Friday, July 30, 2010


Lance, who found my  site online, writes:

"Hi Chris, 

I have in my collection what appear to be three of the cards in the T205 Gold Border set. The difference is that there is only a front image of the card (which is identical to that found in the T205 set), it's in brown ink and the image appears on cloth/linen. Have you ever heard of a set or partial set that corresponds to this description? 

Thanks for any information you can give me

 (An S74-2 showing Harry Krause, image borrowed from


You may have some examples from the S74 Silks. Here's a link to a page on the Old Cardboard website that will give you some extra info. There were two different sets...the S74-1 had paper backing and the S74-2 had no backing at all. You'll see some examples of S74-2 "cards" at the bottom of the page.

Silks have gained some additional interest over the past few years since Topps began randomly inserting silk cards in their hobby packs. For collectors who think silk cards are a neat little innovation by Topps, they're actually a recycled idea from the past, just like Heritage, Turkey Reds, Allen & Ginters, National Chicle and other retro-type sets.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Can You Name This Player?

Unlike some collectors, I have very few hangups when it comes to card condition. When it comes to older cards, there are several benefits to not being picky about how a card looks. First of all, it allows me to stretch my hobby dollar (which also keeps me out of the doghouse with my wife). It also means I don't need to have any nagging worries that my card may have been trimmed or altered to achieve a higher grade...while I do have some trimmed cards, they're quite obvious. Finally, I am happy to fill in any holes in my collection. If I ever upgrade, I'll be able to find another similar-minded collector who'll be happy to add it to their own collection.

Here's a card I picked up several years ago.

The card is a 1934-'36 Batter Up and shows Zeke Bonura. You'd never know who it is by looking at it, however. Not only has most of his name been worn from the card, the corner that once displayed the card number has been damaged as well. In order to determine which player was on the card, it took looking through a number of eBay auctions and websites before I found a card that matched the picture.

It took a couple of months before the identity was determined, so once I did that, I took a Sharpie and...

No, I didn't write his name on the card. I keep it in a plastic toploader, so I wrote Bonura's name and the card number on that.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A "Whopper" of a Set!

From time to time, I get an email from a visitor to my website trying to figure out why the numbering of certain late 1970s Topps cards are messed up. The most recent was regarding a 1978 Topps Graig Nettles card #14; he already had Graig Nettles as #250. 

This is a question I remember well from my early days in the hobby. There were frequent questions to the hobby magazines throughout the 1980s about 1977-'79 Topps cards and all of them had numbers 1-22. The question almost always ended with "how valuable is this error?" Kit Kiefer of Baseball Cards Monthly and Bob Lemke of SCD probably groaned whenever they saw these questions come in.

They may look like Topps cards and feel like Topps cards, but these cards were issued at participating Burger King restaurants. With any purchase of french fries, customers 14 and under would get a package of three cards and a checklist/promo card that looked like this:

Most sets were regional issues distributed among the team's home city, but that didn't stop dealers from obtaining significant quantities through Burger King contacts or the time-honored "backdoor" method.

The 1977-'79 cards look almost like the regular issue Topps cards, with some minor exceptions. The two certain differences will take an incredibly trained eye to see. The first difference is the font used on the card number. Where a regular 1979 Topps card has a number looking like this:

A card from a Burger King-issued set will have a thicker and bolder card number:

The other minor difference may escape even long-time collectors. From the late 1970s and several years afterward, Topps placed a letter from A-F on each card to indicate which of the six printing sheets used for the set contained it. The designation appeared on the back of the card, usually in a lower corner. Here's an example which shows that the card was part of sheet A:

For BK cards, the designation has been changed and no letter shows at all:

Many of the cards showed different cropping of the player photos; for most, you'd need to put both cards side by side to notice. For example, look at Reggie Jackson's BK and Topps cards side by side:

Not only is the photo a little darker on the Burger King card, Jackson's batting helmet is given some more space below the card's top border (perhaps Reggie just needed a little extra space to allow for his legendary ego?).

Some featured different photos, several showed a player with his new team (while the "regular" Topps cards showed the player with his previous squad). The 1979 Burger King Yankees had three such players:

 (For all side-by-side comparisons in this entry, BK cards are on the left and regular '79 Topps cards are on the right).

Additionally, one player had an entirely different photo:

Some collectors will recognize the picture on Guidry's 1979 BK card as the same on Topps used on his Record Breakers card:

Collecting Burger King sets seems to have long been a hassle. Some dealers didn't know about them, while others just ignore them. Collectors have been confused because they are hard to distinguish from their Topps counterparts. However, the supply isn't a big problem and the low demand has translated to low cost for collectors.

This is what makes the cards collectible. A lot of collectors don't know they exist, a lot of sellers would be happy to get rid of them, and the low demand keeps their cost below the comparable Topps cards. They're not a great investment idea, but they'll look great in any collection. The final thing to show from the set is the back of the promo card, a set checklist that is slightly different from the Yankees' team checklist in the 1979 Topps set.

(For what it's worth...Jim Spencer's card is #17, the same number as in the regular '79 Topps set. There are likely some Burger King cards of Spencer sitting in '79 Topps sets that haven't been detected because nobody's really looked. Go look at yours, see if yours is one of them.)

While this post goes over the 1979 Yankee set, I'll feature the 1979 Phillies in a future post, since Topps actually did some very different things in that set with players who either came over from different teams (like Pete Rose) and others who weren't in the regular '79 set..

Friday, July 23, 2010


This question gives me a chance to share some of my own 1963 Topps cards. It's a set that isn't a big priority with me, but I enjoy them anyway.

Grant from British Columbia, Canada writes:

"Hey Chris- I was looking at my wantlist today, mostly lamenting the sorry state of my '63 set in progress. I did a little poking around the 'net, and found a couple of places that indicated the Series from #446 thru #507 is notoriously harder than the last Series, but nobody seems to know why. After looking at my wantlist, I agree. Any ideas or inside information?"
(Cards shown are from my own collection, not Grant's)

Yes, 447-506 are the toughest of the '63 series, being slightly tougher than the last (507-572).

Perhaps Topps used a short print run (series were usually about six weeks apart), or maybe they had a lot of sellers who simply didn't order a lot of new product because they still had a glut of series 3 & 4 wax packs still clogging their stores. Since Topps never released its production numbers for the set, we'll only be able to speculate.
(See? The checklist is marked...Told you they're mine...)

1963 wasn't the only year Topps had a scarce series that wasn't its last...1957's fourth series (cards 265-352) is much more difficult than the final series (353-407).

My own '63 set-in-progress is quite pathetic. I still need about 350 of the cards myself, the only major HOFer is Carl Yastrzemski, the only notable rookie is a basketball HOFer (Dave DeBusschere), and while I have half a dozen Hi #s, I have only one card from the fifth series.

A shame really...the '63 set design is one of my favorites. Some cards have really vivid colors that really look great, especially where the colors run to the borders..

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Collector Magazine

The newest issue of Collector magazine (Summer 2010) is out now. It's a full-color magazine devoted to hobby topics, with this terrific cover image:

Before I explain anything else, the interest of full disclosure requires me to show this part of the magazine's table of contents:

The longest name on the list of contributors? That's me. So yes, what follows is a biased opinion (but one I'm not getting paid to give). I've also mentioned in this blog back in April that I've written material for Collector magazine before.

 The theme of the entire edition, "Collecting the Game," goes beyond the cards and focuses on other types of collectibles. There are articles about team schedules, game-used bats, another article covers stadium postcards, and then there's this article on page 14:

This one is mine. It covers different types of stadium collectibles such as seats, turnstiles, bases, etc. As some of the regular readers have come to expect, the writing of that article (and all of the pieces in the magazine) is top-notch and informative. Again, there's some bias when I say that but I am quite proud to have contributed to such a great hobby magazine. One of my favorite things about the magazine is that -- with all the information it gives -- there is minimal discussion about dollar values outside of the advertisements. I've mentioned many times on this blog that my collecting passion goes well beyond the matter of dollars and cents and enjoy knowing that others understand the intangible aspect as well.

Now that I've said that, the best piece of the entire issue is the one at the end that ties everything together. Al Crisafulli (also the man heading Novocent Partners, the magazine's publisher) writes a piece about what baseball means to him now that his own son has picked up an interest in the sport and begun to pay attention to smaller details. As a father myself, it's hard to read it and not feel the sentiment Al puts into his piece. Even if you could get James Earl Jones to recite that article the way he gave his soliloquy at the end of Field of Dreams, it couldn't convey Al's message any better than he did typing them on his keyboard.

If you're a serious collector, consider subscribing. The cost is $20 for a year (4 issues), which is the same price as a "blaster box" of modern cards but without the buyer's remorse that sometimes comes once the box has been opened. Issues are available by clicking here. And if my words sway you to subscribe, send them an email -- -- and let them know they should consider letting me write more articles for them in the future.

Monday, July 19, 2010

"The Wiener the World Awaited"

With preseason starting up in a couple of weeks, the 2010 NFL football season will be underway soon. I haven't shown off any of the cards from my Steelers collection in a little while, so here's one:

This classic football pose is from the 1963 Kahn's set. Kahn's was a Midwestern meat-packing company that included cards in their hot dog packages during the late 1950s and early 60s. While their best-known sets are baseball issues, they also released football sets from 1959-'64 and basketball cards from 1957-'66. Their football sets used a similar front design from year to year (except for 1964, which was in color and didn't have the ad banner at the bottom), so the back design is what identifies the card:

It can be identified as a '63 card because of the layout of the information and the fact that both the team name and player name are in boldface. All six Kahn's sets include Steelers; in fact, the first three years included only Steelers and Browns players. One of the biggest problems with Kahn's cards of all types can be demonstrated by the other card I own:

If you look closely, you'll see four vertical stains on the card. Those stains show where the card once rested against the contents of a hot dog package. This John Reger card is also from 1963, and the back illustrates the stain even better than the front:

Try not to think about the fact that a piece of cardboard that had ink applied to it was actually resting against food. 

Since collectors often place a premium value on cards that show little wear at all, items that have been packaged in such a way that they're mostly found with some damage can pose a conundrum. While regional issues like these are great for team collectors, cards issued with food that can leave residue often get little love among hobbyists.

Friday, July 16, 2010


A reader has asked if I can identify the 1976 Topps item he has:

The reader didn't leave a name, but added:

"I have a 1976 Topps team ckecklist uncut sheet and don't know anything about them."

In 1976, Topps issued photo cards for all 24 teams (and at the very top of the scan, you can see how they used a "floating heads" design for the Chicago Cubs). On the back of each card was a checklist for the players on that team, with this offer that the bottom:

In return for a wrapper and 50 cents, Topps would send a sheet with all the teams and checklists as a single sheet. Rather than using the same gray cardboard stock used for the regular set, these sheets were printed on thinner and whiter paper stock. The same offer ran later in '76 and again in '77 for Topps' football checklists.

Today, the full sheets are a neat discussion piece. If the sheet is in good shape without any writing or creases, it's worth a few dollars but not a lot more than that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Quick! Name That Player!

Those card manufacturers are pretty funny sometimes. They'll make a card and then forget to put the name of the player on the front. So, if you don't happen to be a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and can't recognize their third baseman, what do you do?

It's a great fix if you're not patient enough to simply turn the card over.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Topps Million Card Giveaway

Before I get into my entry, I'd like to mention the new image at the top of the page. My new title header was something I managed to slap together using a free graphics program, a scan from a past auction catalog and Microsoft Paint. It's a low-tech design but I like it. I did a similar graphic for my 1973 Topps blog using my own cards.


This year was the first in almost a decade to see me pick up some current Topps packs. While putting together a base Series 1 set, I managed to get some special Million Card Giveaway cards. So far, I've managed to pull some decent cards but nothing I don't already own. One of the cards was a 1959 Billy Harrell, which I ended up trading for two cards.

Here's the profile as it stands now, at least for the pre-1980 cards.

I like the 1969 Topps design. It looks like the designers realized the burlap borders of '68 looked a little silly and made a second attempt to get it right. "Let's put the player name inside the circle this the team name at the bottom like in '67...oh yeah...just make the borders white. Perfect! Hopefully the kids'll forget the fact that last year's cards looked like potato sacks..."
This 1972 Jim Fregosi wasn't unlocked from one of the code cards I pulled from the package. I got this one along with an '87 Rich Gossage (stop laughing, he's a Hall of Famer) in exchange for the '59 common I had. I figured I'd do better with Fregosi and a HOFer than a common. Personally, I'd rather have gotten a card of the guy the Mets traded away to get him, but I digress...

Randy Moffitt's sister was tennis star Billie Jean King. So despite having his own Topps cards, he wasn't the most famous person in the family. I'll bet family dinners were fun.

"I struck out Willie Stargell, Mom."

"Big deal...your sister won Wimbledon again and met the Queen. Pass the salt."

Finally, there's this 1979 card featuring Al Cowens. The Royals were a tough team at that time and seemed to be in contention every year. Al Cowens looks like he's pretty tough in this picture, like he's ready to beat the photographer with that bat if he keeps interrupting his routine.

As for the rest of the cards, I have two Pete Rose manager cards (1986 and '89) and '89 Yankees leaders card and Curt Schilling from 1990. If there's anybody who's also picking up some of these cards from Topps and wants to deal, I'll consider something for a card I need. My wantlist is linked on the left-hand side of this blog, below the archive list. I'll gladly share the results here and post any other cards I pick up this year.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Mel writes:

"First of all, I want to say that you have a great Internet site about baseball cards. You have a lot of good information. My question is this – how do you tell which ones of the cards you list for each set are true Rookie Cards? You don’t distinguish them that way. Or, do you know somewhere which lists all of the cards like you and shows the Rookie Cards? Beckett magazine doesn’t do that for older cards anymore."


Thanks for your question.  I have actually answered this question in my FAQ page, but I'll be happy to elaborate.

Rookie cards weren't a big deal in the hobby until the late 1970s. If you look at the early price guides, you'll see that a premium value was often placed on star cards, and no mention at all was made of first-year players. To the kids of the 1950s, rookies were untested players. They would rather have guys like Mantle, Williams and Musial than some new hotshot they'd never heard of.

The one point I have to take with your question is the part about the "true" rookie card. Since 1948, there has been a new set issued every year, and most rookie cards are easy to figure out. However, there have been times in hobby history when few sets were issued, and collectors have a wide range of varying opinions about what constitutes a "rookie card."

The 1938 Goudey set is believed to contain the rookie cards of Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller, but DiMaggio appeared in the 1936 Goudey Wide Pens set and Feller in the 1937 O-Pee-Chee. While many collectors claim that premium, regional or foreign sets really don't count, try telling that to a collector who doesn't share that opinion. And it's not just for pre-WW2 rookie cards, either.

Quick...what's Hank Aaron's rookie card?  If you said '54 Topps, I'd be inclined to agree with you, but there are others who'll point out that the '54 Johnston's Cookie set came out sooner in the year, so that card should be his true rookie. Can the 1957 Topps card of Frank Robinson be a true rookie when he's also among the players in the 1956 Kahn's set? Beckett points out that Walter Alston's first card is his 1956 Topps, but a 1952 Parkhurst card can be found of him if you're willing to look.

And don't get me started on how often the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is called his "rookie" when he had a card in the 1951 Bowman set.

Thanks to such a wide discrepancy of opinion about what exactly constitues a rookie card, I have politely tried to stay out of the argument. The hobby is fun because every collector can amass whatever makes him happy. That's the reason I don't mention a lot of rookie cards in my site.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Say Hey...Hey, What?!

I've always said that I'd rather have a hole in my card than one in my binder. While this one doesn't have a hole, it's not exactly what many collectors call nice, either:

Three rounded corners, one missing...creases all over the place...what appears to be an early "teeth whitening" procedure...but it's a Card #1 from the 1966 set, and even more than that, it features one of the best players to ever step on a baseball diamond. It's a keeper for me.

Monday, July 5, 2010

1941 Goudey

After spotlighting the 1941 Double Play set a couple of weeks ago, here's one of the other National sets of that great season. Again, the text largely comes from my own website:

At the time, 1941 was a great year for baseball cards. Collectors -- for the first time in years -- had a larger selection to choose from, with Gum Inc.'s Play Ball set, the Double Play set from Gum Products (a different company than Gum, Inc.) and this final effort by Goudey (its first in three years). It was also a tremendous year for Major League Baseball, with Joe DiMaggio hitting safely in 56 consecutive games and Ted Williams hitting .406 to win the American League batting crown.

The connection between the 1941 baseball season and the 1941 Goudey set probably explains why this set would prove to be Goudey's last: Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio -- arguably the two best players that year -- show up in the other national sets that year, but nowhere in this set. As 1941 came to an end and the United States entered World War II, many of the supplies used for the manufacture of both baseball cards and chewing gum would be needed for the war. The Goudey Gum Company, long in decline, disappeared altogether from the ranks of sports card manufacturers once the war was over and production resumed.

1941 Goudey cards came one to a wax wrapper, joined by the ever-present piece of gum. The price: one shiny copper penny. The wrapper looked like this:

If you look closely at the wrapper, there are several offers available for collectors in return for sending back wrappers and a little bit of money. These were ways for card manufacturers to make a little extra revenue while encouraging kids to keep buying their product.

Overall, the 1941 Goudey set can be fairly labeled unspectacular when compared with its competitors' sets. Of the 33 cards in the set, only two (Mel Ott and Carl Hubbell), feature Hall of Famers. On the other hand, some obscure players never had another card and are in demand by team collectors. Card fronts have a black and white player photo set against a solid background (blue, green, red or yellow). A baseball with the "Big League Gum" logo appears in the top corner, while a box along the bottom of the card contains the player's name, team, position, and the card number. Card backs are blank. Card #1 features Hugh Mulcahy and mentions at the bottom that he was the first player to be drafted into the Army.

Even if the design wasn't exactly imaginative and the player selection was unimpressive, there's something neat about viewing the set's various colors. Each card in the set was printed with all four backgrounds. The four background colors have varying levels of scarcity. Using George Case's card, here's the breakdown:

Yellow is (relatively) easy. I say "relatively" as 1941 Goudeys aren't quite as prevalent on eBay, in card stores or on dealer tables as 1941 Play Ball cards are.

Green is also fairly easy (and the same stipulation I made about the yellow cards applies here, too).

Blue is somewhat harder than either yellow or green. Also, the blue border seems to be susceptible to damage, like the right edge above.

Red is the toughest color to find, and makes the player image pop off the card. However, its intensity makes top-condition cards tough. Like the blue version, you can see the wear on the right side of the card.

Although each player's card can be found with any of the four background colors, the set is considered complete at 33 cards; a few brave collectors have ventured to complete a 1941 Goudey master set with all 132 possible card fronts. A major concern for collectors is that many cards are found miscut and severely off-center.

Despite being the final baseball issue from Goudey, there has never been a great deal of collector interest in this set. Whether that is because of the lack of star players, the inferior design or the blank backs is anybody's guess. As a result, these cards do not show up in the marketplace often, and are not easily recognized when they show up. Cards #21-25 seem to have been printed in short supply, making them scarce cards in a hard-to-find set.

What probably hurts '41 Goudeys the most is the inevitable comparison to the company's other sets. 1933 and 1934 saw two of the hobby's best-loved sets come from Goudey, while the 1938 set was another winner. 1935 was interesting if unexceptional, and even though 1936 Goudey was bland and colorless, collectors could still play a game with them. 1941 Goudey offered much less than the company's other sets did.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Mark asks:

Q:  "I just received an auction catalog and noticed a lot of baseball cards from the 1930s I have never seen before. In 1935, the Schutter-Johnson Candy Company put out a series of cards called "Major League Secrets". This 50 card set had unique drawings illustrating baseball tips by famous ballplayers such as Al Simmons, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Ki-Ki Cuyler, etc. I am interested in collecting these cards. Can you tell me any history you know about these cards and where I can obtain them?"

(image used from this site showing many images of Lefty Grove cards)

A:  I think you're referring to the R332 set. As you can see on the back, Schutter-Johnson was a candy comapny headquartered in Chicago, with another office in Brooklyn. Among the company's best-known products was Bit-O-Honey, which was introduced in 1924 and is still being sold today (though Nestle owns the name now). The cards feature a drawing by former major league player-turned artist Al Demaree, with a bright red background behind the artwork and some written comments added. Like other candy companies that made cards during the 1930s, Schutter-Johnson issued sets related to other subjects as well, including Tarzan and a set of occupations called "I'm Going to Be..."

The cards are fairly scarce but not impossible. Schutter-Johnson was a smaller company and some collectors have historically ignored cards that feature drawings (as opposed to more detailed paintings, like Goudey used). Although supply is quite limited, there is limited demand as well.

Here's a link to a set description on "Old Cardboard"'s website. That'll give you just about all the info on the set I can find.