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  #1  
Old 01-23-2017, 11:39 PM
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trdcrdkid trdcrdkid is offline
David Kathman
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Default Hobby history: Gar Miller (+ 1973 Chicago convention)

I'm glad that people have been enjoying my most recent post on hobby history, about dealers Bruce Yeko and Marshall Oreck (here: http://www.net54baseball.com/showthread.php?t=233772). In the comments, somebody brought up Gar Miller, and several other people shared their experiences with Gar, who is still around at age 78 and selling cards through his web site, http://baseball-cards.net. My only direct experience with Gar was 20+ years ago when I wrote to him (with pen and paper) in response to one of his ads in which he offered to send cards on approval. He sent me a caramel card (maybe an E101?), but the price he was asking seemed pretty high, especially for my limited budget, so I sent it back with a polite note saying I would pass. He sent back a brief note and seemed miffed that I didn't buy the card.

In that thread, jsq mentioned the booklet on collecting baseball cards that Gar published in the 1970s, which really helped educate the general public about cards and collecting. Although I have more stuff on dealers of the 1960s that I was planning to post at some point, I thought I would take a break from that and post a scan of that booklet, "Baseball Cards: Everything you always wanted to know, but didn't know who to ask", published in late 1973, along with some other stuff as background.

The earliest significant mention of Gar Miller that I can find in my hobby publications is his entry in the 1958 Sport Fan Who's Who, when he was a 20-year old student at Rutgers. Note that he appears right before Jeff Morey, who is also still active in the hobby (or so I've gathered):



Two years earlier in 1956, Miller had been one of only 10 people to register for the national sports collectors' convention that Sport Fan publisher Bob Jaspersen had tried to organize in Chicago. (I wrote about that failed 1956 national convention in this thread: http://www.net54baseball.com/showthread.php?t=221393.) When the first Chicagoland sports collecting convention was held 17 years later in 1973 (March 30-April 1), five of those 10 original registrants -- Jaspersen, Miller, Lionel Carter, John Sullivan, and Sport Hobbyist publisher Charles Brooks -- were there. The May-June 1973 issue of Sport Fan has many pages of articles about that first Chicago convention, with the cover devoted to photos of attendees (including Gar Miller) and another page of photos inside. Bob Jaspersen wrote a two-page account of the convention in which he mentioned that this was the first time he had met Miller in person (even though they worked a mile apart in Philadelphia), and briefly told the story of the failed 1956 Chicago convention and the five people who finally made it to this Chicago convention 17 years later. Jaspersen mistakenly remembered that the five who attended in 1973 were the only five who had registered in 1956, but the postmortem he wrote in 1956 (included in the post at the link given above) says that 10 had registered.

I was originally just going to post the cover with the picture of Miller and the part of Jaspersen's article where he mentions Miller, but I figured as long as I'm posting, I might as well include the whole article and the second page of pictures. I'm also including an article from page 2 about Gar Miller being interviewed by the Boston Globe for an article about baseball cards, and contributing cards for Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris's "Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading, and Bubble Gum Book", which was published a few months later in the fall of 1973. My younger brother got that book for Christmas that year, and I spent many an hour looking through it at the color reproductions of cards from the 1950s and 60s. I assume that Miller contributed the T206 and Play Ball cards on page 33 of that book.

Here is a list of the people in each of the pictures:
1: Mr. and Mrs. Tom Altschuler
2: Dan Dischley (of The Trader Speaks), Bob Jaspersen (of Sport Fan), Charles Brooks (of The Sport Hobbyist)
3: Carol and Lloyd Toerpe
4: Lionel Carter, Rich Egan, Gar Miller
5: Dave Thiess and his younger brother Dan
6: Jack Smalling and Tom Muelling
7: Bob Marek (right) and Owen Ricker
8: Irv Lerner
9: Bob Solon (right) and Lionel Carter (cut off at left)
10: Bill Loughman with son Mike (left) and Willis Bowler
11: Art Ahrens of Hobbies Magazine (left) and John Sullivan
12: Don Steinbach
13: Jerry Jackson and Bill Totten
14: Mrs. Dan Dischley, Ed Budnick, and Pat Quinn (at the registration desk)
15: Matt Fitzsimmons and Ed Broderick
16: Elwood Scharf







In the fall of 1973, about six months after this convention, Gar Miller published his booklet, which was designed for beginners to the hobby, or people who just wanted to know more about baseball cards. It included a price guide, one of the earliest such guides. George Martin of Ballcard Collector had been doing price surveys around the same time; the 1974 edition of Denny Eckes's Sport Americana checklist book had the first of several similar guides he would write; and Jim Beckett started his price survey in late 1976, publishing the results in 1977. Apart from the prices, Miller's booklet is an interesting snapshot of the hobby at a moment in time when it was already growing fast, and about to grow faster than anybody probably imagined.












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Old 01-24-2017, 06:30 AM
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The Tobacco card price guide is interesting. I have seen T207 quoted rather high in a few of the older publications in comparison to T205/T206.
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Old 01-24-2017, 08:20 AM
darkhorse9 darkhorse9 is offline
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These are all great stories.

I'm hoping you find room to write a bit about the mail order dealer that got me into vintage. Jim Elder from Odessa Florida.
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Old 01-24-2017, 08:48 AM
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This is great! Gar's contact info was listed at the back of the Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book, and I purchased some cards from him as a result. The book itself was a big reason I got into older cards.
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Old 01-24-2017, 08:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darkhorse9 View Post
These are all great stories.

I'm hoping you find room to write a bit about the mail order dealer that got me into vintage. Jim Elder from Odessa Florida.
Elder had a lot of ads in hobby publications in the mid to late 60s, especially Sports Trader and Sports Collector's News, both of which I have complete runs of. In 1968 there was a controversy over his prices that led to a series of long letters to the editor in SCN, which are an interesting peek at the then-insular world of the hobby in the late 60s. I'll see if I can write something about that at some point.
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Old 01-24-2017, 09:38 AM
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More fascinating stuff. Anything else on Elwood Woody Scharf would be of interest. He and I corresponded about exhibit cards in the early 1990s as I was researching my articles on them. He was a pioneer in that genre of baseball card collecting.
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Old 01-24-2017, 10:28 AM
Griffins Griffins is offline
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David, thank you for posting these articles. Fills in a lot of blanks for me, and I'm glad this history is being brought online.
There was a collector that used to give away a card a month to anyone that sent an sase. It might have been Fred Kopp, or I may be mixing him up with someone else. It was an incredible gesture, he was slowly giving away his collection. Should you run across any of his ads I'd love to see one.
Please keep these posts going!
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Old 01-24-2017, 11:34 AM
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David -

thanks so much for posting this and your other information about our hobby. I was getting some trade pubs and attending shows as a young kid in the mid 1970s so seeing these names again as an adult, along with the information, is really great. thanks again
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Old 01-24-2017, 10:42 PM
Collectorsince62 Collectorsince62 is offline
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I sent many orders off to 400 West Cherry Street to Gar Miller back in the 70's. He was always great. He once sent me a T-206 Cobb with no back for $3. He was buying Tip-Tops at one point. I had several sets of the Cardinals and Browns. I told him I had an extra complete Tip Top set for sale, thinking it was just a St. Louis regional set. He politely informed me otherwise and said I almost gave him a heart attack.
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Old 01-29-2017, 06:07 PM
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Agree. Love the old hobby stuff.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Griffins View Post
David, thank you for posting these articles. Fills in a lot of blanks for me, and I'm glad this history is being brought online.
There was a collector that used to give away a card a month to anyone that sent an sase. It might have been Fred Kopp, or I may be mixing him up with someone else. It was an incredible gesture, he was slowly giving away his collection. Should you run across any of his ads I'd love to see one.
Please keep these posts going!
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