Sports Illustrated Blog #101 – Understanding 1954 SI’s, SI “Dark Era” Explained

Welcome to my Sports Illustrated/TIME magazine blog – Your collector’s guide to the latest hobby updates and insight into what’s trending now.

 SI 1954’s and the “Dark Era” period are mysterious, surprising and very collectable and here’s why.

1954 SI’s have a particular allure to many SI collectors.  Its 20 issues comprise year one, beginning with two of the most popular of all issues – #1 – Night Baseball with Hall of Famer Eddie Matthews and #2 – the first Masters review with the exclusive Mantle card (Mantle did not have a TOPPS card in 1954).  These first two issues also start the printed baseball card set (4 mag set, 70 cards, with the 1955 Mays and Rosen issues), a novel approach to card collecting and very popular even today.  

With issue #3 appears the first swimsuit cover (later to be popularized as a yearly event), again, very popular in its own right.  Next, issues #4 thru #14, are a series of commons – horses, football, rodeo, car racing, hunting, fishing, covering the perceived topics of interest of the day.   

The final 6 issues, #15 thru #20, mostly mundane subjects with the exception of issue #15 – Y. A. Tittle, are printed in short series meaning they are significantly shorter runs AND printing quality suffers – two reasons why few high quality covers have ever been graded.  A high grade, high series cover, is probably 10 times scarcer than earlier issues. 1954 SI’s can be found in singles or sets at very reasonable costs considering age other unique factors.  I have the highest 1954 registry for sale as well as many middle grade singles and all raw issues.  

What is “Dark Era” print?  To be very clear, “dark era” print is a term that I invented and copyrighted 10 years ago, to label a period of time in Sports Illustrated printing chronology that has produced a lesser percentage of high grade covers due to inferior printing processes and materials.  It is not a term that Sports Illustrated uses to describe this era’s distribution.

From many 1000’s of samples, I have pinpointed this era to begin with issue July 11, 1956 and running thru December 31, 1969.  The years between 1959 and 1961 are notable as being the worst of the worst.  Issues such as Aparicio, Unitas, Brown and Maris are specific examples of printing that just haven’t held up over time.   Any high grade cover during this period carries with it a premium in value over comparable covers outside this era.  For this reason Maris, Unitas, and Brown are a few of the most prized high grade, collectable, and sought after SI issues over its 75 year history. The only way to beat a CGC 8.0 is to find a cover which had been shelved since its printing, and never distributed or read.  

Feel free to submit any questions you may have on these subjects, as my contact add-on is now working.

I hope you are enjoying the reads on the history of SI, SPORT, and TIME magazines as well as an insight into relevant magazine collecting.

Great collecting to you in our second century and best fortunes with Sports Illustrated/SPORT magazines.

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