Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One-of-a-Kind "Updates"

As a team collector, I occasionally get a couple of items from other collectors that I wasn't expecting.

Back when the football sets Topps issued were a lot smaller (132-160 cards), there were fewer players available to include and usually didn't get the series treatment that baseball sets did. This -- along with the fact that it took an entire year for players to be shown with their new teams -- sometimes called for collectors to make their own "updates" as they needed.

Here's an example:

1958 Topps #2 -- Bobby Layne

Early in the 1958 NFL season, the Detroit Lions traded their quarterback Bobby Layne to Pittsburgh, which was then a perennial loser. That was likely a blow for a player who had just QB'd his team toward a championship (though Tobin Rote took over at the position late in the '57 season when Layne was injured). Since the cards showing Layne with the Steelers wouldn't arrive until 1959, that was a minor problem for a fan and his ballpoint pen.

As far as him still being in a Lions uniform, that wouldn't matter...since Topps showed him in a blue jersey in both 1959 and '60.

I'm guessing a Lions fan wrote this, based on the way he spelled the team name.

Then there's the player who was skipped over from having a card, like this Hall of Famer:

1970 Topps #3 -- Verlon Biggs

Joe Greene's rookie season was in 1969, and he immediately became an impact player. In 1970, he was an All-Pro player. However, he didn't get a card in the 1970 Topps set, due to the fact that few defensive linemen could get priority over quarterbacks, rushers, receivers and linebackers. That, and the little fact that the Steelers went 1-13 in '69.

Undaunted, a young fan took a card of a player who looked a little like Joe Greene, penned in his name...and team city...and corrected the position.

Fortunately, Joe Greene would never again be left out of a Topps set. Beginning in 1972, the company's football sets were expanded to allow a lot more players who weren't "impact" players.

Monday, August 29, 2011

1956 Topps -- A Deeper Look

(For a more detailed look at this set, check out the 1956 Topps page at my Vintage Baseball Cards Website.)

1956 Topps is often found in the "Top 10" lists of  collectors' favorite set designs, and it's easy to understand why.

First of all, the cards have a terrific appearance:

Card #255 -- Bob Lemon, Cleveland Indians

Not only do the cards feature that classic "painted" look that their 1952-'56 cards show, but you get a full-color background behind the smaller "action" shot. Those elements combine to make what can be considered a work of art on a piece of cardboard.

Speaking of cardboard, the set was printed on two different card stocks. Here's what the two look like side-by-side:

Card #9 -- Ruben Gomez, New York Giants

In order to see better the differences between the cards, click on the image. It will open up on a larger screen to give you a much better look. The first two series cab be found with both types of backs...Here's where it gets a little complicated.

Cards 1-100 are more commonly found with white backs, but gray backs are more plentiful from 101-180.

For the first time, team cards were included in the 1956 Topps set:

Card #134 -- St. Louis Cardinals Team card

This was as close as Topps would get to having Stan Musial in their set (he's at the very right in the front row).

Six teams in the first series (Cubs, Phillies, Redlegs, Braves, Indians and Orioles) have three different front addition to the gray/white back variations. "Master" set collectors probably curse Topps for having to chase them all down.

The first two cards in the set are devoted to the league presidents:

Card #2 -- Warren Giles, N.L. President

Considering Topps issued a separate set in 1956 for U.S. Presidents, it would have been interesting if they'd have used a similar design; instead, they made the name look like it was part of a nameplate with beveled edges. Cards of old men in suits weren't probably well-received by the kids in '56.

There was one more "new" feature in 1956: the checklist:

These were inserted into wax packs without numbers, so they aren't considered part of the base set. As a result, many of them were tossed away by collectors who didn't need another one. As for the ones they kept, many were marked up like the one above. The result was a very expensive card today.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Q&A -- T207?

This has been one of my most common questions:


"I have a card from the T207 set of Lewis, Boston. It's the variation with no patch. I see where it originally had a $700 value, but what is it worth today?"

(Here's an image of the card...I'll identify it in a minute.)


The first thing that looks out of place is the part about how it "originally" had a $700 value. How did that information become available? The answer: "It was written on the back of the card":

First of all, there is no way an authentic T207 card is going to have any information on how the card became rare. Nor will it have any information on how much it was worth. In fact, the mention of "T-207" on the back gives away the fact that it's not real; the T207 designation wasn't even given to the set until the 1930s.

This is one of five cards that were reprinted and included in Hygrade hobby kits during the 1980s. Besides this card, there were three T206 cards (Wagner, Plank, "Magie") and a 1933 Goudey Napoleon LaJoie that were reprinted. They were even found with different-colored blocks on the back: the yellow one above, green or red. They were changed to reflect price increases as the 1980s went on.

An authentic T207 card will feature a writeup about the player and an advertisement of one of teh cigarette brands mentioned above. Any vintage card that has an explanation that it was rare...or has a price given on not a real card.

Today, there are cards with manufactured scarcities (serially numbered, "1-of-1" cards, etc.), but they didn't play those games with cards that long ago.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Sweet" Stuff for Cards

Here's another vintage card item that is supposedly common, but it's not as well known to newer collectors:

This is a complete five-cent box of Milk Duds from 1971. As you can see, each box featured a player's picture on its back panel.

There were 72 cards in all. They were given a numbering sequence where three players shared a number between 1 and 24. For example, Frank Howard, Fritz Peterson and Pete Rose were all card #1. Card #24 can be Danny Cater, Harmon Killebrew or Jim Perry. Hobby guides simply use suffixes of A, B, and C to simplify the system, where the three players are listed alphabetically. The Stan Bahnsen card shown above is listed as 9a in the checklists. 

The card number is shown on a flap (not shown in the image above). It would be on the other side of the flap on the upper right hand corner. This can be seen in the photo below:

(Click to see a larger image)

1971 Milk Duds can be collected as entire boxes or as cut cards. They are plentiful enough in their original form that collectors prefer them complete, so cards that have been cut -- even neatly -- have their value slashed.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Multi Multi-Player Rookie Cards

From 1962 through '82, Topps featured several multi-player rookie cards in its set. Sometimes the rookies were grouped by team or league, other times by position.  Sometimes, a rookie would take a little bit longer to develop and appeared on the "rookie" cards a couple of years in a row. For instance, Lou Piniella showed up on them in 1964, '68 and '69 (All with different teams). However, Piniella wasn't the record holder.

Meet Bill Davis.

1965 Topps #546

This late-series card came out near the end of the 1965 baseball season, which was when Davis got his first call to the bigs. He appeared at the plate ten times as a pinch-hitter and collected three hits. That .300 mark would be his best as a major league player.

1966 Topps #44

Unfortunately for Davis, the Indians already had a first baseman named Fred Whitfield, who -- though not a star-caliber player -- was performing solidly at that position for them, so Davis wasn't able to get a starting role. Rather than waste him as a part-timer, he was sent down to Portland where he could play regularly. Late in the season, he returned and won a game with a pinch homer.

Whitfield had struggled through injuries in '66, so Davis was in place to win a starting job for '67.

1967 Topps #253

Sadly, on January 21, 1967, Davis injured his Achilles tendon during a pick-up basketball game. He appeared in that year's Topps set, but sat on the DL for the season. That injury likely dropped him from the Indians' plans for the future.

1968 Topps #432

Davis did appear on a 1968 card as well (a more closely cropped version of his '67 picture). However, he spent the season in Portland. One short call-up as an emergency back-up on June 29th happened, but Davis never played in a game and was quickly sent back to the minors. When the rosters expanded in September, he never got called to the parent club. After the season, the Tribe traded him to the expansion Padres.

1969 Topps #304

As a member of an expansion team, Davis had the chance to prove himself. Originally slotted to platoon at first with Nate Colbert, he started slow and was soon relegated to pinch-hitting duty. That May, he was traded to St. Louis but never managed to play another big league game again.

After heading back down the minors, Davis was offered the chance to play in Japan but opted to keep his family stateside and went into the real estate business. Despite an overall .181 batting average, one home run and five RBIs in his career, Bill Davis is the all-time holder of the record for the most Topps multi-player rookie cards. He never appeared by himself on a card, though.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Today's email comes from Rich:


I have found some very old cards. They're 1 1/2 inches wide, 2 3/4 inches tall.  

Names include:
Jennings, Detroit,
Maloney, Rochester,
Downey, Cincinnati,
Quinn, New York,
White, Buffalo
Cross, Indianapolis
Anderson, Providence
Barry, Phila Amer
Starr, Boston Natl
These are matte finished, in color, fair condition, etc. Found with other documents dated 1905. Any ideas of value, etc.?


Assuming they aren't reprints (and setting the other documents aside for a moment)...

The most common cards of that era are T206 White Borders, which were issued between 1909 and 1911. I'm guessing that's what you have because your cards have both major and minor leaguers.

Here's a Web page describing the set in further detail.

That should give you a better idea of what you have.

As for value...Hugh Jennings is a Hall of Famer so his card will be worth more. However, the value will depend on things like what back advertisement it has and whatever its condition is. That said, the market for your cards is decent and if you were to sell them, they should rake in some good cash as long as they're genuine.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More 1954 Bowman Cards in the Mail

This brings to mind the question: should the plural of Bowman be Bowmen?

In any case, I've recently added two more 1954 Bowman cards to my collection...and my wantlist for that set has finally dropped to under 100 left.

While these cards feature players representing the teams that made the 1954 World Series, neither player managed to actually play any big league games at all that year:

Card #212 -- Owen Friend, Cleveland Indians

Owen Friend never managed to get out of the minors in 1954. Cleveland was the third of his five major league teams, and he was only with the Tribe for the second half of 1953. After failing to make the parent club, Cleveland sold him to the Red Sox after the '54 season. He played with the Sox as well as the Cubs in '55 before going back to the minors for good after '56.

A minor league skipper and major league scout after retiring, Friend passed away in 2007.

Card #185 -- Daryl Spencer, New York Giants

As for Daryl Spencer, 1954 saw him take a two-year sabbatical from baseball to wear an entirely different uniform. His Uncle Sam had other tasks for him.

A utility infielder as a major leaguer, Spencer was one of the first American players (rather, American players who weren't of Asian heritage) to make a career playing in Japan. After eleven seasons in the major leagues, he played several more for the Hankyu Braves before retiring in 1972.

Spencer is still alive today, and is a well-regarded signer for fans who send cards and letters to him.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We Have Winners...

Last weekend's 1952 Topps card giveaway contest is over.

The entries were made, the results tabulated, the randomization done...without further ado:

Monte Kennedy was won by Ryan G. of the This Card is Cool blog (and so is the blog...check it out).

As for Bobby Adams, A2 Warthog (I believe his name is Dustin from his email address) from the No Relics Pulled blog is now the owner.

Congratulations to both winners.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Football is Returning...

With the ugliness of the NFL labor negotiations out of the way, the teams are once again beginning the preseason and will officially start the 2011 pro football season next month. With that, let's take a quick look at some football cards from the 1960s.

Topps had been making NFL football cards since 1956, when the company bought Bowman. Their string of NFL sets ran through 1963 (in '61, they issued a set with players in the AFL as well), but a backroom deal caused Topps to lose the rights to NFL players beginning in '64. Fortunately for Topps, Fleer was getting out of the sportscards business and the rights to the AFL kept them in the business of making football cards for the next four years.

During the next four seasons, the NFL players appeared on cards issued by the Philadelphia Gum Co., a maker whose previous sets included a 1948 set called Sport Thrills. For the most part, all four years featured a similar design, with some minor adjustments along the way.

1964 Philadelphia -- Jim Brown

I featured the Jim Brown card here to show the pink Cadillac that appeared on all of the Cleveland Browns' cards in 1964. There are hobby rumors stating that the car was Brown's, or that it was from a dealership that Brown owned, but others say the photos were simply taken near the Municipal Stadium parking lot.

To my eyes, the photo looks like Brown has been superimposed over the background, but I digress...

All other teams have regular (on-field) backgrounds. Otherwise, there is a solid-colored block with the player's name, team and position at the bottom of the card.

1965 Philadelphia -- Bart Starr

In 1965, the solid-colored block was still at the bottom with the same info, but this time an NFL logo was added to the card. The box was shortened to fit the logo.

1966 Philadelphia -- Gayle Sayers

In 1966, the box was placed at the top of the card, with the NFL logo placed inside.

1967 Philadelphia -- Johnny Unitas

For 1967, the NFL logo stayed at the top, but the solid-colored box (still resembling the 1964 format) was returned to the bottom of the card. The other main design change is a bright yellow border around the card.

Topps regained the right to NFL players for 1968 and issued sets with players from both leagues until the AFL/NFL merger in 1970. Ironically, that was the same time the company lost the rights to show helmet logos...but that's a topic for another entry in the future.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Contest Update

On Friday, I announced that I'd be running a giveaway this weekend. At the time, I said I'd close the entries on Sunday and announce a winner on Monday.

I ended up getting called to work. I can make a quick post to the blog...but doing a randomization and sending emails may lead to a discussion about what I amd being paid to do there. So, I'll keep the contest open for one more day and will announce the winners on Tuesday. If you want to get in the drawing, check out my original post and leave a comment. If you announce the contest in your own blog, let me know and I'll give you another entry.

Good luck to all who enter!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Before We Leave the National...How About a Giveaway?

Since I've been talking up The National Sports Collectors' Convention so much over the past month, here's one last post about it before I move on to other vintage-related posts. And let's make it a giveaway contest.

During the show, I managed to pick up some upgrades for my 1952 Topps set. Here is what I placed in my dupes box:

1952 Topps #124 -- Monte Kennedy, New York Giants

This card was trimmed to keep the "marquee" design, and the rest was rounded as an artistic statement.

1952 Topps #249 -- Bobby Adams, Cincinnati Reds

On the other hand, this Bobby Adams card has been trimmed to match the standard-size cards used since 1957. I suppose we should be thankful that the previous owner didn't prefer the size of 1952 Bowman cards. As you can see, the year is also recorded on the card in blue ink.

Both cards are being offered as part of a giveaway. There will be two winners drawn at random, one for each card. To win, simply leave a message at the end of this entry. If you aren't able to post a message (or simply don't want to), I will also accept email sent to the address on my profile. Look at the left side of this blog for my profile, my email address is there.

Any bloggers who advertise this contest will get an additional entry. Please tell me in your comment or send me an email to ensure I don't miss it. I'll close the contest on Sunday Monday evening and announce the winners soon after that.

Good luck to all who enter.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The National...Loot and Other Ramblings

I returned back home from Chicago yesterday and now need to cycle out of the "Hobby guy" persona and remember what it is that I do when I have to go to work.

I am pretty sure the experience of helping a seller like Irv Lerner was positive...the show wasn't even half over before Irv told me he would like for me to do it again in Baltimore next year. That was a great feeling knowing that a grizzled Hobby veteran saw something in me.

I am also finding out that I have more Hobby friends than I thought i did. While I was amazed to see other Hobby legends and long-time dealers stopping by to talk with Irv...there were also several who stopped by the table to shake hands with me as well. That included other bloggers like Darren from the Indianaland blog, Matt from the #5 Collection blog and Mike from NearMint's Vintage Football card blog.

Now that I've been on both sides of the table, I can't tell you which is tougher...trying to get to each table and seeing what is available without spending money...or seeing everything around you and not being able to hit much of it because you have a job and need to stay behind a table.

I did get to take a little time to check out other tables, but it was limited. So, my wife went on a couple of days and looked around for me. That serves two great purposes: first, she is a lot better than I am at snagging a deal, and she isn't going to complain about how much was spent. Here is probably the top hit of the show for me:

1955 Topps #28 -- Ernie Banks

Yes, it's trimmed. But it reduces my 1955 Topps wantlist to 8 cards and fills a spot in my binder. The cost: $7. I asked Ellen to look out for any '55 Topps cards that would be bargains...and she certainly found one.

She also found these for my Steelers collection:

1972 Topps Football #306 -- Preston Pearson 

 This high-numbered card did two very important things. It finished off the 1972 Steelers set (my birthyear), and it finished off the Topps run of Steelers base cards from 1956-'90. I had been trying to find an example for under $17...Ellen picked it up for $8.

There were only two Steelers in that tough '72 3rd series, and neither was an All-Pro or Pro Action card.
1954 Bowman #71 -- Art DeCarlo

I love the look of the old helmet they used before the days of face masks. DeCarlo was one of two Steelers included in the tougher mid-series run of cards in 1954. Ellen also picked it up for $8...and that closed the wantlist for my 1954 Bowman Steelers set.

Now that my Steelers wantlist has gotten shorter, I have become accustomed to only getting one card at a time. It's really something when I can complete two team sets in a single show.

One of the other reasons I enjoy going to The National is the way I can get to meet with other Hobby people. That includes members of groups that include me as a member. One of those groups is OBC (Check out their website), an organization of "old school"-style collectors who always have a swap session after the show ends on Saturday. As usual, the group members settled down in a hotel lobby, ate pizza, looked through each others' dupes boxes and talked about all types of things: sports, life, hobby, kids, jobs, etc. This year, I did more talking than looking.

One of the members who came all the way over from Scotland stopped over and asked me if i was working on the 1956 Topps set. I said I needed fewer than 60 he gave me this:

1956 Topps #130 -- Willie Mays

Once again...yes, it's trimmed. However, when it comes to my collection I believe that a hole in the card is better than one in the binder. More than that, it removes a really big name from the list.

I took some pictures from the show floor, but an having trouble finding my cord to transfer files from my camera to my laptop...Hopefully it'll show up soon so I can show the showcase full of Old Judge cards at David Levin's table (David's Website has his inventory), along with the dozens of high number 1952 Topps. What's funny...I have been a Facebook friend of David's ever since I got on there and have been getting emails from him for 10 years since I bought a bunch of his stuff on eBay. We met for the first time in person on the "L" train after he went to a Yankees/White Sox game (I was coming back from a dinner downtown) and talked about the Dodgers, steroids, 19th Century cards and carried on like we'd known each other for years. That's one of the neat ways our Hobby has been affected by the Internet: two total strangers can meet and immediately be like two old acquaintances.

Since I now have a job at next year's show in Baltimore, hopefully I'll get the chance to meet more hobbyists there. In the meantime, I plan to keep on with the info in these posts.

Monday, August 8, 2011

1979 Topps -- A Deeper Look

Today is a travel day for me as I make my way back home from The National. But there's still a post that has to be made -- my regular readers expect no less from me -- so here's a little tribute to the first set I ever collected.

When I decided to make a set-specific blog, there were two immediate sets that popped into my mind. The first was 1973 Topps, as I have always enjoyed the sometimes interesting/sometime awful photography. the other was 1979 Topps, a sentimental favorite. I began collecting in 1979 and those were my first baseball cards. In the end, '73 won out...but I may eventually talk myself into starting that '79 Topps blog at some point.

1979 Topps really isn't near the top of anybody's list because it isn't one of their most aesthetically pleasing issues. The design is considered to be blase by many, a factor of nearly a quarter century without competition.
However, I don't really think it's awful, either.

Let's take a look at the front design:

Card #524 --  Tom Burgmeier, Boston Red Sox

The picture is large, and very little of it is obscured by anything on the card. A solid-colored banner stretching along the bottom has the team name (and each team is given its own color scheme throughout the set), along with a player name and position. However, for the very first time as part of the set design, a Topps logo is included. It had previously shown up on checklists, but was added to the base cards for the first time in 1979.

Personally, I prefer the "old school" Topps logo here over the one they included on their cards beginning in 1982.

Now, let's flip the Burgmeier card over and take a look at the back:

 Card #524 --  Tom Burgmeier, Boston Red Sox (Back)

Except for the color, there's not a lot different here design-wise from what was used in 1978. The space used for the baseball game in '78 was changed to a trivia question and the card number is now inside a baseball-shaped icon, but everything else is in the same place.

Each team was given its own card as well:

Card #66 -- Detroit Tigers Team/Les Moss

This time, the banner is given a "waving" effect, which allows the team's manager to get his own card. This was a return to the way Topps had featured skippers between 1975-'77, and they wouldn't be given separate cards again until 1983.

Oh, and Les Moss wouldn't survive the 1979 season. He would be fired 53 games in, despite having a record over .500. However, in 1979 six of the seven teams in the A.L. East had winning records, so .500 wasn't good enough. He was eventually replaced by Sparky Anderson, who led the team for more than a decade.

The 1978 season was also given a review. The league leaders in several statistical categories make up the set's first eight cards:

Card #8 -- Leading Firemen (Gossage/Fingers)

I chose this card for a few reasons. First, this is the only Leaders card that features two Hall of Fame players on it. It also shows two guys known for their facial hair (even though Goose is clean-shaven here). Finally, I like the term "Firemen." Nobody uses that anymore to refer to relief pitchers. Now they're more specialized, as "set-up men" and "closers."

Cards #201-206 feature personal highlights from 1978:

Card #202 -- Ron Guidry, 1978 Record Breaker

Ron Guidry had an amazing season in 1978 and was a big part of keeping the team in the pennant race while the team went through some very public internal strife between George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin. Without Guidry's 25-3 record, the team may not have been able to even get to a one-game playoff against Boston.

This card commemorates only one of those 25 wins, when "Lightnin'" moved down 18 Angels in a single game.

For whatever reason, there was no subset for the '78 postseason. It would be the first time since 1966 that Topps failed to include a nod to the previous year's World Series. That would seem odd to many, as Topps was a New York-based company and the Yankees won that World Series.

In addition to the look back at the 1978 season, there were also glimpses much father into the past on cards #411-418:

Card #414 -- All-Time Batting Leaders (Hornsby/Cobb)

I've already done an entry about this entire subset, so I'll just link to that for anybody interested in finding out more about it.

There was also a subset that showed the future hopefuls:

 Card #719 -- Los Angeles Dodgers Prospects (Guerrero/Law/Simpson)

The final 26 cards (#701-726) featured three newcomers from each team. Many stuck around for a while, while many didn't. I really wish the pictures on the cards weren't in black-and-white, though. After all, Topps had been doing multi-player rookie cards every year since 1962 and had always made them color, even if an airbrush was needed.

However, it's kinda neat to see the minor league uniforms in some of the pictures, like with Rudy Law here.

Card #121 -- Checklist #1

There were six checklist cards scattered throughout the set, each listing 121 cards. While I never marked my own checklist cards (I used to just keep my cards organized by team and subset and used paper to keep track of what I needed), some collectors did, and then tossed out their extras. However, there really isn't the shortage of unmarked checklists that cause 50s/60s checklists to be so valuable, so they don't get the respect they would have gotten in an earlier set.

Several cards identify most of the All-Stars from 1978:

Card #700 -- Reggie Jackson, New York Yankees

Those players got an added banner to identify them. Actually, there were only 17 players...for whatever reason, the A.L. shortstop (Fred Patek) wasn't given the credit he deserved.

Another thing Topps forgot to add was a Rookie All-Star trophy. That had been a regular feature in every Topps set (except one) since 1960. At the time, I felt cheated. My friends and their older brothers had cards with trophies on them and I had to wait until 1987 to pull one out of a wax pack. Somehow, that didn't seem right.

For the sake of showing who should have gotten identified, here is the official Rookie All-Star team from the '78 season:

C -- Bill Nahorodny
1B -- Dave Revering
2B -- Paul Molitor
3B -- Bob Horner
SS -- Ozzie Smith
OF -- Bob Molinaro
OF -- Hosken Powell
OF -- Rick Bosetti
RHP -- Rich Gale
LHP -- John Henry Johnson

While an All-Star Rookie trophy would have looked great alongside Ozzie Smith's rookie card, it just wasn't meant to be.

There was one minor error to address, though:

Card #369 -- Bump Wills, Error and Corrected Versions

Initially, Bump Wills was identified as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. How ironic is it that the son of Maury Wills (who famously held out on signing a Topps contract for several years) would be the subject of an error like that? Anyways, Topps corrected the error and both were a big deal in the hobby until all the collectors who wanted both versions were satisfied. There was once a premium attached to the error, but that seems to have faded over time.

Speaking of error cards, there are some Yankees and Phillies cards that are mistaken for errors because they have wrong numbers. Those were actually distributed as a promotion through Burger King and are two separate sets. I have done blog entries on both sets: here is the one about the 1979 BK Yankees and here are the '79 BK Phillies.

Finally, here is the card that will be part of my collection forever:

Card #310 -- Thurman Munson, New York Yankees

It doesn't look like much, I know. But this card was pulled out of a wax pack a couple of days after Munson's plane crash. I was 6 at the time, and the card was one of the first real reminders of how life can sometimes play very cruel tricks when you've planned to do other things.

Munson's crash was probably the single moment that made me a Yankee fan (although I was hooked the year before when the Yanks won the Series), and getting that card may have been the very first moment I can remember actually getting a card. As a long-time hobbyist, that is a very dear memory even if it is bittersweet.

Like I said at the top of this entry, I may still start a blog about the '79 Topps set in the future. I'm busy enough with four blogs right now, but the sentimentality of the set might just win me over.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The National...On-the-Scenes Report, Part 2

I'm spending the entire week at The National in Chicago. I'm helping out at booth 1012, so if you're nearby, stop in and say hello.

(This is the place...bring a good pair of shoes if you come)

Just a few minor things this time around.

During a break in the day's activity, I was able to stop over at the Topps booth and talk with Clay Luraschi. Yesterday, I won a Hobby box of 2011 Bowman simply by knowing the answer to a trick question (see yesterday's post) and gave the box to my daughter. She thanked Luraschi for the gift.

While speaking, I told him I was a blogger and he asked which one. I told him The Vintage Sportscards Blog and the 1973 Topps Photography Blog. He said, "Oh...that's you?" So he's evidently seen my work. I don't know whether that was a good or bad thing.

Speaking of kids, at one point in the afternoon a boy who looked to be about 12 was looking through the vintage football cards at the table where I'm working. At that age, I was often shooed away by dealers and hated it. However, I still remember -- by name -- the few dealers who showed some interest. So...I went ahead, pulled up a chair and talked with him about what he was looking through. While thumbing through pages of 1977 and '78 football, he told me he began collecting by pulling out his father's own childhood collection and organizing it. It was a great talk about airbrushed helmets, what constituted "vintage" and re-sorting cards into teams/positions/etc. Finally, he pulled out some money and asked to pick up this card:

A 1977 Fran Tarkenton card. It was pretty cool to see a young fan interested in vintage stuff, and helps give me hope that new collectors will be there in the future. While I'm certain he'll never see this post, I hope a little effort from an adult seller to a young hobbyist made a lasting impression.

After the show, I was able to talk about blog stuff with Matt Glidden, the writer of the Number 5 Type Collection blog. We've been hobby friends for years, but both have found that blogging has been a very nice way to share our interests with others. I'd love to meet with other bloggers at the show; stop over to booth 1012 and I'll be sure to plug your blog here as well.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The National...An On-the-Scenes Report

For the first time, I am experiencing the National from a very different vantage point...behind the table.

(The site of The National...and my home of the next few days)

This time, I'm helping out at Irv Lerner's table. Irv is a long-time hobby veteran, who was a collector going back to 1948 and has been selling cards for longer than I've been alive. A Philadelphia native, he had friends at Bowman and Fleer and bought cases of Topps cards over the years. The contents of many of those cases now sit in his binders and are in very nice condition. He also has an extensive inventory of T-cards with rare backs, as well as 1930s/40s gum cards, Exhibits of all types, test issues and inserts. There are baseball, football, basketball and hockey cards, as well as non-sports subjects.

Fortunately, I'm versed enough in most of those issues and can handle questions that are asked about them. In the past couple of days, I've explained how Green Tints happened in one series in 1962, why several Topps sets from the 1970s can be found with one or two asterisks, why Topps went to an all-AFL football lineup in the mid-1960s and even explained how 1951 Topps Magic football cards came with a scratch-off back that "hid" the player's college. However, Irv has some hobby info that makes me look like a rank amateur by comparison.

It's a great opportunity to be able to get some insight from such a Hobby stalwart. Everybody knows him, he was a mentor to Hobby bigwigs like Bill Mastro and Rob Lifson when they were still teens. Say what you want about those two...but they're incredibly knowledgeable and Irv was one of their earliest teachers.

As far as his inventory goes, I'm up to the task of helping sell it. However, even a grizzled old hobby guy like myself finds it hard to not get nervous handling a 1948 Bowman George Mikan basketball card (price tag: $7000).

Being behind the table has kept me from getting out on the floor too often. However, I still got to see a little excitement. On Thursday morning, I looked up to see several Federal agents and postal inspectors walking past like they had a major purpose (that's a term I learned in the Army). And a few minutes later, we got to see this:
(Picture borrowed from the newspaper article linked below.)

Evidently (or should that be "allegedly," as the man shown above is still innocent until proven guilty in court), a seller had been selling fake jerseys and claiming them to be genuine game-worn gear. Read the story at While part of me likes to see the authorities deal with sellers who damage the name of our Hobby, the cynic in me assumes it'll be the only one of the show; a quick, easy headline to grab that will make somebody show that they are "tough" on those who don't deal straight. However, the uncomfortable truth is that if the Feds really look at some of the dealings going on in the Hobby (especially the memorabilia side of it)...there would be a lot of activity like this.

I did manage to sit in on a panel discussion from Topps, where I got to hear pretty much what I expected: the corporate line on several issues that mainly pertain to sellers of current material. When the Q&A session began, the best question asked was by a kid named William, who seemed to be about 12 years old. Once he asked it (it was about trading virtual prizes online), several people in the room applauded him for it.

There were some drawings and even some trivia questions...and one the questions was answered by Yours Truly. In reference to the question: "What was the number of Mickey Mantle's 1954 Topps card?" The one vintage guy sitting in the audience (me) raised his hand saying "I know that one..."

It was a trick question. There was no card of Mantle issued by Topps in 1954. There was a mock one that appeared in an early issue of Sports Illustrated, as well as others with the design that appeared in retro sets beginning with Topps Archive in 1993, but there was no Mickey Mantle card issued in the Topps base set in 1954.

So, I was the winner of this box:

(See? There's still room for modern stuff on this blog)

This Hobby box of 2011 Bowman, which is shown in the hands of my 12 year-old daughter (not at the show then, but out enjoying Chicago with her mother). I still believe that the Hobby should be enjoyed by kids, so selling it for a quick buck didn't even cross my mind as long as I knew a kid who would be happy to have it. She was happy to rip it as soon as we returned to the hotel last night.

Keep a watch over the weekend, as I'll have a couple of extra reports on days I don't normally post.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The National...A Look Back

The National Sports Cards Collectors' Convention will be held this week in Chicago. Running from Today through Sunday, it is usually the largest gathering of sellers, collectors, autograph guests and hobby names all year.

I'll be there as well, working at Irv Lerner's table (1012/1014). If you're around, stop in and say hello.

However, this blog often likes to look back...and this year, I'll show my program from the very first National held in Chicago. It was in 1983, and here is the cover:

Interestingly, the dealer who organized the show was Bruce Paynter. He'll be set up this week at the table behind the one where I'll be working.

It was also the 50th anniversary of the first major league All-Star game. Since Babe Ruth had famously hit a home run in that first game, he gets a spot of honor on the cover. Ernie Banks' connection to Chicago is obvious, and he was a featured autograph guest (signatures were free to attendees back then...those days are long gone). The HOF plaque card features Buck Leonard, who was another autograph guest. As for Johnny Mize, he wasn't shown as an autograph guest inside the program, but he was a willing signer at conventions at the time.

By the way...the 1983 All-Star game was held in Comiskey Park on July 6th, which may have helped determine the date of the National.

Here's the schedule of events. You can click the image to see it better:

I have always been a fan of The National, because it gives many collectors the chance to look at T206 Wagner cards and 19th century equipment, as well as the opportunity to bump into Dr. Jim Beckett in the crowd (I did that in Cleveland in '07) or even celebrities like Penny Marshall (I met her in Chicago in '05, she's a collector too and had her wantlist out). I also saw O.J. Simpson getting escorted out of the convention center by security in '05, but it's safe to say we won't see a repeat of that.

Here's a picture in the program showing a younger Dr. Beckett. It was before he had his own monthly magazine and was just another seller at the show:

However, check this part out:

If there was something from the past I'd love to see -- and even help arrange it if I had the means -- would be a series of seminars on hobby topics, given by some of the best and brightest in the arena. I'd even offer to speak at one if asked. In Chicago '83, there were presentations on 19th Century cards by Lew Lipset and Keith Mitchell (who helped write a great book about the subject) as well as a Lipset slide show on prewar cards. That final forum on Dealers and the Hobby media would be a phenomenal idea.

Another neat thing on that page is the way certain former athletes are called "celebrity guests." Here's a page about them:

( on the image to see it in a more readable size)

And then there's this:

What an awesome idea. Today's hobbyists are largely from the era where we've been apt to take care of our cards. There are a lot of us who've never been given the chance to do something like flipping cards as a game. Even when there's countless cases of junk wax that can be gleefully ripped open to provide enough ammunition to get really good at it.

I also love that there are also levels for kids and teens. There really aren't enough things specifically geared for kids in our hobby (you can say that the cards themselves are targeted toward kids...but I might disagree with that). Anyway, here are the rules of the game:

So there's a small glimpse at our hobby 28 years ago, when the value of a '52 Topps Mantle was hovering around $800, when many 1950s commons could be found in dime and quarter boxes, and the National convention could fit inside a hotel ballroom.

If you're going to be at the show, leave a message saying when you'll be there. If you're a seller, do the same...maybe one of my readers will check you out.