David Cartier is a name that will live in trading card history. Frustrated by the MLB work stoppage of 1981, David took out newspaper ads to find fellow collectors who wanted to take part in a public burning of baseball cards. It is believed that there were over 65,000 cards in that pit, including a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. Back in 1981, a mint ’52 Mantle was worth approximately $1,500. Considering the era in which this occurred, I can imagine there were lots more valuable cards from the early to mid-70s, if not older that were set ablaze.
The baseball card fire pit made national headlines, decades before collectors had access to the World Wide Web. If you zoom into the grainy photograph, it looks like the Mantle is heavily off-center. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is not a reprint of some kind. After all, David owned and operated Cartier’s Fairball Card Company, so it is likely he had first access to reprint/Broder-type cards. As of 2021, as expected, Cartier’s card shop is no longer in existence. David was 43 in 1981, so one has to wonder if he’s still with us at 83.
I was able to find an obituary from way back in 2005 which mentions a family from New Britain, Connecticut and a brother, David Cartier, who passed away. As you can tell from the 1981 photo, David wasn’t exactly a picture of good health so it should come as no surprise that David likely did not make it very long in this world. His legacy, however, will live on. David may have been the original “influencer” of The Hobby. Had he lived in another generation, he may have even been a blogger or YouTube star.
After extensive research, I was able to find the death of a David Cartier, DOB 1937. If you do the math, that would have made him 44 during the time of the card bonfire. The two articles that were printed had him listed at 43, which could have easily been an error. Either way, the David Carter I found died in New Britain, Connecticut in 1993, which was the same town Cartier’s card shop originated from. If that’s correct, that means David only lived another 12 years after his infamous bonfire and died one year before the 1994 strike.
If David did actually die in 1993, he missed out on the growth of the Internet and eventually, social media. That explains why no one has ever tracked him down for a follow-up interview and why there’s almost no information on him aside from two, tiny news articles and a book excerpt available online. That could also explain why there isn’t even a public online obituary, which is extremely common these days and has been for the past two decades. There’s also no available business licenses or even a record of his card shop, ANYWHERE.
For the record, a graded PSA 1 1952 Topps can be purchased anywhere between $35,000 – $75,000 on eBay and considering how rare 1952 Topps High Series is, that figure is only going to keep jumping. Here’s to the one man who had balls of steel to burn his copy to show those greedy, spoiled baseball players just what he thinks of them. Rest in paradise, King. This hobby didn’t deserve you back in 1981. It’s a good thing you didn’t make it to see exclusives, overproduction, and Topps losing the baseball card battle to Fanatics.
If anyone has any information on Mr. Cartier, please reach out to WaxMorgue@gmail.com