Monday, January 31, 2011

And the Winners Are...

Last week, I ran a giveaway contest in commemoration of my 50th follower. It was a success beyond my expectations. Not only did it become the single most-viewed post on this blog in a matter of two days, I got an additional 11 followers to join up as well.

I may consider a similar giveaway once I reach 100 followers, so those eleven new readers make a significant step towards that milestone. In any case, thanks to all who entered.

In my original post, I mentioned that the winner would be chosen from random using a low-tech method involving paper, scissors and a hat...but the participation in the contest made me resort to more sophisticated means. After the 47 comments to my blog, the extra entries for those who announced the giveaway on their own blogs and a couple of email entries that came in from readers who have issues with giving personal information to Google (no penalty for that), there were more than 60 entries to choose from.

I went over to to help with this one. Writing all the entries into a program, it generated a random numbered list. Then, I had it pick three numbers for me, and we had our winners. So, without further pause:

The first name drawn was Mariner1. On his Emerald City Diamond Gems blog, he had already mentioned he was hoping to get this Clemente card.

The second name drawn was Cynical Buddha. He had also given a heads-up post about the giveaway on his Collectors Crack blog. This 1955 Bowman Kell card is now his.

The third name drawn belonged to Matt Hickes, who is now the owner of this Burger King card from 1978. Unfortunately, Matt hasn't linked an email address to his profile so he's the only winner who hasn't gotten an email notification. So, congratulations to him!

If Matt could kindly send an email over to me (Chris Stufflestreet at yahoo dot com, just make sure there's no space in my name), I'll begin the process of sending your card to you.

And thanks again to all who entered.

The Box Set -- A Hobby Artifact of the 1980s

Those of us who were around in the hobby during the 1980s definitely remember the Box Set. They were 33 or 44-card sets packaged in a box and sold at retail stores for a few dollars. At first, only Topps made them, but Fleer also got into the act around 1987 and there were so many box sets by the time the 1990s rolled around, they were a joke among hobbyists.

It all started out innocently enough, though.

The very first box set was the 1982 K-Mart set. It was a way to help the retailer celebrate its 20th anniversary. The cards looked like this:

The cards featured the MVPs of both leagues from 1962 through 1981, featured on their Topps card from that year. A couple had to be fabricated, like 1962 Maury Wills and 1975 Fred Lynn (seen above). Wills didn't have a Topps card in his MVP season after refusing to sign a contract with the company, while Lynn had been featured on a multi-player Rookie Stars card and was given his own "unique" card that was only available in that '82 set. Since the MVPs only filled up 41 of the 44 cards in the set ('79 had 2 National League MVPs, so each was given his own card), so three "Highlights" cards were also added to the set. Hank Aaron's card is shown above.

The 44 cards and a stick of gum -- this was Topps, after all -- were placed into this box:

Ah, the "Collectors' Series," a way of trying to encourage mothers to pick up a box and take it home. It wasn't as successful as either Topps or K-Mart hoped. By the end of the year, there were still dozens of these boxes sitting in most stores, marked down to a quarter as a further enticement to get it the hell out of the store.

The back of the box featured a complete set checklist, along with the years of the MVP awards:

This inauspicious beginning in 1982 was the start of a flood by the end of the decade. What started out as a way to get some extra cards sold by Topps and a few extra dollars for a retailer, as well as new cards for player collectors to chase, became a bloated behemoth during the days of runaway card production. In addition to having Topps, Fleer, Donruss and Score packs all over the place in 1988, it seemed every store -- Woolworth, McCrory's, Kay-Bee, Toys R Us -- had its own "special" set, with ever more ridiculous designs as the years went on. Since some of the stores were regional, it could have presented a neat way to get collectors in certain areas in the country to interact with each other...except the dealers grabbed enough to keep them from ever becoming scarce.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Errors and Variations

A while back, I was asked by a person who edits a hobby publication for feedback about errors and variations. He had just gone several rounds with a collector who was trying to get him to add a 1954 Bowman card of Willard Marshall as an error because he's wearing a reds uniform and is identified as playing for the White Sox.

(Here's the '54 Bowman Marshall card for illustration)
I'd like to share that here today:

My standard answer is that if the card was never corrected, it really has no extra value as a result. For instance, look at the 1959 Lew Burdette card. It shows Lew as a lefty (he and Warren Spahn swapped gloves on picture day as a practical joke), but the picture isn't a true error. Even then, Lew's name is spelled "Lou" on the card (which Topps repeated in '60). Neither the photo nor the spelling of his first name were changed, so the card has no added value as a result.

On the other hand, there's the 1957 Topps card of Hank Aaron with a reversed negative. A quick look at Aaron's uniform number shows it's backwards. This card has added value over common 1957 Topps cards, but not because it's an error. I'll argue that the 1957 Topps card of Aaron wouldn't be any less valuable today if the negative had been corrected and reversed before the cards were printed...of course, correcting the photo afterwards would have created a different variation and the hobby would have determined whether one variation would be more valuable than the other: like the 1958 Yellow variations and the 1969 Mickey Mantle variatons.

I guess the short answer to your question would be that if the card never was corrected, there really isn't a reason to worry about it as far as the hobby is concerned. Otherwise, we'd be having to list every single "hatless" card of the 1960s, every card that wasn't airbrushed before it was printed (like Don Zimmer's 1962 Topps card with him in a Mets uniform but listed as a member of the Reds) and every card with a typo on the back as an "error" card.

If the collector in question can produce a legitimate 1954 Bowman card of Willard Marshall in a different uniform...then he'd have something.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My 50th Follower...Means a Giveaway!

Last week, this blog reached a milestone. In only nine months, it has picked up 50 followers.

While I am of the impression that this blog should be required reading for everybody, I do realize that many collectors don't always spend a lot of time looking at "old" stuff. There is also the possibility that some just don't have a lot of older material in their collections and therefore don't spend a lot of time looking around at stuff they would be tempted to pick up.

Well, let me see if I can help you out with a giveaway.

In celebration of Follower #50, it's only appropriate that the first prize have something to do with the number 50, and we'll go to the set I blog about three times each week:

This is card #50 from the '73 Topps set.

For those who read my 1973 Topps photography blog, this card was featured there last year. It was the last card Topps made for Roberto Clemente and was included in the first series of the '73 set before the news of his plane crash could get it pulled. As a result, the back of the card shows his final career statistics.

This is one of three cards I'll be giving away. The second one comes from the 1955 Bowman set, which was the subject of this article I wrote in SMR in 2007 (the link brings up a PDF file):

Sadly, George Kell passed away in 2009. However, he lives on in the memories of those who watched him play, listened to his broadcasts and collected his baseball cards.

Finally, this one is not quite what it might seem:

It looks like a 1978 Topps card, but it's actually a 1978 Burger King card of Jim "Catfish" Hunter from the final years of his Hall of Fame career.

That gives three vintage Hall of fame cards to give away. They're not "investor-grade" quality, but they're cards that would do better in a collection than in my dupes box. Just to clarify: there will be three separate giveaways (and three separate winners), not just one.

Unlike last time, there are no restrictions to who can enter. All you need to do is enter a comment below. There will be three separate drawings, all involving a time-honored method involving scissors, paper and a hat. Any bloggers who post about this contest will get an extra entry into the drawing. I'll keep this up until Sunday evening and announce the winners on Monday. Good luck!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cool Vintage Hockey Cards

For a Sportscards blog, I really have given short shrift to basketball and hockey. As of now, I've only had one post related to basketball and nothing to show for hockey. Since I haven't collected much of either (despite a 1970s Basketball wantlist that can be seen from my wantlist links on the sidebar) and despite repeated requests for guest articles here, I've had to simply let them slide. However, it's the baseball offseason and the football playoffs are nearly over...what better time to try and get some of the other sports represented while they're still in season?

These images were shared by a buddy of mine from Ontario:

This Lipton box is from 1974-'75. As you can see, there were two cards that could be cut from the box. In all, there were 50 players (with Borje Salming available with either a horizontal or vertical card, for a total of 51 cards). I'm told they're fairly rare...occasionally the 2-card panels and box backs can be found, but the entire box is rare indeed. As you might expect, many of the cards found were cut from the boxes with young hands and scissors...not necessarily a good combination for maintaining top conditions.

I like the image on that Garry Unger card, which show the puck up close (you can click the image to see it larger). He had some other boxes, including this one:

A classic 1970s pose and Tony Esposito in full goalie gear. Great stuff.

In fact, hockey cards go back as far as the early 1900s. There is some really rich history there, something I'd love to show on this blog as I go along.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wonderful World of Stamps

Last May, I wrote an entry to this blog about Joe Greene. In it, I mentioned that the NFL players' union authorized three sets to release in 1972 and showed the Greene cards from two of them. At the time, I didn't have any cards from the third...but that has recently changed.

The 1972 NFLPA Wonderful World of Stamps was a set designed to be placed in a sticker album, probably as an item that could be sold at school book sales and in other places that would attract kids' attention. They were actually issued in both 1971 and '72, as there are variations involving players who had been traded or left the team.

There are 390 stickers in the set -- not including those variations -- which broke down to 15 cards for each of the 26 teams them in the NFL. Cards are numbered like the Fleer and Topps sets of old, with players grouped alphabetically by team. In the case of the Steelers, they run from #316 (Chuck Allen) to #330 (Bobby Walden). Here's the back of Bradshaw's card to show his number:

As you can see, there is an instruction to paste the stamp, as it is not pre-moistened. The manufacturer also determined it was unwise to clutter up the back of the stamp with details, as they wouldn't be seen once the picture is placed in the album.

Here is the other Steeler I picked up in the lot:

Ray Mansfield was the regular center before Mike Webster arrived. In fact, "Ranger" was the starting center from 1964 through his retirement in 1976. He was one of the few players who stayed on with the team once Chuck Noll began weeding out players who predated his tenure. He was a part of two Super Bowl-winning teams and a fan favorite who was approachable when he wasn't playing. Sadly, Mansfield died of a heart attack while hiking in the Grand Canyon in 1996.

This post isn't all about the Steelers, though. I had to get an entire lot for those two stamps. Here are some of the others:

Daryle Lamonica was the starting QB for the Oakland Raiders as they developed into one of the best teams in football and played in Super Bowl II. His first three seasons were spent in Buffalo, backing up Jack Kemp. Between his days in the AFL and after that league's merger with the NFL, he finished with a 66-16-4 record in games he quarterbacked. Only Otto Graham has a better winning record than that.

(This card was only issued in the 1971 set)

I grew up in the 1980s and remember Fred Dryer as the star of the TV show Hunter. But before he became an actor, he was a very good football player. After three years with the Giants (as shown here), he went to the L.A. Rams and played for a decade there. As a defensive end, he played on a team that allowed fewer points, fewer yards and sacked more opponent QBs than any other team in the 1970s. He would play in one Super Bowl, against the Steelers.

(This card was only issued in the 1971 set)

Tom Dempsey is shown as a member of the New Orleans Saints, but was actually playing in Philadelphia in 1971-'72. He was born without toes on his right foot or fingers on his right hand, so he kicked with a special flattened shoe. This allowed him to kick straight like the old-time players did, rather than the soccer-style kick that had become the standard. In 1970, he booted a 63-yard field goal to win a game for the Saints in the final seconds of a game. It is still the all-time record for a field goal.

Finally, Chuck Howley was a Hall of Fame linebacker from the Dallas Cowboys' glory days and a member of the team's Ring of Honor. Blessed with speed, he was an interception threat, twice getting over 100 yards a season in returns. He's also the only person from the losing team ever named Super Bowl MVP.

I'm only collecting the Steelers, so if anybody is interested in seeing what else I have in the lot (about 35 cards in all) and would like to set up a trade, let me know. It's a great way for team collectors to add to their own stash.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Teammate to the Legends

Today, I'll show off a 1934-'36 Batter Up card from my collection:

Card #22 -- "Red" Rolfe, New York Yankees

This card is my only Yankee player from the set. If you'd like to know more about the set itself, read about it on my website.

It shows him as a shortstop, but he was the regular third baseman for the Yankees teams that won four straight World Series between 1936-'39. He played ten seasons with the team (1931, 1934-'42), and appeared in six World Series, winning all but one.

Even more amazing is this fact: at some point in his career, Red Rolfe was literally able to take the field with a an all-Hall of Fame team:

1B: Lou Gehrig
2B: Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon
SS: Phil Rizzuto
3B: Joe Sewell
OF: Babe Ruth, Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio
C: Bill Dickey
P: Lefty Gomez, Waite Hoyt, Red Ruffing, Herb Pennock

That's quite a lineup.

For the record...Joe Sewell is a Hall of Famer as a shortstop, but never played that position for the Yankees. He was the team's regular third baseman from 1932-'34 (and Rolfe took his place once he retired).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Condition & Grading

(I wrote this about 4 years ago, as part of a book on the hobby I never quite finished. I'm including it today because it still needs to be said. And because I'll always jump on the chance to recycle my own content into a post. You can call it lazy, but, hey, it's new to you, right? The cards shown aren't part of the planned book, just some illustrations.)

A card’s appearance affects its selling price. The better a card looks, the more it will be worth. Supply and demand establish a card’s basic selling price, but buyers generally want the best looking card for the money. If a card shows any damage at all, its appeal is lowered.  Buyers expect to pay less if it exhibits flaws. On the other hand, a card with more perfect features can fetch much more money than its book value. This is especially true with older cards.

Back when a lot of hobby business was conducted through the mail, there was a need to adequately describe whether a card exhibited any wear. As a result, collectors developed a set of grades. A card’s grade is a way of describing its overall condition. Assessing a card’s condition was easy when done in person, but long-distance transactions meant sellers were expected to be honest about the shape of any cards they were offering. Using grades helped buyers and sellers come to an agreement about how much a card was worth.

When card values began to rise in the 1980s, it became more important to give an accurate grade because a change in grade could mean a difference of a significant amount of money. Some sellers developed a reputation for grading cards poorly, while buyers were likely to be a lot more discriminating. A need arose in the hobby for an alternative method of grading, where a third party would evaluate a card’s condition and then encapsulate it to prevent further damage. After several failed attempts in the late 1980s to establish a viable third-party grading company, professionally-graded cards were a hobby reality by the early-mid 1990s.

Today, the difference in a final selling price between one grade and the next on high-value cards can be hundreds of dollars. For high-demand cards like the T206 Honus Wagner, 1933 Goudey Nap LaJoie or 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle the difference can be thousands of dollars. The advent of eBay and the internet have made it easier for sellers to show images of cards to prospective buyers; however, digital pictures may fail to show certain types of damage and can be altered with little effort to make the card look better. Because of such advanced technology, buyers still expect an accurate description along with an image.

(Not a mint card)

Standard Grading Guidelines

Even with the success of professional grading services, the vast majority of collections have not been graded. There are many reasons for this: some collectors don’t want to pay for a third-party service, aren’t really concerned about condition, won’t submit cards to grade unless they are truly high-grade or just don’t bother with graded material. In the hobby, cards that have not been graded are called “raw” and are assessed by the condition guide listed below.

There are several standard grades in the hobby:

Mint (MT) – A perfect card. The card has four perfectly sharp corners, full gloss, and no damage whatsoever. It must be well-centered, with equal borders. No creases, edge dents, surface scratches, paper flaws, yellowing or fading, regardless of age. An imperfectly printed card (out of register, miscut or showing print flaws) or card stained by contact with wax or gum cannot be considered mint, even if it has just been pulled from a pack. Cards from 1981 and later that are truly mint will fetch 25-50 percent above book value. Vintage cards in mint can sell for many times the listed value.

Near Mint (NMT) – At first glance, the card appears perfect; under closer examination, however, a minor flaw will be discovered. These minor defects can be from the factory, such as print lines, dots, or a photo that is slightly out of register. On well-centered cards, three of the four corners must be perfectly sharp. A slightly-off-center card would also fit this grade. Cards listed in price guides are generally priced as NMT.

(Also not a mint card)

Excellent (EX) – The corners are still fairly sharp, the gloss on the picture may show minor wear from rubbing against other cards, and the card contains no creases. Cards may be a little off-center. This grade refers to a very nice card with no visible damage that is just not quite perfect. Though the damage is minimal, a card in EX is only worth about 50 percent of book value.

Very Good (VG) – The card shows obvious handling. Corners show some rounding, the gloss on the picture shows some wear, and there may be some minor creases. Wax and gum stains may be visible. There is minor damage to the card from handling, though there are no major creases or other major types of damage. VG cards are worth about 30 percent of listed book value.

Good (G) – The card shows much wear such as rounding of corners, major or multiple creases. The card has some definite problems, though no intentional damage. Due to the low demand for G cards, they sell for about 10 percent of book value.

(This card isn't mint, either)

Fair (F) – The card shows excessive wear, such as large and multiple creases, excessive surface wear, small pin or staple holes, slight tearing, some tape damage, added pen or pencil marks, other damage. This card is of questionable value to collectors, although it is still basically intact. Cards in this shape are worth around 5 percent of book value.

Poor (P) – The card shows major damage. Parts may be torn away. There may be large holes, major pen or pencil writing, water damage, or other major problems. Major portions of the front or back might be missing. Not a very collectible card, except as a “set filler” until a better copy is found. Though most cards in this condition hold minimal value, some collectors will pick up high-dollar cards in this shape.

(Superstar? Yes...but still not a mint card)

Since this condition guide is dependent on the person judging the grade, it’s not always perfect. There is a great deal of “gray” area in the definitions. Sometimes a card can exhibit all the characteristics of one grade and show many of the qualities for the higher grade as well. Because of this, sellers will often use a combination of two grades. For instance, a card that could be considered better than VG but not quite EX will be listed as VG/EX, and a card that is better than EX but not quite NMT is called EX/MT.

These guidelines are not universal. Different sellers have their own standards: some grade conservatively, while others are frequently a grade or two above what the buyer thinks it should be. Collectors who buy cards over the Internet or through the mail should understand a seller’s return policy if they don’t agree with the grade. Most sellers are happy to accept returns in case a seller disagrees with the stated conditions, but a few will not. In dealing with businesses, it’s important to know that the power lies with buyers; when sellers don’t deliver good service, they don’t deserve repeat business.

(Definitely not a mint card)

The least you need to know about grading:

Off-centered cards and cards with printing flaws (such as a blurry picture) cannot be considered mint. A card with wax or gum stains from its original packaging cannot be considered higher than VG. A card with any creases cannot be considered higher than VG. Any tape residue or paper loss will grade it no higher than F, even if everything else is perfect. Pen and pencil marks drop the condition to P, though some collectors will be a little forgiving if they are only on the back. Pinholes grade no higher than F, but nails, punched holes and tears rate the card as P. An old card with yellowing or fading cannot be given a pass because of its age.

When I wrote this, I was asked by a couple guys who read through it where I'd come up with the standards. I admitted I'd used several hobby guides and magazines from the 1980s and compacted what they said into my own version. The response was somewhat interesting: when certain "old-timers" who've been in the hobby since that time or before assign grades, they tend to over-grade (for instance, if they say it's EX, you're going to assume it's actually VG). Ironically, the standards as they were written about 25 years ago are as strict as what grading companies use today. However, the long-term sellers are notoriously off in regards to condition, so they obviously paid less attention to them than they did to the prices listed in those same references. 

Personally, I've just come to expect it from some sellers.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Here's a question from my email Inbox that really needs some more info in it...

Q:  "I have a  Rick Monday 3-D Super Star Card. Is it a good one?"

(This wasn't a scan from the email, just a card where I had a scan handy to illustrate)


If by "good" you mean, "is it real?"...then yes. However, if you want to know if it's rare and valuable...not really.

The card you have was included in a box of Kelloggs' breakfast cereal. Monday appeared in three of their sets between 1971 and 1979. The issue year of your card will be the year after the last one on the stats listed on the card back...for example, if the stats end with the 1978 season, your card will be a 1979 Kellogg's card.

Rick Monday was a dependable player for a long time. However, he wasn't a superstar player like Reggie Jackson or Nolan Ryan, so his card isn't worth much more than 25-50 cents. That is, unless you have his 1971 card, which is worth maybe a dollar.

One minor thing to consider: Kelloggs' cards are prone to bending and cracking. Slight bends are OK, but if your card has a crack in it, it's going to lose a lot of its value.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Non-Card Item From the Collection

(The Steelers begin the playoffs this weekend. With that, I'm hoping a post can help send positive vibes their way.)

Today's post features an item from my own collection, as it does most Wednesdays. However, this one isn't a card in any sense of the term:

This team photo of the Steelers is on a flat aluminum sheet. It was intended to be used to make a beer can but never was rolled into its final product, which looked a little like these other items from my collection:

(Not an advertisement for Iron City Beer...honest)

Unfortunately, I don't have the finished can to allow for a side-to-side comparison. It's interesting that the cans don't have any bar code or information about ingredients and nutritional values you find on cans nowadays. It may be a result of their collectible nature, or the fact that they're alcoholic beverages. It can't be due to their age, though, as the RC cans that pictured players on them in the 1970s had bar codes and a list of what was in the drink.

Thanks to the way they sat in uniform order, the Hall of Fame players in the '79 team picture can quickly be picked out:
  • Terry Bradshaw, #12
  • Franco Harris, #32
  • Mel Blount, #47
  • Mike Webster, #52
  • Jack Lambert, #58
  • Jack Ham, #59
  • Joe Greene, #75
  • John Stallworth, #82
  • Lynn Swann, #88
Additionally, coach Chuck Noll is at the very left, sitting in the second-to-bottom row. That makes 10 Hall of Famers on that team, but there were other fan favorites as well, such as Rocky Bleier (#20), L.C. Greenwood (#68) and Donny Shell (#31).

In 1979, the Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XIII, which gave them the record for winning more Super Bowl titles than any other team in the NFL. That's why "Super" shows up three times above the photo. They would add a fourth Lombardi trophy to the team display once the season was over, which led to this other item from my collection:

(A Sweetheart cup...I had to have this when I saw it on a seller's shelf)

As we know, Joe Greene never got to add another ring to the thumb before retiring after the '81 season. He would go on to coach with the Steelers, the Cardinals and the Dolphins and didn't manage to pick up any rings while on any of those staffs. As for Steelers fans, they got to enjoy Lombardi trophies #5 and 6 a generation later...but not before one particular game in 1996 where Neil O'Donnell forgot for one quarter which team he was supposed to be throwing the ball to. Not that I still harbor any bitterness or anything...or that I'm complaining. Having friends who are long-time fans of once-storied franchises like the Browns, Eagles and especially the Lions, I've come to realize that it's good to be a Steelers fan even with some bad years along the way.

I picked up the aluminum sheet a few years ago from a store in St. Augustine, Florida that was going out of business. The owner told me I could have it for a dollar. Not bad, considering the completed cans usually cost more than that. As for the Joe Greene cup, that was bought at the 2009 National in Cleveland. I got the last one out of the dozen the seller said he brought with him. That one cost me $2.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pet Peeves...1954 Topps Edition

Two things irritate collectors about the 1954 Topps set.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad set. It has a great design with a large-format picture and a smaller action photos that would be tweaked each year through 1956. There are four Hall of Fame rookie cards (Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ernie Banks, Tommy Lasorda), two Ted Williams cards and dozens of stars, even if Mickey Mantle isn't one of them.

No, there are two things that look wrong with these cards:

There is no top border,which gives most cards the appearance of being miscut. While long-time readers of this blog know I have no trouble at all with that little imperfection even in cards that should have them, some of the more obsessive/compulsive types in the ranks of our hobby have issues with it.

However, flipping the cards over shows something I don't care for:

Half the cards in the set are "upside down" when compared to the others. That must have been a real source of frustration to the kids of 1954 when they flipped over their stack of cards to read the backs. Even in binders today, it makes it harder to read the backs.

This is a result of the way the cards were set up on the printing sheet. Cards with matching background colors were paired up like this:

 (Note: Lopat and Lollar were probably not paired up on the sheet, but are joined here for demonstration purposes.)

When flipped over, they both align perfectly...that is, if you consider their placement on the fronts.

 That said, there are some cards that don't exhibit the "miscut" look of the other 1954 Topps cards. That's because they were given solid white background colors and the top border isn't a noticeable issue.

There's a neat little story about how I ended up with this Wilhelm card during the early days of eBay. I may share it here sometime when I don't have other stuff to show.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Through my website and my official position as the "Card Info guy" for the OBC group, I get a steady stream of emails, some of which end up here in the Q&A feature I have on this blog most Fridays.

A lot of the emails are simply asking about how much their cards are worth, and most of them are missing important things, like years of issue, card numbers and condition (the most important part). Sometimes, however, a picture is added to the email that is really helpful.

I recently opened this email from a lady named Nancy:

"Looking for the value of this card, for a friend."

And this was the picture attached to the email:

I didn't have anything to add, but thanks to my network of trading and collecting friends, I happen to know a collector of this type. So I asked her for info and learned a lot more about something I'd never known about.

While many of us are familiar with the All-American Girls' Professional Baseball League that was active from World War Two into the 1950s thanks to the 1992 film A League of Their Own, it's not as well known that there have been all-female baseball teams -- sometimes organized into what were known as "Bloomer leagues" -- for as long as baseball has been a sport.

The image shows what is known as the "Franklin" team after the manager's name that appears on the left side. The right side gives one of the earliest certain dates that can be given to pictures like this. However, there isn't much else known about the team, since no city or state is given.

This card is commonly referred to as a CDV (short for carte de viste), which are larger pictures featuring a studio photo. They are also called "cabinet" cards due to their larger size. In many ways, they're similar to the professionally-made studio photos from the late 1800s and early 1900s that are now cherished keepsakes among many families (my wife has one of her grandmother and great-grandparents that was taken in Russia before they came to America). Often placed onto heavy cardboard, these pictures could behave words printed onto them and were occasionally used to advertise businesses that sponsored local teams.

It's probably the most common of the "Bloomer girls" cards from before 1900, which gives the sense that it may have been issued in a larger city like New York, Philadelphia or Boston. Even though it's easier to find than any other 19th-century ladies' baseball photo card, it will likely set you back several hundred dollars on the open market.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Yes, This is a Card...

Here's a card from a set I get the occasional question about:

This Ralph Kiner card comes from the 1949 MP & Co. set. Not a lot is known about the set, except that it is crudely made and was distributed in strips. The Old Cardboard site features a full eight-card strip on its set description page, as well as a link to galleries of the set.

There were two sets issued. One was believed to be released in 1943, which makes it one of the few baseball card sets issued while World War Two was underway. Wartime restrictions on paper goods (such as cardboard) and ink caused the set to be given a rather drab look. The quality was low and the pictures barely look like the players they are supposed to show. That's understandable, given the circumstances. However, the wartime restrictions had long been lifted by the time a new set came out in 1949. Some of the players (and pictures) were repeated, while other players who weren't yet active in 1943 (such as Kiner above) were added. Also, most cards in '49 were given numbers.

That said, they're small sets that aren't widely collected, which gives the average collector a great chance to finish a set from the 1940s and for very little money.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Another Three Sets Added...

This morning, I have three more set descriptions added to my main website as part of the effort to help fill in the missing (some may say blatantly) pieces that have been in long need of adding.

Last week, I did Allen & Ginter sets, and this time I focused on Old Judge:

Before there was a T206 set, the Old Judge set was "The Monster." There are more than 500 players, 2,300 total poses and several subsets that have been keeping collectors busy since they first arrived back in 1887. The subsets are a topic I'll need to revisit on this blog in the future.

However, they weren't the first Old Judge cards.

There was a series of cards that came out in 1886 featuring players from the New York Giants team (1885 was the first year they used the name "Giants"). There are 14 cards known, and they're very scarce. Also, they were printed on inferior cardboard, which doesn't help condition-wise.

Finally, there were these large-size cards:

These were available as premiums through Goodwin & Co. In exchange for 20 coupons and a quarter, a consumer would get a large-sized version of the photos used in N172 cards. It's not known how different examples of them are out there, since it required a lot of cash (remember, a quarter was quite a bit of money then) and and awful lot of smoking to accumulate these in 1888-'89.

So, I've finally placed Old Judge cards on my site about a decade after I first told myself to do it. I do have some more sets to add, and will continue to share them here as I get them set up.