Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Die-cut Cards From the North

Here's a card I recently uncovered while doing research for one of my other freelance jobs:

It's one of five sets (called "series" by its manufacturer) that have been lumped into the V304 catalog designation in the American Card Catalog. Issued during the 1936-37 hockey season, it was one of several sets released by O-Pee-Chee in Canada long before their affiliation with Topps. Of the five "series," this set was the only one designed with a die-cut that allowed the top of the card to be folded over to allow it to "stand" on its own. 

Fellow blogger 1967ers gets a little deeper into the set's design here.

They seemed to like the design, as they used it the next year for their only baseball set of the era:

I showed this card here last year, and explained the similarity with the 1934-'36 Batter Up set.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering the Fallen

Today is Memorial Day.  Time to pull out this card from my own collection:

This is an E90-1 American Caramels card. It was issued during the same 1909-'11 era as the vaunted T206 set. The big difference between the sets was that one was issued inside tobacco products and the others were sold with candy. Though T206 cards are better known and more widely collected, it's believed that most E cards are much scarcer. For more info about the set, my website has a page devoted to the set.

But that's not why I love this card. It's not even the fact that it is now more than 100 years old (even though that certainly adds to its mystique). I love this card because of a very real and constant reminder. The player is Eddie Grant, who was the 3rd baseman for the Phillies here but also played with three other teams before leaving the game and starting a law practice. In 1917, Eddie Grant volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army when the nation entered World War One. He was given a commission as a captain in the Infantry and sent to France. The right is a photo of Capt. Grant in his other uniform:

On October 5, 1918 Capt. Grant was participating in a patrol to help rescue the famed "Lost Battalion" in the Argonne Forest. During that operation, he was killed by shrapnel from German artillery. This made him the first former major league baseball player to be killed in action during wartime. To me, the fact that I have a card from his playing days makes it a special part of my collection.

Today is Memorial Day. It's a day where we should stop for a moment and remember the sacrifices our fellow Americans have given to help us enjoy our Freedoms. Some, like Captain Eddie Grant of Massachusetts, gave their lives for the cause. And they should never be forgotten.

Friday, May 25, 2012

One Way to Get the Set...

Today's pictures were sent to me by a fellow collector and show the lengths Topps went to to get rid of its backlog of cards from 1951:

Later in the decade, a full set of Red Backs was "repurposed" into a game, complete with instructions and a playing field. At 29 cents for 52 cards and two pieces of paper, that was about the same price as the cards originally went for in their wax packages (2 for a penny). The plus side was that they didn't come with the awful-tasting taffy product.

The playing "field" is shown on the back:

Thanks, Al, for sending the image along. And for keeping the package intact. I know I'd be way too tempted to open it if it was mine.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Outfield Advertisments

A couple of weeks ago, fellow blogger 1967ers showed his 1969 O-Pee-Chee Johnny Bench card. Here's a Topps counterpart showing the exact same photo:

Since this was a posed shot during Spring Training, I look past the fact that he's appearing to pose as a catcher near the outfield foul line. With a catcher's mitt but no other protective gear. However, there would be better (and worse) pictures of Bench to come, so no use getting on him for his first solo appearance on a Topps card.   

However...being the observant person I am, my eye focused on this billboard above Bench's head:

It says "Village Inn Pancake House, We Never Close."

The Reds trained at Al Lopez Field in Tampa at the time, at the site of today's Raymond James Stadium. Although Al Lopez Field is no longer there -- like much of Florida, it's been bulldozed and rebuilt into something newer -- Village Inns are still all over the area. In fact, I ate at one in St. Petersburg just a few weeks ago.

There's no phone number or address given, so there's no way of knowing which location was being advertised or if it's still around. But it's nice to see something in a vintage card that is a link to something in my present.

Monday, May 21, 2012

1960s Topps Stamps Part 3

Seven years after including stamp panels inside their wax packages, Topps brought them back for 1969:

This time around, the set included 240 players. Using better pictures and coloring from their earlier versions, the company also developed a different design using a banner icon. They were evenly distributed by team, so the 24 teams had 10 players apiece. There was even a stamp album for each team:

It was more like a booklet, which featured sections for each player inside and several facsimile autographs on the back (a concept revisited with the unnumbered team checklists from 1973 and '74).

Instead of being inserted into wax packs along with base cards, these stamps were issued as a separate series in their own packaging:

The stamps were issued in perforated panels of 12, with 24 possible combinations of players. As you can see from the pack, one team album was also included in the package.

Topps used stamps later in the year with its football and hockey sets, too. The football stamps were issued along with the base set in 4-piece panels on thicker cardboard stock. The team album was also included. Those are covered in this post from 2010.

With the hockey stamps, they were actually designed to be placed on the back of the cards (and that concept was also used in the same year's O-Pee-Chee set).

Friday, May 18, 2012

Before the Mall...

Today's post features a card that was handed out in 1966 to shoppers in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh:

Back in the days before malls became the new wave for shoppers, there was the good ol' shopping center. Clusters of stores and restaurants would get grouped together to entice people to stop in one place and take care of several errands at once. In the case of East Hills, the different buildings were named after Presidents and the parking lots had the names of players on the Pirates, in order to help patrons remember where they'd parked.

In 1966, several stores in the East Hills shopping center distributed cards on Pirates players as a promotion to get people to circulate more. The blank-backed cards were skip-numbered; in fact, the card numbers corresponded with the uniform numbers of the player pictured. There were 25 cards in all.

In 1969, a mall opened in nearby Monroeville. As that mall gained popularity, many of the stores at East Hills shut down. Then, rising crime and vandalism in the neighborhood took care of the rest. Eventually, East Hills closed down for good, and a wrecking ball knocked it down in 2001. However, collectors have the 1966 East Hill Pirates to serve as a time capsule of a period where it was a thriving business canter.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Raining On a Parade

This card is one of the most well-known vintage cards due to its action, especially coming from an era where action shots weren't part of baseball cards:

However, when I look at it I see all sorts of wrong things: it definitely isn't a major league field (and looks like a municipal park rather than a Spring Training facility), the player -- rumored to be Phil Rizzuto -- is sliding the wrong way into second and the edges of the photo are underexposed for a set that lauded itself for its full-color photography.

Despite seeming like I've gone into full "Get the Hell off my yard!" geezer mode, I think it should be recognized as one of the first attempts to get some action into card photos. That was gutsy in 1953; even Topps didn't attempt to do that until 1971.

Monday, May 14, 2012

1960s Topps Stamps Part 2

Last week, I featured the stamps that Topps inserted into its wax packs in 1961.

In 1962, they continued with a new 200-subject stamp set. This year, they were more colorful:

One player (Roy Seivers) was initially shown with the Kansas City A's, and later corrected to show him as a Phillie. Neither version seems to have a premium, however; both are priced as commons. One error was left uncorrected, with Johnny Callison's last name spelled "Callizon." 

They came with two different background colors (red and yellow), which can be seen in the panel below. No, the colors weren't league-specific:

There were 180 players, plus 20 team logo stamps. The panel below shows two of those:

There were 245 different panel combinations, which is sometimes pursued by advanced collectors. The tabs advertise a stamp album designed to hold the cards:

 Notice how the album utilizes the red and yellow used on the stamps' backgrounds. The stamps were also advertised as a "bonus" on the wax packs themselves:

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Coach's Chalkboard...

Today's post shows a card from the 1948 Bowman basketball set:

Really, it's a 1948 Bowman basketball card. Twelve of the 72 cards in that set featured drawings of basic plays used in the game. Backs are merely a description of the drawing on the front:

For the first regular basketball set (not just the postwar era, but any era), cards that explain fundamentals are educational; however, collectors haven't exactly embraced them. They're actually priced below the value of common cards in the set.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

They're Called "Trios"

This card was inserted into packs of 1971-72 Topps basketball cards:

Note how Dave Cowens has his jersey on backwards. That was no goof on his part; Topps wasn't allowed to show the teams' names and could only use city names to refer to the teams. That's why Bob Love was allowed to keep his own jersey on straight.

ABA players are given an "A" suffix to their card numbers to keep them separated:

I'm going to guess that Rick Barry's picture was conveniently cropped.

These panels were stickers placed on a blank-backed piece of white cardboard. There are 26 different panels (including three with a variety of ABA team logos and one featuring NBA team logos), and there were varying levels of scarcity among the panels due to the layout of the print sheet, making for single, double and quadruple prints.

Of course, stickers that have been peeled from their backing are considered damaged and virtually worthless.

Monday, May 7, 2012

1960s Topps Stamps Part 1

Today's card isn't a card at all, it's a stamp that came with cards:

Each five-cent wax pack of 1961 contained two-stamp panels of stamps as an insert. The players were available in two tints:

There was a green tint (seen above) and a brown tint as shown below:

As you can see, the players weren't given a league-specific tint.

There were 207 players in the set. However, that number can't be divided by two, so Al Kaline is found with both tints. That makes 208 stamps in a compete set, which is very affordable for collectors because there's limited interest in non-card inserts. Superstars from the set are able to be picked up for a fraction of their corresponding card from the base set.

Advanced collectors have identified 182 different panel combinations as well. Surprisingly, most complete panels do not have a large premium over the combined price of the two individual stamps. For instance, the panel price for two common players is about a dollar over the stamps' combined value. For stars, however, a premium is more significant because of their collectability.

An stamp album was also available from Topps as a mail-in offer for 10 cents.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Little Bit About Postcards

One of the great things about collecting cards is that the only limits to what "belongs" in a collection is limited only in the mind of the collector. Simply put, a collection is only as big or as small a collector desires it to be.

Some collectors consider baseball-themed postcards as a subset of baseball cards. Several teams have issued their own sets of player cards over the years, many featuring single players. Many players have used their own photographs for autographs (I featured a Yogi Berra postcard here), and postcards have even been used for hobby-related subjects (Here's a reprinted photo, and here's a show announcement).  Even Exhibit cards were sometimes used as postcards.

While going through my images, I found a few that are baseball-related postcards:

Postcards appeared shortly after the postage stamp in the 1840s and printed pictures showed up in the 1870s. In the U.S., private companies weren't permitted to offer their own postcards until 1898, but they caught on pretty quickly after that.

At first, the U.S. Postal Service held the right to the word "postcard," so they were called "souvenir cards" and required a notation that they were private mailings until 1901. After that, they were divided on the postage side (which allowed the mailing address to take up one side) in 1907.

While the previous images were only related to baseball in a generic way, I like this one because it's more specific to the sport. Plus, it's humorous rather than sentimental:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Thanks to fellow collector Mike Borchardt for sharing this little piece of Hobby history.

It's the catalog for The Card Collector's Company and it's from 1963. The pages can be right-clicked and opened in a new window, which makes the text more readable.

The cover page points out that there's some value to the cards. And this was before most of us realized that. So whenever somebody says that collecting was fun in the 1960s or early 1970s because it wasn't so concerned about prices, here's some proof that somebody was profiting in 1963 on them.

That said...$7.50 for either 1951 Topps set? A dollar apiece for '52 high numbers? $18 for a complete '57 Topps set? 

The second page has Bowman sets, plus Fleer/Leaf and football cards. Note here that the only major Bowman card singled out is the 1953 Stan Musial, and that it's worth two of the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams #68s. Also, note that with the 1952 Bowman football cards, the small versions are more expensive than the large ones.

The T206 cards are simply called "1910 Baseball Cards" and are available at 50 cents apiece or 10 for $4.00. That price can include Hall of Fame players as well. 1930s Goudey cards (called "Big League" Baseball cards) are 35 cents each. Also, $27.75 could purchase an entire run of Topps hockey through the 1962-'63 set, and another $11 can secure the last four Parkhurst sets.

This page has Exhibits available (including some Hall of Famers) at 7 cents apiece. Considering they were still being distributed in penny machines, that may seem like a high amount, but the price was for convenience of knowing which player you'd be getting. Also, note that the entire series of the current year (and the stats backs are mentioned) was available for $1.98.

This page has scorecards for the three New York teams going back to the "Dead Ball" era, as well as glossy photographs and Dormand postcards. 

Books about baseball are on this page, but the collector in me focuses on two things: the 1962 Topps All-Star Rookie Award program and the "Baseball Wall Display" that is basically an uncut sheet of cards from the 1961 or 1962 Topps set. I'll mention here that The Card Collectors Company was headed by Woody Gelman, who worked closely with Topps and could easily get uncut sheets whenever he needed them.

While some generic items are mentioned here, I'm looking at the metal cabinet that holds 30,000 cards. I've actually seen some "old school" collectors who've used a similar cabinet to store their collections. $50 (plus shipping) was an awful lot of money in 1963, so they were obviously geared towards the hardcore collectors.

Plastic pages hadn't yet been developed, so there's an ad for "loose leaf" pages that hold four cards and are die-cut to show the back. There's also a copy of the American Card Catalog (then in its final printing) and a host of complete non-sports card sets.

Lastly, Mike even scanned the mailing envelope that held the catalog 49 years ago. Note how the postmark doesn't yet include any ZIP code:

Thanks again, Mike, for that trip into the history of our Hobby.