Monday, April 30, 2012

The Basketball Card That Wasn't

This card is considered to be one of the "first" basketball cards, but wasn't issued as one:

This is a T51, issued with packs of Murad cigarettes in 1911. Called "College Series" the set was issued in six groups of 25. They showed activities at several colleges and universities, and four of them (Northwestern is shown here; Xavier, Luther and Williams were the others) just happened to show basketball games.

Basketball was invented in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith as a physical activity that can be played indoors as a rainy-day (or snowy-day, considering he was in New England) activity. The original "basket" was a peach basket nailed to the wall; later hoops are like the one shown in the picture above. Since a stick was needed to retrieve balls after each score, the bottom of the net was eventually cut to allow balls to pass through.

We Have a Winner!

Six people entered the giveaway for the following book:

With six people in the running, I decided a die toss would be a good random way to pick a winner. I listed the six on a paper in order of when their comments arrived, and went to and told it to throw a virtual die.

The result:

Congratulations to Spiegel83. Drop me an email (my contact page is at the bottom of the left side of this page) with your info and I'll get the book out this week.

Thanks to those who entered

Sunday, April 29, 2012


On Friday, I offered up this book as a giveaway to anybody who wanted it:

Due to a defect, I ended up with an extra copy. If you're interested in getting that copy (and don't mind the fact that the cover is separated), go to my original post and make a comment. Right now, only one person is in the if you'd like to be considered, don't waste time. I'll keep the comments there open until midnight Eastern time (9 PM Pacific) tonight.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Review -- "Sayonara Home Run"

Thanks to some credits I had on Amazon, I went and picked up this book recently for my own collection:

Sayonara Home Run! by John Gall and Gary Engel

I have written a few articles about Japanese baseball cards in the past (most notably this one), where I mentioned the book above. I also showed off what is still the only Japanese card in my personal collection:

While that card isn't shown in the book, I did learn a little more about it. While I knew it was a Menko card and had several game elements on the back, the book explained that these particular cards are also called "Tobacco" Menkos, because they're similar to what American collectors know as T-series cards. They were not, however, issued along with any tobacco products. They're called that to differentiate themselves from Menkos from the late 1940s through the early 1950s, which used cartoon-style artwork rather than photographs.

This book isn't an in-depth reference book, nor is it intended to be one. Instead, it's an introduction to a new "world" of cards from another country, where baseball is considered as much of a National Pastime as it is here. Hundreds of cards are pictured, going back to postcards from 1913 that featured collegiate players. It goes from there through the World War II era and then the two main eras of Menko cards in the postwar years. It also delves into the cards issued with gum and candy products, as well as those that were part of games. They also cover Bromide cards of the era, which show photos on them and were sometimes available as bookmarks.

Along the way, players are spotlighted, from Russian-born Victor Starffin to Sadaharu Oh. Sections talk about the early influx of baseball into Japan, the exhibition tours of American teams into the country and the proliferation of gaijin (foreign-born players) later on. While the "meat" of the book featured images of baseball cards, the extra information fills in the details about the subject.

Here's a link to pick up a copy if you're interested:

Here's where I get to the rest of the story...

When I ordered this book, it arrived in defective condition. The cover had come off from the body. The seller (Diane Publishing of Darby, Pennsylvania) immediately sent me a new copy that was intact. I couldn't finish this review without pointing out their act of customer service. I've ordered stuff through Amazon for years and have never had this problem before; their quick fix was something I never expected. I have an extra copy of this book (they wouldn't take it back since it was defective). If you're interested in the subject, I'll offer my defective copy as a giveaway this weekend. If interested -- and unconcerned about the removable cover -- leave a comment below and I'll do a drawing on Sunday night.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reader Question -- 1940s Leaf Cards

Here's a card from my collection I've shown here before:

This is from a set I've called 1948-49 Leaf both in my own Website and in this blog. A reader named John sent me this email:

"I just spent a few relaxing and entertaining hours reading the info in your pages. I stumbled across them while searching for info about the 1948-49 Leaf set.

I notice that you still consider that the set was printed and distributed over both years, 1948 and 1949. However, I recently completed reading the backs of every card in the set and I am convinced that it is strictly a 1949 issue, despite the occasional card with a 1948 copyright.

Every single card, with the obvious exceptions of the Wagner and Ruth cards, shows stats from the 1948 season; every single card that makes a specific mention of them refers to them as "last year." Additionally, the backs of the Cleveland Indians' Lou Boudreau and Jim Hegan mention their performance in the 1948 World Series and the Hank Edwards card mentions the Indians' World Championship. The other 1948 World Series team, the Boston Braves, has three player cards that mention their performance in the World Series, Alvin Dark, Tommy Holmes and Warren Spahn.

Therefore, the earliest that this set could have been printed would have been in late October, 1948, which is highly unlikely, given that card sellers typically stop selling their sets at that time of year due to loss of interest by the kids who buy their products. I'm convinced that the Leaf issue was strictly a 1949 issue and should share with Bowman the bragging rights of having the first post-war color set and that rookie player cards from each set should also be recognized.

Many sources seem to have reached the same conclusion, but most are reluctant to remove the reference to 1948 from the Leaf set and list it as strictly a 1949 set. They still call it the "1948-49 Leaf Set." I think there is no longer any doubt and that it should be recognized as the "1949 Leaf Set."

What do you think?"

I'll preface this by saying that I wrote the original Web page John read back in 2001, and used many of the same references that he refers to as I wrote it. I'm fairly open to changing the text to reflect new information, but my own dealings with this set are admittedly sparse. I own two cards, and haven't done the level of investigation as John obviously has.

However, in looking at my own two (the Seery card above) has a 1948 date and the other (#17 Frank Overmire) has a 1949 copyright. Seery's card mentions his 1948 performance, using his season-end totals, which would seem to confirm John's analysis.

I know that the Leaf set had several "unknown" factors among hobbyists for several years, and even in the 1960s it was believed that more cards might eventually surface. Furthermore, the fact that the company issued two similarly-designed football sets in 1948 and 1949 likely muddied the waters about when the baseball set was released.

Any collectors of this set who would like to add an input here?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pre-NHL Hockey Cards

Today this blog features some of the earliest hockey cards. They are tobacco cards from the same era when  the T-series cards appeared. Unlike their American counterparts, however, these didn't have any brands advertised on them. I'm not sure if that was due to Canadian regulations; perhaps one of our friendly readers in that country can add a comment to explain.

What we now know as the National Hockey League wasn't organized until 1917. Before that, the main professional league was the National Hockey Association and it began play in 1910. Later that year, it is believed that this 36-card set appeared:

C56 Hockey #3 -- G. Roberts

Another thing that is different from most American-issued tobacco cards is the fact that these are numbered. Otherwise, they're the same size as the T206 and similar cards.

When Jefferson Burdick came up with his nomenclature for the American Card Catalog, he lumped all of the Canadian-issued tobacco cards -- regardless of their sport -- into the C-series. The grouping included one baseball series as well. Rather than using a specific date, he went by manufacturers when he knew them, by card size and by the set's subject. That's why the numbering system for the set from 1911-'12 might look odd at first:

C55 Hockey #20 -- Fred "Cyclone" Taylor

C55 was issued later but comes before the C56 set in Burdick's book simply because the banner on the back says "Hockey Players" and comes before "Hockey Series" alphabetically. There were 45 cards in the set, with one card having two variations.

One of the neat things in this set's design is the way it uses two hockey sticks to form part of the border. The player above is Fred "Cyclone" Taylor, one of the first professional hockey stars. Before Babe Ruth famously out-earned the President of the United States, Taylor earned more money than Canada's Prime Minister.

For 1912-'13, the "tobacco" era was largely over in the U.S., and in Canada the color was dropped from the cards:

C57 Hockey #46 -- Jack LaViolette

C57 is also the hardest of these three sets to complete, and ironically has the most cards. The complete set has 50 cards.

The storied Montreal Canadiens club was established during the NHA's tenure, as opposed to other clubs, which largely came from competing leagues. They were put together in order to have a French "alternative" that could interest hockey fans in Quebec as well. Since then, all the other teams around them came and went, but the "Habs" are still around today and have enjoyed long spells as a dominant club. And Jack LaViolette (shown above) was their leader and first coach.

The tobacco cards stopped there, as cigarettes largely migrated to using coupons and other premiums. As for the NHA, they were so affected by the conscription of players into the Army during World War One (which Canada entered in 1914) that there was a team made up entirely of players who'd enlisted in the Army. However, the thing that shut the league down was a money dispute. Several owners feuded with Toronto Shamrocks owner Eddie Livingstone and ended up forming the NHL in 1917 using the NHA as a framework.

Friday, April 20, 2012

They Still Aren't Dolls...

Last month, I featured some pictures of baseball players who were found in the toy aisle as plastic figures in 1969 and '70. While they predated the Starting Lineup figures, they weren't the first plastic statues of players. These came out between 1958 and 1962:

 This is Nellie Fox, and he was one of the 18 baseball players who were made into plastic keepsakes that we now call Hartland Statues.

Hartland Plastics was a company based in the Midwest that made bottles to hold perfume. During the holiday season, they offered these treasures (evidently during the Holiday season) to fans. There are collectors who assign values to the statues based on the presence of the original box, the tag that originally came with the figure, and accessories such as the bat that came with many players.

The Hartland name has been resurrected a few times over the years. A 25th anniversary line appeared in 1987 and look a lot like the originals. Dealers who offer the statues will be able to identify the originals from the newer models. A "new" series of the statues appeared in the 1990s featured more realistic-looking players, but as with most "manufactured" pieces of memorabilia, their value is nowhere near the originals.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Some Bills in Honor of "Tax Day"

Yesterday was "Tax Day," the deadline set by the IRS for American taxpayers to have their tax forms filed. While I hope everybody reading this post took care of that little issue -- or at least got an extension -- this blog will feature money of a different sort:

Willie Mays is part of a 96-piece set (they're heavy paper, and calling them "cards" would be incorrect) from 1962. It was a specialty set, issued in its own wrapper. While most of the players were issued as $1 "notes," several stars were assigned higher denominations. 24 of the players were given $5 denominations and ten of the biggest -- all of them Hall of Fame players except for Ken Boyer -- would get a $10 assessed value, including Willie Mays.

Here's the back of Willie's example:

As you can see, the design of these bills was team-specific. The fronts featured a drawing of the player's home stadium, and the backs features a team logo.

Topps must have liked the concept, since they inserted another series of the bills in with the regular wax packs of their football set later that year:

There were 48 bills in the football set, and all are found with a vertical crease since they were folded over to fit in the packs.

Another set of 24 bills was also inserted into the wax packs for 1962-63 Topps hockey. Since the cards were widely distributed in Canada, they were given the appropriate "look," including bilingual denominations: 

But Topps didn't limit these cards to their sports sets. In 1962, they also featured a set of cards marking the centennial of the U.S. Civil War. And guess what was tucked inside each wax pack?

Yep...a reproduced Confederate banknote.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Anniversary Post #2

Yesterday, this blog passed two years in existence. What began as an exercise to let me share some of my knowledge of the Hobby to others has turned into a regular outlet for me to comment on trends, share some of the cards that I've picked up, dispel a myth or two, answer questions and toss out the occasional sarcastic comment. It's also allowed me to interact with some really cool hobbyists that I'd have never met otherwise...which is always a good thing.

And I also intended to show off some of the cards in my collection that aren't exactly high-grade, like these (which eventually went to three lucky readers):

Here are some of my highlights during the past year:

I shared a not-exactly-short history of the Fleer company.

I offered this profile on a player who was present during three forfeited games of the 1970s.

I showed some hard-to-find T-series cards issued in "tobacco" country.

I also showed several ad backs of T-series cards.

Speaking of tobacco, here's a profile on Buck Duke.

I shared three baseball-related songs.

I even took a look at "action figures."

I tracked the design evolution of 1948-49 Bowman baseball1954-56 Topps baseball and 1950s Bowman football cards.

I spotlighted the 1941 Play Ball1954 Bowman, 1956 Topps, 1961-62 Topps Hockey1967 Topps Venezuelan, and 1979 Topps sets.

Finally, I said goodbye to Harmon Killebrew and Gary Carter.

Not bad for a year's work. Hopefully, I still have enough gas in the tank to keep it keep those questions coming and feel free to comment on some of these topics. I #1 when it comes to vintage sportscards?

Billy seems to think so. Here's a closer look:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Q&A -- "Regular Size" T3

Today's email comes from a reader named Jeff:


"I have come across a smaller version of what is described as a Turkey Red cabinet card. The card measures 3 1/2" by 2 1/2". It is a #2 Bergen.

Do you know if this could be a reprint?

(The image above is a real T3 Bergen that was offered in a Mears auction...and sold for $44)


Yes, it's a reprint. T3s have been reprinted several times in what we now call "standard" size (which wasn't introduced until 1957). Authentic T3 cards are eight inches tall.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Tale of Two Managers

In its 1969 set, Topps featured two managers for the Washington Senators in its set.

First, there was this guy:

Card #294 -- Jim Lemon

Unfortunately for him, Jim Lemon was relieved of his position before the season began and replaced by this legend:

Card #650 -- Ted Williams

Manager changes happen. That's a part of baseball. In fact, the season just began last week and I'm sure there's somebody placing bets right now on which skipper will be the first one fired this year.

Since Topps was issued in series back then and unable to know what was going to happen in the season, this sometimes happened. But it's all good, because...

Wait, a minute...somebody is whispering to me...Do what? Turn Lemon's card over?

Oh, that's just wrong on so many levels.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Circulation Boosters

(This is another post that basically rehashes the material I wrote on my "regular" site. Here's the page where this info was pulled.)

Ever since baseball cards have been produced, they have often been used as promotional products. From the beginning, they were designed to entice baseball fans to buy certain products in an attempt to find cards of favorite players or work towards a complete set of cards. The list of products that have included baseball cards over the years is quite long; they include cigarettes, cocoa, caramel, gum, candy bars, ice cream, cereal, dog food, snack cakes, root beer, potato chips and hot dogs. In the early part of the 20th Century, a few newspapers also used baseball cards to help sell more issues.

In 1911, there was a fierce competition between The Sporting News and Sporting Life, and much of that competition centered on coverage of major league baseball. During this period, Sporting Life used a set of baseball cards as a premium to subscribers. In order to collect the cards, readers would have to send an advertisement to the paper and have the cards mailed back. The cards were available in 24 series (12 cards in each series) issued throughout the season. Although there are 287 different players featured in the set, advanced collectors will consider the set complete at 310 cards.

Although the cards in this set -- like many other issues during this period -- resemble T206 cards in design, there are some differences. The M116 cards are an eighth of an inch taller than T206 cards, use a different lettering style, and player pictures (often similar to T206 photos) are less vivid in color. Most notably, the backs of an M116 card carries one of three different advertisements for Sporting Life. Card fronts feature a hand-colored portrait photo of the player surrounded by a white border, with the last name and team city below.

 There are several variations found in the set. Several cards feature either blue backgrounds or pastel-colored backgrounds; the cards featuring a blue background are scarcer. Here's an example with both types, featuring Hall of Fame pitcher Chief Bender:

There are three types of backs. They were largely dependent on the series, but there's a breakdown on the Old Cardboard page about the set.

The card of Jimmy Walsh can be found with either a grey or white background. Two players (Amby McConnell and George McQuinlan) had new cards issued late in the season to reflect trades, and cards featuring them with their new teams are quite scarce. Because of the way the cards were issued, the last six series (available during the waning days of the baseball season) are much harder to find than the earlier series.

While The Sporting News is still a highly respected publication today, the editors of Sporting Life closed up shop by the the time the U.S. entered World War One.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Q&A -- Diamond Stars Backs

Today's question comes from Danny:

"Hope you can answer this! What are the differences between the two Bill Dickey card #11’s? Both have green backs, so how can you tell? One is listed as 1934 and the other as 1935. Also, I need to know how to tell the difference between the Tony Lazzeri blue back cards, as there is a 1935 blue back and a 1936 blue back? Appreciate the help!"


There are three different dates on many backs because the cards were issued over a three-year period. The date given in the statistics changed over the years but the copyright date at the bottom of the card remained 1934 throughout the run.

1934 is green.
1935 is either blue or green.
1936 is blue.
So, for instance:

The color of the text is green, and the stat date is 1934. So it's a 1935 card. The card you have with 1935 on the back will be from 1936.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Not a "Card" But Still Collectible

Today's entry features something that isn't really a card at all:

It's actually a piece of felt, known as a "blanket" by collectors since it could be sewn together. This was included inside a box of Egyptienne Straights cigarettes in 1914. Known to hobbyists as B18 Blankets, there are 90 players in all but many have variations involving background color.

Though stars can be pretty expensive, commons can be had for less than $15 on eBay. They're great pieces to pick up for a truly "vintage" accessory for your collection without a great deal of expense.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Brown Backgrounds

  Advanced collectors will know the design right away, but these cards are vastly overshadowed by other cards of the era:

But it's not because they're scarcer. Well, they are, but they're not as tough as many of the more regional tobacco issues.

Called "Brown Background" because of the sepia backdrop behind the players on its cards, the T207 set is not as widely collected as many other tobacco issues of its day. This lack of popularity among collectors is due to several factors; compared to other T-series tobacco sets there are fewer stars, less color and an unimaginative design. Despite these negatives, T207 presents a challenge for collectors because it contains several cards that are incredibly scarce.

The cards, measuring the same 2 5/8 inches by 1 1/2 inches as cards in the T205 and T206 sets, feature a somewhat dull front design. They were issued in 1912, at the end of the mainstream T-series tobacco period. Players are featured in sepia and white drawings with a solid brown background. A tan border runs around the card, while a white strip at the bottom contains the player's last name and team city. A thin black line separates the picture and white strip from the outer border. Card backs feature fairly lengthy player biographies below each player's name. Like most T-series issues, an advertisement appears at the bottom. Also like many of its contemporary sets, T207 cards were distributed among several brands. T207 back advertisements include Recruit, Broadleaf, Cycle, Napoleon and (the incredibly hard to find) Red Cross. There is also an "anonymous" back.

(This one isn't mine...but the back is the same as the one I have)

Stars in this set include Walter Johnson and Tris Speaker, as well as a small handful of other Hall of Fame players, but many stars (such as Christy Mathewson and Ty Cobb) do not appear here. There are, however, several degrees of scarcity in this set: Irving Lewis, Louis Lowdermilk and Ward Miller are especially valuable because they are so scarce. Additionally, there are several other cards in the set which are harder to find than others; however, since names like Ralph Works, Victor Saier, Arthur Rasmussen and Morris Rath do not really excite many collectors, they are not the source of much collector interest. For the collector who enjoys a challenge, T207s offer the chase without the price extremes found among more mainstream T-series sets.

Despite the lack of collector interest in this set, it is harder to find T207 cards than T206 or T205 cards, and even its commons are slightly more valuable. Fortunately for collectors of this set, a lack of information about these cards sometimes results in heavily underpriced T207 cards on the market (For instance, I bought the example card shown above for eight dollars at a card shop in 1994 because the proprietor had no idea what he was selling).