Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Another Mail Call

This card showed up in my mailbox the other day:

1970 Topps #600 -- Willie Mays

Of course, I really don't need to give much of an introduction to who Willie Mays is.

I noticed something neat about this's #600, which is very much in line with the way Topps gave card numbers divisible by 100 to the biggest superstars. However, Willie Mays had finished the 1969 season with exactly 600 career home runs. While that seems like a nice bit of synergy, check this out: my wantlist for 1970 Topps now stands at 60 cards in all. That means I have 660 cards from the set, which is the same number of home runs Mays had when he retired in 1973.

The first one was likely set up by Topps to tip a hat to Willie Mays. The second fact is quite a coincidence. It's one of those things that only a "numbers" guy -- like many of us collectors tend to be -- can appreciate.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cigarette Ads

Two weeks ago, I showed off some scarce T-series backs.  As a public service to my fellow hobbyists, here are some more that don't get shown all that often. Sure, there are plenty of sites out there that will show you all the different T206 backs...but these don't get seen all that often:

T208 Fireside

 This very scarce issue featuring only members of the 1910 World Champion Philadelphia A's seems to have been limited to the Syracuse, New York area. I'm guessing the fact that Jefferson Burdick lived in that city is the major reason this set was catalogued in the first place.

T213-2 Coupon

 T213 Coupon cards were issued in three distinct series between 1910 and 1919, each with a different back. This is the second of those backs. Due to the fact that the pictures are the same ones used in the T206 set and the Type 1 cards have a similar text color, these cards are often lumped in with that set. Make no mistake,'s a different set and the cards are much more scarce and valuable.

 T214 Victory

T214 cards were distributed around New Orleans.

There are several "pockets" where baseball card collectors seem to be clustered. One in the Northeast (Boston-New York-Philadelphia). Another is in the Midwest, while yet another is located out on the West Coast. In a smaller sense, parts of (southern) Florida and Arizona can be included, since so many people from those main clusters retire there.

As for the Deep South, there's really not a large-scale card collecting population. Both Nationals held in Atlanta were considered to be disappointing, and my own experience from having lived in Jacksonville in the past led me to realize that there are more people interested in football and NASCAR there. However, New Orleans saw an awful lot of card issued during the tobacco era, and many of those sets are tough to collect.

In fact, there are still discoveries of previously unknown cards in Louisiana from time to time. I wrote about one such discovery in March.

T215 Red Cross

This is a very distinctive back. Today, the cross shown here is better known as the Iron Cross awarded to German soldiers during both World Wars. There were two distinct sets of Red Cross cards, but both featured the same back design.

 T215 Pirate

 This is one of the more puzzling sets found in the T-series. First of all, this wasn't catalogued by Jefferson Burdick in the American Card Catalog; rather, it was added to a later edition after his death. Secondly, the line about the cigarettes being sold in England should preclude it from being included at all, since foreign cards were given other designations. Finally, hobby legend has stated that these cards were available only in the South Seas area (China, Australia, the Philippines, Panama Canal Zone, etc.) to military servicemen a few years before World War I.

However, some advanced collectors have mentioned that the cards are often found in better shape than you'd expect for something that made the trip back in a foot locker; in fact, many are in great shape and appear to be hand-cut. It's been claimed that these cards were never placed into packs (despite the fact that one is pictures on the back), but that's going to be hard to definitively prove.

I still want to know how they got lumped in with Red Cross cards, since they obviously are different sets.

T216 Kotton

These cards are also from the New Orleans area. They hold a couple of distinctions. First, they're among the few sets that feature Federal League players. Second, the set -- issued inside cigarette packages -- includes cards of Honus Wagner...and were issued after his T206 card was famously withdrawn.

There were three brands among T216 cards. Kotton is the more common, but Mino and Virginia Extra can also be found.

T217 Mono

Finally, here's another set that was limited to a regional area. Mono cigarettes were sold in California, and these cards feature only players from the PCL. Out of the "200 Portraits," only 23 ballplayers have been identified. There must have been a lot of leading actresses in California even then.

Friday, June 24, 2011


If you're a seller and disagree, feel free to leave a comment to tell me why I'm wrong. This blog can use some spirited discussion.

This week's question comes from Rick:


"I was at my local card shop to pick up a Namath rookie (most expensive card I ever bought) and ended up talking about marked checklists, since the highest book card of the 20 I have to go for my 1965 Topps football set was checklist no. 1 (#87).  The NM book on checklists are high because it is so hard to find unmarked checklists.

But, what is the value of a neatly marked checklist that would otherwise be NM?  Is 25% of NM reasonable?  For example, the 1965 Topps football #87 books for $175.  Is a neatly marked, otherwise NM one valued at $43.75 (25% of $175)?  What about it if is sloppily marked; I'd say 10% vs 25% for a neatly marked one.  I'm interested in your thoughts on this."

(Examples from my own collection...From left to right: 1966 Topps, 1969 Topps, 1972 Topps. Of course, none of these would be mistaken for Near Mint without the marks. No, I didn't mark these up myself.)

According to the same price guide that contains those prices, ink markings on a card (even neatly done) mean they rate in the G/F/P range. And cards from 1960-present in that condition get 5-10%. Yes, it can be argued that an autograph placed on the card would also fall into the same category, but that's a  topic for another Q&A.

That said, $43 is really high and I'd still have an issue with paying $8.75 to $17 -- which is 5-10% of $175 -- for a marked checklist. But then again, I'm a cheap SOB. The final decision as to whether you take the plunge depends on your own thought process; it's totally up to you to figure out what you'll pay to complete your set.

If a seller ever pulls out a Beckett to show you an inflated value as a way of underscoring what you consider to be a high price, simply take that same magazine out of his hand (but do it's still his store, after all) and flip over to the section where they discuss condition. It's hard for them to argue when it's in black and white.

Personally, it's my opinion that marked checklists aren't rare enough to warrant a premium. I've picked up marked checklists from that era in the commons boxes for less than a dollar. In fact, none of the checklists shown above were picked up for more than 50 cents.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hero Status Awarded

I mentioned this last week in my other blog, but I really need to share this here for the benefit of those who don't follow that blog...

In certain hobby trading groups, a "Hero" is the name given to a trader who sends along the final card needed to complete a set. Recently, another blogger achieved Hero status by sending this card:

It's a 1973 Topps team checklist. They were inserted in wax packs along with the high-numbered series that year. They're more scarce than a similarly-themed red-bordered checklist series from 1974, which were added to the packs throughout the year.

Thanks to Tony of the 1973 Topps Baseball Set Builder blog for sending this over and letting me fill the last hole in my 1973 Topps binder.

Even though I completed my 1973 Topps base set at the Chicago National a few years ago (the final card was Johnny Callison), I still needed several checklist cards. Last year, when I began writing the 1973 Topps Photography blog I still needed a half dozen of them and hoped I could finish that pesky auxiliary set before I ran out of cards to feature. Now, that's no longer a concern.

However, there are collectors who point out that there are still variations that can be picked up: the various manger cards with different backgrounds behind the coaches' photos, some print variations and the variations with the checklist cards themselves. At this time, I have no intention of chasing a "master" set.

But expect a post in the future on 1973 Topps variations.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Duke of North Carolina

(Today's entry is a piece I wrote for a newsletter back in 2003.)

Many long-time collectors like to remind us of the days when collecting wasn't about money; collectors weren't very likely to keep their cards hermetically sealed or pore through price guides in search of "investment" advice. Hard as it is to say, baseball cards were a business long before Jeff Burdick ever owned his first card. They were first issued to the public as advertising items, and promoted a number of companies.  Much credit for the hobby belongs to a man who probably never had a collection of cards. Instead, Buck Duke was a collector of greenbacks, and a prolific one at that.

Duke was largely responsible for ending the first era of tobacco cards in the early 1890s, as well as opening the floodgates for the 1909-1912 issues. Though despised by many as one of the notorious "robber barons" of the Gilded Age, his story begins as a great example of how a man can make a great fortune with a little vision and a lot of hard work. 

The Civil War brought about a tremendous change across the United States. During encampments, Union soldiers often teamed up and played baseball. After the war ended in 1865, many of those soldiers took the game home with them, and by 1869 professional ball clubs were popping up. Eventually, those clubs formed into leagues, and the National League was formed in 1876. Many of baseball's early players, managers and fans were veterans of the War Between the States. The sport's association with the Northern states was so firm, no major league team existed in a southern city until the Houston club was formed in 1962. Some Confederate soldiers learned the game while in prisoner-of-war camps, and they helped form the large system of minor leagues that quickly spread across the South by the end of the century.

The former soldiers of the Confederate army also returned home, but many found that the years of war had changed the South. Through Reconstruction and the years following it, they went about picking up the pieces from those years and forging ahead to make their lives better. One of those discharged Confederate soldiers was George Washington Duke of North Carolina. As the war broke out, Washington Duke had been opposed to his state's succession and tried to stay away from the fighting until conscription forced him into the army in late 1863. At the end of the war, he was rounded up in Virginia by Union troops and released in New Bern, North Carolina. The railroads had been demolished by the Union soldiers, and Duke had no money. He had to walk the entire 135 miles home.

Upon his return, he found his family's tobacco farm nearly barren. Though a sizable crop had been stored away before Duke went into the army, much of the stash had been pilfered by soldiers from both sides. What was left, however, was easily made into smoking tobacco, a highly-valued product of the postwar South.long with his sons, he set out to raise some money to replenish the crops and support his family.

Duke and his sons peddled the tobacco around eastern North Carolina. They started out with two blind mules and a cart that was badly in need of repair, but were very successful in selling to small-town merchants. They were able to buy some badly needed essentials and returned to the farm hoping to grow a new crop.

Another effect of the Civil War was the spread of the tobacco industry. While driving across the South, some of the passing soldiers were able to get acquire tobacco by many different means. Many of those soldiers sent some of that tobacco home or carried it back with them after the war, and inadvertently created a national market for it. It was soon realized that some of the best-tasting tobacco was grown in eastern North Carolina, and the Duke homestead -- near Durham -- was setting itself up to meet the demand. In 1866, Duke's product had a name ("Pro Bono Publico"), and his farm was beginning to expand. By the end of the 1860s, the tobacco business had grown to the point where Duke was able to do it full-time.

In 1874, Duke moved the business into the city limits of Durham, which was quickly becoming a major tobacco center. He purchased a tract of land convenient to one of the largest railroad centers of North Carolina. By then, Duke's business had grown to the point where its customers were increasingly from outside of North Carolina.  He formed Washington Duke and Sons, and made his three sons partners. Soon, Washington Duke was involving himself in local politics and many of the day-to-day operations of W. Duke & Sons was left to Brodie, Benjamin and Buck Duke. Of the three brothers, it was Buck Duke who began to see the potential of the tobacco industry. The Dukes began shifting their product away from raw tobacco and focused more on the burgeoning cigarette market.

George Washington "Buck" Duke

At that time, cigarettes were rolled by hand and experienced rollers could only produce about four per minute. Many tobacco companies tried to import European immigrants who were skilled at cigarette rolling (and willing accept lower pay), but the expense in labor was almost not worth the expense to meet a growing demand. As a result, Buck Duke was willing to find a way to produce cigarettes by machine. Allen & Ginter had tested a machine invented by James Bonsack in 1880, but had given up when it fell short of expectations.  In 1884, Buck Duke decided to give the machine a chance. He sent for a technician from the Bonsack company and together they worked to make the machine more efficient. The refined machine did the work of more than eighty people and cut the cost of manufacturing cigarettes by more than half. Buck Duke realized that the refined Bonsack machine might revolutionize the industry by making cigarettes more efficiently than humans would. He immediately set up a new office in New York City, the national center of trade and commerce.

Duke realized the value of advertising and was the first in his business to make use of elaborate and colorful packaging. His aggressive advertising campaigns baffled most of his competitors, conservative businessmen who didn't see any value in spending a such a large chunk of profits on advertising. In addition to the flashy ads, he was very generous with free samples and kickbacks for tobacco sellers and even hired people to visit stores and ask for the product. These actions built his company's business up so quickly that by the late 1880s, Duke had bought out many of those competitors (or drove them out of business).

Despite his advertising expenditures, Duke looked for ways to save money as well. One of the first cost-cutting changes involved doing away with the tins that had housed tobacco for generations, and packaging cigarettes in paper. When it was discovered that the paper packages often crushed easily while being shipped, Duke came up with the idea for placing a cardboard insert to help support the pack. His shrewd advertising sense led him to place an advertisement on that insert, as well as a picture. Duke's theory was that the inserts could attract more potential customers who would not have otherwise been tempted to buy his product. The idea was an immediate hit, with non-smokers pressing family members to buy more packages so they could have the cards inside.

The first cards issued by Duke featured actors and actresses, and the idea was quickly adopted by the same competitors who had previously panned Duke's advertising costs. Duke didn't issue the first baseball cards, though; Goodwin and Co. put out its first "Old Judge" cards in 1886 and Allen and Ginter (the same company that lost out on the Bonsack machine) included ten baseball players among its 50-card "World Champions" set the next year.  By 1890, dozens of baseball card sets had been issued in cigarette and tobacco packages, most from the four companies that dominated the market before Duke's rise: Goodwin & Co., Allen & Ginter, Kimball, and Kinney.

(Three cards from the N88 Duke Terrors set)

By that point, Duke's rise to prominence in the industry had been so certain that he was able to get those other four companies to join his and form the American Tobacco Company. The ATC held a virtual monopoly over cigarette manufacturers, and Buck Duke joined John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie as a man who controlled an entire industry. While trusts and monopolies were nothing new to American business in 1890, they would soon become an endangered species; the U.S. Federal government was beginning to abandon its lasseiz-faire attitude toward private business and had been readying the Sherman Antitrust Act at the same time the ATC was founded. The Sherman Act would specifically target trusts like the one Duke controlled, and was certain to be a thorn in his side before long.

Once the monopoly was in place, Duke began to slash expenses in order to raise profits. Inserts were among the first casualties. Despite Duke's penchant for healthy spending on advertising, there was no need for such an expense once the competition had been removed. Thus ended the first era of baseball cards, and only a small handful of sets would be issued in the 18 years that followed.

After establishing a cigarette trust, Duke began to branch out to other areas of tobacco. In 1898, he formed the Continental Tobacco Company, bringing together most of the nation's major makers of cut plug and chewing tobacco. One of the companies in this new trust was H.P. Mayo & Brother, known to collectors for one of the few card sets of the era (the 1895 N300 set). By 1901, he also founded the American Cigar Company, giving Duke the upper hand in all three major areas of tobacco. Meanwhile, Duke tried to swallow up the few minor holdouts from the ATC. The most significant independent maker was R.J. Reynolds, who enjoyed being a thorn in Duke's side but eventually sold two-thirds of the company to him in 1899. Duke appreciated Reynolds' business sense and allowed him to keep a large role in the company.

(1889 Advertisement)

During the early years of the new century, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was forging his progressive vision forward and one of his self-appointed tasks was that of "trustbuster." The public had grown tired of the monopolies because they set their own prices too high and had become very effective at keeping out new competition. Realizing that the free market would be a better arbiter of prices and that competition was beneficial to the consumer, Roosevelt was quite aggressive in using the provisions of the Sherman Antitrust act to end the largest monopolies. By 1907, the Duke empire was targeted.

Until then, Buck Duke had set up his organization to try and avoid the government's notice. He made his empire into a very complex network structure. Many of the companies under his control were advised to go about doing business as if they were independent (as R.J. Reynolds had done), and allowed to keep their brand names and management intact. When the government sued to break up the trust, they slowly began to realize that Duke's organization was far too cumbersome to easily dismantle. Having set up a bureaucracy that baffles even regulators from the United States government is quite a feat, but Duke had done it.

By the end of 1908, it had become apparent that the government was going to be incredibly aggressive about breaking up the tobacco monopoly, so Duke pulled an old idea out of his bag of tricks to get the illusion of competition going, and cards were once again inserted into packs. A second era of card manufacturing was ushered in in 1909, with cards showing up in packages of dozens of brands of cigarettes. This era was important to the hobby because most of the important early collectors began their collections with these cards; some, like Jefferson Burdick and Charles Bray, were still young boys and were forced to collect the cards they could get from older relatives who smoked. 

The years between 1890 and 1908 were marked by some major changes that affected the cards as well. First, the smoking public was beginning to acquire a taste for Turkish tobacco. Duke was quick to react to this change by importing tobacco from the Turks and selling it under brands that sounded exotic; baseball card collectors will recognize such names as Hassan, Mecca, Fez, Fatima and Turkey Red. The second significant change was a revolution in technology which saw new innovations that weren't possible in 1890, including the airplane and automobile. Cars, planes and motorcycles were featured on the new cards, along with the actors, political leaders, athletes and birds familiar to collectors of the earlier era.

This time around, the baseball players appeared on cards that were more colorful and ornate than those of the 1887-90 era. Color lithography was more common than studio photographs, and some cards featured gold color in their designs. Mecca inserted cards that were designed to flip over so that two players appeared on the same card. Hassan distributed cards that featured two different player cards attached to an action photo that could then be folded over in a gatefold style that protected the images. 

Of all the tobacco issues of the era, the best known is the "white border" set issued between 1909 and 1911 with more than a dozen different brands: Sweet Caporal, Piedmont, Sovereign, American Beauty, Broad Leaf, Cycle, Drum, Carolina Brights, Hindu, El Principe de Gales, Lenox, Old Mill, Polar Bear, Tolstoi, and Uzit. There was even a Ty Cobb brand name that showed up on the back of one of the four different designs of Cobb found in the set.  Despite the wide disparity of cigarette brands, all were under the ATC umbrella. Since Jefferson Burdick assigned the name T206 to that set in his American Card Catalog, it has been known by that designation. It featured a simple but elegant design that was widely copied by other card manufacturers but never improved upon.

In 1911, the final T206 cards were being pulled from their packages and the government finally ended its four-year quest to break the tobacco trust. Since Duke had built such a complex hierarchy of companies, he was given the task of dismantling the trust himself. In typical fashion, he did a masterful job of it, splitting the trust into four large companies. He was forced to relinquish control but kept a large amount of stock in each company and set up a structure that gave the new owners a great deal of incentive to be successful. Within five years, the four companies would report a higher sales volume than the entire monopoly did prior to the breakup.

Once the dust settled after the split, it was R.J. Reynolds that emerged as the industry leader. After joining the Duke empire, Reynolds -- a stubbornly independent type who refused to be subordinate to Buck Duke -- weathered the years well with its Prince Albert brand and readied a newer, high-quality cigarette for the market in 1913. The new brand was called Camel and had a rich blend of domestic and imported Turkish tobacco. In a move that may seem like a mirror of card maker Upper Deck's arrival in 1989, Camel was touted as a fine product of incredibly high quality and added value because it was composed of the finest material. A message on the back of each package stated plainly: "Don't look for premiums or coupons, as the cost of the tobacco blended in CAMEL prohibits the use of them." In other words, Reynolds was saying that they were going to try and keep costs down for their top-of-the-line brand by reducing the overhead expense of such promotional materials as insert cards and coupons. After that opening salvo, its competitors didn't want to appear to be peddling inferior cigarettes and discontinued their own insert cards. With that move, the second tobacco era ended as abruptly as the first, with a masterful move that could have otherwise come from Duke's own playbook.

During the era, candy makers noticed the response that cigarette cards had generated from their primary customers: school-age children. Realizing that the same kids who were so persuasive in convincing their elders to buy a certain brand of cigarette so they could obtain the card inside, candy makers began to insert cards with their own products. As the T206 cards were still in wide distribution, the American Caramel Company -- later known as Hershey -- issued a similarly-designed set. As the sun set on the tobacco sets, candy makers (and later, gum companies) would become the main sellers of baseball cards.

As for Buck Duke, his role in breaking up the trust left him a wealthy man, but he wasn't yet ready to retire. He was able to keep his overseas tobacco holdings and turned his interest to hydroelectric power. Always a forward-thinking opportunist, he calculated that he was looking at another industry that would only get larger once neighborhoods became connected. Duke built a second fortune with the Southern Power Company and watching it grow as people began to realize the value of electricity. The company was later called Duke Power.

Duke also decided to donate some of his fortune to education. Following the lead of his father and older brother, he invested in a small college in Durham. He donated generously to Trinity College in 1924, making them the main beneficiary of a $40 million endowment. On December 29 of that year, Trinity College was renamed Duke University in honor of Washington Duke, Buck's father. James Buchanan Duke died the following year at the age of 68.

Although he probably never owned a baseball card, Buck Duke was one of the most important people in the hobby's history. He was the one who was credited with starting the inserts that quickly evolved into the cards we know today. Though responsible for stopping the first tobacco card era, he should be credited for opening the second era in 1909. His unique vision and forward-thinking organizational skills affected the baseball card hobby as well as his chosen industries. After making his fortune, he contributed to education and local charities, which benefited the people in his area. No history of the hobby could be complete without his name.

Friday, June 17, 2011


When you have a website that gives information about baseball cards, it sometimes leads to emails asking about values. While I generally avoid giving pricing info, this one made me think about how the laws of supply and demand have affected the hobby:


"I have some baseball cards (1989 Donruss in the original box and 1988 Score cards in original plastic wrapping) and I was wondering if you could give me a rough estimate of what they might be worth. I've attached a picture to this e-mail. Thanks!"

(My rough count tells me there are 36 unopened '88 Score packs in their original cello wrappers in this photo, which is the same amount as an unopened box contains. And that is definitely the box used for the '89 Donruss factory set.)

Sadly, since there is no shortage of unopened late 1980s material, the prices on 1988 Score and 1989 Donruss haven't done well over the years. In 1988, I bought packs of Score for 40 cents (plus New York's then 7% state sales tax) from a family-owned store just around the corner from where I lived. My copy of Baseball Cards Monthly magazine from May 1989 offers a complete '89 Donruss set from several sellers at anywhere between $22.95 and $29 (plus shipping and handling).

Today? Well, according to this site, there is no need to do a "rollback" sale on unopened packs of Score. They're worth about the same amount they sold for 23 years ago. Dozens of boxes sit on eBay with "Buy it Now" prices of $18 (which comes to 50 cents a pack) and stay unsold.

As for the '89 Donruss factory set...this seller is offering them for $11.95, which is less than half what they fetched when they were brand new.

Back in the late 1980s, unopened material from the past sold for a lot of money. It encouraged people to stock cases away in the hope that they would also appreciate in value. However, so many unopened cases were set aside that the supply never had a chance to dwindle from natural attrition. At the same time, kids weren't torturing their cards in 1989 the way kids in the 1950s and 60s did. They weren't flipped against walls or placed in bicycle spokes all that often. Their mothers weren't tossing out their collections when they went to summer camp. And manufacturers were releasing enough cards to allow every man, woman, child and family dog in America to have two of them. At the same time, the prospects in those sets -- Gregg Jefferies, Sam Horn, Mike Greenwell, Al Leiter, et. al. -- didn't turn into Cooperstown-bound legends. And of those who did better (that '89 set contains rookie cards of Ken Griffey, Jr., Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, who are likely to be first-ticket HOFers), the glut of material has prevented their cards from making the same 20-year gains we saw in the 1980s.

The supply is so high and the demand so low, I'm not sure when -- or even if -- the prices will ever trend upward.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Name That Card

Quick...can you identify this card?

It's okay if you don't recognize it right away, I'm not going to give out a pop quiz at the end of this lesson. Sometimes collectors don't know this one at all unless they've dealt with the cards at some point in the past. Would a back image help?

And here's the problem with this particular set. There are no stats, no advertisements, no copyright lines, no card numbers, nothing that might help give any concrete ID. Again, unless you've dealt with these cards, they may be a little bit tough.

Fortunately, you're a reader of this blog, and I'm happy to share this type of info here.

The birthdate might tip you off as to when a player might have been an active big leaguer...and for players born in 1907, that would be in the 1930s, when the gum companies started.

Sure enough, it's a Tattoo Orbit card from 1933. The name is a little misleading, though...they were made by the Orbit company and were sold in packs of Tattoo gum. I don't know how the names got twisted together, but I suspect somebody (Jefferson Burdick perhaps?) wrote the names down together and then entered them into the record that way.

Tattoo Orbit cards are a little scarce. They're much less plentiful than 1930s gum cards from Goudey and National Chicle. In addition, the set is smaller -- 60 cards -- and the cards themselves are smaller than most 1930s gum-issued cards. To to it off, there are four short-printed cards including one of Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby. Perhaps the fact that they're not easy to identify has affected their value.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Little-Known Cards From the South

(I've recently begun a card-related project for another website. I'll explain what that's all about in a later post, but the cool thing is that the process is giving me some neat ideas about entries for this blog. Since anything that helps spread the gospel of old cardboard is a good thing, I have no choice but to go with it.)

Here's a card very few people can identify unless they've been collecting T-cards:

(Not my card...this image was borrowed)

This is known to collectors as a T211, or Red Sun card. It was printed and placed inside cigarette packages in 1910. The "Red Sun" designation is due to this awesome back advertisement for those cigarettes:

(This is not an advertisement to smoke...Heed the Surgeon General's Warning.)

As the back states, the set features players from the Southern Association, which then included franchises in Birmingham, Atlanta, Chattanooga, Memphis, Mobile, Montgomery, Nashville and New Orleans. As you may be able to see from the small type at the bottom, the card was printed in Louisiana and was distributed mostly in the New Orleans area. As a result of this -- as well as the fact that many card collectors are largely based in the Northeast, Midwest and along the West Coast -- these cards are incredibly scarce.

In a way, the T211 cards resemble another minor league issue of 1910:

The photograph styles are similar, but the border color is different. This is a T210 card. T210s are also called Old Mill because of their back advertisement or Red Borders for obvious reasons. Many collectors are unaware of this set as well, despite it being the largest single-year issue of any card set before 1969 Topps (yes, there are more cards in it than T206, despite that set having three years to build its numbers). My website has info about the T210 set for anybody who wants to read more. Old Mill, by the way, is familiar to many collectors as one of the brands from the T206 set.

T210s comprised eight different series, each of which spotlighted players from a different minor league in the Southeast. Series 8 was made up of Southern Association players, including "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. Many of the 114 players (but not Jackson) would go on to be featured in the 75 cards of the T211 set as well.

The T210s were distributed in a wider area and are more plentiful than T211s are. However, they're not as plentiful as the T206 and T205 cards that were distributed in the more collector-friendly areas of the country. T210s are a challenge, but T211s are legitimately tough.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Today's question comes from a visitor to my website that signed himself "Confused."


"I have a  "Barry, Philadelphia" card that looks like the t205, but has Hassan on back and John J. Barry with a white border, not the gold. What the heck is this card?"

(I have cards like that as well. Here are some examples.)


Your card is a T202 end panel that has been cut away from the rest of the card. Here's a page explaining the T202 set. Their value is greatly impacted since they're no longer whole, but they offer a great way for collectors to pick up 100-year old cards for relatively little money.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Truly a Gentleman and a Scholar

So far, here's the only card of a Hall of Famer I currently own from the 1933 Goudey set:

Card #103 -- Earl Combs, New York Yankees

That's a set loaded with Hall of Fame players, I have managed to snag only one of them so far. But a Yankee Hall of Famer is a really good thing.

Earle (Goudey spelled his first name wrong) Combs was a native of Kentucky and well-respected as a Southern gentleman on and off the field. He was the centerfielder and leadoff hitter of the team that featured "Murderer's Row" behind him. After retiring, he stayed with the Yankees as a coach to help his eventual replacement -- a kid from California named Joe DiMaggio -- the nuances of the position at Yankee Stadium.

Before beginning his career as a baseball player, Combs was a school teacher. While teaching in a small one-room schoolhouse in a rural area, he played baseball in his spare time. Eventually, his abilities allowed him to become a ballplayer full-time. While baseball players then weren't paid quite as highly as they are today, it was still a lot more than he made as a teacher.

Monday, June 6, 2011

So Much For the "Mellow" Decade

(This is the 200th post I've made to this blog. In recognition of this milestone, I am doing a player profile. I may continue to do something like this in the future. Of course, any suggestions that would help me do a little bit of research to make other profiles like this...drop me an email. Now, we return to the regularly scheduled program, already in progress...)

For those of you who were too young to remember the times...

Whenever somebody tells you that the 1970s were a time of mellow relaxation, don't believe it for a moment. Rusty Torres can tell you all about it. He took part in three games in that decade that had to be forfeited as a result of on-field rioting by the fans.

Forfeit #1 -- "Capitol" Punishment From the Fans

1972 Topps #124 -- Yankees Rookies (Torres's first Topps card)

He was a rookie playing for the New York Yankees in 1971 as a late-season call-up. On the last day of the season, he was playing a game against the Washington Senators. As he stepped up to the batter's box during the ninth inning, fans began swarming out of the stands and grabbing whatever they could take. This was the final game the Senators would play in Washington before moving to Texas and becoming the Rangers.

There was one minor problem: when they stormed the field, the game wasn't yet finished. There were still only two outs and the playing field was rendered useless by the fans. As a result, what was about to become a 7-5 Senators victory became a forfeit to the Yankees.

And Torres didn't have to live with the fact that he might have been the final out of the season.
Forfeit #2 -- Ten Cent Beer Night

1974 Topps #499

In 1974, Torres was playing for the Cleveland Indians. In the ninth inning of a game on June 4, he came up as a pinch-hitter and banged out a single. With the Tribe down to the Rangers 5-1, he hoped to be part of a rally that could shut the game down. After moving over to second, however, he again watched as fans began climbing over the fences.

This time, the Indians were offering a promotion to entice fans to come to Municipal Stadium by "rolling back" the price of beer to ten cents. It worked. While 8,000 fans would normally come the "The Mistake on the Lake" to watch their Tribe take the field, the promotion drew over 25,000. However, the addition of alcohol only made an unruly crowd become more hostile. The visiting Texas Rangers were having objects hurled at them, hearing obscenities yelled at them and even enduring streakers and mooners. As Torres stood on second base that night, a fan tried to snatch the cap from Ranger outfielder Jeff Burroughs' head. As Billy Martin came out to protect his player -- with other Rangers following behind him and wielding bats -- the crowd came out as well, armed with pieces they ripped from the stadium seats.

In the aftermath, the Cleveland riot police had to be called in to control the crowd. Head umpire Nestor Chylak was injured by flying debris, and eventually declared the game a forfeit.

I'm not too sure that Torres felt glad to be on the home team, since angry mobs tend to forget minor details.

Forfeit #3 -- Disco Demolition Night

1980 Topps #36 (He didn't appear in the '79 set)

Once again, a promotion was held that unwittingly encouraged rowdy behavior from the fans. Once again, alcohol didn't help matters at all. A Chicago radio DJ named Steve Dahl was one of many across the country who expressed their sheer contempt for disco music. On July 12, 1979, a "Disco Demolition Night" was organized at Comiskey Park and set up to occur between the games of a White Sox/Tigers doubleheader. Fans were let in at a discounted price if they brought a disco record, and the idea was to destroy the records in a bonfire on the field.

The event didn't turn out well. As the events unfolded, the fans once again descended onto the field and began to wreak havoc. Tigers manager Sparky Anderson refused to allow his players on the field and the Chicago police were called in to help. Eventually, the second game was declared a forfeit.

This time, however, Torres wasn't on the field to watch when things were ready to hit the fan. This time, he and his teammates were in the clubhouse preparing for the game.

Friday, June 3, 2011


A visitor to my website who lives in Pennsylvania sent this one:


"I have an old item with Three-Finger Brown's photo on it.  It just says,  Brown, Chicago on it.  It is about 1 1/4 inch square on heavy cardboard and  appears to have been cut out from a candy box etc.  The item was  returned by PSA a few years ago and I was told it was not gradable but didn't give a reason.  I  am attaching a scan of it for you to see and wondered if you  could give me  any information on this item?"


Your card looks like it's from a set issued in 1907. It's a "strip card" known to the hobby as W555. Truthfully, I haven't seen a whole lot of these, but a great place to start would be the Old Cardboard website's description of the set. It mentions that an "average" card would sell for $35 in VG condition, but Brown is a Hall of Fame player and should sell for more than that.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Nice Surprise...

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Jeff, who's a reader of this blog. While looking through my wantlist, he was surprised to find that he had 10 of the cards I needed for my 1978 Burger King Yankees and decided to ask if I'd like to trade for them.

Well, the cards arrived over the weekend and they looked great! One thing I like about BKs is the way Topps was able to go back and fix a few blatant issues. For instance, there's this card:

(Before the facial hair grew out...Burger King card on the left, Regular Topps card on the right)

Rich Gossage spent the 1977 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates before being picked up in free agency by the Yankees after the season was finished. Topps had no way to get a picture of him in pinstripes, so they just did a quick airbrush job, as you can see above. For the BK set, they were able to use a picture of him in the correct uniform.

The Yankees Jeff sent me included Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson, and they were great additions to one of my few sorely needed 1970s cards. In fact, those ten cards put me only three cards away from completing the entire Yankees team set. All I need now are Cliff Johnson, Bucky Dent and Chris Chambliss.

Well, I need to specify...I need a loose Chris Chambliss, since he's already in my collection here:

It's an unopened pack, which contains three player cards and a checklist card. As much as I'm tempted to open it up and see who's inside, I keep forcing myself to stop thinking about it.

I've already done entries here for the 1979 BK Yankees as well as the same year's Phillies set. A complete set will not only keep me from wanting to see what's inside the cellophane surrounding Chambliss, but will invariably lead to another installment in the series.

Jeff didn't stop at those BK cards, though. He added more than 50 cards from last year's Topps set (I do have modern needs, which helps me to trade with others whose collections aren't as old as most of mine) and this great card:

A 1969 Met is always a great addition to my collection. I now am only 41 cards away from completing that set as well.

Thanks a lot, Jeff!