Friday, July 29, 2011

Q&A

Today's email comes from Rick:

Q:

"Spent a week in Arizona and picked up some pre-war cards at a shop down there. Goudeys and Play Balls mostly, so I am now officially collecting a few pre-war sets. No dupes yet but one of the cards he had it the stack was a card or maybe not a card that I can't find in the Beckett. Any help with this is appeciated. The front is a black and white photo of Ping Bodie C.F.-New York Americans, the back says Witmor Candy Company AD about a 80 card set one "picture" in each package of Witmor's Kisses. It feels thick like a card and is about the size of a Tobacco card."

(Not his card, but an image I had of an E121 Bodie to show for the purposes of illustration.)

A:

Witmor is one of the many different backs that are found on the backs of cards similar to E121.

They're not really grouped in as E121 in hobby guides, they're classified as uncatalogued.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Neat Team Card From the 1970s

While working on a recent project for another Website, I came across this card:


It's the Seattle Supersonics' team card from the 1975-'76 Topps basketball set.

I like the idea of having the team stand in front of an airplane since they're named after one. However, they didn't stand in front of a Supersonic plane like the Concorde, it's a 747. However, the company that manufactured the 747 was Boeing, a company that was founded in Seattle. So, there was a "hometown" angle behind the picture.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The National...Thoughts, Part 2

(With the National Sportscards Collectors' Convention coming up, I'm sharing some of my past memories here. This was published in a newsletter I used to write back in 2005.)

(Last year, I showed some of the content of this program. I bought this at the 2005 National.)

The 2005 National Sports Cards & Collectibles Convention was held from July 25 through July 31 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois (near Chicago's O'Hare airport).  Over 700 dealers and vendors set up tables for an estimated 35,000 collectors.  Among the exhibitors were card manufacturers (Topps, Donruss, Upper Deck) and many long-time hobby names – Kit Young, Mastro, Mr. Mint, etc.

I was in Chicago for the events, and brought my wife and daughter along.  We flew up a couple of days early to take in the Chicago experience.  I had booked the Chicago-O’Hare hotel in Des Plaines through Priceline well in advance, and was pleased to discover the hotel offered a free shuttle to the airport and the convention center.  From the airport I was able to take the Blue Line train into downtown Chicago and ride the free trolleys to many of the attractions. 

Before the show, I was able to take in some of Chicago’s sights.  The Lincoln Park Zoo was a great place to spend a few hours with my daughter.  My wife took in the Navy Pier and Magnificent Mile.  I became very familiar with the Blue Line from O’Hare to The Loop.  We quickly discovered that all trolleys running through the downtown area were free and rode them from the Zoo to the Shedd Aquarium, around Soldier Field and back up to the Sears Tower.                                                               

(Yep, I even kept the ticket I used to get around on the train. That was worth its weight in gold. Though more now, it cost $1.75 for one way...which was great since I didn't need to rent a car for the week.)

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Chicago's a great town to visit, but it’s also a great baseball town.  Two big league clubs play in the city, and both have been playing for as long as their leagues have been around.  In addition, fans of both the Cubs and White Sox are among the most loyal and rabid anywhere.  They are also long-suffering.  For all the talk of the Red Sox’ championship drought that ended last season, both Chicago teams have gone longer since their last World Series win.

Chicago is important to baseball fans as the home of two major league clubs, but many fans don’t realize that one of the first big league dynasties was in Chicago.  The first Chicago White Stockings joined the National Association in 1871 but suspended play after the Great Chicago Fire destroyed their ballpark.  Chicago would not field another team in the NA until 1874.  The ace of those early White Stockings was George Zettlein, a Civil War veteran and perhaps the greatest pitcher of the NA's short existence.

When the National Association fell apart after 1875, a new group of owners hoped to avoid the pitfalls that snared the earlier league.  The National League was founded in 1876 by Chicagoan William Hulbert and one of the clubs to play the initial season was a new group of Chicago White Stockings.  The new Chicago Nine were led by Albert Spalding and Adrian “Cap” Anson.  Mike “King” Kelley, Ned Williamson, John Clarkson and future evangelist Billy Sunday helped to bring five NL pennants to the Windy City between 1880 and 1886.  They tied the informal World Series against the St. Louis Browns of the American Association in 1885.  The White Stockings became the Colts in 1890 and officially called themselves the Cubs in 1903. The Cubs are the only team from the first National League season still in existence. 

When the American League was established in 1901, a club was formed in Chicago.  The White Stockings name was utilized but changed to White Sox to sound more “modern.”  Both teams were dominant through the first decades of the century; the 1906 Cubs set a mark for victories that would stand for 92 years (and even then, the ’98 Yankees needed more games to break the record) but lost the series to their cross-town rivals.  Their double play combo of Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance was immortalized in song, much to the chagrin of third baseman Harry Steinfeldt.  The short-lived Federal League fielded a team in Chicago called the Whales, which won the last FL pennant.  The White Sox assembled the finest squad in the game during the World War One years.  The Chisox won the 1917 World Series easily but after the 1919 team was discovered to have thrown the series, a long period of mediocrity began.  That 1917 title was the last one won by any Chicago team.  The Cubs’ last trip to the Series was in 1945 and the Sox haven’t been there since 1959.

The 2005 Chicago White Sox have the best record in the league as of this writing, but in today’s game that doesn’t assure them of success in the postseason.  Just ask the players from the 2003 Cubs.

(Note from Chris: the White Sox did win the World Series later that year)                                                                                         
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For the past few years, National promoters have tried to find new ways to attract visitors from outside the core hobby collectors who always make the effort to attend.  In an interview with SCD's Ross Forman recently, show manager Mike Berkus explained that the National committee was looking for ways to make the show more “regional” in order to attract people in the area.  This year, they brought in several members of the 1985 Bears for autograph sessions including William “the Refrigerator” Perry, Otis Wilson and Mike Ditka.  Another tactic used this year was to bring in autograph guests from outside the sports world.  This year’s “celebrities” included Larry Thomas (Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi”), "Laugh-In" star Ruth Buzzi and Penny Marshall (better known as Laverne and the director of “A League of Their Own”).  Also on hand was legendary jockey Laffitt Pincay, Jr.

Berkus explained that they were beginning to notice that the “traditional” hobby signers like Bob Gibson and Whitey Ford weren’t generating a lot of interest.  In fact, Joe Namath’s session in Cleveland last year only attracted 63 ticket sales (though the $250 price attached to the ticket may have contributed).   Because of the lower turnout, it has been getting harder to make any profit after paying the signers’ appearance fees.  He also explained that the "old days" of getting free autographs with admission are gone for good.
                                                                                                                                                
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Friday was Kids’ Day and all collectors under 14 were admitted free.  The show hosted several kid-friendly activities including a Pokemon tournament and a Pack War contest.  The neatest thing I saw, however, was called Flipzz.  It was a game where kids flipped specially-designed cards at a cardboard target.  There were three holes they could toss their cards through.  I considered busting a wax box of 1988 Topps and showing the kids how we used to flip cards back in the 1970s, but I went on to other tables and let the kids have fun without an adult trying to show them how to do it.

During my four days on the show floor, I noticed that some sellers were griping about the “low turnout” or the small amount of money they were getting.  At the same time, other sellers told me they were moving a lot of stuff and having a great time.  As a person who enjoys talking with dealers (and also tends to buy more from the sellers who take the time to talk), I observed that the sellers who weren’t as personable tended to be the ones who were doing most of the complaining.  It’s just something I noticed.  In any case, the attendance picked up nicely when the weekend rolled around: most hobby sources have reported the show was successful.

At the same time, I was amused to hear some sellers bellyache about how loud the kids were at the Pokemon contests held on Friday.  I disagree with the assertion that kids shouldn’t be allowed to act like kids at hobby functions.  In fact, I was glad to see the show’s organizers trying to get more young fans drawn to the hobby.  If they feel they need to use Pokemon and goofy games to draw in more collectors, then I’m all for it.  Our hobby is big enough for everybody but it won’t last if new collectors aren’t welcomed.

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On Saturday, I was checking out dealer tables when I heard some commotion from other attendees.  “Look…it’s the murderer!” from my left caught my attention, so I looked over to the side of the hall to see O.J. Simpson.  Another collector hollered out “Guilty!” loud enough to be heard, but it seems Simpson has gotten used to ignoring those types of outbursts.  A few minutes later, two of the show’s security police came to escort Simpson away.  There was no trouble; O.J. walked with the men to an exit.  I heard somebody mention that perhaps Nicole’s killer might be in the convention center and the guy with him replied, “He certainly is...they just walked him out.”

The next day’s Sun-Times had a story on A-3 saying that he had been there to sign some items for Justin Communications at $100 an autograph.  Since Simpson was not cleared to make an appearance (and the show’s promoters insisted he wouldn’t have been welcome even if he had gone through the proper channels), he was asked to leave.  This is a big violation of the show’s rules, so the seller who invited him was also told to vacate his table.  The story didn’t say whether he bothered to get back any of his table fees.

While I realize that Simpson was acquitted of the charges of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman a decade ago and is free to go on with his life, he has been convicted in the court of public opinion with a lot of fans.  (The seller who tried to sneak him in) was na├»ve to think that such a controversial figure in the hobby could be able to make an appearance without attracting attention. 

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I was able to hook up with long-time buddies who are in various hobby groups.  I am a member of three such groups and one of them (OBC) makes its presence known around the floor because all members wear a baseball cap with the OBC logo.  I spent a lot of time looking at the tables of long-time dealers like Kevin Savage, Bill Henderson, William Chappelle, Wayne Jonson and Kurt Tourdot.  Dick Zimmerman of Atlanta got me down to two stickers to complete my 1972 Sunoco Steelers set, and then sent the last two to my house for free after the show.  I made a special visit to the table set up by Sports Memories of Oklahoma City (the owner, Roger Neufeldt, is a reader of this newsletter and I had to meet with him in person).

On the day the show opened, I was met by Brett Hardeman of Old Cardboard magazine.  Brett presented me with an "Old Cardboard" baseball cap, which I wore the rest of the day.  My daughter took it from me when we left the show and wore it around Chicago that evening.  I managed to meet with Brett later in the week with his father, Old Cardboard editor Lyman Hardeman and we spoke for a few minutes about future collaboration.

Speaking of magazine articles, I saw another one in print for the first time at the show.  SGC (the grading company) debuted its inaugural issue of SGC Collector Magazine with an article about the Federal League.  I wrote the words, but the four cards of Federal League players from the 1915 Cracker Jack set included (from the collection of Anthony Nex) really made the piece stand out.  The magazine is intended to focus on collector interests rather than investment hype and card value, which I find refreshing.  Hopefully they can keep that focus.

I bought a lot of cards at the show.  I was able to complete my 1973, ’74, ’75 and ’76 Topps sets during my stay in Chicago.  I also added nearly 40 cards to my 1952 Topps collection and got to within 13 cards of finishing up the 1955 Topps set.  It took me several hours to put away all the cards I brought home.

Among the items I bought at the show were historical hobby items.  Longtime hobby dealer Mike Gordon was selling some items I’d treasure.  One of the books on his shelf was Lew Lipset’s Encyclopedia of Baseball Cards, Volume 2 (and I’m still looking for volumes 1 and 3 if anybody has any leads).  Along with that informative book, I also picked up the programs for the National conventions of 1983 and ’84.  The programs were worth their weight in gold because they offer an insight into the hobby I remember as a kid, before the big boom of the 1980s.  Each feature informative articles about the history of the hobby by writers like Bob Lemke, Frank Barning and Chris Benjamin.  Pictures of Dr. Jim Beckett, Mike Berkus and a very young Keith Olbermann show them as they were all those years ago.



(This picture from 1984 -- taken by Frank Barning of Baseball Hobby News -- shows Mike Gordon in the top right. Lew Lipset is in the lower right, with TCMA founder Mike Aronstein sitting beside him).


I took those old National programs to Bill Henderson’s table and he was quickly lost in nostalgia.  He even located the tables he set up for both of those shows and talked about Dr. Beckett, Lew Lipset, Bruce Paynter and some of the hobby icons he’s dealt with since setting up for his first show in 1976.  They will likely provide some inspiration for future newsletter articles and web site content.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The 2012 SCD Price Guide...Some Great News!

...it's great news for collectors of vintage cards, at least.

As most collectors understand, there have been some major changes in the hobby since the Topps monopoly was first broken in 1981. With the added competition from several new companies and the explosion of the hobby, there ended up being several more sets  issued after that than in all the nearly 100 years before it. This presented a dilemma to collectors who only focused on vintage, since the annual price guides were often filled with too many sets they didn't care about. In fact, I knew some collectors who tore their catalog in half to remove the newer section once it began featuring separate sections for vintage and modern cards.

This year is different:


After several years of hoping for it, the 2012 copy of the SCD "Big Book" is going to cover issues through 1980 only. As a result, it will be called the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards. It can be picked up through Amazon at the link below (as a pre-order until September):


The book is also available on the Hobby Bookshelf page on my Website.

Sadly, it does not include a CD-ROM containing set info as PDF files as the guide did several years ago. However, some collectors will gladly trade that off with the fact that there is less paper gone to waste on sets that don't concern most vintage collectors.

According to editor Bob Lemke, there are no plans to print a separate guide for modern cards. That seems odd, but I suppose Beckett will still feature them in its own guide.

(Edited to add: the comments section shows that there are two different ways of seeing the new format. While my own collecting interests lead me to prefer the pre-1980 approach, I readily admit the "it's no longer complete" argument is also a valid one.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cameo Pepsin Pins

Here's another item you've likely never seen:

(Not mine...borrowed scan)

This is a Cameo Pepsin pin from 1898. It's a nice example, too; many of them are found with faded images. Like many 1800s items that featured baseball players, they were but a small part of what was available on the pins.

As far as I can tell, pepsin was a flavor, similar to what we now know as spearmint or peppermint. The timelines I've seen really don't explain it all that well. It's part of the Pepsodent name, and a bottler made a drink out of it...you may have heard of Pepsi? I doubt there's still pepsin in Pepsi, though, and widespread use seems to have died down around the Great Depression.

Here's what the back looks like:



The slogan on the back is on a paper insert.

By the way...the "P" after Dammon's name is actually his position, not his first initial.

Not a whole lot of info to share, but it's a neat little 19th Century item that doesn't pop up that often.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thoughts on The National

(As this year's National Sportscard Collectors' Convention gets closer, I figured I'd share some things I wrote about my very first trip to one, in Cleveland in 2004. this is from a hobby newsletter I once wrote.)



Collectors simply call it "The National."  The 25th annual National Sports Convention was held from July 21-25, 2004 at the International Exposition Center in Cleveland, Ohio.  The center's 400 thousand square feet held over 700 dealer tables and 50 corporate displays, and more than 50 athletes (from past greats such as Joe Namath, Jim Brown, Pete Rose and Johnny Bench to then-current Indian players Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez) were on hand to sign autographs for a price.  This year, I was able to attend the show.

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When my wife agreed to take a trip to Cleveland, I was surprised.  When I first met her, I was in college and away from the hobby.  She never knew me as a card collector until a few years into our marriage, when eBay dragged me back into the hobby that had consumed me as a boy.  For much of the time since, she always seemed to look at my collecting habit with a mix of distress and amusement.  Though I never let the hobby eat into our bill money, she appeared to hope that the collecting bug would wear off.  To her, it was interesting to see a grown man engaging in a child's pursuit, to say the least.

Unfortunately, she never knew me as a kid.  She never saw me with my collection; she never noticed that I read voraciously about the subject and picked up every hobby magazine I could get my hands on.  She never had the opportunity to see me work the tables at weekend card shows, nor did she ever see me behind one as a seller.  In short, Ellen never had the time to let it sink in that the hobby was part of my lifeblood.  That's why it surprised me when she agreed to take a trip to Cleveland for a big card show.

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Card shows mirrored the growth of the hobby.  During the early 1970s -- a time when many collectors past the age of adolescence simply kept their hobby to themselves -- card sellers often showed up at larger antique shows and often sold a variety of things.  As the hobby grew throughout that decade, a few gatherings were organized in larger cities once or twice a year.  They were called "card conventions" then, and sellers were usually supplementing the incomes they received from their day jobs.

By 1975, some shows were so successful they became regular events.  One was held in the Philadelphia area beginning in September of that year.  The "Philly Show" expanded through the years, moving from Spring Garden College to the George Washington Lodge and later the Ft. Washington Expo Center.  It not only expanded to larger venues, but also became more frequent; in '78 a second annual show was added, then a third in the 1980s and a fourth in '90.  The Spring '80 show became a part of hobby lore when three '52 Topps cards of Mickey Mantle each fetched three thousand dollars at auction at a time when the card normally sold for $800.  The show is still held four times a year at Ft. Washington and always attracts a large crowd even after many of the smaller shows have closed their doors.

The first National was an outgrowth of a regular card convention that had been running for nearly a decade.  Mike Berkus, Gavin Riley and Steve Brunner had been staging a Memorial Day show in L.A. since 1971, and added a Labor Day show in '76.  As the show expanded, Riley came up with the idea to make the 1980 Labor Day show a "National Convention."  Brunner and Berkus were hesitant.  The promoters of the Philly Show scoffed at the idea because they felt their own show was the true "National."  In the end, Riley won out and the first National Convention opened on August 28, 1980.  The show had a smaller turnout that expected -- 5,700 collectors showed up to check out the 156 dealer tables -- but it was successful enough that another convention was scheduled for Detroit in '81.

(During an early National, here is Dr. Jim Beckett at his table)


As the hobby expanded, so did the National.  Each year, the venues got larger.  More dealers set up for the show, and more collectors showed up.  The largest National was held in 1991 in Anaheim.  There were an estimated 100 thousand collectors attending over the four day event.  It was marked by long lines and fire inspectors constantly threatening the promoters that they'd close the show.  Once the hobby began to cool down in 1992, the crowds began to get smaller for the National as well.  It was estimated that about 35 thousand collectors attended the 2004 show.

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Before this year's convention opened, I took a couple of days to see some of Cleveland's attractions.  We took our daughter to the Zoo and saw the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  We took a special trip to Canton the day before the show and visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where this longtime Steeler fan was quickly reacquainted with some fond memories.  My wife and I are are both types who like to see the parts of a city that don't get included in the travel guides, so we went into the same parts of Cleveland the locals did.  We stopped by a Giant Eagle supermarket and ate at regional chain restaurants like Big Boy and White Castle that aren't around our home in Florida.

Since turnabout is fair play, I also went with Ellen as she searched out some of Cleveland's thrift stores for Fisher-Price toys to add to her own collection.


(My profile pic was taken at the Football Hall of Fame during this trip.)


The I-X Center was certainly large, but I had a few problems with how they ran the show.  My main problem was the way they handled parking.  It cost $7 to park -- which seemed reasonable -- and they gave a receipt when you paid.  On the first day of the show, I left to grab lunch elsewhere because the price of food at the Center was more costly than I wanted to pay for cafeteria-style food.  Upon returning to the Center after 45 minutes away, I went to the ticket booth and showed my receipt from earlier...and was told that I would have to pay seven more dollars to enter!  The lady at the booth explained that I might have gotten the receipt from somebody else who had left, and her supervisor walked over to my car and sternly explained that I was free to complain about it inside...after I paid the money.  I finally relented and went inside.  The office I had been directed to by the supervisor had been closed, and I was told by another staffer that I shouldn't even bother with trying to get the money back.

The next morning, I was dropped off outside the gate closest to the entrance.  I jumped the fence and walked 800 feet across the parking lot.  They weren't getting another $7 out of me.

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As a kid, I was in awe of "Mean" Joe Greene.  He was the most visible member of my favorite team's defense.  He played hard, hit harder and always seemed to make the stop in the eyes of this author as a 7-year old.  I wanted to attend a Steelers game and give him a bottle of Coke so I could get his jersey, just like the kid in that commercial.  Even after he retired, I played his position in high school and wore number 75 in his honor.

The 7 year-old Chris Stufflestreet has long since grown up and no longer holds professional athletes in that same type of awe.  I still admire Joe Greene, although for different reasons.  He was incredibly gifted with speed and strength and used those talents to excel in his craft.  You never saw Joe Greene doing a rap video with his teammates and telling everybody how great they were; he just let his work speak for itself.  He stood out as a leader among one of the best defenses the NFL had ever fielded (virtually every Steeler defensive starter of the mid-70s was named to the Pro Bowl at least once).  He also had enough business sense to market himself...the Coke commercial he filmed is still viewed as one of the best Super Bowl spots ever.

At the National, I was happy to discover that Joe Greene would be signing autographs along with the rest of the famed "Steel Curtain" defensive line: L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Dwight White.  I don't usually bother with autographs, but this time was different.  Autographs aren't free: Joe Namath's signature cost at least $150, Pete Rose's was $50, Reggie Jackson's was fetching $75 and Joe Greene's was $40.  I usually wouldn't have paid $40 for somebody's autograph, but this was Joe Greene.  I brought along the 1981 Marketcom mini-poster I bought as a high school student for his signature, and bought the autograph ticket a day in advance to avoid the line.

Despite my attempts to avoid the lines, I still found myself in a mob.  While waiting to meet my boyhood idol, I had to stand in a crowd of people waiting for their own chance.  In addition to the Steel Curtain players, Pete Rose, Jack Lambert, Antwan Randle-El and Rocky Colavito were signing at the same time.  While waiting, I pointed out the signers to my wife and daughter.  Some bushy-haired jerk with a bullhorn called for ticketholders and barked his instructions in a condescending manner, and the fans came out of the crowd to be herded like sheep into their lines.  Did I mention that I paid for this privilege to be treated like livestock (though I must admit that ending up with a signature on a treasured card is much better than what happens to cattle after they reach their destination)?

When my time came to join the line to meet with Joe Greene, I asked my daughter if she wanted to come with me.  She had been to the Hall of Fame with me and remembered that I called him "Mean Joe," and told me that she wasn't interested in meeting anybody they call "Mean."  As I approached the front of the line, a kid reached out to take my card and hand it to Mr. Greene, and I told him that I was capable of handing the card to him myself.  He started to tell me about time constraints, but I ignored him.  Once my turn came, I handed over my card for him to sign, then reached out to shake his hand.

"How are you doing today, Mr. Greene?" I asked.  He looked up at me and shook my extended hand.  I had always read that he was a big man, but still was amazed how huge his hand was.  "I'm doing well, thanks" he replied.  I quickly explained about how I wore his number, played his position and was happy to meet him.  Ellen got a quick picture of us just before Pete Rose stopped by to have a few words with him.  We were then directed toward the exits by the same assistant I had just ignored.

 (Here's my signed mini-poster, along with the ticket stub from that day)

Don't get me wrong.  I enjoyed the opportunity to meet one of my all-time favorite players, but really wasn't impressed by the way I was shuffled through the line in the most efficient, time-saving manner.  For $40 I got to stand around for an hour, just to meet someone for twenty seconds.  I remarked afterward to a friend that if I really wanted to stand around for a long time waiting for some guy to tell me where to go -- and then being serviced quickly and efficiently, I'd have never left the Army.

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One of the best things about attending the National was the chance to meet with other collectors, old friends and longtime hobby figures.  The familiar sellers were all there: Bill Henderson, Bill Mastro, the Wentz brothers and Kit Young among them.  Alan Rosen (known to hobbyists as "Mr. Mint") had the first table past the entrance, where he had no cards but was giving away one of his books to anybody who wanted one.  I had no trouble adding a book by Mr. Mint to my reference shelf at that price.

Among the newer hobby faces were Lyman and Brett Hardeman, who run the Old Cardboard website.  They were preparing to begin printing a full-color magazine and were soliciting subscribers.  I had the chance to speak with both and their magazine proof looked sharp.  While visiting their table, I got to speak with them about writing an article or two and met with Robert Silverman of vintageball.com.  When I handed him my business card and began to explain my site to him, Silverman stopped me short.  "I know your site...I've been there several times."  I know I've had hobby exposure since 2000 with my site, but it's still a humbling experience when a person I've never met knows me by name.

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The National is the card collecting hobby's annual convention.  Those words -- "National Convention" -- might bring up images in the mind of Shriners wearing their distinctive fezes or of a national organization's members getting together and having a great time, even if they don't bother actually attending any business meetings.  There is a group of collectors who treat the National that way.  OBC (www.oldbaseball.com) -- of which this author is a member -- saw about 30 of its members attend over the four days the convention was open.  For those who don't know, OBC is known among hobby dealers for collecting cards in low grade.  It can be said that OBC helps the hobby because its members take all of the bad cards off the hands of dealers.  Among the many online groups of card traders (including Vintage Card Traders, Trading Bases, O-Pee-Chee Traders and Old Card Traders), OBC is the only one to be so visible at the National.

OBC members usually wear a white baseball cap with the group's logo on it.  This cap not only identifies OBC members to each other, but a number of sellers know the group is made up of great hobbyists and will often give discounts to its members.  In fact, a few sellers keep boxes of cards for OBC members and break them out whenever they see one of the hats on a browsing collector.  Despite rumors that the 10-cent boxes are a part of hobby history like free autographs, OBC members seem to find them.

(Here I am at a later National, wearing my OBC cap.)

The National is one of the few chances for OBC members to get together, and the group plans several events during the weekend to give old friends a chance to meet again, and new members an opportunity to meet some collectors they had only known through emails.  A "throwback" group like OBC is great for the hobby because its members try to keep it fun. 

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I spent three days at the show.  My collection got a tremendous boost, and I spent more money than I was expecting.  I didn't mortgage the house to get spending money, but I ended up exceeding my planned $150 budget.  My biggest single expense was $23.50 for a subscription to "Old Cardboard" magazine, but I found some good deals on cheap cards.  I passed on a '54 Topps Warren Spahn card for $5 and a trimmed '55 Topps Harmon Killebrew rookie card for $20.  I picked up a '58 Topps Stan Musial All-Star card for $2, while my wife found a Mickey Mantle All-Star card from the same set for $20.  I found a stack of 156 cards from the 1950s and '60s in a box for ten cents apiece.  I picked up a bunch of common cards from Bowman and pre-'57 Topps for around $1 apiece or less: my kind of price.  Thanks to the generosity of other OBC members, I also took home my first cards from the M101-4, '61 Signal Oil, E120 and W575-1 sets.  For around $200, I brought home almost 500 cards...none of which were more recent than 1978.  Not a bad haul.

(I've posted this card here a few times...but this gem was picked up at that show)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Late-Breaking News...I'll Be at The National

I've made a couple of deals and have been given the chance to make this year's National in Chicago. I love going to that show, since it gives me the chance to meet with great hobbyists and also with some long-time collecting friends. I even get the chance to talk face-to-face with friends I've made over the Internet and only knew as an avatar.

This year's National Sports Collectors' Convention is set for August 3-7 at the Stevens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois. For more info, here's the show's Website.

(Keeping in the spirit of this blog...here's the program from the first National ever held in Chicago. I'll show more of this in a few weeks.)

I'll be helping out at Irv Lerner's table (1012/1014), so if you're near, stop by when it isn't busy and chat. The photo on my blog is actually me, so I shouldn't be hard to locate.

If you're also setting up at the show and want to let my readers know you're there...leave a comment below with your table number (and readers...let those sellers know you read that info on my blog).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bread For Energy

Today's post goes back to 1952. Check out this card:

(Not my card...I have had this scan for years)

It's one of 32 cards from the set of Fischer's Bread for Energy set. The "cards" were actually labels included at the end of a loaf of bread. The bakeries that distributed them were around the Northeastern U.S. Actually, it's one of 32 baseball players. There were also "Bread for Health" sets featuring football and basketball players (also having 32 labels).

In fact, it appears my buddy Marty Pritchard has this very card in his store right now. I'm not entirely sure if it's the same one, but his exhibits the same type of creasing due to the shape of the bread. That card is in a graded holder now, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. These labels are fairly rare, and authentication services offer some peace of mind that it's genuine.

Monday, July 11, 2011

That Doesn't Look Right...

Let's switch gears and show a couple of vintage basketball cards today.

While doing another project, I came across a few cards that looked a little strange. Here's a card of Jerry West from 1972-'73:

No, this isn't an All-Star jersey...

Jerry West was a heck of a basketball player. When he retired, he became one of the top executives in the sport. He's not the kind of guy you'd expect to just put on his shirt backwards.

But he wasn't the only one:

I'm #1! I'm #1!

This 1971-'72 Topps basketball card of Oscar Robertson also features a backwards jersey.

In the early days of making its basketball cards, Topps got the rights to feature the images of the players, but not the team logos. Therefore, they weren't able to shoot the front side of the jersey unless it simply had the city name on it. Since the cards above featured players wearing their home threads, they either had to place a basketball in front of the logo or turn the shirts around.

The lack of permission to use team logos in those first few years is also the reason for having so many posed shots then, as well. Fortunately, the permission was eventually obtained and Topps was able to use game action photos a few years later. That was a lot better than what football fans put up with for the rest of the decade.

But that's a post for another day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ending The Week With an Interesting Card

Since my other posts this week have involved 1954 Bowman cards, here's one that I have always found interesting:

Card #222 -- Memo Luna, St. Louis Cardinals

The name is awesome, the uniform is obviously airbrushed and the crease that runs through my card makes it even more unique (in my opinion). However, that's not the only interesting thing about this card...take a look at the back:

NO MAJOR LEAGUE RECORD!

Imagine being a kid in 1954 who pulled this one out of a gum pack. I'd have probably bent it in half too.

His real name was Guillermo Luna and he ended up appearing in only one major league game, on April 20, 1954. Luna didn't make it out of the first inning. He started off by walking Bobby Adams. Roy McMillan then doubled to center, scoring Adams. During the play, he moves over to third on an error. After getting Gus Bell to fly to right, Jim Greengrass hit a sacrifice fly which scored McMillan. Then, Ted Kluszewki clubbed a double and Johnny Temple walked. Eddie Stanky walked out and took Memo out of his misery.

Despite taking a loss and racking up a 27.00 ERA in less than one inning of work, Luna pitched for nearly 20 years between Mexico and the U.S. He is a member of the Mexican League's version of the Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

More Mail Call Pickups

In keeping with the 1954 Bowman theme from my last post...these cards were added to my collection last week. They were sent from another member of an online group that I belong to, and were sent specifically to fill in some holes in my binder. Since I happen to feel that a hole in the card is better than one in the binder, they're welcome.

Card #123 -- Toby Atwell, Pittsburgh Pirates

Toby Atwell played in five seaons, and four of those were in Pittsburgh. He bookended his time with the Pirates with stints in Wrigley and Milwaukee. He was part of the trade that sent Ralph Kiner to the Cubs. While never a regular beyond his rookie season, his major league service from 1952-'56 placed him in several widely-collected baseball sets.

In another one of those "Everybody Has a Record" stories (a tip of the ol' ballcap to Matt over at Heartbreaking Cards), he and Jerry Lynch teamed up for back-to-back home runs twice in a single game in 1954. They weren't the first to do that, but it's never been done three times.

Toby Atwell went back to his native Virginia after he retired, and died there in 2003.

Card #31 -- Forrest "Smoky" Burgess

Smoky Burgess was also a catcher. While he's better known as one of the best pinch-hitters of his time (and later in his career, when the batting eye normally loses focus), Burgess was another person cheated by circumstance in Harvey Haddix's blown perfect game in 1959. Had Don Hoak not muffed a fielding play at third (and Haddix been able to retire two more batters...and the Pirates actually scored), he could have been the catcher who directed the longest perfect game in history. That's a lot of "if"s, but no pitcher has ever managed to be perfect for that long.

Sadly, Burgess has also gone on to the Field of Dreams. He passed away in 1991.

Monday, July 4, 2011

1954 Bowman -- A Glimpse

While looking through my binder and finding ideas for my posts here, it occurred to me that my readers would like to get a better education on certain card sets from the past. Yes, the 1952 Topps set is classic, but with Topps using that design on new cards seemingly every year and shoving them down the throats of collectors, we know what they look like by now.

(There's your fireworks...happy 4th of July for my American readers!)

One set that gets overlooked by many collectors is 1954 Bowman. It doesn't always get respect from hobbyists, considering it came after one of the truly classic sets in 1953 and before the unique TV style of 1955. It also gets little love because it didn't feature rookie cards of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks or Al Kaline (or even Tommy Lasorda) like their Brooklyn-based competitors did.

Despite that, they still have something to offer that Topps couldn't. There's a Mickey Mantle card in the set. Robin Roberts, Ralph Kiner, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese and Bob Feller were also exclusive to the set. Then there's a Ted Williams card that is worth more than the two that Topps issued combined.

You can read about the 1954 Bowman set at my website, along with a checklist with all the variations caused when Bowman decided to print the cards before double-checking some of the stat lines for accuracy.
Here's an example card, and let's go with the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers:

 Card #10 -- Carl Erskine, Brooklyn Dodgers

While the photography isn't as sharp as what was found on the 1953 Bowman set, it's still not bad. All that obscures the photo is a card with the player's signature on it. Flip it over and it still looks nice:
Card #10 -- Carl Erskine, Brooklyn Dodgers (Back)

A bat and ball are used as part of the back design, and the box that encloses both also includes the personal information (or vital stats) found on every card. There is a written biography, and some year/career stats that follow, as well as a trivia question.

While the box on Erskine's card is pink, that wasn't the only color. Here's one that was green:

Card #41 -- Alvin Dark, New York Giants

And another one that was yellow, with one little twist:
Card # 219 -- Hal Rice, Pittsburgh Pirates

This time, Hal Rice's name is printed out, rather than using his signature. There are several cards in the last series of the set that have this, which makes me wonder whether Bowman was in a hurry to get them out and was unable to get an adequate signature in time for the printer.

My only thing about that...is that Bowman should have had contracts on file with good signatures on them. But I digress...

If you don't count the #66 Ted Williams card that was discontinued and replaced with Jim Piersall, each team has 14 cards. The numbering system rotated teams (American League, then the National), which is really neat if you have a set in 8-pocket pages. Your favorite team will appear in the same spot on every second page and every second page contains players from the same league. The rotation went: Yankees, Red Sox, A's, Indians, Orioles, White Sox, Tigers, Senators, Giants, Dodgers, Pirates, Reds, Cubs, Cardinals, Phillies and Braves. Then, at card #17, the cycle began again.

Unfortunately, some larger-size Bowman cards were trimmed down to match the size of the Topps cards that came later, such as this one here:
Card #113 -- Allie Reynolds, New York Yankees

That's right, there are no borders around Allie Reynolds anymore. Some collectors may consider this to be a shame, I see it as a nice filler for my binder until I pick up a better copy.

I'll continue on this topic on Wednesday.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Q&A

Today's question comes from Mike, who has found an interesting surprise:

Q:

"I found some old baseball cards in a wall of a building. They are not in real good shape, but they might be worth something. 

Here are the names:


Carl Reynolds
Henry Manush
Frank O'Doul
Fred Schulte
Oswald Bluege
George Wahlberg
Bill Terry
George Blaeholder
Carl Hubbel
Joe Moore
Willie Kamm

That's some of them. They are Big League chewing gum cards. There are also some Indian cards."

(This player has the highest lifetime batting average for somebody not named "Shoeless" Joe Jackson who still isn't in the Hall of Fame.)


A:

Sounds like you have some 1933 Goudey cards. Here's a link to a page that describes them and gives a checklist (so you can check the card numbers to be certain):


In VG condition, the common cards from this set go for $5-15 each, but Hubbell and Terry are Hall of Famers and should get more. Likewise, O'Doul was a big star whose major league career was short for the Hall but still phenomenal. I'd suggest looking at completed auctions on eBay to get a good idea of what people are paying nowadays.