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In the 1980s, Rookie Cards were one of the biggest drivers of the growing hobby. Before inserts and autographs, they represented the chase. And while that has evolved over the past few decades, it still rings mostly true.

But here’s the thing, Rookie Cards often weren’t a player’s first cards. In a major league uniform? Back then, yes. However, most players in the ’80s had minor league cards in the years leading up to their big league call ups.

Even today, minor league cards are often overlooked. That’s part of the appeal of minor league cards, though. They’re a niche.

In the 1980s, minor league baseball cards took on a few different forms. Some were given out at games by the teams themselves. There were also specialized dealers, often in the mail order business that catered to collectors with team sets and singles. And if you were lucky enough to run into a police officer in Charlotte at the start of the decade, you might have been able to get one of the greatest minor league cards ever made.

In the early part of the 1980s, TCMA dominated the minor league baseball card market, at least among sets that teams didn’t make themselves. Then came ProCards and a handful of others. By the early ’90s, minor league cards had evolved to be more like their major league counterparts. Team sets, which were how most were originally distributed, gave way to more comprehensive releases. Bigger manufacturers got involved and the niche evolved. The secret was out.

Sets might have been bigger and easier to find, but the novelty disappeared. And along with it, the discovery and hunt for a regional issue went along with it.

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BECKETT BASEBALL January 2019, Special 1980's Issue, The Legend of F-Face, Underrated Treasure: Topps Tiffany Sets, And More......