In thinking about Larry's passing, I started thinking back to the days when mail order was one of the only ways you could get cards since card shops had not yet started to proliferate - in other words, back to the late 70's and early 80's. While I was aware of Fritsch Cards, the dealer I bought my mail order cards from was Renata Galasso.
If you were a kid during the 70's and 80's and collected cards, chances are you had heard of Renata Galasso, or at least seen the ads if you read any baseball magazines such as Street & Smith.
If you don't remember the ads, take a look. Perhaps this will jog your memory:
Here is the first issue:
Renata was quite a business woman. The story goes that she started putting together sets and selling them as a way to pay for college in the early 70's, and ended up growing the business to the point where she called herself the "Worlds Largest Hobby Card Dealer". Whether or not this is true is anyone's guess, but for a time from the mid 70's to the late 80's, Renata was one of the key mail order dealers in the hobby.
Over the years I bought many different sets through her, and was always very pleased. It was always a thrill when the latest catalog would come out, and it felt like Christmas when the UPS truck showed up with my cards. Usually during the season she would mail out order forms for sets that were going to be released later in the year, such as the update sets and the Topps Tiffany sets.
I had always imagined she had a large warehouse with tons of cards. As it turns out, the truth was a little less impressive.
Here is a link to a set of pictures taken from her store in Queens in 1986, which does not appear to be very big:
Renata's business became so successful that she, like Larry Fritsch, produced some card sets. Many of the sets were very well done. Thanks to Renata, I was able to get a full set of the rare Mars Attacks cards through the very nice reprint set that she produced.
Being in New York, it appears that she was able to work with Topps on a few projects since in addition to the Mars Attacks set, she also produced a Reggie Jackson set that included the picture from the rare test proof showing Reggie on his 1977 Topps card as an Oriole. There are also a few other pictures in the set that come directly from Topps cards, and the puzzle on the back of some of the cards forms a picture of all of Reggie's Topps cards up to the point the set was issued in 1984.
Here is the Reggie set with the Oriole card picture in the top left:
She also did a Pete Rose set, which included Topps images:
Other players who were featured in their own sets were Don Mattingly:
and Willie Mays (including an autographed first card in the set):
In addition, she did a set spread over 6 series of 45 cards each in conjunction with TCMA called Galasso Glossy Greats highlighting stars from the past:
Here is a picture of some of the cards:
The 45 card sets came free when you purchased your Topps set. See the ad above that explains that you get a free glossy set (a $4.00 value!) when you buy your Topps set from Renata.
She also did some sets based around teams. For example, the 1969 one-year wonder Seattle Pilots:
The 1961 Yankees (both B&W and color sets):
And finally a 1962 Mets set:
The other thing that Renata did was publish a Baseball Card magazine. This was much more than just a catalog for her store - it was a glossy magazine with pictures of players and articles as well as vintage card reprints, and was very well done. The name of the magazine was The Baseball Hobby Card Report, and you can occassionaly find them on ebay.
Each issue contained reprint cards, such as these which were included with the 1st issue:And what look back at the early 80's collecting scene would be complete without Ron Kittle:
I'm not sure what ever happened to Renata. I think she stopped the mail order business sometime in the early 90's. I'm sure the explosion of baseball card shops that took place in the boom time of the 80's hurt the demand for a mail order business, but I can't say if thats the reason she finally got out of the business or not. There may have been other reasons for her disappearing from the scene as well.
I have very fond memories of dealing with Renata Galasso and purchasing many sets from her over the years. Seeing the ad for 1,000 Mint 1979 cards in unopened boxes or a complete set for $13.99 takes me back to a time when card collecting was pure fun. No serial #'ed inserts to chase, no parallel cards, no outrageously priced packs, etc. Its those memories of how much fun collecting can be that still keep me collecting today.
Renata - if you ever come across this post, I'd like to say thanks!