I wrote about Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen’s first book, The Insider’s Guide to Investing in Baseball Cards and Collectibles, previously on the blog – and had really wanted to get a copy of his second book, published three years later in 1994, but resellers on eBay and Amazon had wanted $70-100 for a copy for a few years. I just wasn’t willing to pay that much. Eventually, one of them dropped their price, and it was a race to the bottom. I finally picked up a copy of True Mint – Mr. Mint’s Price & Investment Guide to True Mint Baseball Cards for $10. And just like I did with his previous release, here’s my quick book report and a few scans from this hobby library gem.
Flipping over the first page, you’re greeted with the Table of Contents, and nothing stands out quite like the title of Chapter 2, and it’s fitting the author’s nickname.
You can see that there’s some sort of intro about the art of the deal, a focus on mint cards, things for buyers to be aware of, stories of Mr. Mint’s hobby buys and shenanigans, collections of known folks, a look ahead, and then Mr. Mint’s version of a price guide.
Chapter 1 – The Art of the (Baseball Card) Deal
Rosen starts Chapter 1 with a short autobiography and an interesting story about how he got the nickname Mr. Mint. It wasn’t from his dealer days – he didn’t ONLY buy and sell mint cards, but rather, it was from his collecting days since his friends knew him as being fussy about condition. However, Rosen knew that the name would help him promote his business, so it stuck.
He sold his personal collection in the pages of Sports Collectors Digest, took the money, and became a full-time dealer in 1982. Rosen knew, before many, that making outrageous, nonsensical pronouncements would help his ads stand out, so he wrote things like “Sell me your cards or I’ll jump out of a plane.” He then parlayed that notoriety to get a leg up on his competition at shows, too. He knew advertising didn’t cost; it paid. He also focused on having a good table location at shows.
Rosen knew he needed to know the market well and have a strong rolodex of other dealers, or the advertising wouldn’t pay off. Rosen also was happy to make 10 or 15% on his money but turned it quickly – some dealers lamented that he sold too cheaply. He shared that he never made more than 20% profit in any calendar year, which might sound tight until you realize how significant his volume was (~$6M in 1990).
Interestingly, Rosen didn’t keep any cards. He liked them and would look at them and examine them for a while, but then he’d take a picture to keep before selling it. Rosen mentions a photo library of 25-30k photos.
Chapter 2 – If It Ain’t (Mint), It Ain’t
Rosen explains that by mint, he means as manufactured, so an off-center card can be mint, though it won’t sell for as much. He explains that another mistake is allowing the age of a card to matter in evaluating its condition. Rosen didn’t care if the card was 100 or 5 years old; mint meant new as manufactured. Also, the scarcity of the card didn’t matter towards the condition. He then explains that when it comes to mint cards, he had never seen one go down in price – at least those under $5k because of the minuscule amount of available mint cards. The point is that when you buy quality when it comes time to sell, you will get the most for your card, which will also be more liquid.
Later in the chapter, you’ll come across this list of Topps and Bowman sets ranked in difficulty for finding mint cards to complete a set, along with two pages explaining it.
Rosen closed the chapter explaining that he didn’t only buy mint cards; he’d buy anything he could make a living on.
Chapter 3 – Buyer Beware
Chapter three has a few paragraphs about each of the following topics: counterfeits, trimming, bleaching, centering, rough cuts, print dots/lines, plastic sheets, slabbing (he wasn’t a fan), and unopened packs.
Chapter 4 – Every Collector’s Fantasy (The True Life Adventures of Mr. Mint and the Most Famous Finds in the Hobby)
This was by far my favorite chapter in the book, chronicling a lot of the famous finds you hear about. He covers the 1952 Topps find in great detail, along with a few others like the 1948 Leaf Rare Numbers Find, the 1932 US Caramel Find, the Kansas City Bowman Find, Dan Wells Florida Find, and the purchases of a lot of famous collections like those of Ted Koch, Herb Ross, Dan Wells, and others. However, I’ll highlight a few photos he included from the Paris Tennessee Find(s) since I had written about it on the blog before. If you want to know about the others, pick up a copy of the book or wait for me to write another article!
Chapter 5 – Card Styles of the Rich and Famous
Chapter 5 starts with Rosen describing the reunion show he put together with 32 members of the 1961 Yankees team. He paid them $7k for doing the show, but Mantle, Berra, and Ford got more. They laid out $725k for the show and wound up making $10k (they mistakenly held it on Mother’s Day). The chapter continues with stories about purchases and interactions with folks like Del Webb (one of the owners of the Yankees from 1947-1964), Lou Boudreau, Dale Mitchell, Leslie Wagner-Blair (granddaughter of Honus Wagner), and Al Downing, among others.
Chapter 6 – Around the Corner
This chapter is only three pages long and sort of mimics the hobby’s position today. In 1994, Rosen wrote that card sales were terrible at the time and that folks selling cards from 1981 to the present were going out of business left and right. His numbers were down to $3M from $6M in sales a few years earlier. He said the avalanche of new cards was the primary reason for this.
Rosen wrote that the lack of finds at the time also hurt things, noting that most of his were from before 1991. However, if you check out sites like Sports Collectors Daily, you’ll find those have spiked again.
Mr. Mint wrote that he saw positive signs for the vintage card business, highlighting the 1952 Topps Mantle, which has surged in popularity in the last few years.
Chapter 7 – Mr. Mint’s Price Guide
Pages 89 – 302 are Mr. Mint’s price guide. Each set has a description, some of his thoughts and insights about value/availability/scarce cards, a checklist and prices for mint cards, and a photo or two.
Since I just wrote about the 1971 Topps Rack Packs, here’s the first page of that entry.
As I wrote in my review of Rosen’s previous book, this one also included a ton of sound, practical, and applicable advice to collectors, even thirty years later. What sets this one apart, particularly for fans of the hobby history, are the collections of stories from his finds, relationships, and shows. I highly recommend grabbing a copy – it’s a quick read too!
Now, for some related content:
- If you breezed past them before, I highlighted Rosen’s first book here and his Find II here.
- I’ve also recently been highlighting other big names in the hobby in the late 70s and early 80s, like Mike Aronstein, Larry Fritsch, and Mike Cramer.
- And last, since Rosen is most famous for his 1952 Topps find that included a barrel of Mantle’s, here’s 10 Things You May Not Know About The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Card.
Happy collecting, and don’t forget to check out The Post War Cards Newsletter.