Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another Gem

There are several cards in my collection that have stories to tell. Here's one of them that I picked up while still in high school:

It was Summer 1989. Those who were part of the hobby then remember the way card shows popped up everywhere then. Even in small towns like the one I called home, there seemed to be at least one show within driving distance every weekend. In northern New York, I sometimes got to travel across the border and roam the tables in Ontario, Canada. For this show in '89, I went to an armory in Kingston, Ontario.

There are a few things I remember noticing from that show. First, for a kid who only lived 30 minutes from the border, listened to their radio stations and even picked up their TV stations, I was struck by how different everything was. The armory had a Canadian Army recruiter set up at a table, who was dressed differently from the U.S. Army sergeant I had been talking with at the time yet still said many of the same things. The stores had different names, all the signs and products were written in two languages, even the soda cans were made differently. The second thing I noticed was how many more O-Pee-Chee cards were available there. While I did understand that OPC was a Canadian card company, we didn't really see many of them just 30 miles south.You'd think more of them would have filtered their way across the border.

At one table, I saw this 1958 Topps card of Ted Williams. While it wasn't much condition-wise, what stopped me was the price tag: $7.50 Canadian, what was then the equivalent of about $5 in U.S. currency. The chance to grab a card from Teddy Ballgame's playing days was really tempting, but at the time I was still using the First National Bank of Mom and my purchases needed to be cleared through her. As she looked at the card, her first reaction was, "that's a really beat-up card for that much money."

The seller seized the opportunity. "Actually, Ma'am...if it were in top condition, it would be worth $375." He had watched me look through his cards. He saw the way I flipped through stuff but stopped at that Williams card and considered it for a while. Perhaps he'd used the technique before, but it made Mom do a double-take and pull out the money.

Twenty-one years later, it's still a part of my collection, even as I've upgraded several of the worse cards from my 1958 Topps set-in-progress. I don't know if it's because I've been unable to find a reasonably-priced Williams or if it's because the one I have is a reminder of a long-lost era. As the first card in my 1958 binder, it immediately takes me back to myself at 16 and a time where I could visit card shows all the time.

Monday, June 28, 2010

1941 Double Play

Last week I  featured a Q&A about cards that were sometimes found cut apart due to their design. This time around, I'd like to spotlight a set among those occasionally found that way. The text comes largely from this page about the set, which isn't technically "borrowed" since I wrote the text on that site, too. However, instead of the picture used on that site, I'll show a couple of cards from my collection here.

One of three national baseball card sets issued during 1941, before World War Two halted most baseball card production for several years, the 1941 Double Play set was unusual in that its cards featured two players instead of one. The cards were produced by Gum Products, Inc.of Massachusetts, which was a different company than Philadelphia-based Gum, Inc; however, the similarity in names has caused confusion in the hobby. 150 player pictures (but only 110 different players) are represented on 75 panels.

The full cards measure 2 1/2" by 3 1/8". Fronts feature sepia-toned black and white photos of two different players from the same team, against a white background that also serves as the border. Below each picture is a short biography and statistical information, as well as the card number (each player has his own individual number). The cards are blank-backed.

 Cards 149-150, the final ones of the set.

Most cards are arranged horizontally, like the example card featured above. Cards numbered 81 through 100 feature action shots of the players and are vertically oriented, appearing tall and thin. All players featured in action photos are also found with portrait cards. An example of this is shown below:

Cards 93-94, featuring a couple of Giants.

Most of the stars of the era can be found in this set, but there are quite a few lesser-known players featured as well. Since production of baseball cards was essentially halted through the Second World War, a large number of major leaguers never had the chance to appear on a baseball card; some who played just before the war managed to get on one card, which can be found in this set. A lot of team collectors focus on this issue as a result. Also noteworthy here is a rookie-year card of Pee Wee Reese.

One of the most important things to point out to potential collectors of these cards: although these cards are designed to look like there are two separate cards, there was no perforation provided to separate them. If the two cards are cut apart, their value is greatly diminished. Several cut specimens are auctioned and sold with a note that it was "common" for the cards to be cut apart. Whether or not that is true, no card in this set is considered complete unless intact. That said, for many collectors, cards that have been clipped offer a great way to collect the set inexpensively until entire cards can be found.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Tim asks:

Q:  "Great website - what a great resource!  I learned a lot about Goudey cards!  I have a question for you.  I purchased an old scrapbook at an auction, and in it were glued a bunch of 1935 Goudey 4-in-1's which have been cut apart.  I was able to take them out and remove all of the glue residue on the backs.

Do these have any value at all?  Just curious.  I think they look great, and plan on keeping them regardless."

(Chris's note: The card shown is a 1935 Goudey from my own collection. Sorry, I haven't gotten one that's been cut up yet...but that can change in the future, especially if I start looking for Hall of Famers.)

A:  The cards have a little value but not much.  The one exception: the Babe Ruth card.  He's one of those players who command premium prices even if the card isn't what you'd consider "premium."

I know several collectors out there who are content buying 1935 Goudey cards that have been cut because they fit into a small budget.  Personally, I think cards that have been damaged have their own unique
stories to tell...and that's part of what makes this hobby great.

Glad to read that you plan on keeping them anyway.

Besides 1935 Goudey, other sets that are sometimes found cut apart due to their design are 1941 Double Play and T202 (Hassan Triple Folders) from 1912. In fact, I have a small number of those in my collection:

Not the prettiest cards I own, but they'll do until I get the complete panels.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What the...

Sometimes, you see a card that just doesn't look right. While sometimes the problems can be attributed to the games that youngsters have played with their cards or on torture lovingly inflicted by their previous owners, sometimes the blame needs to be placed on the card maker itself. Take this card from 1971 Topps:
In the case of this Luis Tiant card, there are a lot of things going on here. It's miscut, identifies another player entirely, exhibits a little of the border chipping that really frustrates collectors of the 1971 Topps set and is diamond-cut to boot. It looks like the printing sheet was loaded into the cutter upside down, creating unique versions of this Tiant card and the other 131 cards joining him. Undetected by Topps' QA inspectors, the card was placed in a wax wrapper and sent out for a collector to pull out and say, "Aargh!"

While some collectors see this card as absolutely useless (the card number on the back is Osteen's), I say it shows that even a machine designed for high-efficiency mass production will get it wrong sometime.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Little Foreign Flavor

Despite being mainly a collector of Topps and Bowman issues from 1948-1980,  I have several other items that I find cool. Along with several prewar type cards and long-term Goudey, Play Ball and Diamond Stars projects, I am not averse to adding something different if for no other reason than showing it off to people looking through my cards.

At the 2007 National Convention in Cleveland, I found this card for $3 and decided it would be cool to take home:

According to a collecting buddy of mine, this card is from 1959. The player is Terukuki Takakura, an outfielder for the Nishitetsu Lions. The card is classified as a Marukami Bat on Right Menko. Marukami is the name of the card manufacturer. "Menko" is a Japanese game played with cards, where one player places a card on the floor and another attempts to toss another down and try to flip it over. Before World War Two, the cards were most likely to show warriors, tanks and Zero planes; baseball players became popular Menko subjects after the war. Menko cards often came in sheets that would be cut apart, which explains why my card appears to have been trimmed on its right border and is missing the top white border.

The set is also referred to as JCM14a. American vintage collectors are familiar with the ACC designations (T, R, E, etc.) given to cards, and Japanese cards have their own categories. With Japanese cards, "JCM" is a designation for standard Menkos. Other designations include JRM for round menkos, JC for Calbee cards and JBR for bromide cards.

I'd like to stop for a minute and recommend a good starting place for understanding Japanese baseball cards. In fact, one of this book's authors (Gary Engel) is the same guy who sold me the card you see above. Yes, the link leads to Amazon and I'll receive a portion of anything bought through the link...but any proceeds I get will go toward adding more books to my own reference shelf, which will allow me to continue making posts to this blog.

One of the pages in Engels' book goes over the stuff found on the card backs. First, the set is called "Bat on Right" because of the back design (not the fact that Takakura is holding the bat on his right shoulder):

On the bat is a "Who Am I?" question -- note the question mark -- that gives a hint for somebody playing a game to guess who's pictured on the front. The picture on the bottom right is part of a "rock/paper/scissors" icon common to Menko cards. The number across the bottom is a Menko number, which I haven't yet understood. In the middle is player info. The writing in the middle tells us about the player: above the squiggly border, it tells that he bats and throws right-handed. Also listed is his height, weight, place of birth and uniform number (25, which is the only part of the writing I can read).

It's cool to see that the cards were designed to use as part of several different games, from the "flipping it over" aspect to the "Who Am I?" question and even having a "rock/paper/scissors" icon. Since American kids were quite familiar with the concept of flipping cards as well as the idea of paper covering scissors, it shows that kids' games are pretty universal.

Friday, June 18, 2010

This Card's Too Big...

Now, most collectors know that in the 1950s card sizes were all over the place.

In 1950, Bowman had a nice, almost square card. They made them taller in '51 and then Topps came out with huge cards in'52. So Bowman had to make theirs bigger in '53. So, after '56 Bowman is gone and Topps decides to cut down the cards to a smaller size.

Let's say you didn't care for those '52-'56 cards. Perhaps they were too big and didn't fit right in your pants pockets. Maybe it just bothered you that they were so much bigger than your cards from '57 and later. To a kid, all you need is some good ol' American ingenuity and a pair of scissors.

Problem solved.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Q&A -- New Error/Variation Found

Between this blog, my website and my other hobby endeavors, I get asked a lot of questions. Some of the questions are good enough to find their way here as my weekly Q&A post. Sometimes, a simple question can change what we've know in this hobby for years.

John writes:

"I wonder if you might know about any variations in the 1965 Topps hot iron transfers. I have two versions of Ron Hunt's transfer. One lists his position as shortstop which is clearly wrong since he rarely played at that position (3 innings of 2 games in his career). I assume his version was created in error and soon replaced with the corrected second base version.

None of the checklists of these transfers that I have seen show this variation. Do you know any other variations in the set?"

He included a scan of his cards, which was incredibly helpful:

(Due to the crude nature of the artwork, the image above may not illustrate the difference. However, clicking on the image will open up a larger image in a new window.)

Upon reading this question, I pulled out my SCD "Big Book" and sure enough, only one Ron Hunt card was shown there. I fired off an email to the editor of that book, Bob Lemke, who responded that he'd never been aware about any variations in the set. I don't have any contacts over at Beckett right now, but even their book didn't list anything other than the one Hunt item in its own catalog. Two other hobby guys whose opinion I respect immensely -- Joshua Levine and David Hornish -- also replied that they've never seen that.

Long story short...John has uncovered a new error/variation that has been under the Hobby radar for 45 years. Considering Topps is a widely-collected brand that has been scrutinized by error/variation collectors for all these years, that's no small feat.

The Topps Transfers were the second insert set included with wax and cello packages in 1965.  The first two series included Embossed cards, and the Transfers showed up afterward. They were designed to be ironed on to shirts, pants, jackets or any other type of cloth imaginable. The excellent Topps Archives Blog will give more info about the set.

My guess is that -- since the Transfers appeared over three series -- when the error was discovered, it was quietly corrected in a later series. Since this is a new discovery, it is not yet known whether the error or corrected version is scarcer. For the time being, both versions are considered commons until the market determines otherwise. The Transfers haven't been a widely collected "oddball" set -- the supply is relatively low but so is the demand -- so there may not be much of a run on the cards except by those collectors who now realize their set isn't quite complete now.

As for the part of the question about other variations...I have no idea. Dave Hornish, the collector behind The Topps Archive Blog, says, "Some transfers look very crude when compared to others and I wonder if other variations exist, especially in lettering and even drawing." Perhaps this new discovery will cause collectors to look a little closely to their examples and see if there might be some others to be found.

But a variation out there and undetected for 45 years -- on a Topps insert set, no less -- is amazing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fact-Checking: Formality?

While flipping through my 1966 Topps binder, I saw something interesting. Here are two players who contributed to the Minnesota Twins' pennant run the previous season:

Both were important to the '65 Twins, but how important? One of these guys ended up winning the '65 American League MVP award. Versalles was given the all-important card #400, and the back mentioned the award:

The speedy Cuban has been largely forgotten today, but Versalles was third in stolen bases that year to go along with the doubles and triples lead mentioned on the card. In fact, 1965 was the third straight year he led the league in triples. Additionally, Versalles led in runs scored, total bases, at bats and plate appearances.

But on card #450, it says this:

Oliva's cartoon also gives him the credit for the MVP award. The 1964 A.L. Rookie of the Year, he followed up with a superb sophomore season, leading the league in both batting average and hits. While Versalles's position as the Twins' leadoff hitter in '65 helped him get all those plate appearances, Oliva (who batted third) was obviously helpful in getting him home.

When the MVP ballots were cast for 1965, all the first-place votes went to either Versalles or Oliva. Versalles was named first on 19 or the 20 votes and was the actual winner of the award. Oliva was a distant second.  Both players had exceptional seasons, but you'd think Topps would have had a proofreader check the facts before they were sent out for kids to write back and correct.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

T206 Book Coming This Week

There's a new book available at for pre-order. A 100th anniversary celebration of sorts for the landmark T206 card set, this book is scheduled to arrive this Wednesday. The link below will take you to Amazon...and any proceeds from orders through this link will be used to enhance my Vintage Baseball Cards website.

From Amazon's product page:

A coffee table reference, which includes personal and professional stats along with a brief biographical narrative for each of the 393 players of the T206 collection, plus over 500, actual size, full color images of the cards. This volume celebrates the 100th anniversary of the cards which were printed between 1909 and 1911, when the popularity of baseball really exploded. From that era came Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, and Cy Young. 

 This looks to be a great hobby book.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Joe inquires:

Q:  "I am not sure what kind of cards I have.  They are 8 by 10 inches with a color picture on the front.  On the back it has a star with the words "In Action" and info on each player.  I have 7 of these cards which include Carl Hubbell, Charlie Gehringer, Wally Moses, Jimmy Foxx and Gabby Harnett.  The cards have punch holes on side.  I assume that was not there when it was made.  They are otherwise in very good shape."

A:  Your cards are 1937 and 1938 Dixie Lids Premiums, given away as part of a redemption offer. Redemptions and premium cards seem to have been quite popular during the Great Depression, perhaps because they were produced to be given away upon request and therefore less expensive to produce. There were four baseball players from each year (and other athletes, as well as actors and other celebrities), and the holes were part of their design. There are usually a couple of these available on eBay.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My First Boxing Card

A few weeks ago, I showed a 1957 Topps card that I upgraded. While jokingly mentioning that the card was available for trade, I actually got an email. So, in exchange for that three-part card, I ended up with this card:

And the back:

The card is from the 1951 Topps Ringside set. While I'm not really into boxing, I do think 1950s Topps cards of all stripes are cool.Plus, it fits in with the "vintage sportscards" theme of this blog.

Thanks to Anthony from the POBC blog for this card.

P.S.: I tossed another card in along with that Lou Skizas, so it wasn't a complete "rip off" trade.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Watch the Birdie...

After spending many seasons as a perennial cellar-dweller in the American League, the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore for 1954 and became the new version of the Baltimore Orioles. This move led to a small crisis on the part of the two major baseball card companies. They needed to produce cards showing Baltimore Orioles but most of the players were pictured as St. Louis Browns. To complicate matters, an Orioles uniform wasn't necessarily available. So, what does a card company do when faced with the problem of getting cards out to eager young customers in time for baseball season?

Here's what you do...You make something up. It's been my experience at work that when the boss says he needs something "NOW" there really isn't a lot of time for explaining things like the fact that somebody else hadn't delivered what you need. It wasn't any different back in the 1950s. You just get it done and hope it doesn't come back to bite you in the rear.

Bowman's cards featured airbrushed caps. With the rough idea of the new logo provided from the team, the artists imagined what the new team's logo would look like.

Don Lenhardt's cap shows the oriole more upright but facing to the right. The Orioles shirt logo is an obvious airbrush job as well.

For Bob Young's card, the oriole is facing to the right (and the shirt logo appears to have an apostrophe in it as well). Again, the bird is standing more upright than the actual Orioles logo. Topps used a more correct logo when they airbrushed Young's card for their set:

Sometimes, they just didn't bother changing the logo at all. One of the early Oriole cards in the set featured Johnny Lipon. This card is likely to confuse collectors because it shows Lipon as a Red Sox player, identifies him as an Oriole on the front and a White Sox player on the back.

However, a blown up picture of his smaller photo shows up something interesting:

Despite not changing the logo on Lipon's old Red Sox cap, they changed the one in the smaller photo to look like the logo seen at the top of the card:

Since the smaller picture was likely too small to see any detail with the naked eye (indeed, I didn't even notice this until I saw it magnified), perhaps this was Topps' way of getting an Orioles card into the early series of 1954 cards.

For the record, Johnny Lipon never played with Baltimore. Acquired by the St. Louis Browns at the end of the 1953 season, he played seven games for them. During the offseason, he was traded to the White Sox (which is noted on the back of his card). On April 18, 1954 he was traded to Cincinnati, who released him less than two weeks later without giving him any playing time. Those games with the Browns in '53 would be Lipon's last in the big leagues.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

New Book for T206 Fans

There's a new book available at for pre-order. A 100th anniversary celebration of sorts for the landmark T206 card set, this book is scheduled to arrive on June 16th. The link below will take you to Amazon...and any proceeds from orders through this link will be used to enhance my Vintage Baseball Cards website.

From Amazon's product page:

A coffee table reference, which includes personal and professional stats along with a brief biographical narrative for each of the 393 players of the T206 collection, plus over 500, actual size, full color images of the cards. This volume celebrates the 100th anniversary of the cards which were printed between 1909 and 1911, when the popularity of baseball really exploded. From that era came Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, and Cy Young. 

 This looks to be a great hobby book.

Friday, June 4, 2010



Jacob poses the following:

Q:  "I have a Hal Chase NY baseball card. it appears to be a T3 Turkey Red card.  I've checked the card itself for any sign of it being a reproduction but I'm not exactly sure what I'm supposed to be looking for.  All of the sites that I have been to have listed added features such as starbursts in the bottom corners or watermarks. The card itself has none of them. I was wondering if there was a good way to tell if this card was a reproduction or in fact one of the original cards."

(Image used from this site devoted to Hal Chase cards)

A:  Before I go into specifics, let me ask you one quick question...How big is the card?  If it's the same as a regular baseball card (you know, the ones we used to pull out of gum packs), it's not real.

Real T3s are MUCH larger and made on thicker cardboard.

PS:  Jacob's one-word response to this answer..."Nuts."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mr. McCovey Goes to Washington

In 1970, the move of the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee happened too late for the card company, leaving Topps with a whole year of Pilots cards and no Brewers. Determined not to let that happen again, Topps was ready for the Padres' reported move away from San Diego in 1974. So even though Ray Kroc came along and saved them, the first couple of series came out with cards that listed Willie McCovey and company as "Washington Nat'l League."

They also put out corrected versions once it was confirmed the team was going to remain in San Diego.

Though they found it necessary to change the team designation, apparently Topps was satisfied with the airbrush art on McCovey's cap.

The thing that always puzzled me about the 1974 Topps set was that it was supposedly issued all at once (unlike the Topps sets from 1952-'73, which were issued in six or seven series throughout the season).

However, the San Diego players erroneously listed as "Washington Nat'l L." were all found on cards #387 and below. Willie McCovey -- as seen above -- is found with both variations, as are Cito Gaston, Randy Jones and Glenn Beckert (still shown in his Cubs threads on the card), as well as the team card. However, all the Padres cards after #387 are shown only as Padres...including Dave Winfield on his rookie card. If the cards were all printed and issued at one time, the Padres should have all had Washington variations.

Speaking of Rookie cards, the only card that breaks the rule about no Padres variations after #387 will be found on #599.  It was a card featuring four rookie pitchers, including Padre Dave Freisleben. That card ended up with three variations...Washington and two different fonts for San Diego. Unlike the other "Washington" cards, #599 is most commonly found with the "Washington" designation.

Also, the Padres were one of four teams in the 1974 Topps set with no manager/coaches card. That's probably because Don Zimmer had been dismissed and Topps was unable to get a new photo of new skipper John McNamara in time for the set. All three of the other teams missing manager cards had also dismissed their field generals before the '74 season: Detroit, Oakland and the New York Yankees.