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Board Game Retro: Collectors Pay Thousands For This Vintage Baseball Card Game

5 Minute Read
Jan 22 2020
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Strat-O-Matic Baseball has been around since the 60s and is still so popular, some people bid THOUSANDS of dollars for these collectable cards!!

For nearing 200 years, baseball as been America’s national pastime. Now, I’m a good and proper, red-blooded, flag-waving American and that means… I don’t give a crap about baseball. Sorry, Alexander Joy Cartwright who, in 1845, laid down a set of rules that would form the basis for modern baseball.

What a slugger

Now, I’m going to move ahead with the very ethnocentric viewpoint that everyone knows what baseball is. If that’s untrue and you’re not fully sure on the rules, please check out this short video which basically explains it in a language you might understand.

A Little Bit of History

Strat-O-Matic was founded in 1961 by Bucknell University maths student, Hal Richman.

What a slugger

Originally, he sold the game out of his basement and even bought ad space in Sports Illustrated to help with sales. Unfortunitely, even that didn’t help and Richman was losing money for 2 years before things turned around.

He began selling the game with cards unique for each active player in Major League Baseball and people loved it.  Richman released other “versions” of the game for other sports like Football and Hockey, but he created Advanced Baseball rules in 1972. There is now also the Super Advanced Rules as well.

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And you thought only wargames came with charts of charts!
Or maybe you didn’t. I shouldn’t assume. I’m sorry.

In February of 2011, Strat-O-Matic celebrated its 50th anniversary with people lining up to pick up the latest edition. Among the attendees were Doug Glanville (MLB Outfielder), Rick Peterson (MLB Pitcher / Coach), John Dewan, founder of STATS, Inc, which is a highly regarded sports stats agency, as well as plenty of other speakers.

Later that same year, Richman was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Big year for ol’ Hal!

Gameplay

I’m only going to be going over the Basic Rules, because I got things to do tomorrow.

Strat-O-Matic is a baseball simulation game, so the objective remains the same as the sport. The Basic Rules use player cards, dice and charts to determine how each at-bat goes down.

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Each time a player goes up to bat, the hitter’s card is laid next to the pitcher’s card, as above. You’ll notice along the top row, the hitter’s card has 1-2-3 and the pitcher’s card has 4-5-6. The player throw a d6 to determine which column is used. Then roll 2d6 to determine the result within the column.

Rarely is the result something straight forward. More often than not, a second (or third) table must be referenced in order to determine the result of the hit. For example, a 6-10 is a “Catcher’s Card X”. So, the pitch was a miss and the Catcher must recover the ball. So, we go to the Catcher’s Card for their Field Rating, which is written at the top of each player’s card, by position. For example, Mickey Mantle has a Center Fielder Rating of 2 (1 is the best).

The rating of the player is used on the chart of their fielding position to determine the column and a d20 is used to determine the result. Rinse and repeat until you get 3 outs, then do that 18 times. And that’s the ballgame!

There are SOOO many more rules, but that’s the very very basics. You can start getting into errors and weather and choosing to Hold The Base Runners in order to prevent runners from stealing a base. The only rules I showed here involved rolling dice, but there really are a lot of choices and options you make: batting order, fielding players, holding positions, etc.

So People Like This Game, Huh?

I guess so! Enough to pay over $2,000 for it!

By pure coincidence, they were sold earlier this month.

Remember those cards I showed you earlier? They come from a RARE Original Complete 1963 Season Set of Strat-O-Matic cards.

“But that’s just one weirdo collector!” You say, being super judgey about other people’s spending habits.

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Nope! This item had 7 different bidders!

But wait, that’s not the final price I mentioned before. What gives? Well, you didn’t think this was the only such item for auction did you?

I’m actually asking. Did you think that was the only one?

This 1964 set sold for over $1,400, coincidentally just selling today!  Yup, turns out sometimes I wrap up these articles the night before they go live. It’s a bad habit.

Final Thoughts

People collect all sorts of stuff. I used to collect coins and there was that one week where I tried stamp collecting. So, I understand wanting to have a collector’s item like this. I’d love to that kind of expendable income. Plus, maybe these cards are super overpowered. Like is Mickey Mantle the Black Lotus of Strat-O-Matic?

What a slugger

What’s the most you’ve ever paid for a collectable of any kind?
I paid $85 for a fancy leather bound version of Treasure Island.

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