House Of Cards by John Bloom
Baseball Card Collecting and Popular Culture (American Culture)

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Explores the connection between baseball card collecting and nostalgia among men of the baby boom.

"Collectors often decried how money had ruined their hobby, making it hard for them to form meaningful friendships through their cards. Money, however, made the hobby not only profitable but also more serious, more instrumental, and therefore more manly. The same collectors who complained about greed often bragged in the same interview about the value of their cards. Yet money, in turn, made the hobby less akin to child's play and more like work: lonely, competitive, unfulfilling, and alienating".

Baseball card collecting carries with it images of idealized boyhoods in the sprawling American suburbs of the postwar era. Yet in the past twenty years, it has grown from a pastime for children to a big-money pursuit taken seriously by adults. In A House of Cards, John Bloom uses interviews with collectors, dealers, and hobbyists as well as analysis of the baseball card industry and extensive firsthand observations to ask what this hobby tells us about nostalgia, work, play, masculinity, and race and gender relations among collectors.

Beginning in the late 1970s and into the early 1990s, baseball card collecting grew into a business that embodied traditional masculine values such as competition, savvy, and industry. In A House of Cards, Bloom interviews collectors who reveal ambivalence about the hobby's emphasis on these values, often focusing on its alienating, lonely, and unfulfilling aspects. They express nostalgia for the ideal childhood world many middle-class white males experienced in the postwar years, when they perceived baseball card collecting as a form of play, not amoneymaking enterprise.

Bloom links this nostalgia to anxieties about deindustrialization and the rise of the civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements. He examines the gendered nature of swap meets as well as the views of masculinity expressed by the collectors: Is the purpose of baseball card collecting to form a community of adults to reminisce or to inculcate young men with traditional masculine values? Is it to establish "connectedness" or to make money? Are collectors striving to reinforce the dominant culture or question it through their attempts to create their own meaning out of what are, in fact, mass-produced commercial artifacts?

Bloom provides a fascinating exploration of male fan culture, ultimately providing insight into the ways white men of the baby boom view themselves, masculinity, and the culture at large.


About John Bloom

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John Bloom is author of A House of Cards: Baseball Card Collecting and Popular Culture (Minnesota, 1997).
Published March 1, 1997 by University of Minnesota Press. 142 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Crafts, Hobbies & Home, Sports & Outdoors. Non-fiction

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Those he studied ``attempted to make a mass-media form meaningful within their collecting subculture.'' Numbing statements unfortunately blot out astute, ironic observations, such as Bloom's noting the annoyance show dealers have with children: What was once a boy's hobby now has little patience ...

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Publishers Weekly

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Fans of baseball and baseball cards will drool over Bloom's quotes from the Topps Company's annual reports-in which the manufacturer first concludes that the card market isn't just for gum-chewers any more-and will eat up the personal essay-style details of the shows and collectors' habits.

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