Another look at “The Royal Game of Bezique,” by Camden — Part 5: Comments on the desirabilty of specialization . . .

For a long time I have collected material relating to Frank Godwin (1889-1959), an American artist and illustrator — and cartoonist.  You might think that seems like a very specialized field, but it isn’t.  Because of limitations of time and money, and other factors, even in the limited area of Frank Godwin items, there is a strong benefit in specializing within that field.  That is to say, if one does not have unlimited time and unlimited funds, one achieves (at most) a very incomplete “general” Godwin collection, or an excellent “specialized” Godwin collection (or several specialized Godwin collections).

For instance, a collector could specialize on Godwin’s comic strip Rusty Riley.  I doubt whether anyone in the world does so.  People who collect Rusty Riley material generally collect other things as well.  I have a ton of material relating to Rusty Riley.  But I would probably have far more, if that were my only collecting interest with regard to Frank Godwin.

So, you might ask, “What does this have to do with card-game booklets, or with The Royal Game of Bezique?”

Well, one might think that collecting “books on sports and pastimes” has to do with a specialized topic.  It does, but “books on sports and pastimes” is not as specialized as “books on card games.”  And “books on card-games” is not as specialized as “books by Hoyle” — or “card-game booklets.”  “Card-game booklets’ is not as specialized a topic as “Goodall card-game booklets.”

Some people might think that “Goodall card-game booklets” is, reasonably speaking, about a specialized as it gets.  That is not so, however.  One might easily decide to concentrate on “card-game booklets by Professor Hoffmann.”  Now, if one specialized as tightly as that last-mentioned topic, I would hope that was not the only area of specialization for that collector.  But it is a reasonable specialization, especially if one tried to collect every variation of every such Hoffmann title.

But another reasonable specialization within “Goodall card-game booklets” would be “Goodall printings of The Royal Game of Bezique, by Camden.”

This would be an especially rich field if one also collected the actual Bezique game sets that were issued by Goodall, and maybe related Bezique items released by Goodall.  If one stayed at this, and invested adequate time and money, one could amass an excellent, fascinating, and highly educational collection.  And the collector would learn things that probably no other person on earth knows about Goodall and the game of Bezique.

As for me, I often “pass” on the purchase of Bezique-related materials issued by Goodall.  Sometimes it is a matter of price.  Occasionally I have felt that items were overpriced by a factor of maybe five or more.  Other items might not have been in sufficiently good condition.  Other times, the hassle of ordering might be a deterrent.

But if I were specializing in Bezique items from Goodall, well, I know that I would have made quite a few more purchases.  As it is, I have about twenty copies of The Royal Game of Bezique, and a small number of Goodall Bezique sets.  But it is nowhere near as interesting or informative a group of items as it could be (and maybe someday will be)!

—Tom Sawyer

December 13, 2012

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