If you were a kid (of any age) collecting baseball cards in 1983, you devoured hobby information wherever you could find it.

In those days, that usually boiled down to a few limited sources:

  • Your friends on the playground or ballfield
  • The occasional local or regional card show
  • Hobby periodicals (if you were lucky enough to get ‘hold of them)
  • The very occasional hobby story in a mainstream newspaper
  • Baseball card packaging itself

These all had pretty severe limitations, of course, ranging from problems with veracity, to spotty or nonexistent access, to questionable timeliness.

There was no internet, there were few collectors in your area (generally speaking), and you were a kid, thus limiting your ability to get out into the world at-large, trolling for the information you craved.

Thanks to all of those challenges, and because even then we were hearing stories about some “priceless” find or people getting “rich” from their collections, young hobbyists invariably found ourselves searching for — or mesmerized by — baseball card price guides.

By 1983, The Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guide annual was becoming a staple of hobby reading, and collectors from all walks of life encouraged each other to “look it up” when a disagreement about card values interrupted their friendly trading sessions.

Indeed, “Beckett value” was already baked into the vernacular.

But the yearly “Beckett” price guide wasn’t all that easy to come by — you had to order it by mail, pick it up at a card show or shop, or maybe find a bookstore that carried it or would order it.

There was sort of a gap in the market, in other words.

Enter the House of Collectibles publishing house, who produced several books in the 1980s focused on the collecting hobbies of all shapes and sizes.

In 1982, with baseball cards just starting to stir 50s nostalgia among men coming back to their boyhood baubles, HOC produced their first The Official Price Guide to Baseball Cards.

It was smaller than the Beckett, both in physical size and the number of sets listed, but it was also easier to handle (pocketsize, some said) and carried a suggested price of $2.50, a 75% discount off the Big B. sticker.

Did it sell?

Well, it sold enough for an encore.

Indeed, as the hobby continued to heat, and as collectors clamored for more pricing information, The Official not only returned for 1983, it also brought a friend:

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Now, if a King-Kong-towers-over-Manhattan-perspective shot of Pete Rose with “BASEBALL CARDS” slathered across his Phillies helmet didn’t make you hungry for some hobby info, maybe you just weren’t cut out for this game, kid.

Or, maybe you needed just a bit more encouragement, as provided by the back cover of the book…

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Topps! Donruss! Fleer! Burger King, for heaven’s sake!

Not only were those card brands (and others!) included in the guide, but we were going to get complete set prices, checklists, a grading system, illustrations, and valuable collector information.

And — get ahold of yourself here — there was a ruler on the back of the book.

A ruler!

The mind reeled at just what the intended purpose for that might be, but visions of cardboard-fueled math sessions and packing algorithms involving mixed stacks of Topps, old Bowmans, Topps minis, Kellogg’s, T206s, Topps Supers, and every other shape and size card you could imagine made the measuring grid a delectable, irresistible feature.

Maybe most irresistible of all?

The promised “EXCLUSIVE PETE ROSE COLLECTOR’S CARD” sewn into the middle of the book.

Here, take a gander at this beauty…

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And the back was jampacked in a 1981 Donruss sort of way…

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Now, this card had some problems, and presented some challenges.

First, it was part of the book, so you had to do some surgery to remove it, or you had to leave it.

Second, it was part of the book, so it was forever getting dinged and creased and beat to heck.

Third, it was part of the book, and the book was available in lots of places, like the magazine racks and turnstile book displays at your friendly local Family Feeding Trough & Market. So you’d often find the books — and the cards — well-handled, or even that the card had been ripped out.

Fourth, it was part of the book, so it was book-page size. That worked great for those ruler-busting, close-packed-algorithm-development mindmap sessions, but not so great for storing with other cards.

But those challenges?

A mere spot of pine tar on the pristine ash wood that this book — and this card — offered up to young hobbyists.

Indeed, The Official Pete Rose 1983 Price Guide to Baseball Cards hit our sweet spot like few other books of the time and primed a generation of collectors for decades of hobby fun.

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You might also enjoy our YouTube treatment of a classic Pete Rose card from ten years before the Charlie Hustle price guide debuted. Check it out right here!

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