My favorite baseball experience as a kid was watching the 1986 World Series (yes, I’m that old) with my mom. I became a Mets fan that year, and I enjoyed booing the Red Sox, especially their stand-out player of the series, Marty Barrett. When Jesse Orosco struck him out to end the series, as tired as I was, I still ran around our TV room and cheered.
My parents presented me with the 1986 World Series DVD set for Christmas last year. Time had diminished my hatred for the Red Sox as a child, and I re-watched the series with respect for the team (and for the insightful play-by-play of Vince Scully and Joe Garigiola..sigh). My scorn for Barrett turned to admiration for his skill, grit, and timely hitting. I decided to try to collect his cards during his prime years.
Scouring checklists of Topps, Donruss, Fleer and Upper Deck sets of the late 80s and early 90s in the Big Book, I realized how difficult and strenuous it is to find the cards of favorite players, both stars and everyday players. There has to be an easier way, and, thanks to a few websites, it’s a piece of cake. After trying out a few different checklist sites over the past year, I’ve narrowed the field to three favorites.
1. Beckett: Even though the Beckett database isn’t user-friendly, you have to begin here. From Grover ‘Pete’ Alexander to Rex Hudler to Josh Hamilton, Beckett.com’s database is vast. A collector must sign-up to use the checklist feature, and price subscription ads abound, but the amount of information is stunning. With Beckett’s extensive database at your finger-tips, a collector can get used to the clunky lay-out and ads. With the free membership, a collector can track his or her collection or build a want list. Beckett also features checklists for football, basketball and hockey cards. http://www.beckett.com
2. SportsCardDatabase: SportsCardDatabase would have been my number one choice, but their checklists begin with 1933 Goudey. Collectors of tobacco and caramel baseball cards will have to resort to Beckett. However, for the majority of baseball card collectors, I recommend SportsCardDatabase over Beckett. The site lay-out is not as disorienting as Beckett’s, and the search results are ad-free. Using the drop-down bar, a collector can browse by set or player. What really attracted me to SportsCardDatabase is the search by Hall of Famer. Vintage HOFers are not heavily represented, but Hall of Fame players who have cards from 1933 – today have easily accessible checklists. I have not found a similar checklist on Beckett. As on Beckett.com, a collector can create lists for a collection, want-list or favorites.
Now the bad: SportsCardDatabase does have bugs. It’s pricing feature, while free, seems a little off. The 300×250 ads on individual card pages intrude on the website content, sometimes drastically. The Values tab in a card’s main page links to a server error page. And, a real deal-breaker for multi-sports collectors, set checklists for modern basketball, football and hockey cards are scattered. Except for 2001 sets, basketball set lists end at 1996. http://www.sportscarddatabase.com
3. VintageCardPrices: A website similar to Beckett.com, but with, of course, more emphasis on pricing, VintageCardPrices also has a very nice checklist database. A collector can sign-up for checklist and want-list tracking for free. While their lay-outs are different, Beckett and VintageCardPrices have very similar websites. Both have checklists that go back to baseball’s Stone Age; both have pay-for-pricing options; both feature checklists across all four sports. The only differences between the two sites are the aforementioned lay-out and most likely, their card price-guides will contain differing values. Many vintage card collectors use VintageCardPrices instead of Beckett for their pricing, but for those only looking for checklists, the two websites are about the same. http://www.vintagecardprices.com
Through my searches for baseball card checklists, I was unable to find a more thorough list for Hall of Famers, especially for Hall of Fame players pre-1933. A few years ago, a vintage collector put together a checklist website for vintage hall of fame cards, but I can’t find it. If anyone has found a similar site, please place a comment, or if anyone has other checklist suggestions, please feel free to share.