Calling tippies: a baseball card blog looks back at flipping.

Did you ever store your baseball cards in a cigar box?

This graphic is from an article titled "The Baseball Card Flipping Guide," dated April 6, 1975, in the New York Times. Even though it was written only 34 years ago, there's a bygone element to author Fred Ferretti's words:

"While a lot of attention will be paid to the official opening of the baseball season...of more than passing interest is the unofficial, but equally important, opening of the baseball card season."

Baseball card season...hm. Do you suppose he was speaking of the appearance of Topps Heritage at Target? Was he lining up his iTunes choices for background music for box break YouTube videos? Was he considering pack searcher demolition schemes? Was he tremulously anticipating the latest game-used bit?

"The competitive flipping of baseball cards is a great, honorable--and national--pastime that began simultaneously with the publication of the earliest baseball cards...."

Competitive flipping as a national pastime...does anyone flip cards, let alone competitively, anymore?

"Kids--both boys and girls--are still flipping today. Baseball cards are flipped not only in metropolitan New York--where flipping is high art--but in Boston; Chicago and Los Angeles; and in the suburbs of America as well. This great American game is pervasive, but also largely unheralded."

Indeed. One wonders if 1975 may have been one of the last years that baseball card flipping was seriously considered, by anyone, a pastime. A Google search does yields a hopeful site called Fleer Card Flipping, but the last date that anything promising occurs is May 2003:

So is that renaissance of flipping--known by baseball card scholars as il rinascimento di flippe--finished?

What of flipping in the modern world of baseball cards? Is it a lost art rendered archaic by concerns about condition and dinged corners? The grip, the stance, the flip: are the subtleties dowdy and fusty compared to modern cardboard pursuits?

Wait a minute. Are there any comparable modern cardboard pursuits that don't involve toploaders, sleeves, or binders? Whoa. I've got to teach Lucy the art of flipping immediately. Can someone post an instruction YouTube video, please?

"Unmatch: A perverse game, long a favorite in Park Slope, this is a variant of 'singles.' The flipper is required to 'unmatch' the specific order given. Authorities judge this a difficult game because a player not only has to flip his cards but must also think as well."

Uh-oh. Skip that one. How about:

"Off the Stoop: The object of the game is not to match cards but to cover one's opponent's card with one's own. If you cover the card, you own it. However, an important house rule, called "tippies," could change the fate of a game. A 'Tippy' occurs when a corner of one card barely touches the corner of another card. A 'Tippy' is considered a miss unless the house invokes the rule that a 'Tippy' wins."

Presumably, the house had to invoke that rule BEFORE the game began. The author ends with a story about the day that the 'Tippy' rule was not in force, and his card, a Heinie Manush,

was barely touching a Sweet Caporal T206 Honus Wagner. He lost. (We wonder if that particular flip dinged corners on the Honus Wagner card in question.) In 2007, a Honus T206 that was graded PSA 8 sold for $2.8 million.

Remember, this is 1975:

"Only recently has this ancient defeat returned to haunt me. I have learned, believe it or not, that the Honus Wagner card...

is now worth about $1,500 to collectors."

What more can you say? How about:

"All of which goes to show you what happens when you don't call 'Tippies.' "

The best history of the Honus Wagner card we've read is at Pop History Dig, which is also the source of the 1905 Wagner photo and 1909 card.


Rob- AKA "VOTC" said...

Awesome Post!!!

capewood said...

I didn't collect baseball cards as a kid but my younger brother did and then started collecting again as an adult. In fact it was his collecting that got me started. Back before I obtained my Holy Grail of collecting, a Mike Schmidt rookie card, when this card was worth up to $500, he imagined that maybe he once flipped the card. Flip one, there goes $100 of value, flip two, there goes another $100...