Monday, July 30, 2012

2012 National Week...Looking Back

The National Sports Cards Collectors' Convention will be held this week in Baltimore. Running from Wednesday through Sunday, it is usually the largest gathering of sellers, collectors, autograph guests and hobby names all year.

I'll be there as well, working at Irv Lerner's table (number 317). Here's some info about Irv from the OBC Website that shows his long association with the hobby. If you're around, stop in and say hello.

However, this blog often likes to look back...and this year, I'll show my program from the very first National to be held in Chicago (but not the first...that was in Los Angeles in 1980). The year was 1983, and here is the cover:

It was also the 50th anniversary of the first major league All-Star game. Since Babe Ruth had famously hit a home run in that first game, he gets a spot of honor on the cover. Ernie Banks' connection to Chicago is obvious, and he was a featured autograph guest (signatures were free to attendees back then...those days are long gone). The HOF plaque card features Buck Leonard, who was another autograph guest. As for Johnny Mize, he wasn't shown as an autograph guest inside the program, but he was a willing signer at conventions at the time.

By the way...the 1983 All-Star game was held in Comiskey Park on July 6th, which may have helped determine the date of this National.

Here's the schedule of events. You can click the image to see it better:

I have always been a fan of The National, because it gives many collectors the chance to look at T206 Wagner cards and 19th century equipment, as well as the opportunity to bump into Dr. Jim Beckett in the crowd (I did that in Cleveland in '07) or even celebrities like Penny Marshall (I met her in Chicago in '05, she's a collector too and had her wantlist out). I also saw O.J. Simpson getting escorted out of the convention center by security in '05, but it's safe to say we won't see a repeat of that.

Here's a picture in the program showing a younger Dr. Beckett. It was before he had his own monthly magazine and was just another seller at the show:

However, check this part out:

If there was something from the past I'd love to see -- and even help arrange it if I had the means -- would be a series of seminars on hobby topics, given by some of the best and brightest in the arena. I'd even offer to speak at one if asked. In Chicago '83, there were presentations on 19th Century cards by Lew Lipset and Keith Mitchell (who helped write a great book about the subject) as well as a Lipset slide show on prewar cards. That final forum on Dealers and the Hobby media would be a phenomenal idea.

Another neat thing on that page is the way certain former athletes are called "celebrity guests." Here's a page about them:

( on the image to see it in a more readable size)

And then there's this:

What an awesome idea. Today's hobbyists are largely from the era where we've been apt to take care of our cards. There are a lot of us who've never been given the chance to do something like flipping cards as a game. Even when there's countless cases of junk wax that can be gleefully ripped open to provide enough ammunition to get really good at it.

I also love that there are also levels for kids and teens. There really aren't enough things specifically geared for kids in our hobby (you can say that the cards themselves are targeted toward kids...but I might disagree with that). Anyway, here are the rules of the game:

So there's a small glimpse at our hobby 29 years ago, when the value of a '52 Topps Mantle was hovering around $800, when many 1950s commons could be found in dime and quarter boxes, and the National convention could fit inside a hotel ballroom.

If you're going to be at the show, leave a message saying when you'll be there. If you're a seller, do the same...maybe one of my readers will check you out.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Here in Frisco...

(The title is a reference to a song by Merle Haggard. I'm aware that San Francisco natives aren't thrilled to hear their city referred to as "Frisco." But, I admit to the fact that I'm not a native.)

A few weeks back, I showed a card distributed in a 1954 New York City paper that featured players from all three teams in the city. The Giants were treated to a similar feature after they moved to San Francisco:

In 1958, the San Fransisco Call-Bulletin included 25 players in their paper as part of a promotion in conjunction with a local radio station. It was the club's first year in the city, which help its collectabilty. The fact that they're printed on bright orange paper, however, is a different story.

There is a perforation in the middle that allowed parents to keep the "valuable" stub while the kids kept the player portraits. That's a good idea in theory (and sensible), but the cards lose half of their value if they've been torn. The back features a Giants schedule and another plug for the radio station:

Four of the players in the set (Tom Bowers, Eddie Bressoud, Ray Jablonski and Willie Kirkland) were short-printed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

1969 Retreads, Part 2

Last month, I featured a card from 1969 that featured a six-year old photo, and here's another one that recycles a photo:

Card #209 -- Larry Haney, Seattle Pilots

Since the Seattle Pilots were a new team in 1969, Topps was forced to use older pictures for the players because there wasn't any way to get the newer photos ready for the set. They may have printed in series, but there was no way they were going to deliberately short teams (and fans in those team's areas) by skipping over them until later. For Haney, a catching pose is great, especially since it can be used again without airbrushing. The cap is on backwards, the chest protector covers up his team's markings, and all is well.

Except...he's catching left-handed. There aren't a lot of left-handed catchers, and Haney isn't one of them. And a quick look at the Orioles coach in the background (who I'm fairly certain is Billy Hunter) confirms that the negative was flipped.

The same pose appears correctly in 1968:

Card #42 -- Larry Haney, Baltimore Orioles

Interestingly, this card shows that an unknown Oriole running in the background was covered up by the circle in the 1969 design.

Although an error was made, it was never there's no extra value to the 1969 card other than its oddity.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Johnny Pro

Today's entry features several die-cut cards that seem to have eluded the desire to tear apart and stand up:

Measuring 3 3/4 inches by 7 3/4 inches, this is from a 1973 set that included 28 Orioles. The set was skip-numbered (as each card had the player's uniform on it) and three players -- Bobby Grich, Jim Palmer and Brooks Robinson -- are available in two different poses.

A card was even made  for manager Earl Weaver, who is no doubt walking over to have a friendly discussion with the umpire about the nuances of the rule book:

Each card came with a stand, that allowed it to become a five-and-a-half inch figure (we don't call them dolls). Of course, that would destroy their value...but most are found in the hobby as intact pieces.

There was also a Johnny Pro set in 1974 that features twelve players from the Philadelphia Phillies:

They're slightly smaller but the idea is the same.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Postcard Sales "Pitch"

Here's an interesting card in my collection:

Johnny Sain demonstrates how to use a device to improve a person's pitching grips. Sain sold the product himself; this is a postcard and ordering information is on the back:

While it looks like a baseball that's been placed on an awl, it was available for purchase ($5.25 including shipping) to anybody who wanted one.

This postcard has been approximated as being issued in 1962. Sain served as the Yankees' pitching coach under Ralph Houk from 1961-'63, so this postcard was definitely from that time frame, and the lack of a ZIP code in the address (introduced in 1963) indicates that as well. In the book Ball Four, Jim Bouton explains that Sain was a great coach when it came to the mechanics of pitching, so maybe he was on to something when it came to this.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ballad of Forty Bucks

(The title refers to a 1969 Tom T. Hall song called "Ballad of Forty Dollars." It's worth taking a listen, even if country isn't your thing. It's a great song.)

I've mentioned here before that I belong to a few Online collecting groups. One of those is Old Baseball Cards (OBC), whose terminology on particular sets I've mentioned in the past. Another of their phrases is "Dealer Scum." That's not an indication of how we feel about dealers -- in fact, we love dealing with the good and fair sellers out there -- but a term used for cards that are often more expensive. In this case, "scum" refers to the stuff that sits at the bottom of a barrel, not the dealers themselves.

I recently participated in a Dealer Scum deal with a collector from Maryland. He wanted $40 to help offset the cost of a larger lot, and I got these three cards from the 1960 Topps set:

Card #561 -- Al Kaline All-Star

Yeah, it's rough. But I'll be happy to cross as many high-numbered 1960s Topps cards off my list as possible. Though 1960 isn't as tough in the high #s as other years' sets, it's still nice to get them secured. I'll return to the All-Star subset shortly.

Topps sure got a lot of mileage out of the fact that Kaline won a batting title in 1955 at the age of 20. It was mentioned on several of his cards.

But that was only one of the cards I received. This was the second:

Card #316 -- Willie McCovey, San Francisco Giants

This card is significant for a couple of reasons. First, it's a rookie card of a Hall of Famer. Second, it was the first card of a brand-new subset that recognized the top rookies as picked by Topps. The subset would run through 1978 (except for 1974) and then be resurrected in 1987. McCovey was the first one numerically simply because he was the first baseman and the cards were arranged by position, but there wasn't a better player that could have been featured first.

The card was from a specialty subset, but the back was the same design as what the base cards had. Notice one thing on this card: McCovey never came to the Giants until July 30th. He only played 52 games, but played well enough to snag attention as the top rookie at his position, and win the league's Rookie of the Year award.

And here's the final card from the $40 package:

Card #563 -- Mickey Mantle All-Star

I like the design of the 1960 All-Star cards. The big two-colored "60" in the background and the fake "shadow" are goofy, but they're elements of their time and therefore charming. Plus, it's the biggest player in the set.

The condition is ragged, there's missing paper on the back and a tear on the bottom...but I still think it was worth the $40 I paid for the three cards. So let me toss out the question...would you pull the trigger on this deal if it was offered to you?

Monday, July 16, 2012

All This Talk About Allen & Ginter

The newest version of Topps' Allen & Ginter recently hit the stores, and the Blogosphere is abuzz about it. I'm not actively collecting new items, and I'm not so interested in cracking the code, but the name does have some history. Over at the Library of Congress's Website, a number of baseball card images are available to view...and there's no problem with grabbing these images.

A&G was the issuer of two sets in the 1800s that included baseball players. While the baseball cards are the best-remembered things they issued, they were actually part of larger sets that spotlighted athletes from the sporting world in general.

The first set of 50 cards showed up in 1887. Here's the John Clarkson from that issue, which is now known as N28:

Personally, I think it's a simple design that presents well. A lithograph of a player that simply blends into the white background, it's the basis of the more complex designs Topps uses. There were ten baseball subjects, and six are Hall of Famers. The back features a complete checklist, broken down by the different sports:

If you look at the subjects, there are even cards for Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley. They (along with other cards featuring Indian chiefs and other subjects in other A&G issues) are the inspiration for the more general subjects found in the sets over the yeas.

In 1888, another 50-card set appeared with a slightly different design. That set is now called N29 by hobbyists:

This time around, there were only six baseball players and only one (Buck Ewing) is a Hall of Famer. However, a group of athletes from across the Wide World of Sports appear again, and the back contains another checklist:

The look and feel is similarly copied into the newer issues, even if the sets nowadays are much heavier with baseball than the originals were. That said, it shows the evolution of our hobby. 130 years ago, there was a wider interest in sports and other objects (in fact, actresses were largely the first subjects of cigarette cards, showing that sex sold even then).  Today, there's a larger focus on specific sports.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Q&A -- T207 Cleveland Players

Today's question comes from Paul:


"Could you provide me with a list of players with the Cleveland Indians from this set? thanks in advance for any help you can provide."


Although they weren't called the "Indians" until 1915, here's a list of the Cleveland players in the 1912 T207 set:

Bert Adams
Neal Ball
Joe Birmingham
Fred Blanding
Hank Butcher
Harry Davis
Ted Easterly
Lefty George
Jack Graney
Vean Gregg
George Kaler
Paddy Livingstone
Willie Mitchell
Ivy Olson
J.B. Ryan
Terry Turner

There are some variations if you're a master set collector. Harry Davis is found with either a brown or blue "C" on his cap. Paddy Livingston has two sizes of the letter "C" on his shirt, as well as an "A" variation because he had been traded from Philadelphia. All the cards have the same back variations found in the set as well. My Website fills in some of the details.

As for the team nickname, in 1912 they were still officially called the Naps in recognition of player/former manager Napoleon Lajoie. Lajoie doesn't appear in the set at all, and neither do a lot of stars, which diminishes the appeal -- though not necessarily the value -- of T207 for some collectors.

For all of the T207 team lists...TeamSets4U is a great reference. And the owner (Jeff) is one of the good guys in the Hobby.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

This Has Been a While...

Due to some unforeseen personal issues that I really can't talk about yet, I have been without a scanner for nearly six months. However, I decided that the show must go on, so I've relied heavily on existing scans and borrowed images here in the meantime...over at my other blog, the lack of a scanner is not an issue at all, as I ran off scans of all the cards long ago and have them readily available.

Anyway, you didn't come here to listen to me talk about my personal life. You came for the cards, and now that I have a scanner again, here's a card that I received in a trade during the past few months:

1938 Goudey #263 -- Marvin Owen, Chicago White Sox

It may be trimmed around the edges, but it's still welcome in my own collection. My first 1938 Goudey, it gives me a type card from each main set that Goudey issued. There are 48 cards in the set, but only 24 players. Each player is featured either with or without cartoons filling up the "white space" around him. My Website has better-looking examples of each type.

I would point out that the variation was noted on the back, but it's incorrect:

The set began its numbering at 241, which essentially picked up where Goudey stopped its 1933 set (whose back design appeared here as well). By that yardstick, Marvin Owen was the 23rd player in the set, not the 13th, as noted here in red ink. So, either Marvin was the 13th player a former collector obtained...or his math really wasn't that good.

Either way, I'm glad to have it in my collection.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A "Taste" of the West Coast

For people who grew up with it, Shakey's Pizza brings some memories of dixieland jazz (sometimes played live), which was a rabid interest of its original co-owner Sherwood "Shakey" Johnson. When Johnson served in the Navy during World War II, he caught malaria and that gave him the nervous condition that became his nickname. The chain was a largely West Coast institution and even spread through other countries across the Pacific Ocean.

Johnson had sold his interest in the business before these cards appeared:

In 1975, a set of 18 cards was produced by the Washington State Sports Collectors Association that was entirely made up of star players born on the West Coast. The DiMaggio card above was given out to the attendees of a local show in Seattle, which encouraged them to go and visit their local restaurant (the locations are listed on the back side of the card).

The cards are slightly larger than what we now call "standard" size. It is said that there were 1,000 DiMaggio cards printed for the show. The complete 18-card set has an approximate book value of $30, but the cards are more scarce than that price might indicate.

In 1976, the collectors' company was a lot more hopeful and put out a much larger set of cards in conjunction with Shakey's:

The 1976 set was issued in four different series. There were 160 cards in all, but the series were all skip-numbered. To confuse things a little, each series was given its own name; Series 1 was "Hall of Fame," Series 2 was "Greatest Players," Series 3 was "Immortals" and Series 4 was "All-Time Greats."

Each series was given the same blue border, and issued in the same "standard" size we now know. Errors led Robin Roberts and Sam Thompson to be issued again in Series 2 with the correct info. There are also two coupon cards that feature Earle Averill that were given away at local shows to entice more patronage of Shakey's. The "regional" aspect was dropped for the set, with players from all over the place, not just West Coasters.

A final set came out in 1977:

There were 25 base cards this year, with three different players appearing on coupon cards. Featuring red borders, the cards also have a blue facsimile signature. They were also reduced in size, meaning that the cards shrunk each year they were produced. Other than the name of the set ("All Time Superstars"), their backs are unchanged from 1976.

There's been some debate among advanced collectors as to whether they are "legitimate" cards, as the Washington State Sports Collectors Association was a hobby group, but the fact that they were actually sold in conjunction with a product (rather than the cards themselves) make them seen as a little bit different from the offerings by TCMA or Renata Galasso.

Friday, July 6, 2012


Today's entry features a couple of pennants of teams that have long held a rivalry:

They are from 1959 and measure 15 inches across. Though the Bazooka name is on them, they were actually made available through these cards inserted into Topps wax packs that year:

Even though the pennants were issued by Topps (who made Bazooka), the use of the brand name on the pennants themselves gives them their name.

Not to be outdone, Bazooka had its own card-related product that year.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


In celebration of July 4, here is a player from the past who was a noted for his colorful outlook about life:

In 1952, Billy Loes flubbed a ground ball during game six of the World Series, claiming he'd "lost it in the sun." This card appeared in 1954 as part of a promotion by the New York Journal-American, an afternoon newspaper in the city that rose from a 1937 merger between two papers owned by William Randolph Hearst and stayed in circulation through 1966, when a decline in afternoon editions doomed it.

I wrote about this set in my Vintage Baseball Cards Website, but one thing you won't find there is a back. Since players from all three New York City teams of the time were featured, each team has a different back featuring the 1954 home schedule on it:

Happy Fourth.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dixie Lids

It's summer, and we all remember the single-serve portions of ice cream that were available to us to eat (sometimes with a wooden "spoon"). The lid was made of cardboard and came off with the pull of a little tab.

A great idea would be to put pictures on the bottoms...and that was done in 1937 and '38:

This is a 1937 Dixie Lid, which includes pictures of athletes from several different sports as well as actors. There were only four baseball players: Charlie Gehringer, Gabby Hartnett, Carl Hubbell and Ducky Medwick. The reverse side looked like this:

That was actually one of several advertisements. This one features the Dixie's of Meadow Gold, but others had advertisements for Hoddsie's, Turnbull's, Abbot's, Swift's and other local dairies.

The set continued into 1938:

Once again, the set contained four baseball players, but only Carl Hubbell was retained from 1937. The other players were Bob Feller, Jimmy Foxx and Wally Moses. A different photo was used for Hubbell's card (his mouth was closed in '37), but the 1938 cards can be distinguished by the blue ink used on their photos.

Both years can be found in two sizes. The smaller one is 2 and 5/16 inches in diameter, and the larger is 2 and 11/16 inches across. In either case, they are not considered to be complete unless the little tab is still intact.

Premiums were available as redemptions in both years,using colorized versions of the same photo used on the regular lids and with a playing tip on the back. I showed the 1938 version with Bob Feller here in 2010:

The premiums measured 8 inches by 10 inches. Both years saw a 24-card set and featured the same baseball players found in the regular set. An album was also available to hold them (note the holes on the left side of the page).

The idea was resurrected in 1952, with a similar format. New sets were issued in 1953 and '54. This time, the name and team appear along the bottom, under the player, and a premium offer or other ad running around the picture:

This lid is from 1954. Not only is O'Connell shown as a Milwaukee Brave (they moved from Boston in 1953), but the lid has a "3-D Starviewer" ad around the picture, which only appeared that year. The 1952 set has 24 cards. The 1953 set also has 24 cards, but four variations (two cards noting the Braves' move and two others reflecting trades). 1954 has 18 cards, and each subject can be found with a "right" and "left" variation.

This time, the lids were available in three sizes for two of the years. Most commonly, they're found as 2 and 11/16-inch diameters. However, a 2 and 1/4-inch diameter and (in 1952 and 1954) a 3 and 3/16-inch diameter versions are also available. The price differences for each version vary by year, but the large number of variations across all three years makes quite a challenge for master set collectors.

In 1952 and '53, premiums were available:

Bob Feller here is from 1952. Both sets are essentially 8-by-10 photos on heavy paper, and the backs are blank. A stat line in the bottom right corner in both years' sets will determine which year it was issued, as each set shares several players.

In all, there were 24 premium cards in each set (once again, the same players included in the regular sets but without variations) and were redeemable for any 12 lids. Given that, the premiums are much rarer today.