Beckett: A Company Ignorant of its Own History?

Beckett Magazine Covers

Beckett Magazine Covers

What started out as a simple price guide published ten times a year back in 1984 by a statistician named Dr. James Beckett has, over the past 30+ years, grown into a media empire producing multiple magazines, subscription-based online price information, catalog listings, marketplace buying and selling, and sports card and memorabilia grading. Throughout its history Beckett’s publications were considered the Bibles of pricing information. Once the online auction site eBay became the most popular site to buy and sell trading cards, Beckett lost that distinction, but its media empire still is the largest in the hobby.

Dr. James Beckett no longer runs his own creation, selling his name and company to Apprise Media back in 2006. Of the sale (rumored to be in the $20 million range) Beckett stated, “This company has had remarkable growth over the last 20 years, both in print and electronic media,” he said. “I am delighted to hand it over to Apprise Media, which has an excellent track record in growing niche media businesses, both print and interactive. I am very confident that Apprise, working with the Beckett Publications team, will take the company to the next level.”

This statement may have been true, but it lost part of its history in the sale. A good example of what I’m talking about occurred recently between me and a Beckett representative. I am in the process of trying to read every Beckett publication involving baseball cards. Buying the back issues online and the most recent magazines from my local sports card dealer. I ran into a snag at the 2008 mark. According to my own memory, and other places I have researched, Beckett combined its four monthly sports card magazines into one. Baseball, Football, Hockey and Basketball became Beckett Sports Card Monthly. Looking on eBay I came across the evidence I needed to be assured this change was true:

eBay's: Beckett Sports Card Monthly, Apr. '08, Issue #277

eBay’s: Beckett Sports Card Monthly, Apr. ’08, Issue #277

As you can see at the top of the magazine it states “New Format.” The numbering also matches up with the Beckett Baseball magazine. This is issue #277 (Apr. ’08). I couldn’t find Issue #276, but Issue #275 of Beckett Baseball is Issue #275 (Feb. ’08):

Beckett Baseball #275 - Feb. '08

Beckett Baseball #275 – Feb. 08

So the numbering moved from Beckett Baseball magazine to Beckett Sports Card Monthly and continued on from there. But wait a second, here is another Beckett Baseball magazine from May of 2009 and it is #43 and another from Dec. ’09 and it is #47:

Beckett Baseball Issues # 43 & 47

Beckett Baseball Issues # 43 & 47

So what is the deal with that? To give the readers some insight, let’s go back in the publication history of Beckett. The baseball magazine was originally called Beckett Monthly, then by issue #7 it changed to Beckett Baseball Card Monthly, It stayed that way until 2003. In May 2003, it changed its name to Beckett Baseball Collector. The numbering stayed sequential. Issue #217 in April was called Baseball Card Monthly, Issue #218 in May was called Baseball Collector. Then in July 2004 (Issue #232) it changed to just Beckett Baseball. It stayed Beckett Baseball until April of 2008, when all four sports monthlies combined to become Beckett Sports Card Monthly and this magazine took over the numbering from the baseball publication.

Logic would dictate that if you combined the baseball magazine with the football, hockey and basketball magazines (for cost-saving purposes), you would discontinue these individual four magazines afterward. But Beckett did not do this. As you can see from the images shown previously, Beckett continued with Beckett Baseball long after Beckett Sports Card Monthly was published. In fact, Beckett Baseball continues on to this day. Here is its latest issue (May 2016, #122):

Beckett Baseball #122 - May '16

Beckett Baseball #122 – May ’16

The only problem with this occurrence is that if Beckett decided to continue with the baseball magazine, why did it advertise that it would be morphed into Beckett Sports Card Monthly? And why would Beckett Sports Card Monthly take over the sequential numbering from Beckett Baseball? Logic would indicate that the Sports Card Monthly should be a new publication with a new numbering starting at #1, no? And Beckett Baseball would continue with its own numbering (#277 and onward)?

Now Beckett did not act logically. Perhaps it realized that its new Sports Card Monthly wouldn’t satisfy baseball card collectors and reversed its decision to eliminate the baseball magazine. Whatever the reason, if Beckett Baseball was not to be discontinued, and it would lose its numbering to Beckett Sports Card Monthly, should it have not started anew with the designation of Issue #1? But no, that wasn’t even logical enough, Beckett Baseball renewed with an unknown numbering. It looks like it became, at first, a bimonthly publication. I could not find an April 2008 issue. The earliest I found was from Oct./.Nov. and it was issue #29:

 

Beckett Baseball #29 - Oct.-Nov. '08

Beckett Baseball #29 – Oct.-Nov. ’08

Since it would be completely asinine to think Beckett decided to just grab a random number out of the air to begin its new numbering system for the renewed Beckett Baseball, the number had to come from somewhere. Since Oct./Nov. 2008 was #29. it would be impossible that if an April 2008 issue existed it would be #1. If we go back from #29, using a bimonthly schedule:

  • Aug./Sep. #28
  • Jun./Jul. #27
  • Apr./May #26

Do these titles exist, or did Beckett Baseball restart at issue #29 in Oct. 2008?

Whichever is true where did that numbering come from? For those who have a good memory back in the 2000’s they might remember another baseball magazine that Beckett published. It was called Beckett Baseball Card Plus. Perhaps Beckett Baseball Card Plus was discontinued and Beckett Baseball took over its numbering? It was a bimonthly magazine after all and its numbering, if memory serves me correctly, was in the 20’s or 30’s at the time. Looking around online I found an issue for sale from 2007 (Apr./May 2007). It was #29:

Beckett Baseball Card Plus #29 - Apr.-May 2007

Beckett Baseball Card Plus #29 – Apr.-May 2007

If Beckett Baseball Card Plus was numbered 29 in Apr./May 2007, it obviously couldn’t also be #29 and be Beckett Baseball in Oct./Nov. 2008. But just for accuracy’s sake, the image I found for the Oct./Nov. 2008 issue #29 of Beckett Baseball was not extremely clear. Here is an image of the bar code and you can judge for yourself:

Bar code of Beckett Baseball #29 - Oct.-Nov. '08

Bar code of Beckett Baseball #29 – Oct.-Nov. ’08

Perhaps it is numbered 39 instead of 29? If it is 39 then the numbering could match up. If the Apr./May 2007 issue of Beckett Baseball Card Plus was #29 then:

  • Jun./Jul. 2007 #30
  • Aug./Sep. 2007 #31
  • Oct./Nov. 2007 #32
  • Dec./Jan. 2008 #33
  • Feb./Mar. 2008 #34
  • Apr./May 2008 #35
  • Jun./Jul. 2008 #36
  • Aug./Sep. 2008 #37
  • Oct./Nov. 2008 #38

Now we are getting closer. But the progression shows Oct./Nov. as #38 not #39.

This is as far as I could go and it left a bunch of questions unanswered. Where did the Beckett Baseball numbering come from, was it from Beckett Baseball Card Plus? How many issues of Beckett Baseball Card Plus were published? When did Beckett Baseball become a bimonthly magazine, and when did it return to a monthly magazine again? I am trying to find all the baseball-related Beckett’s so this information is essential. If I have this information, I will know when I am finished the collection without missing any titles.

The best way to find this information is to go to its source. I emailed Beckett, a man named Chris, and I asked about the numbering of their magazines. He passed me over to a customer service representative named Shawn. Shawn responded to my query thus:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting Beckett.

This e-mail is in regards to your request for all sports card listing.

I apologize however we do not have the information of what cards, sets are going to be printed in Magazine however I can help you with special offers for Magazines.

I can provide you 1 year Baseball Magazine in just $44.95 (12 Issues/year), 2 year Baseball Magazine in just $74.95 (24 Issues/ 2 year), 3 year Baseball Magazine in just $99.95 (36 Issues/ 3 Year).

I can provide you 1 Year Sports Card Monthly Magazine in just $44.95 (12 Issues/year), 2 year Sports Card Monthly Magazine in just $74.95 (24 Issues/ 2 year), 3 year Sports Card monthly Magazine in just $99.95 (36 Issues/ 3 Year).

You can use Promotion Code RG. (Period is a part of the promotion code) if you purchase online from Beckett and you may get some additional benefits.

Please let me know which term you would like to get & I will help you with it.

Any feedback you have for Beckett will be appreciated. Feel free to write back to us or call us on the toll free number mentioned below.
Thanks,
Shawn Michael
Beckett Media
Customer Service Team
Contact No: 855-777-2325

Obviously there was something lost in the translation. I did not want information on cards,, sets etc. but issue runs and numbering. So I replied:

Hi Shawn,

I think you may need to read my email again. I wasn’t asking about cards or sets. I was asking if you or someone else at Beckett knows the print runs of the follow magazines as per dates and numbering: Beckett Baseball Card Monthly, Beckett Sports Card Monthly, Becket Baseball and Beckett Baseball Card Plus. These four magazines have a confusing numbering and dating system starting in 2008. I”m wondering if you can remove that confusion. I already buy Becketts at my local sports card dealer so I don”t need a subscription.

If you are confused about what I mean by numbering and dating, the magazines all have them. For example Beckett Baseball Monthly came out in 1984. #1 was in November 1984. #2 was in December of 1984 and it continues numerically up to sometime in 2008 when the numbering transfers over to Beckett Sports Card Monthly. But when it switched over it wasn’t called Beckett Baseball Card Monthly anymore it was called Beckett Baseball. But Beckett Baseball continued afterward on a bimonthly schedule (I think) but its numbering went from the high 200s to the 40s. So if it became the 40th number where are the earlier 39 issues? Were they from Beckett Baseball Card Plus? It’s all very confusing.

What do you do when u r confused? You go directly to the source and ask them hoping they think enough of your loyalty and business over the years to find the answers to your question.

I am in the process of collecting all the back issues I am missing and it is hard to do when you don’t know what magazines are numbered or dated.

So I reiterate can you or one of your colleagues tell me the print runs of the follow magazines as per dates and numbering: Beckett Baseball Card Monthly, Beckett Sports Card Monthly, Becket Baseball and Beckett Baseball Card Plus.

Thank you and I look forward to your response,

Scott

Shawn’s reply:

Thank you for contacting Beckett.

This e-mail is in regards to your query with the query for the print run of the Magazines.

I apologize however we do not have the information on the print run of the specific Magazines.

Any feedback you have for Beckett will be appreciated. Feel free to write back to us or call us on the toll free number mentioned below.

Hmm, I couldn’t believe they didn’t have this information. They are Beckett correct? They are the ones who published these magazines correct?

To be fair, Shawn obviously is there to sell subscription and answer subscription-related questions, not answer historical questions about the magazines he is representing. I decided to see if he would pass me on to someone else who could answer my questions. I emailed him this response:

Hi Shawn,

Can you point me in the direction of someone who would know?

Shawn answered:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting Beckett.

This e-mail is in regards to your query with the query for the print run of the Magazines.

We have forwarded this to our concern team and they will check if it is possible to help you with the print run of Magazine.

Any feedback you have for Beckett will be appreciated. Feel free to write back to us or call us on the toll free number mentioned below.

From there I waited, and waited, and waited. I sent an email to inquire what was happening with my query:

Hi Shawn

I’m wondering if there is any update as to when my query will be answered as it has been over three weeks since you stated you forwarded my query to the concern team. I have not had any response since then.

After a couple more week waiting, I received this reply from Shawn:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting Beckett.

This e-mail is in regards to your query with the query for the print run of the Magazines.

I apologize however we do not have the information on the print run of the Magazines.

Any feedback you have for Beckett will be appreciated. Feel free to write back to us or call us on the toll free number mentioned below.

As a purchaser of Beckett publications for over 30 years, I was disappointed I didn’t get an answer. Also, it raises the question, If Beckett itself doesn’t have anyone working for it who knows its history, what does that tell you about its corporate culture. Does it care about it’s history? Does it think its presence in the sports collecting world for more than three decades is of any importance? Does it actually care for its long time collectors of its magazine? Most collectors I talk with don’t have much good to say about Beckett anymore. Its pricing online, and its paper price guides are thought irrelevant when collectors can see up to the minute sales of cards on eBay.

But there is no arguing Beckett’s historical importance in the hobby. I continue to buy the magazine (Beckett Baseball and Beckett Sports Card Monthly) from my local card shop. Not because it has anything that I couldn’t find online for free no less, but because it was an important part of my early collecting experience and I want to continue to support it (the print magazines, not the online presence which I believe is not worth the money).

I guess I will now be in the dark as to what I need to find to complete my Beckett collection. It’s sad but I now feel like it might not be worth it anymore.

If you wish to see my progress in the collection of the magazines just choose Beckett Baseball Card Monthly from the menu items at the top of the page or click here.