If the recent near-strike in Major League Baseball left you yearning for a simpler version of the sport, consider collectible parlor games.
According to Mark Cooper, author of "Baseball Games: Home Versions of the National Pastime, 1860s-1960s" (Schiffer, 1995), "games are Americana at its best," whether kept for recreation or decoration.
Robert Lifson of Mastronet auctioneers adds that baseball board games often can be found relatively cheaply.
Availability and prices vary on eBay and other Internet sites, but depending on a specific set's age, completeness and condition, "baseball games can be collected on any budget," he said. That's increasingly unlikely with the historic cards, jerseys and autographed balls and bats his Chicago-based company typically handles. (Last month, a sale of more than 2,000 lots of memorabilia grossed nearly $6.6 million).
Cooper, a Philadelphia-area radiologist, owns more than 450 baseball-oriented games. The oldest, The New Parlor Game of Base Ball, dates from 1869 (the first year of professional baseball) and could sell for upward of $10,000. But each game, he says, "means a thing to a certain generation."
Baby boomers, he explains, "played the Cadaco All-Star Baseball Game." They "recall arguing whether the arrow was on the line (crucially determining a hit or an out) and still remember what the numbers stood for" on its player discs. Printed from 1941 till 1994, they're worth between $20 and $150.
An older generation remembers games such as Pennant Winner (made from 1929 to 1950), a tin-and-wood, pitcher-vs.-hitter simulation. According to Cooper, the very sight of it can reduce a grandfather to tears. Its ballpark range is $150 to $300.
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