Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Incredible, Unbelieveable Story...

Over the weekend, I was contacted by a reader who found me through my Website. He asked me this:

(Removed...I was contacted six weeks after writing this blog entry and told to remove his email, even though I never named him, or even identified his city of origin. Basically, he bought a card from the Cracker Jack set and told me that it had been picked up from a seller who claimed it was taken from a box of Cracker Jacks while attending Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show.)

(This is the card in question. It's not his scan, but one that I grabbed on the Internet.)

Over the years, I've learned to be wary about any item that was accompanied by letters, notes, documents or other items that were meant to "prove" their authenticity. But, being the history buff that I am, I looked up some information and found out one little problem with the story he was given:

Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show went bankrupt in 1913 and ceased its performances at that time.

I sent him a polite reply asking for a scan of the card, and mentioned the historical discrepancy that picked his story apart. His reply:

(Once again, this was requested to be removed...he told me that the show came to town in 1911.)

And here's a copy of the note that came with the card:

(Removed by request of the sender...Permission to show it was refused after this was written.)

Nice. Verification that a show was held in 1911 still doesn't explain how a card from 1914 shows up there. Not without time travel or some type of science fiction scenario.

I got one more email from the gentleman saying that he checked further and since Cashion was active in 1911, it had to be an authentic card. His scan was too blurry to know for sure, but I'm still waiting for an answer about the type of cardboard stock or the edges (which usually answer authenticity questions with Cracker Jack cards). If he responds, I'll be happy to update this; in the meantime, it should be a warning to use due diligence in checking out any claims before you hand over your money for something that might not be the real thing.

I really want to hope it's just the effects of time mixing up certain details. As I'm getting older, I'm beginning to understand that the ol' mind isn't what it used to be. That's why I'm writing down what I know in these blogs.  

(Update...which was written before this gentleman contacted me to remove the above items: I received a better scan since writing this and  it looks like the card is probably real. While I'll chalk this up to long-term memory recall issues, it is still a warning about relying on stories as the sole basis for buying a card.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

The "Leafs" Have Fallen...

For today's entry, I'd like to show off the 1948 Leaf football cards in my Steelers collection:

Card #2 -- Steve Suhey

1948 Leaf football was very similar in design to the company's baseball set that spanned the years 1948-'49. Leaf also issued football cards in 1949, but it was a different issue that contained players who also appeared in 1948. Fortunately a copyright date on the back makes it easy to tell which year the card was printed in case a checklist isn't handy:

The 1948 Leaf set features several college players as well as pros, which is a nod to the fact that the schools were often on a par with the NFL in those days. However, the 1949 set featured no college players at all, and the players who were still in school during the '48 set are shown with their pro teams in '49.

There were three Steelers included in the '48 set. Besides Suhey, there was this player:

This card shows the registration issues that plague the set (as well as the baseball set). In many cards, the colors don't align properly and in some case, they're skipped entirely.

The last Steelers player in the '48 Leaf set is Ray Evans, who was included in the high-number series. Though the high numbers aren't anywhere near as scarce as they are in the baseball set, they're still difficult. As a result, the Evans card is still on my wantlist.

For some odd reason, there were no Steelers at all in the 1949 set.

Friday, November 25, 2011

In the Interests of Equal Time...

My last post featured a card inserted into cartons of Coca-Cola. This time, we go to their main competitor and a very different part of the country:

These cards were issued with cartons of Pepsi and feature players from the Tulsa Oilers. At the time, Tulsa was an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals and its manager was former big league star Pepper Martin. As it turned out, Martin was the only "name" in the set of 24 cards which includes two batboys.

There is a $24 reward mentioned in the panel above the cards. In order to win that, the collector needed to get the complete 24-card set and match them with the names printed inside the bottle caps. The collector could also redeem any 10 different cards at the gate for a ticket to an Oilers game on certain nights during the 1963 season.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Have a Coke and a Smile

Here's a card from 1952 that doesn't get shown often:

This card was inserted into Coca-Cola cartons in the New York City area and feature players from the Giants, Dodgers and Yankees. Fronts feature a player and a 1952 home schedule for that player's team. Backs featured a playing tip for the specific position the player fielded.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Far South of the Border

(This post was inspired by a collector friend who picked up some Venezuelan cards from the 1960s, including an album that held the cards. He shared a picture of the album with me but asked me not to disseminate them any further, as he is working on a book about the various Topps issues that were issued in that country. I'll honor his wishes...but if he finishes the book, I'll definitely plug it here. Anyway...the images here are not his; instead, I borrowed them from various Websites.)

It's time for the Winter League, where players head to South America to hone (or sharpen) their skills and keep playing even after the end of the World Series here in the United States.

Topps issued a number of sets in Venezuela beginning in 1959 but didn't cover every year. Many of the years, the cards were essentially gloss-free variations of its regular cards with a line on the back that mentioned they were printed in Venezuela (except for 1962, where the back text was written in Spanish). In 1967, there was a radical departure from the norm.

Cards #1-138 are made up of local players in the Latin Winter League and look like this:

The cards follow a similar format to the regular 1967 Topps cards. The name and position appear at the top, with the city name of the player's team in large letters along the bottom. There is a star added in between those two elements, which is something not present in the '67 Topps set. The borders are much smaller, though, as the cards run a little smaller than the standard 2 1/2"-by-3 1/2" size.

The backs are entirely different:

The cards use a horizontal format, contrasting with the vertical orientation of the regular set. There are also no cartoons or lifetime stats, and the text is entirely in Spanish.

Cards #139-188 are a 50-card salute to retired players:

They even feature the Spanish word for "Retired" along the bottom. All 50 cards feature the player in a black-and-white image superimposed against a blue background. While many of the stars are Hall of Famers and players who played in the "Dead Ball" era, there are some more recent players included, like Sandy Koufax (who had retired the year before). Some Latin players get featured here as well (Alex and Chico Carrasquel, Minnie Minoso, Connie Marrero, Bobby Avila), and the card of Ted Kluszewski actually pictures Gene Bearden.

The backs follow the same format as the Winter League players' cards, but with a different color:

Instead of salmon-colored backs, these are in green.

Cards #189-338 feature players who also appeared in the regular 1967 Topps set:

Except for the thinner borders, they follow the same design of their American counterparts on the front, including a facsimile autograph (which isn't present on cards in the earlier series). They also have a unique back color:

The backs of these cards are commonly found damaged because many were pasted into the album that was designed to hold them.

I'd love to show what that album looked like, but I've been asked not to share it. While I hope my buddy will eventually change his mind, the '67 Venezuelan Topps cards offer a glimpse into another culture where baseball is even more ingrained than it is in the U.S.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Helping a Friend Out

I've mentioned Rob Fitts before in this blog and have plugged a couple of his books. He's an author who specializes in the history of Japanese baseball. He's also a trading buddy of mine who goes back nearly a decade.

Rob has written another one, which piques my interest because I'm a fan of history and a World War II buff. Here's the cover:

Here's a little bit about the book, from Rob's own Website:

"In November 1934 as the United States and Japan drifted toward war, a team of American League all stars that included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, future secret agent Moe Berg, and Connie Mack barnstormed across the Land of the Rising Sun.  Hundreds of thousands of fans, many waiving Japanese and American flags, welcomed the team with shouts of “Banzai!  Banzai Babe Ruth!”  The all stars stayed for a month, playing 18 games, spawning professional baseball in Japan, and spreading goodwill.   Politicians on both sides of the Pacific hoped that the amity generated by the tour—and the two nations’ shared love of the game—could help heal their growing political differences.  But the Babe and baseball could not overcome Japan’s growing nationalism, as a bloody coup d’├ętat by young army officers and an assassination attempt by the ultranationalist War Gods Society jeopardized the tour’s success.  A tale of international intrigue, espionage, attempted murder, and—of course—baseball, Banzai Babe Ruth is the first detailed account of the doomed attempt to reconcile the United States and Japan through the 1934 All American baseball tour."

This week, I received an email from Rob that said (in part):

"I’m asking you to please pre-order a copy of the book from Amazon in the next few weeks (or ask for it for the holidays).  Although you will not receive the book until March, a large number of pre-orders will help me greatly.  Publishers use pre-orders to help determine the size of a book’s print run and its advertising budget.  They also use the number of pre-orders to convince stores to carry the book.  So every pre-order of Banzai Babe Ruth will help me reach a wider audience once the book debuts.  

"Besides, I think that you will really enjoy the story!"

Hoping to help out a fellow collector and author, I'm passing this on through my blog. I'm hoping that at least a few who read this can help Rob out as well. It looks to be an interesting story. Here's a link to the book on Amazon that will allow you to pre-order it:

The price above (at this writing) reflects a 34% savings off the list price of $34.95. Plus, if you buy it in conjunction with another Amazon product and push the total price above $25, it's eligible for free shipping. That's a great deal.

I'll write a review of this once I get my own copy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Odd Choice of Picture to Use

One of the things that is neat about the 1951 Bowman set is the artwork. The cards in the set are artist-rendered color images that were originally black-and white, which gave them a very distinctive look.

And then there's this card:

Card #195 -- Paul Richards, Chicago White Sox

This card shows White Sox skipper Paul Richards as a caricature. In a set that features such striking images, this looks like it was meant for the "funny pages" in the newspaper.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cool Cardboard Creations

One of the charges that has been leveled at Topps during its periods of monopolization over the card industry is the fact that many of its designs began to get generic -- some would say "stale" -- as the years went on. There is a lot of merit to that suggestion (and I really wish the Topps people could see this and take it to heart...but I am not going to hold my breath).

However, I came across this card during my current job of writing material for the Cardboard Connection Website:

This is the design of the 1971-'72 Topps hockey set. It features a player picture superimposed over a solid-colored background and the set inside a circular "frame." The team name is designed to have an upward curve that really gives it the look of something you would expect from the early 1970s.

Here's what the back side of the card looks like:

While better colors could have been chosen, there is a very important feature on these cards: for the first time, Topps used year-by-year statistics on the backs. For many years, they only used the stats from the previous season and only began adding the accumulated lifetime numbers in the 1969-70 set.

This was also the first year of these cards:

The first six cards of the set featured the leaders in several statistical categories. Topps had included a Leaders subset in its baseball sets for years; however, the other sports' sets were smaller and didn't get them until the early 1970s.

One card in the set was a checklist, which allowed the collector to keep track of all the 132 cards in the set:

It uses the same curved design that was given to the team name on the base cards.

Ever since Topps and O-Pee-Chee had begun to issue separate sets in 1968-'69, the OPC issue was always larger and more "complete," while the Topps set was normally an abridged version. However, this year was a little different: the Leader cards above were only included in the Topps set, as was a base card of "Mr. Hockey," Gordie Howe. As a result, Howe's card is treasured even by the collectors who rarely venture away from OPC hockey.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wait...Ice Cream?

Here's a card whose origin may be an interest to collectors, as well as history buffs:

It's from 1928 and was issued by a company called Yeungling's. Many of us are aware that Yeungling's is a company that is considered to be the oldest brewery in America. Its roots extend back to 1829 and a German immigrant, whose family still runs the company. However, this set of cards was issued with ice cream rather than any adult beverages.

Yes, you read that right, ice cream. After Prohibition began in 1920, it was necessary to find other avenues for business and Yeungling's ran a dairy in addition to making "near beers" and running dance halls. A full set of 50 cards could be redeemed for a free gallon of ice cream, which may account for their scarcity.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Early O-Pee-Chee Cards

When you think of O-Pee-Chee, many think of Canadian-issed cards that were essentially bilingual versions of Topps cards beginning in 1965 and continuing afterwards. In fact, There is a blog called Oh My O-Pee-Chee that goes over the sometimes subtle differences among many of the cards.

However, O-Pee-Chee was making cards long before Topps was. Going through some of my old image files on my computer, I found this card:

This card is from 1937, and represented the first baseball set OPC issued. It has the more "proper" spelling of DiMaggio's position than we Americans use, which gives it away as a Canadian issue. Joe D. appears to be playing inside a field, with players silhouetted in place as if a game were going on. There were 40 cards in all, and they weren't simply a variation of an American set.

However, the card is also die-cut, much in the same manner as the Batter Up set issued between 1934-36:

Personally, I like the design of the OPC cards better than the natural backgrounds used in the American set.

Monday, November 7, 2011

1942 "Play Ball" Cards

Here are three cards that have found their way into my collection:

They are basic black & white cards and numbered 1, 2 and 3. Here's what the back of Gehrig's card looks like:

The 1976 copyright date allows collectors to realize these aren't really 1942-vintage cards. Rather, the initials HRT and RES were Ted Taylor and Bob Schmeirer, the two promoters of the "Philly Show" during its early days. These cards were designed to promote the shows and were a collectors' only set that imagined what a classic set like Play Ball might have looked like if it weren't for the interruption that World War II caused.

The funny thing about that when I was working at Irv Lerner's table this year at The National, he explained that there actually WERE Play Ball cards in 1942. He said that the final series (#49-72) was printed along with the first 48 cards early in 1942 in order to keep cards on the shelves as the War effort claimed valuable resources that were needed to make gum and cardboard. That's why the high numbers don't have a 1941 copyright, and why some of the low series cards are sometimes found without one.

It's little titbits like that that made working at Irv's table so enjoyable. I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about vintage cards, but I realize there are veterans out there who have forgotten more than I could ever hope to know.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Exhibit A...

I recently received an email asking for advice on an eBay auction. The hobbyist wanted to get some information about the card and whether it was real or just a picture masquerading as a card.

Here's the image from the auction:

Funny how Jackie Robinson isn't shown in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform. I'm guessing the picture was taken when he was a minor leaguer in Montreal in 1946 and airbrushed.

This Jackie Robinson card is from the Exhibit set. It was issued over a long period (1947-'66) and was essentially a set that changed its players over the years but kept the same design. I have written a page on my Web site about these:

The card looks legitimate, but take care because it's known to have been reprinted. Also, set chasers need to be aware that most cards are fairly easy to get, but there are about 20-30 cards that will be quite difficult to get, since they were only issued for a year or two.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Larger Than Life Cards

While the "Powers That Be" are doing their best to ruin the current NBA season, I think it's a nice time to take a little glimpse into the past (like I need much prompting to do that):

The is image does not do much of a job in showing just how huge the 1976-'77 Topps basketball cards were. They measured 3 1/8 inches wide and 5 1/4 inches high. The large size is somehow appropriate because basketball players are usually larger in size themselves.

These cards have been lauded by some collectors as perfect to get for autographs. Except those who say the larger size makes it hard to store...or the action shots that are sometimes too dark for a black or blue Sharpie to show up nicely.

They're nice cards, though, and definitely stand out even among the other 1970s NBA cards.