Friday, March 30, 2012

Q&A -- Fatima

This email comes from Linda:
"We were looking through some old pictures yesterday and came across an old baseball card. It is of a single player named 'McBride, Washington.' It was a tobacco advertisement card. Fatima was on it and Pictorial News Company may have been printer. I did find information on a McBride( no first name) who played for Philadelphia Athletics. Do you know any more about this?"
 (Images from an Oct.2007 Huggins & Scott auction)

From your description of the card, it sounds like a T222 Fatima card.They were issued in 1914 and are pretty rare. Here is a link to an auction for one of those cards: (the same one where the images above appeared). Also, here's a little more info about the set from the Old Cardboard site.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

CBS News Says the Hobby is Dying...

This is a piece that CBS News ran over the weekend about our hobby:

I don't entirely agree with the piece. I definitely don't see it in a "death spiral" like the one mentioned there. In fact, I see the "action" has moved away from the shows and on to Internet arenas that allow for a better chance for a collector to find something on his or her wantlist, rather than the show...where a seller has to pay for a table, lug a large inventory that may or may not sell and then haggle over "book" prices we all know are inflated.

Of course, this piece shows absolutely nothing about Online stuff, or auction houses (still doing very well, by the way) or the effect that graded material is having -- SGC is right down the road from where the show in the video above is being held. And the idea of mentioning how the hobby has changed since the early 1990s immediately loses its luster when it ends with a graphic about a card selling for millions just a few years ago (not to mention that another one is currently up for auction).

And I don't know about you, but calling a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle a "rookie" immediately causes me to discard anything you say after that. CBS's producers shouldn't have to look real hard to find that Mantle was on a nationally-issued card in 1951.

Feel free to comment below about the state of the Hobby.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The "Knothole"

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that some sets have names assigned to them by collectors due to their designs. In that post, I also mentioned that Greg over at Night Owl Cards was compiling a more exhaustive list of "nickname" sets. He recently held another round of set "namings," which included this set:

The 1959 Topps set was dubbed "the Knothole set" due to the circular element in its design. That was first suggested by another fellow blogger, Jeff Carlson (who writes the Cardboard Catastrophes blog you see on my Blogroll), which is pretty good, except that Topps wasn't entirely original about it.

For instance, the circular design was just featured in the previous year's football set:

I know...this is technically an oval, not a circle. But it shows that Topps was toying with the concept.

However, if you want a real "knothole" look, you can look to a set produced earlier in 1958:

The 1958 Hires Root Beer set included the look in its design. And the cards were produced by Topps.Even that wasn't an original idea, as it was one of three designs being considered by Bowman for that company's 1956 set before Topps bought them out (Dave over at The Topps Archives has more on that).

The knothole has a long history of being associated with baseball, as far back as the days when team owners charged admission and built fences around their parks to keep onlookers from watching. The image of several kids jockeying to watch a game through a knothole in the fence (or even one where a policeman is looking after shooing them away) is as old as cards are. Several teams had "Knothole Gangs," and even Goudey featured one on its 1934 wrapper:

Going back to the "knothole"design, neither Topps, Bowman or Goudey could lay a claim on being the earliest:

Not when it was part of the design for the Imperial Tobacco set of 1912. Yes, it resembles a plaque more than a true knothole. But put it next to the Hires card and try to argue that it doesn't match.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Speaking of "Rookie" Cards...

Continuing from the multi-player rookie card topic I brought up on Wednesday...

I mentioned that it was common for players to appear on more than one of these cards as they established their careers. Lou Piniella appeared on three of them...and a player named Bill Davis appeared on five.

Here's a card from the 1963 Topps card set:

There's Gaylord Perry in the lower left-hand corner. Collectors remember the set for Pete Rose's rookie card, as well as Willie Stargell's. Another rookie card shows future basketball Hall of Famer Dave DeBusschere. So why isn't this one held in the same regard?

In Gaylord Perry's case, he was already shown on a card in Topps' 1962 set:

In one year, he went from his own card to one he had to share with three others. Good thing for him, the Giants didn't pay much attention to this demotion and kept him around for a few years longer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Double Duty/Triple Cards

As many of you know, I write two card-related blogs. In addition to this one, I write a card-by-card excursion through the 1973 Topps set and the sometimes interesting choice of pictures used on the fronts. Called 1973 Topps Photography, bad action shots, airbrushed players and 1970s fashion get their due.

If you're also a regular reader of that blog, thank you. If you're not...then feel free to take a look. I'm still a little less than halfway through the issue and there's plenty more to share.

My post over there today features a multi-player rookie card. Those weren't new in 1973...Topps had included them in every one of their base sets since 1962. In the case of the card shown today, one of the player's wasn't even a true rookie, as he appeared on two other cards before that.

However, in this case, the 1973 card was actually the "normal" one in the group. That is the oddity here.

The player in question is Bob Reynolds. His first card was part of the final series of the 1971 Topps set:  

1971 Topps #661 -- Rookie Pitchers

This card featured three pitchers, all from different teams. Since Topps kept these rookie cards sorted by team (and showing two players, not three) in the earlier series, they were likely trying to wrap up their loose ends late in the production cycle to get the set finished. In those cases, they'd group the players by position and even by league.

In this case, they lumped three players together who all had the same last name.

Reynold's 1972 card was memorable for a different reason:

1972 Topps #161 -- Brewers Rookie Stars

Topps stayed with the three-player format for 1972's multi-player rookie cards, and this one had a fairly noticeable error. The pictures of Darrell Porter and Jerry Bell are switched, so Bob Reynolds is the only player on the card who's properly credited.

For the third multi-player rookie card showing Bob Reynolds, Topps decided he had had enough excitement:

1973 Topps #612 -- Rookie Pitchers

Other than Brent Strom being in an obviously airbrushed uniform...there were no hijinks this time.

Monday, March 19, 2012

In Action Cards - Series 4.1

This time around, I'll continue looking at the backs of the various "In Action" cards that were included in the 1972 Topps set. The last time around, I showed 6 of the 11 different "newspaper story" accounts of 1971 highlights. Here are the rest:

Friday, March 16, 2012

A "Frankenstein" Design

This card from 1971 features a design that has a lot of borrowed elements:

This Ernie Banks card is part of Topps' Greatest Monets set. Besides the black border used in that year's base set, the action photo has the deckled edge seen in 1969's insert set (featured here last week) and the"head shot" is borrowed from the 1970 and '71 Sratch-Offs.

Even the back is borrowed, as Topps went with the "newspaper story" many times over the years.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Players "Larger Than Life"

Here's a card from a set with a unique design:

This card is from the 1933 DeLong set. The design has been used again in modern sets, but basically features a black-and-white player image in front of a generic stadium design that makes him appear larger than life.

There are 24 cards in the set, and 15 of the players are Hall of Famers, which gives a nice representation of the era's stars. There's no Babe Ruth card, however, which keeps the set price lower than it might be. The key card features Lou Gehrig.

The backs feature tips on playing the game from Austen Lake. He was a Boston-based journalist of the era who also contributed his writings to the backs of the 1934-'36 Diamond Stars and 1935 National Chicle football sets.

Monday, March 12, 2012

T200 Fatima -- A Glimpse

(Much of the info here is lifted from this page on the Vintage Baseball Cards Website, but I wrote that. So I give myself permission to copy it...) 

 T200 Fatima -- Detroit Tigers Team

What you see here is one of the earliest "team cards" ever made. While a staple of Topps sets from 1956-'81, they weren't pioneers when it came to sticking an entire team onto one card.

Essentially an issue of team photos for each of the 16 teams then in the major leagues, T200 cards are found in two sizes. The regular cards, which were included in boxes of Fatima cigarettes, were 2 5/8” by 4 ¾”. A larger-sized version of the same 16 teams was offered through the mail in exchange for 40 coupons. The larger cards are much more rare and valuable than the smaller ones. For whatever reason, the larger cabinet-sized photos weren't assigned their own separate number in Jefferson Burdick's American Card Catalog. Instead, larger cards are known as T200 Premiums by hobbyists.

Rather than being a lithograph on cardboard like most T-series cards, T200 cards are glossy photographs on paper stock. Each player, manager and mascot is identified by name, either above their heads or inside a small box below the assembled group. At the bottom of the card, a Fatima ad splits the team's city and league names. Card backs feature the details of the redemption offer for the larger-sized cards.

These cards were issued in 1913, which was very late in the tobacco card era. The most notable card in the set featured the Pittsburgh Pirates and Honus Wagner, whose presence on a tobacco card should be interesting to the collectors saying he refused to appear on anything that promoted smoking. The format and timing also allowed many players who never appeared on their own cards to be featured. However, a couple names (like Herman of Cincinnati and Inglis of the Cubs) are unknown players.

There is a varying level of scarcity among the smaller-sized cards. Boston N.L. is the most diffcult, with New York A.L and St. Louis A.L. club slightly less scarce, with Detroit and St. Louis N.L. almost as difficult. On the other hand, Philadelphia A.L., Boston A.L., New York N.L., Brooklyn, Cleveland and Cincinnati are the most common. Among the larger-sized premium cards, there aren't any levels of scarcity, other than the fact that they're all scarce (and there fore valuable).

Friday, March 9, 2012

Q&A -- "Looks Like a Regular Picture"

 Here's an email I received last week from a lady named Patty:
"(I have) 3 cards. They are  #2 of 33 Boog Powell; Willie Horton #9 of 33; Maury Wills #24 of 33.
They look like regular pictures with signed names in blue ink. 
They just have a name and # on back with the words T.C.G. PRTD.IN U.S.A."
Fortunately, having the numbers is a big help here...and yes, I can identify your cards. What you have are 1969 Topps Deckle Edge cards. Here's an example:

As you can see from Roberto Clemente's card from the set, they're black & white pictures that have been given a "scalloped" effect on their edges (or, as Patty says above, they "look like regular pictures," as that style was popular among snapshots taken in the era. A facsimile autograph in blue ink has been added to the front of the card.

The backs are mostly plank, except for a little bit of info along the bottom:

Inside a box, there is a name and a card number, along with the manufacturer's info Patty mentioned in her email.

These cards were included as inserts inside wax packs in 1969, which makes them fairly common. While they're not overly expensive, they are pretty easy to build a base set out of and represent the first complete set from before my birth that I was able to put together.

There are actually 35 cards in the set, however. With 33 total cards, there was at least one player from each of the 24 teams in the league at that point, even though the team itself isn't specifically named in the design. When two of the players were traded, Topps substituted them for former teammates (albeit it by switching the numbers) in order to keep the balance.

As a result, card 11 either shows Hoyt Wilhelm or Jim Wynn and card #22 has either Rusty Staub or Joe Foy. Wilhelm and Foy were both Royals, and Staub and Wynn were both shown as Astros. The later additions -- Foy and Wynn -- are the scarcer versions, but aren't too hard to find.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

They're Not "Dolls," They're Action Figures...

Today's entry comes from the toy store:

This is a 1969 Transogram Tommy John. There were 60 plastic player "statues" that were available in toy stores across the country. The back of the box had a standard-sized card (provided the kid wasn't too careless with the scissors):

(The autograph here is a real one that was on the box. There is no facsimile autograph on the card itself). Needless to say, a complete box -- signed by the player or not -- is much more valuable than the card itself.
 In 1970, Transogram continued the line, but placed three players together into a single package. They also issued two sets. One commemorated the previous year's World Series Champions:

There were five "series" of three-player Mets packages, and three cards on the back: 

The cards are a little bit larger this year, which helps to differentiate those that have been clipped apart due to having the same design from the previous year.

There was also a set of ten "series" of players from the other teams as well:

The three players above are "new" in 1970. The other 27 players all appeared in single boxes during 1969.

Monday, March 5, 2012

They're Coming Right at Me!

While collectors sometimes know 1970-'83 Kelloggs' cards by the "Xograph" name that
appears on the backs, that was actually the name that was given to the process of using several layers to achieve a "3D" effect on the cards. While they were neat, Topps actually debuted the process two years earlier:

In fact, the "Xograph" name is in the lower left corner. And you can see the "dot" element that was part of the design of the base Topps set in both 1968 and '69.

This design has found its way into more modern collectors' hands as an insert set along with last year's Topps Lineage, but was originally used for a test set in 1968. Essentially, a sharp player image was added to an intentionally blurry stadium background, and the "ribbed" plastic front gave it the appearance of a 3D image when it was moved around.

However, production was limited and distribution was scarce, so these cards command a pretty hefty price tag today. The Roberto Clemente card shown above is the most valuable in the 12-card set, selling for thousands of dollars in top grade. (These images aren't my own cards, though; these belong to another collector).

Clemente's card exhibits the same type of cracking that plagues Kellogg's cards, due to the way that the plastic coating of the image can shrink over time. The Bill Robinson card below shows it as well:

Due to the "test" nature of these cards, the backs are completely blank.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Names, Tags, Labels and Slang

My last blog entry featured a link to this page of hobby-related slang used by members of OBC, a group of "old school" style collectors that happens to include me. That list includes several "names" given to refer to certain sets.

For example:

1955 Bowman is referred to as the "TV set" for obvious reasons.

 "Horizontals" refer to 1960 Topps, although I argue that 1955 and '56 Topps should also have that name. Especially when you consider that not all '60 Topps cards are horizontal.

1962 Topps are called "Woodies." I suppose the label could also apply to 1987 Topps, but OBC officially stops paying attention in 1980. I didn't say that was's just the way they do things.

"Burlap" refers to the outer edges that appear on 1968 Topps cards.

"Cool Gray" is a nickname for the 1970 Topps set, whose design has been mentioned as one that has aged a lot better than many expected.

 1971 Topps are called "Black Beauties," a name that is quite apt.

 "Psycho" is the name given to the 1972 Topps set, both as a result of its design and that little issue of the higher-numbered cards that keep many from completing it for an awful long time. Not that I'm bitter about it or anything...

And then there's the term "jiggler," which is said to refer to the 1962 and '63 Jell-O sets even though the term is rarely used. In fact, I don't recall ever hearing it used in any type of conversation.

Of course, OBC isn't alone when it comes to giving names to various sets. Right here in the Blogosphere, Night Owl is keeping a list of "define the Design" nicknames for several sets, both within and beyond the scope of what OBC deems its "window." There's one thing for certain...we collectors definitely use slang and jargon, which we can use to identify each other in our own unique geekiness.