As Topps celebrates its 60th anniversary, a new special insert baseball card pays homage to MOT Sy Berger, “the father of the modern bubble-gum card.”
And, a new MLB Network documentary, Cardboard Treasure honors his life’s work.
As Jewish baseball collectors almost certainly know, the tributes are well-deserved.
Collectors opening 2011 Topps Series 1 baseball card packs have a chance to find a “History of Topps” insert card (HOT-3) remembering the company’s 1952 issue.
The card features a portrait of a young Sy Berger, set against a background of ’52 beauties, the year “Sy Berger create[d] the first complete set.”
Mr. Berger’s first pasteboard was in 2004, with a Topps Fan Favorite card (#137). The card is readily available on eBay or Beckett for less than $3. It comes in standard, refractor ($5-$10) and autograph ($10-$40, #CO-71/FFA-SB) issues.
Jewish Major Leaguers also honored Mr. Berger’s contributions in its 2009 (#35) edition.
MLB Network Documentary: Cardboard Treasures
MLB Network is celebrating Topps 60th anniversary by airing Cardboard Treasures. The documentary debuts at 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29 (check the MLB Network program guide for additional showings.
While the program does not include an interview with Mr. Berger, according to spokesman Clay Luraski in an email to JewishSportsCollectibles, its does pay homage to him. And, rightly so. Any Topps retrospective would be incomplete without at least a tip of the cap to the man who spent 50 years designing, producing and marketing baseball and other sports and entertainment cards for the company.
A preview of Cardboard Treasures is embedded below.
A longer preview of the program is featured on MLB.com.
Other Berger Collectibles
Collectors interested in memorabilia featuring Mr. Berger, other than cards or the MLB Network documentary, have numerous options.
Robert Edward Auctions sold Mr. Berger’s collection of Topps baseball card artwork in May 2010, as detailed in an earlier JSC post. The sale featured 150 lots of original Topps artwork, consigned directly by Mr. Berger. Collectors not fortunate to have participated in the sale can still enjoy viewing The Berger Collection in REA’s permanent archives.
As the person who signed thousands of players to their Topps contracts, Mr. Berger’s signature appears on documents that regularly cross the virtual block. A signed contract (like this one for Lee May from my collection) can be found with some regularity on eBay. Expect to pay between $50 and $500, depending on the player — Mickey Mantle’s 1958 Topps contract is available on eBay for $15,000, if you’ve got extra cash lying around.
Player checks, signed by Mr. Berger occasionally crop up, too; these sell for $50 or more, depending on the player.
I’m sure they exist, but I’ve never seen a contract or check for a Jewish player’s Topps card signed by Mr. Berger. Such a document would make a compelling addition to a Jewish baseball collection.
For those who favor books as collectibles, be sure to check out Topps Baseball Cards: The Complete Picture Collection. This richly illustrated coffee table book includes a section written by Mr. Berger.
It has been my experience that Mr. Berger is a willing and generous through-the-mail signer.
Mr. Berger signed his 2004 Topps Fan Favorites card and his business card for me a few years ago via snail mail, and even included several additional variations of his business card with his response. Autograph collectors who mail to Mr. Berger today (email me for his address) may have a different experience today, due to Mr. Berger’s advanced age.
Do you have Sy Berger memorabilia in your collection? If so, what is your favorite piece? Do you plan on buying the new Sy Berger “History of Topps” card? Does anyone have more recent experience with T-T-M autograph requests to Mr. Berger? Will you watch Cardboard Treasure on MLB Network?