Excellent review of 19th c. non-sport sets, with pictures
Boxing Cards – Boxing and more boxing, plus other stuff
19th & 20th Century Cards – extensive vintage card collection
T209 Contentnea Cards 1909-1910 – great overview of the Contentnea sets.
Blue Heaven – all things Dodgers
Number 5 Type Collection – Baseball’s vintage century (1880-1980), one card set at a time
Caramel Cards – First and still most informative site on E cards. No longer updated.
Vintage Dodgers cards
List of other collector sites
Books and Magazines
There is a dearth of books pertaining to vintage collecting, so get the few that matter.
The Encyclopedia of Baseball Cards by Lew Lipset. Published in the 80’s and now out of print, this remains by far the most important hobby publication. I’ve referred to it so often that I can now recite some of the sections by heart. Old Cardboard used to have extra copies for sale, but if they don’t you can still find one on eBay, Amazon or Alibris.
American Tobacco Cards by Robert Forbes and Terence Mitchell. A great overview of the “N” and “T” card sets (non-sport and sport), with interesting essays on different aspects of collecting.
The Photographic Baseball Cards of Goodwin & Company 1886-1890, Old Judge by Miller, Masson & Gonsowski. A comprehensive overview of one of the largest and most popular of all baseball card sets issued over several years in the late 19th century. Indispensable.
Picture Postcard History of Baseball by Ron Menchine. Pictures of many rare baseball postcards.
Beckett Baseball Card Alphabetical Checklist. Want to know which sets a player appeared in? This is a critical reference book.
Other relevant books
The Color Explosion: Nineteenth Century American Lithography by Jay T. Last. Not essential for most collectors, but a fabulous book with great detail and pictures of lithography. Out-of-print, but copies can still be found without too much difficulty.
The Trade Card in Nineteenth-Century America by Robert Jay.
Tobacco Advertising: The Great Seduction by Gerard S. Petrone. Great overview of the tobacco industry’s early advertising efforts.