Monday, December 31, 2012

Houston Astros Dugout Lineup Card - Pickup of the Year


It is fitting to close the year with the best addition to my collection in 2012.  In the past two years since I returned to collecting, my best pick ups each year were T206 cards with a Black Cap Christy Mathewson "winning" 2010 and a green background Ty Cobb portrait "winning" 2011.   While I managed to purchase all the cards I needed to "complete" my T206 set (I still have six cards in transit) and I won a Plowboy Orval Overall on eBay, this year, my best pick up is not a card, but instead a piece of memorabilia. 


As you might guess from the large number of Mike Scott references and cards you've been subjected to on this blog, one of my favorite teams of all time is the 1986 Houston Astros, who would have advanced to the World Series if they were able to win one game where Mike Scott did not start.  Sadly, they didn't and the Mets won the World Series, but this team holds a certain place in my heart.  One day, while browsing for cards on an online forum, I came across a listing of items from someone who worked at Wrigley Field in the 1980s.  Scrolling down the post, I saw a lineup card from a 1980s game filled out by Pete Rose, while manager of the Reds, and another from Tommy LaSorda.  There was also a Braves card with Dale Murphy and a whole bunch of bad involved.  Towards the bottom of the list was an undated dugout lineup card from the Houston Astros.

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The lineup card is the size of a piece of legal-sized paper, which is why you have two so-so scans above.  We won't discuss why I didn't take a picture.  Let's just say the picture always come out terrible, but a different kind of terrible each time.   I sent a message ASAP and reserved the lineup card and set about some research.  Using Baseball-Reference.com, I was able to quickly identify the game to a single day, September 1, 1986.  A Monday game with some starters such as Glenn Davis and Bill Doran rested and Danny Darwin starting against Ed Lynch, it matches exactly with the card above.

As an artifact of one of my favorite teams of all-time, I was overjoyed and began awaiting the arrival of this item.  It didn't have Mike Scott's or Nolan Ryan's names on the card, because Hal Lanier was not interested in listing his starting pitchers on his lineup cards.  But it was part of a magical season and a truly unique item.

The problem was it wasn't arriving.  The SuperStorm delayed my inquiry and I was told that it was shipped.  For a month, I was convinced one of my neighbors received the package in error and was in possession of this lineup card.  However, the fourth or fifth time I sent an inquiry, the package was miraculously found, having fallen behind a dresser or table and was shipped to me.  Given that I was concerned the lineup card was lost and now that it was found, I could've cared less about the wait, I was just so overjoyed to know I was getting the one package I couldn't replace shipped to me.  Because it took nearly two months to ship the lineup card, the seller also included a lineup card from the Cubs dugout from the May 30, 1983 game as well.

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Mike Scott is featured on the card, which I enjoyed greatly, even though he did not pitch that fine day.   While I have a lot of great pieces in my collection, nothing brings greater joy to me than these cards, knowing they are truly one of a kind and part of history. Interesting about this card is the game was started by Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins in his last go-around, leaving two Hall of Famers on the lineup card as Ryne Sandberg started that day as well.  A very thoughtful gesture to make up for the wait and a piece of history I will treasure for forever. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Home of the Toddfather Groupbreak - Dbacktastic

Sometimes you don't get around to scanning your cards.  Perhaps you scanned cards the day before and another package arrives in the mail in the mail the next day.  Or you take your new cards, flip through them and gently place them on the bookcase facing the window in an oh-so-neat stack, so you can look through them again.  Usually, you just forget you didn't scan something and when you go to write up your group break results, you realize you have no images to share.  Sure, I could get up off the couch, walk all the way over to the scanner, turn it on, turn the scanner's computer on, wait for the computer to load, scan the pictures, rename and save the scanned pictures and upload them to Photobucket, but I got tired typing that, so I would clearly be exhausted from actually performing such actions.

So, way back in November, The Toddfather had a group break.  There was 2012 Topps Chrome, 2012 Topps Update (long before I bought that fabled, overpriced box) and 2012 Topps Pro Debut.  With the breaking filling up rapidly, a search of the checklists indicated that I just might like a Trevor Bauer or Slidin' Billy Hamilton card for my collection.  I did realize that the Billy Hamilton stealing all the bases in the minor leagues was not the zombie of the Phillies' greatest base thief from the 1890s, but still remained interested in his cards.

Topps Chrome brought some base cards to my collection and a reminder that I do not like the very shiny Topps Chrome cards, as the "chrome" obscures the color.  As to Pro Debut, there was no Slidin' Billy Hamilton, but I did get a Trevor Bauer.  I was awfully close to scanning the Trevor Bauer, even going so far as to put it in the scanning pile, but I couldn't bring myself to make more than two scans of cards, so an editorial decision was made to take it out of the pile.

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The black bordered Topps John McDonald is numbered to 61.  Surprisingly, I also pulled a black border Henry Blanco when I opened my box of Topps Update, giving me two of the Diamonbacks limited to 61. If I was a Diamondbacks fan, I would be stoked and trying to put together the whole set in black borders, but I'm not, so I'll stick to the surprise of Henry Blanco being a major league catcher at 40, as he was not much of a catcher at 30.

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I also ended up with a gold bordered Trevor Cahill, showing I have the touch for getting numbered Diamondback cards from Topps flagship group breaks.  I would show you some Reds, but there was nothing noteworthy enough to scan.  Despite getting teams which are well outside my wheelhouse, it was still quite the enjoyable group break and I would like to extend my thanks to the Toddfather for running such a fine break.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Daily Dimwit Group Break - 1 in 4,200 Hit

Group breaks tend to be difficult for me.  My allegiances are not to a specific franchise, but instead to players, mostly players long retired.  I like the camaraderie and the stack of organized cards, eliminating many of the cards I have no desire to add to my collection.  Given these choices, I gravitate toward group breaks with retired players in the product and scan checklist after checklist before committing.  The Daily Dimwit had a group break with 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces, 2008 Upper Deck Goudey and 2012 Gypsy Queen.  As the majority of the product was Gypsy Queen and this year's set did not have Christy Mathewson, but did have Ty Cobb, I signed up for the open Detroit Tigers, figuring I might pick up a few more Ty Cobbs for my collection.  In a surprise, I only ended up with one Ty Cobb card.  I did however pick up a few "hits" from the Group Break.

The Goudeys were not a success for the Tigers or the Twins, who were my randomized team.  There were some base cards and I believe a mini Delmon Young...but there is no such thing as success with Delmon Young.

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Upper Deck Masterpieces were a success with the above black bordered Gary Sheffield.  The Sheffield is quite nice with some raised framing on the card.  Definitely a keeper for my box of modern day cards.  The real winner for me and perhaps the entire group break came from Gypsy Queen.

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Yes, that is a piece of a seat from old Tiger Stadium on a framed relic numbered 82/100.  The chances of pulling one of these cards from a pack were 1 in 4,200.  On some level, I think that perhaps someone saw Sam Crawford or Ty Cobb from that seat, though it is more likely that someone saw Guillermo Hernandez or Bill Gullickson, but the illusion makes the card even grander.  I must admit, seeing it in the video was cool, but in person it is even better, as you can just touch the wood grain on the card.  I reckon the thrill of a hit like this is why we participate in group breaks, but also to get a card you might not think about or consider purchasing on your own.  I never would have searched for one of these cards, but I am quite thrilled to add this piece to my collection. 

So, thanks to Samuel for running a great group break and an even better blog.  

What Do You Get for Five Dollars at Five Below?

No pictures today, since I am working on setting up my new computer, as the old war horse no longer wants to take a charge after three years.  However, I'm not sure what a picture of a 1988 Topps UK Nolan Ryan or a 1992 Leaf Wade Boggs would do to lift the quality of this post.

Five Below for the uninitiated is a store where every product is five dollars or less, essentially the inflationary, evolutionary dollar store, which in itself, is nothing more than a modern five and dime.  One product they do have is sportscards.  Not just baseball, but a fairly decent cross section of cards.  There were football cards and 2012 Topps WWE Heritage in an unsearched drop box.  Amidst the rows of in-season football cards, there were a few boxes of baseball cards.  Each repack box comes with four packs and a bonus box of 100 cards.  The boxes are sealed in such a way you cannot see what is inside, unlike the four pack repacks at your local Target or Walmart, where they tease you with a pack of 2011 Topps Lineage to hide the 2008 Upper Deck and 2007 Fleer.

Knowing the risks, I pressed forward and gave the cashier five dollars and change to cover the sales tax and went home to look at the cards.  OK, I opened the box in the parking lot to see what packs were inside, but then opened the packs at home.

What Packs Were Inside?

2 Packs of 2008 Upper Deck First Edition Update - Aside from a picture of Matt Capps, facing the camera holding a baseball, nothing of note was found in these packs, which is a surprise to no one who opened any of these packs.  As an aside, for those who think letting Upper Deck back into making baseball cards would be good for the hobby, look at some late year Upper Deck and say that with a straight face.

1 Pack of 2007 Fleer Ultra - There was a Jesus Flores Ultra Rookie in the pack.  I think the less said here, the better.

1/2 Pack of 1989 Topps containing 50 cards - It seems Topps made gigantic rack packs in 1989 containing 100 cards, plus a special Rookie card.  While sealed, I am a little disappointed that half the pack counted as one of my four packs of cards.  It could be worse, since they could have taken a Topps rack pack with three separate compartments and called it three packs, but this is only marginally better.

Despite that, this was by far the best pack to open.  There were fifty cards in the pack, five of which were Hall of Famers - Ozzie Smith, Mike Schmidt (on the back of the pack at that), Dennis Eckersley, George Brett and Roberto Alomar.  I remember collecting these cards in my youth and would have been incredibly excited to find a pack of 100 cards or 1/8 of a set in a single, non-vending box package.

What Are the 100 Included Cards?

First, there were 102 cards included in the box.  Below are some quick stats before we break it down by publisher.

Oldest Card - 1982 Donruss Randy Niemann - Despite last appearing for the Houston Astros in 1980, Niemann is wearing an Astros jersey on the card, despite being a Pirate.  Actually, I was impressed by the lack of airbrushing on this card.

Newest Card - 1999 Just Memorabilia Fernando Seguignol - He was a member of the Ottawa Lynx at the time.  This also serves as the only minor league card in the package.

Cards Not in English - 1 -1993 Pacific Jose Oquendo and Luis Alicea in Spanish

Hall of Famers - 6 - 1994 Upper Deck Fun Pack Dennis Eckersley, 1992 Leaf Wade Boggs, 1989 Donruss Tony Gwynn, 1988 Topps UK Paul Molitor, 1988 Topps UK Andre Dawson, 1988 Topps UK Nolan Ryan.  There is also a 1991 Topps Craig Biggio itching to make it seven by 2015.

Checklists - 2 -1987 Topps and 1988 Fleer

100 Cards by Publisher and Year

Donruss - 24 - 1982 - 1; 1988 - 5; 1989 - 13 (including two Todd Frohwirths); 1990 - 3; 1992 - 1; 1993 - 1 (Andy Benes for the interested).

Fleer - 13 - 1987 -3 (All Kansas City Royals); 1988 - 4 (including checklists organized by team, which is actually fairly smart if you release all of the cards at once); 1989 - 3; 1990 - 1 (Tom Brunansky as a Cardinal); 1991 - 1; 1993 - 1

Fleer Ultra - 3 - 1991 - 3

Just Memorabilia - 1 - 1999 - 1

Leaf - 1 - 1992 Wade Boggs

Pacific - 1 - 1993 Jose Oquendo and Luis Alicea in Espanol.  

Score - 5 - 1988 - 1; 1991 - 1; 1992 - 2; 1994 - 1 (Rich Rodriguez in the classiest scorecard...a low title indeed)

Topps - 34 - 1986 - 6 (including Ron Cey and Tommy John); 1987 - 9 (Including Ron Cey again and a checklist, a fairly pro-Penguin repack box); 1988 - 1; 1989 - 2; 1991 - 16 (Includes Mike Scott bunting, which I might already own 15 of)

Topps Gallery - 1 - 1996 Todd Greene

Topps Stadium Club - 1 -1993 Jeff Frye

Topps UK - 10 - 1988 - 10 (Including Parker, Canseco, Mattingly, McGwire and Dale Murphy in addition to the other Hall of Famers)

Upper Deck - 8 - 1991 - 5 (Including Dale Murphy as a Phillie); 1992 - 2 (Doug Glanville Top Prospect); 1994 - 1

Conclusion

The box delivered for me.  I appreciated the older cards and enjoyed the memories.  The actual packs themselves were terrible aside from the 1989 Topps.  When you fail next to a pack of 1989 Topps, you probably shouldn't be making cards anymore.  I did get 11 hall of famers, a bunch of interesting players and spent far more time with these cards than expected.  I'm not saying run out and get one, but if you need a trip down memory lane, there are far worse things you can spend $5 on. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Buying Hobby Boxes: A Fallacy

A few months ago, Topps let us know they were releasing a WWE Heritage Set this year.  Even better, in the sell sheet, they showed Michael P.S. Hayes of the Fabulous Freebirds as one of the autograph signers.  As a big Freebirds fan, I was very excited.  I spent a fair amount of time considering whether I should purchase one box or perhaps even two boxes, as I was excited about putting together the set and wanted to maximize my chance of pulling the cards I really wanted and to put together a set.  Eventually, I settled on wanting just one box, figuring I would go and buy the Michael Hayes autograph separately. 

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As the time approached, something strange happened.  I didn't pre-order a box and when I went to my local store, there were no boxes or even packs of WWE Topps Heritage to be found.  I was able to find the Michael P.S. Hayes Autograph above for $25, which was fortunate, because no one bought or opened a great amount of this product.  I also found a base set, complete for $6 and shipping.  I nearly bought a set with six insert sets as well for $40, but held off at the zero hour. 

So, for the price of half a box, I was able to get a base set and the exact hit I wanted.  I missed out on a few inserts and there was no joy in opening packs, but I ended up with what I wanted from the product, with no doubles, no fuss and half the cost.  Thinking about this and given that most of my favorite players and performers are not the big names in a box, I can't imagine ever buying a new box ever again. 

It's just the economics of it.  I can get exactly what I want for a similar or lower price than actually purchasing a whole, unpacked box.  I like opening things, but it now feels wasteful.  Rarely do the hits outweigh the cost of the product and I lose control.  I prefer control.  I spent two plus years putting together a set of 100 year old cards.  If I can complete that (and aside from sending a money order tomorrow morning and waiting, I have hit the mark.), I think I can wait out a set on eBay and save a few dollars to get exactly what I want. 

Next time, we will discuss what comes in a five dollar box from Five Below, since just because I won't buy hobby boxes doesn't mean I don't like opening packs. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cy Old


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Given some of the other personalities of the era, I've never gravitated toward Cy Young . Even as I was preparing this undertaking, part of me said, "Ugh, three Cy Youngs to collect", one of which, Cy Young Bare Hand, is one of the worst looking cards in the set.  Fortunately, I did really well on that card back in the day and added a Cy Young Portrait a year or so ago.  This left me with a grey, old man sized hole in my set, with an obnoxiously large glove showing, which needed to be filled in order to reach my goal of completion. 

A few weeks ago, I broke down and was able to negotiate a deal for the above card.  As a Cy Young card, it doesn't offend me, as it shows Cy, showing his age and paunch, hurtling a ball towards home.  As this is the very tail end of his career, Cy Young made his great return to Cleveland, starting as Spider in 1890 and closing out his career as a Nap in 1911.  In between, Cy had some great years in St. Louis (part of the ruination of the 1899 Cleveland Spiders) and Boston (part of the Americans, before they were Red Sox and before the World Series and labor peace were guaranteed).  But I always think of Cy in Cleveland, grey background, preparing one last pitch as he moves towards 500 wins. 

In a somewhat related note, this is really only one of two cards with a grey background, with the other being the Nap Rucker portrait.  I would imagine with the factories and just generally, rain, there would be more "dark" background T206s, but instead most harken back to pastoral images and sunny days, which are an easier sell than the darkness.  But good old Cy manages to bring a small bit of the starkness of reality with the above image. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Big Train Toppling Dominos

Sometimes, you put a project on the backburner.  Or the project moves to lower status as you find other, shiny objects which distract you.  Other times, you look at your list and think, what is going to be the hold up from finishing your set.  And finally, you find a card you need, make a bid, don't expect to win the card at all and then look at your E-Mail and say "Oh, I did win that Walter Johnson Portrait."

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A few weeks ago, I won the above Walter Johnson Portrait.  It was one of the three big cards standing between myself and completing my T206 set, along with a Cy Young Glove Showing and the shortprint Kid Elberfeld Washington Portrait seen below.  For some reason, I was locked into this thought cycle that Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson cards were equal in value.  Amazingly, I found a Johnson Hands at Chest with this mindset, but the portrait eluded me.  Watching the portrait go for 1.5 to 2 times of a Mathewson, I finally flipped the switch and accepted it would be costlier to add one of these cards to my collection. 

Still, even with this in mind, I continually lost every Johnson Portrait which came to market.  It became such a joke to me, I anticipated I would end up getting to 517 cards and still need to track down a Johnson Portrait.  But then, a few weeks ago, I had that surprise moment where someone didn't outbid me and I won the above Johnson Portrait.  So, over the next few weeks, we will see how I've gotten from 490 to 518 in rapid succession, assuming I can find the last five cards which meet my standards.  Of course, I went from 10 to 5 in the last two days, so the race is on. 

And to think, it was just the Big Train falling off the list, that have made it seem for the first time, that yes, I am going to finish the set.  The Big Train with the yellow background and oh so soft upper left hand quadrant of the card, which still makes it the better of my two Walter Johnsons, since there isn't a crease in the middle of this one which would allow you to fold the card in half with ease. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

#500 or Why I Hate Shortprints

I cracked the mythical 500 barrier this week.  To get to the basic T206 set, there are 518 cards, which excludes the Wagner, the Plank, the Magee, the Doyle (Slow Joe Doyle with N.Y. National), which are known as the Big Four.  This also includes the fairly rare O'Hara St. Louis and Demmitt St. Louis, which only come with the Polar Bear back.

Of course, even after you remove these cards from the equation, there are also cards which are only somewhat rare and of interest to set builders, unless you are a big Carl Lundgren or Bill Dahlen fan.  Or Kid Elberfeld.

Kid Elberfeld was a shortstop who spent most of his career with the New York Highlanders.  Elberfeld was a pugnacious player who earned the nickname Kid as a similar fashion to boxers of the day for his willingness to mix it up.  However, after the 1909 season with his career winding down, Elberfeld was traded to the Washington Senators. 

As part of the T206 set, Elberfeld already had a card, with a lithograph taken from the Carl Horner cabinet collection of baseball photographs.  (A cabinet is a photograph style from the 1870s to the 1910s, generally printed on a 4X6 piece of cardboard, identifiying the photographer.)  Traded, Elberfeld's portrait was changed, taking the NY off the portrait and replacing it with a W.  As it was towards the end of the print run, there is a very limited amount of the cards made, making it quite the short print. In fact, it is the least common card needed to complete the T206 set to 518 cards. 

Of course, for a player of Elberfeld's stature, they made another card for him, with him fielding.  This more common T206 Elberfeld served as the image for 2010 Topps T206 Elberfeld, instead of the rare portrait card, which keeps his name alive amongst baseball card collectors. Additionally, cabinet photos would be very jarring in a modern set, as you imagine your favorite ballplayer, slicked down hair, facing right with a solid color background.  Not evocative of the action we've come to expect on a modern card.

Knowing this, I had wisely worked to obtain the short prints whenever possible, snapping them on message boards and eBay alike whenever the opportunity presented itself.  Doing so, I was always falling short on one card, Kid Elberfeld Portrait Washington.  In fact, last week, I was oh so close to picking one up in auction on eBay, but my very strong bid was overtaken at the zero hour.

With 499 cards in my set, I went back to a copy of the card I made an offer on the week before.  Making an offer which was higher than I anticipated paying for the card when I started this set a few years ago, I waited.  And waited.  And sent a payment, with the below card finally arriving this weekend.  Which while great, is only interesting because it is a necessary card to complete a set, making it one of the earlier shortprints I can think of. 

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Realistically, I hate short prints.  Especially artificial short prints.  The rarity of the card doesn't increase the enjoyment of ownership in my book.  Equal distribution of cards just makes more sense.  I hate paying that premium because there are fewer of them and it penalizes us set collectors, who are completionists at heart and need to have them all.  But with cards printed 100 years ago, this was not some act of malice, but an attempt to keep an older set current as life marched on, so I can at least appreciate that aspect of what was done. 

Of course, it also allows me to prepare to sprint to the finish, since there are only reachable roadblocks left on my path to completion. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Folding 100 Year Old Cards (T201)

Tobacco cards from the 1910s weren't limited to just the smaller sized cards found in a pack of cigarettes as a pack stiffener.  Some cards were far larger and even had room for two players.  One of the most novel designs of the era and probably all time was the T201 cards, presumably put into packs or cartons of Mecca cigarettes.  The cards are quite large, 2 3/16" by 4 3/4", featuring a player on the front and another player,along with statistics on the back.  Below is a scan of a Joe McGinnity/Lewis McCarty when they played for the Newark Indians. 

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As you can see, the card is far less square than a modern card, with a long picture of the Iron Man on the front.  However, the back of the card makes no sense at first.

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Poor Lewis McCarty has no legs and is facing the wrong direction, with his torso up in the air.  Below him are statistics printed in the correct fashion, though here we learn Lewis McCarty didn't even play for the Newark Indians in 1910, but instead played semi-pro baseball.  For quite some time, I owned just the one T201, locked away in a PSA protective holder.  However, about a month ago, I had an opportunity to purchase a Hooks Wiltse/Fred Merkle New York Giants card.  Given the very reasonable price, I jumped at the chance and it arrived safe and sound with no trouble.  Below is a picture of Hooks Wiltse in all his glory.

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So, before the question was why was Lewis McCarthy's torso up in the air like that...and possibly, why is there a notch and a crease in the card.  Well, T201s are designed to be folded.  Folded over, so that Lewis McCarty's or Fred Merkle's torsos would match up with Joe McGinnity's or Hooks Wiltse's legs respectively, while hiding away their torsos and heads.  Given the cards are 100 years old, I'm quite impressed the cards were designed to showcase two players and showcase one set of legs.  And being the curious sort, I needed to see it in person.  Now, as a completely untrained amateur, I am especially not qualified to safely fold 100 year old cards without further damaging the card, but I didn't let that stop me.  Let's see the results!!!

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Look, Merkle can use Wiltse's legs just as good as Hooks was using them just a moment before.  And I didn't make the card any worse than it already was in doing so.  Most importantly, it was kind of exciting to take something so old and use it in its intended fashion, even though it could potentially damage or destroy the card.  The good news is this, I will never need to fold a 100 year old baseball card again.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gone Missing

No pictures today, since I am both on the road and well, reasons which shall soon become quite obvious.

So, about two months ago, I made a rare dip into the memorabilia market.  Generally, I like to stick to cards, since they are mostly easy to store (not you Turkey Red) and are consistent with what I collect.  However, every so often, I see something that screams, why do you not own this.  Once it was a picture of the 1913 Athletics labeled as the 1910 Athletics at an antique store.  This time it was a lineup card. 

In each dugout, there is a lineup card hung from the wall, with the lineups and available substitutes for the game.  For each game, there should be no more than two and I suspect throughout history most were discarded after the game.  However, some intrepid worker at Wrigley Field managed to save a number of these cards from the 1980s.  Amongst the Dodgers and Braves cards, there was a Houston Astros lineup card, unidentified by date other than 1986 as the year.  As you know, the 1986 Astros were by far the best Astros team of the first 30 years of the franchise.  They are also one of my favorite teams.  So, for the price of a blaster, I was able to add the lineup card for the September 1, 1986 game to my collection.  A one of a kind item, which I would never be able to replicate or replace. 

So, fast forward a month and I realize...wait a minute, the card has not arrived, so I reach out.  The seller says it was in the mail and with the Superstorm, I thought perhaps it was delayed.  So, I wait another couple of weeks until I say, wait a minute, where is my Astros lineup card?  Did I get it and not realize it?  Did I misplace it?  So, I look through my oversized items and see, it has not arrived.

I reach out to the seller again and ask for tracking information, which he said he would have.  So, instead of tracking information, which I expected to show one of my neighbors stole the card, I receive a very long message that the card was misplaced and would be on its way the next day.  I was actually overjoyed, because really, I thought it was lost for forever. 

So, why no picture of the card in the post, well, it seems to still be missing in transit...again.  It's been about a week with no card, which scares me again.  I mean, if you are going to lose something I bought online, lose something replaceable, which is everything else!  I mean, there are more expensive items that I own and if they were lost, I would be saddened, but realistically there is another Nap Lajoie with my name on it.  But this lineup card is special in the way few other items could be and I just want it to show up and end this saga.  Instead, we are looking at a mass of words, no image, wondering, where oh where has my lineup card gone, where oh where could it be. 

As a postscript, I fully expect to find out the card arrived tomorrow safe and sound with no damage and be cherished and prized for the rest of my days. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bad Bill Dahlen and the Pre-Integration Hall of Fame Ballot


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Bad Bill Dahlen just missed election to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee by two votes, while umpire Hank O'Day, owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th century catcher Deacon White all got the call.  This actually leaves Dahlen at the top of the pre-1947 backlog for the Hall of Fame and a likely inductee in 2015 if this committee meets again.

Dahlen was a shortstop in the 1890s and 1900s, known for his slick fielding (holding the NL Assist record for a shortstop in a season into the 1980s) and power for the day.  Through the lens of history, he is always compared to George Davis, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998.  Davis primarily played for the Giants and White Sox and was the best player on the Hitless Wonders who won the World Series in 1906.  When John McGraw was unable to secure the services of Davis for his team as part of the settlement of the war between the American League and National League, he acquired Bill Dahlen instead.

Starting with the Chicago Colts (then known as the Cubs), he made his way to the Superbas (now the Dodgers), Giants, then the Boston Doves (now the Atlanta Braves) where he is depicted at the top, before finishing his career as the all time games leader for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1911. Dahlen would be a worthy Hall of Fame induction in my eyes and considering where I am at with my collection, I am now officially no longer afraid of it. 

When I started collecting T206s, Bill Dahlen was one of the few cards I was legitimately worried about when trying to put together a set.  Due to trades and other player movement, a number of players have two T206 cards for different teams or multiple teams if the mood struck the printers. Most of these players are minor in the history of baseball: Kid Elberfeld, Carl Lundgren, George Browne, Bill O'Hara, Ray Demmitt, Frank Smith, Red Kleinow.  All of these players have short printed cards with one team or another, which matters only for set collectors, since the average card collector is not thinking, "Boy, I need that Kid Elberfeld portrait to have a W instead of a New York across the jersey and Washington instead of New York Amer. to make it matter to me."  However, as a set collector, that is the exact mentality, since it is the same image just with a touch up to the uniform, save for Lundgren, where they also recolored the background to move him from mid-day to dusk.

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The problem remained the last short print was Bill Dahlen in a Brooklyn uniform.  As you can see, there is just a small change, with the B now blue instead of red and Brooklyn replacing Boston on the card.  While not the rarest of the short prints, it is still in fact a short print.  Theoretically, this shouldn't matter too much, as the market would remain only set collectors...unless Bill Dahlen was elected to the Hall of Fame.  Elected to the Hall of Fame, interest in the card would spike, making one of the 518 cards I needed a short print Hall of Famer, which does horrible things to prices.  I could see the card going two or three times what it was currently worth, adding a prohibitively expensive card to my set.

Knowing this about a week into my collecting, I made the card a priority for acquisition, as his impending election could be just over two years away.  The downside of shortprints is they are not always available.  So, you have to keep scanning and then, once you find one, you have to bid the other desperate set collectors into oblivion, so you can take the card home.

The copy you see above was purchased in August 2011.  A gentleman who does not collect T206s found the card in an antique store in Washington.  After posting it, he was willing to accept offers of ten possible cards, mostly 60s and 70s pieces related to the Pirates or big national league stars of the day.  Of course, our old friend cash was also a possibility.  I made a strong offer and he indicated a preference to trade.  So, I waited and believe it or not, was searching to see if I could find any of these items.  I came close to buying a Bob Clemente card as bait, but I was quite concerned about being stuck with Clemente, who is not a player I have any affection for or interest in.  Fortunately, he made a call for last offers and the card was mine.

The card is actually the most I've paid for a non-Ty Cobb T-206, but it was one of the last Dodgers I needed and more correctly, I was desperately afraid of tomorrow being worse for the card.  The card itself is quite nice with the only flaw being a stray pencil mark, which led to the card being a fair instead of a good or even good plus under today's wacky grading systems.  It also has the desirable Sovereign back and a similar card I thought not as nice did sell for a fair bit more than my initial purchase price.  Of course, once he gets elected, things will get worse.

And to close the door on the Dahlen that started it all, the card at the way top is one of my favorite cards.  I call it Exorcist Bill Dahlen for the ink mark running perfectly down his face.  It's story is that I was the underbidder the first time, because it had a rare Hindu backed Southern Leaguer Harry Bay with it and I couldn't stand the heat on the auction to get the Dahlen alone, thinking I would need to flip the Bay.  Of course, the other bidder was after the Bay and flipped the Dahlen about a month later to my great surprise and joy.  Most importantly, it allowed me to meet Marc, who has probably sold me more T206s than anyone over the years and was vital in getting me so close to completing my set in under three years. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wahoo Sunset

I should be less lazy and get up and scan my new T206 Walter Johnson or (my old T206 Walter Johnson held together mostly by the protective case placed on the card by SGC), but I'll try to do that this weekend.  This will provide some new cards to post about while traveling for work next week.  Depending on my ability to find one more card this weekend, I should also be able to post my 500th different T206 some time next week as well and looking at today's purchases and the remainder of the list, there is a fairly decent chance it will be a Hall of Famer you've heard of. 


Instead, let's discuss sunsets.  I was drawn to the T206s in part by the large number of different cards picturing pastoral scenes set against a setting sun.  Before the advent of artificial lights in stadiums, games started at 3 PM and would be played to completion or sunset, whichever came first.  Few cards depict this reality, though I would say the use of pastel purples and reds likely is more artistic license than I would like to admit. 

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Above is a Sam Crawford (Throwing) set against a setting sun.  The card itself, suffers from only two flaws, some damage in the upper left hand corner and the addition of a position (C.F.) to the card, indicating his time as a center fielder.  I am sucker for period writing and this appears to have it in the corner.

But back to the sunsets.  Most people prefer the portraits, with the slicked hair and styles of 100 years ago.  However, I love these pastoral images, harkening back to the roots of the game.  It lends a romanticism that reminds you why baseball was America's pastime for so many decades.  And the colors are always so vivid, bringing these long dead men, many of which were the stars of their day, back to life with reminders of simpler times and ways. 

Of course, if it was still 1910, we wouldn't be talking about this card on a blog or discussing whether baseball cards can have artistic merits on their own, but here we are, looking at cards of years gone by, discussing the sunset, wondering why can't it all be so simple.  Instead, you can watch my accelerated march toward finishing my T206 base set. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Preparing for a Superstorm

So, with then Hurricane Sandy bearing down on me and only one last day to prepare, I asked myself, what is the best way to prepare for the storm.  While some would say lay in supplies and others would avoid traveling, I got in my car and drove to the next state to go to a card show at the mall.

Feeling well prepared for the storm, which unless I could get a generator for an apartment, I was not, I headed off in search of cards.  Two and a half years before, I started my return to purchasing sports cards in a mall, a different mall closer to home, but at a show run by the same people.  It was there, I purchased my first T206 from a selection of 200 or so cards.  Going to this mall in Pennsylvania, I found the same dealer, who conveniently or perhaps not conveniently, does not sell on the internet.  Looking over his wares, I found few cards I needed for my set and those I needed were well outside the price I was willing to pay.  I did however, find a rare card I was willing to upgrade.

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This particular Lefty Leifeld is a favorite of mine.  The yellow, purple and blue create a strange background, not quite a sunset, but not quite any other time of day.  This particular example has better and stronger color and aside from the faint crease four buttons up, is quite the nice card.  If I were to rank the T206s from 1 to 524 based on appearance alone, I would rank Leifeld Hands Behind Head in the top ten without question.

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From there, I went about the rest of the show, looking for other cards of interest as the storm winds began to settle in.  I found a table with an older gentleman, obviously an original New York Giants fan given his age, Giants cap and strong interest in discussing the team.  I quickly found a set of 1987 M&M cards from which I needed the Mike Scott for my collection.  Given that the whole set was cheaper than purchasing a single card, I felt this was a fine deal and added 1988 Topps Traded set for $2 as well.  Looking through his boxes, I found the above card for a quarter and while not a Joe Morgan fan, I do appreciate food items with Houston Astros wearing the orange and picked that up as well.  

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While most of the other tables were bust, such as fifty cent commons for 2012 Topps Update and  some low interest boxes, I added one last card to my purchases for the day.  When I saw the Sergei Zubov for slightly more than I paid for a set of 1988 Topps Traded, I knew that needed to come home with me as well.  Anytime I can find a decent relic of an offensive minded defensemen who played before 2000, especially a Penguin, I grab that immediately.  (As always, disregard the price on the sleeve, which is far more than I would have purchased this card for.)

With my purchases in tow, I drove back across state lines, into the traffic jam surrounding a Rutgers game and finally home, where I awaited the storm to come. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Scaling the Sheer Cliff Face (1973 Topps)

There are two ways to build a vintage set (not including buying the whole set at once, but where is the fun there), buying cards from various levels and difficulties, creating a gentle incline towards the end, where your problems are just finding the remaining cards you need and buying all the easy cards first, then trying to finish the set with all of the missing stars and short prints, a lot like walking through a valley, only to find a nearly sheer cliff-face reaching into the heavens in front of you.

For my T206 set, I've always managed to be judicious and left myself with a reasonable incline to finish, needing 23 cards, which only includes one short print and two inner circle hall of famers, making the sprint to the finish doable.  For my 1973 Topps set, I walked deep into the forest and then realized...wait, almost all of the last 75 cards I need are either Hall of Famers or High Numbers.  And there I was, at a bi-annual show last week, staring at the cliff face.

Finding one T206 card at the show, (a Christy Mathewson White Cap, only three times the price for a worse condition card than the one I own) and doing little more than feigning interest in a E92 George Stone, who while the 1906 American League batting champion playing for the St. Louis Browns, really didn't catch my eye, as caramel cards have drawings with softer lines and colors, lessening their appeal.

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With those options foreclosed, I spent the better part of two hours picking through boxes to find 1973 Topps cards I needed for my set.  Unlike the day before, where I purchased four 1973 Topps cards while antiquing, all duplicates, I managed to only purchase one duplicate due to a failure to update my list after Superstorm Sandy.

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So, I sifted and I sorted and I discussed and even found a Babe Ruth and a Hank Aaron at a price I thought was fair (and significantly lower than listed on the picture above).  I even picked up a Roberto Clemente and Bob Gibson, while making a significant dent in my high numbers.  When the day was done, I added about 40 cards, mostly stars, high numbers and Mike Lum, who never came my way.  I also only needed two cards to finish the first half of the set, Card 1, which contains Ruth, Aaron and Mays and 329 Ed Kranepool.  I was shocked that no dealer had an Ed Kranepool available for purchase, given that his fame is localized and his skills vastly overrated.  Nonetheless, I made progress on the tertiary set, behind my nearing completion T206 set and just started Diamond Stars set, where I am interested in scaling the mountain early and coasting to a finish line covered in commons. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Ain't Afriad of No Ghosts (Part 2)

As if adding a double Orval Overall was not enough to slake my need for wet sheet transfers, I also picked up the below card:

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Note that in the above card there are a tremendous range of colors in the card, including a sunset, a grandstand, grass and they even left some space for a player.  And if you look real close in the upper left hand corner of the card, you can see a transfer of a T206 back on the card, with the Piedmont reverse in the yellow section to the left of old Rube's head.  As to Rube himself, he was a pitcher for the Cubs, like Orval, though far less successful throughout his career.  In fact, aside from 1909 where Rube went 9-4 with a 1.65 ERA, he almost never pitched in the major leagues, though his one, hot season did lead to his inclusion in the T206 and T205 set, which is far smaller and contains only a small subset of Mid-Atlantic minor leaguers.

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Here is the real reason I purchased the card.  Look at the variety of strong colors clinging to the reverse of the card.  After speaking to some people far more knowledgeable than I am, we all concurred that Rube inhabits both the front and back of this card.  It is unlikely there is another Rube Kroh so brightly emblazoned on both sides with color. 

This concludes our adventure into T206 ghosts, since they are rarely seen nowadays as a number of collectors have pillaged and reviewed stack after stack of T206s trying to find something different about the reverse of the card for their collections.  Fortunately for me, they missed 25 cards in an antique store in Cape May, allowing me to enjoy a small corner of that universe. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I Ain't Afraid of No Ghosts (Part 1)

For Thanksgiving, I went down to Cape May with my wife.  One of the great joys of Cape May is the many antique stores in the area.  Having went only the month before, I was fairly certain there were some cards in the area that I was interested in adding to my collection.  More specifically, there were a couple of T206s which I already owned an example or three of and wanted to add another to my set.

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From the front, the Overall above is not very different.  The orange is strong on the card, which is always good, but the front of the card is not as nice as the Overall Portrait which I purchased at the East Coast National in August.  Given that, there is no real reason for me to buy this card, since "own a better version."

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As you can see, it is the reverse which led me to purchase this card.  Coloring the upper parts of the Piedmont back is orange ink.  Orange ink which is similar in shape to the front of the card.  This is what is known as a "Wet Sheet Transfer" or ghost image  T206 cards are lithographs, which were inked onto the card.  Should you overink the card, when the next sheet of cards was laid upon the cards, some of the ink would transfer from the wet sheet to the other side of the card.  In some instances, you will see an overinked reverse stained onto the front of the card. 

So, with this I added my first ghost image to my collection, though given the title and my first hand knowledge of what I purchased, the story does not end here, but that is more of a tomorrow post. 

Freakshows From the Local Card Show

So, I went to a card show they run twice a year at a local Catholic school.  Both times I've attended the show, I ended up with some great cards.  Last time, I ended up with three VG T206 cards at a very good price.  This time, I didn't find anything quite that impressive, as there was a grand total of one T206 at the show (an overpriced white cap Christy Mathewson, not nearly as nice as the one I own.), but I make some other interesting additions to my collection. 

Let's start with a few of the freakshow cards I purchased.

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Walter Mails is not a player I was familiar with when I purchased the above card, but I was familiar with Emil Yde and some of the other names some intrepid youngster wrote on the card about 90 years ago.  Duster, as Mails was better known as, was part of two World Series winning teams, the 1920 Cleveland Indians and the 1926 St. Louis Cardinals.  He likely appeared on a E120 American Caramel card for going 7-0 in 1920 and 14-8 in 1921, which comprised the only two good years of his career.  The one inning he threw for the 1926 Cardinals did not push them towards the pennant, but still makes him a footnote for a famous team. 

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I also picked up this card.  The dealer and I could agree om three facts:

1. The card was headless.
2. A fair price.
3. The card was from the 1880s.

Looking at the card, I thought it was a Scrapps tobacco card.  However, further investigation yielded some information that the card belong to an 1880s tobacco die-cut set which is different from the Scrapps tobacco issue, which are all giant cut-out heads of famous players.  These cards lacked famous faces, but just represented specific locales, like New York.  Other than the age and lack of head, the card is otherwise unremarkable, but will serve as the oldest baseball card I own for quite some time.

Don't worry fair readers, I scanned a bunch of other cards from my trip to Cape May and my adventures at the card show, which should fill quite a few inches of white space in the upcoming days. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Most Expensive Card I Own

For the first time in about 9 months, I went an entire week without purchasing any sports cards or even something sportscard related.  I broke the streak today with a 1986 Topps Mike Scott tattoo for $1.27 shipped, which I thought was a fantastic deal. 

That being said, I generally go through phases.  Phases where I expand my collecting horizons and buy different cards, usually at card shows to improve the old collection.  Then I go through a slow down period where I only buy very few cards, usually just T206s, but the occasional Orval Overall that I expect to never see again.  Actually, I set up an eBay alert so I can see what new Overalls hit the site every morning.  More than a few purchases were due to persistent searching of this type. 

So, few cards have come in and aside from the card above and a missing lineup card, I don't have anything en route to my home.  I do need to scan and upload some new cards onto Photobucket, since there are a few piles uncatalogued, not including cards bought before August of this year.  So, going through the archives, I saw that I have scanned the most expensive card that I own.

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There are four Ty Cobbs in the T206 set, making him the second most prevalent player in the set after Hal Chase, who has five different cards.  Cobb, being a star of the day and still a popular player, commands a premium compared to most of the cards in the set.  Going into it, I knew that these cards would likely be the most expensive to acquire and to date, the three most expensive T206s were Ty Cobb (Green Portrait), Ty Cobb (Bat On) and Ty Cobb (Red Portrait), though Walter Johnson's portrait is threatening to move into second place if I show no willingness to wait. 

The green portrait, as seen above is the rarest of the cards.  In fact, aside from the very rare Honus Wagner and Eddie Plank cards, the Ty Cobb Green Portrait is the second hardest hall of famer to acquire after Johnny Evans (Cubs on shirt), which has not nearly as great of a story attached to it. 

So, last August, I was making my regular search of T206s in the morning, seeing what new cards were posted the night before.  While doing so, I see a few groups of very low priced T206s, some in rough condition, some in very rough condition and some looking like poor Fred Tenney below. 

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Given the prices, I was a little concerned about whether they were legitimate, but that didn't stop me from ordering a group of seven cards with Joe Tinker, a group of six cards and a Willie Keeler batting, all at outstanding prices.  Looking at what sold the previous night while I foolishly slept, there was a Ty Cobb (Green Portrait) included as well, at an exceptional price.

So, I waited for the cards to arrive and did within three days, as the cards never left the state in transit.  Upon arrival, I carefully removed them from their packaging and was met by some flaking on some of the worst cards like the Tenney above, but they were otherwise legitimate and sound cards. 

Fate smiled a week later when I saw the Ty Cobb for sale on Net54.  The card itself measures short, not through some nefarious trimming to improve condition, but quality control on tobacco premiums was not a job held by the most skilled member of the American workforce.  As such, you find some cards measure short and some are trimmed and some are errors.  The seller disclosed this and I waited, as the price was well more than I wanted to pay for the card.

However, having seen the others, I was interested.  Very interested, even though I was not interested in purchasing a raw Ty Cobb, since the odds of counterfeit were higher.  But the reputation of the previous owner was impeccable and I had other cards from the initial purchase in hand.  After a few hours, the price came down, as the seller intended solely to flip the card for a substantial profit.

Knowing this, I bided my time and set a target.  A few days passed and finally the card came within range for me to make an offer.  A small amount of haggling and I convinced myself, what a fine deal for the card, even if it only grades Authentic.  More importantly, almost all of the damage on the card is on the back.  It has tremendous eye appeal and since Cobb is one of my favorite players in the set, it was an important factor in making my move.  It also helped that yearly bonuses are given in September, never forget that additional money often funds card purchases. 

And my experience with the card since then was nothing but fantastic.  Trae over at T206.org included a set of his T206 back reprints with the Cobb, which was an awfully nice gesture and when I took the card for grading, expecting only an Authentic, I was surprised to see the card was graded SGC20 or Fair, which if you saw the back is a more than fair grade. In fact, here is old Ty locked away from prying hands covered in dangerous oils.

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I think it is cards and experiences like this which lead me to keep collecting and have me focused on the finish line, only 34 cards from completion. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Not Really Truman Capote's Father



I have been quite deficient in keeping this blog updated.  I look over at the stack of cards requiring scanning, some storm-related, some pre-storm, and think, "Maybe I should scan some cards in.  I've bought some interesting items recently and they released Leaf Wrestling Originals.  Who doesn't like Goudey-sized cards containing mediocre artwork of wrestlers you aren't familiar with."  I then realize that is most people and more importantly, I realize I have to hook the scanner back up and quit while behind.  Of course, when I do scan cards, I tend to scan in many at a time, since the backlog tends to be quite large when I get there.  So, today I went through the photo archives and found this beauty.  

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To put your minds to rest, Truman Capote's father was also named Arch Persons.  I say also, because while not much is known about Arch Persons outfielder, we are all pretty comfortable in the knowledge he wasn't 11 when playing for Montgomery in 1908.  And if he was, his career would be both more remarkable due to his precocious age and less remarkable for squandering his talent and not making the big leagues if he could play minor league ball when 11.  Also, look at that image, that is not the face of an 11 year old. 

In terms of what we do know about Arch, he played four seasons in the minors where records can be obtained, likely playing both before 1908, during 1910 and possibly after 1912, since I'm not sure where you go after washing out of the Western Canada League.  He did spend some time in Montgomery, which gave him greater fame as part of an iconic baseball card set, time in Little Rock, moving down to San Antonio and Oklahoma City in 1911 and finally, 100 years ago, he spent the year in Bassano, Alberta, Canada, just over the border.

As to his card, the Persons card is considered by some to be the most difficult of the 48 Southern Leaguers to acquire.  As such, I paid more for the above card than I did for any of the other 43 Southern Leaguers in my collection, as I only have a meager four more to obtain.  Considering I needed nearly 20 of these elusive cards as recently as July, I would mark that as progress. 

Realistically, I was left with two main paths towards completion, pushing through the few remaining Hall of Famers or the large lot of Southern Leaguers.  Surprisingly, I've been unable to pull the trigger on a Cy Young (Glove Showing) or a Johnson (Portrait), but continually have found acceptably priced Southern Leaguers to fill in the gaps.  Well, with 39 to go, it is getting slower going in just finding cards I don't own, but I do have my eye on Southern Leaguer 45 tonight. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Taft

There is no such thing as a bad time to show a Taft card, but Election Day, especially Presidential Election Day is the best time of all.  I would post more about this, but today is a magical day as the map turns blue and red, one state at a time and my attention is needed watching 5 to 7 channels at the same time. 

Taft Topps

For the record, the Taft is a Topps card from the 1970s which I purchased at the East Coast National in August.  It is not quite a Cracker Jack Taft or even the oldest Taft I own, but we will get to that another day, now that I have access to electricity, scanners and internet in my own apartment. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Tinker's Chance

The silence around these parts was certainly not golden.  Today is the first time since Monday I've had both power and internet on something more substantial than a mobile phone charged from my car.  So, being directly in the path of Superstorm Sandy's path, I've sadly spent more time looking for gas, electricity and heat than sportscards.  Of course, while awaiting the direct hit which stole away my basic essentials and left me dark, I did the only thing a rational person would do.  Purchase sportscards.

I would show you pictures, but as the storm was racing up the coast, I found a great deal on Tinker (Bat on Shoulder) about four hours before I lost power.  Of course, as the card was in another part of the state, Tinker is still sitting, waiting to be mailed to my address.  But given my lack of power, I can wait a few days to put old Joe Tinker in the box.  I bought some other cards as well, but will wait to have power, internet, the cards in hand and access to a scanner to post those cards for all to see. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

1989 Topps Senior Baseball League Factory Set

In my youth, I was likely the only person who watched the spectacle of Senior League Baseball on SportsChannel. Of course, I was also likely the only person who would sit there and watch the thirty minute show of box scores, which was akin to reading the box scores in the slowest way humanly possible. I reckon this says a great deal more about me than it does SportsChannel, but I digress.

Given my love of watching elderly athletes in bright colored polyester, I always wanted to obtain a set of Senior League cards. Of course, my local cards stores never carried this fine set and I never could pull the trigger on overpaying for the set from an advertisement in the back of Beckett. However, last week, I found one at a very reasonable price and had it sent on its way to my home.

The set itself was made by Topps Ireland, who also made the Topps mini set back in 1988 as well. The cards are on a slightly thinner stock than those found in a regular set. The thinner stock is somewhat disconcerting, as the cards almost feel flimsy. Even stranger, if you were putting together a set with 132 cards in a box, would you place them randomly or instead, might you place them in numerical order. Topps believes you would prefer to sort the entire set to see if something is missing, rather than see the first card be 1 and the last card 132. Since I enjoy sorting cards, this was a major plus, however, any rational person would choose a pre-sorted set.



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The cards have some interesting images.  Al Hrabosky, for example, traded his fu manchu for a tough guy beard which would offend Walt Frazier and Keith Hernandez with its greyness.  I also want to like the wooden border, but it was done far better on 1987 Topps but two years earlier.

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For a set mostly containing has beens, there are four hall of famers in the set, two managers and two players. The uniforms are appropriately garish for a league based in Florida, filled with over-the-hill players.  My favorite is the Earl Weaver card which screams, what am I doing here and who put my shoes on.

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Finally, there is this fine Walt Williams card.  I will tell you that I know nothing about Walt Williams, other than he is a St. Lucie Legend and a very angry man.  Actually, Williams was one of the older players in the league at 45 and was known as No-Neck throughout this career for obvious reasons.  I also suspect his anger stems from being the third athlete in a major sport named Walt Williams on Wikipedia and second baseball player, behind Pop Williams, whose name was also Walter.

In closing, these are some fascinating cards from a time when people thought baseball was a popular enough sport to get fans to attend games with men of advanced age and diminished skill sets playing the game.  Even a generation ago, the interest was minimal outside my own and quite honestly, aside from the garish uniforms, the admission from Rollie Fingers that he was destitute and needed to play ball again and this card set, few will have any reason to discuss the merits of the Pelicans or Legends again. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Overall, It Was a Good Mail Day

Last week, I was able to finally close on the card at the absolute top of my want list.  I was rejected many times on eBay with reasonable offers on this card and in fact, I was even rejected once on this card, since someone else was interested in it first.  However, last Friday night this card went up for sale and within ten minutes and one scan, it was on its way to my home, arriving in today's mail.

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The card is a T3 Turkey Red Orval Overall.  Turkey Red was a tobacco company around 100 years ago and offered the card as a premium.  If you sent in enough coupons, you were able to select one of the cards on offer at the time.  And by card, I mean, premium-sized cabinet card, which is 5 3/4" by 8".  If you want to learn more about the set and see all of the cards, which include 100 baseball and 25 boxing cards, I highly recommend Craig's Turkey Red site, who conveniently enough sold me this card.

The design is one of the many Topps used in the past.  In a number of years, Topps used this design on a standard sized baseball card.  However, unless the pictures were painted by Dick Perez, the cards fail to resonate with me in the same way as the original T3s.  Also, the smaller card doesn't show the same detail in the card's image, though they are admittedly easier to store than the oversized cabinet. 

The card would sadly only grade a poor as there is a small pinhole near the top where the card would've been mounted on a wall 100 years ago.  Fortunately, the hole is in the border and the coloring and image on the picture suffer from minimal defects.  Perhaps it is all the times I was unable to close the deal on one of these cards, but I am quite pleased to call this T3 Orval Overall mine.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2012 Topps Heritage High Numbers: A Modern Topps Traded

With the blogosphere abuzz with opinions, mostly negative and strongly critical, about the 2012 Topps Heritage High Numbers set, I thought I would wade in and add my opinion now that a checklist for the set is available.  Also, I'm waiting for something in the mail and lacked the steely will to go through my photobucket or make new scans, so soap box posting time it is.

The Basics

Topps is releasing a 100 card add-on set to this year's Heritage set and including one autograph.  The set is a direct deliver from Topps alone, similar to Topps Mini from earlier this year. 

To a collector like myself, I've never found Topps Heritage that interesting.  Mid-1960s designs do little for me and I've always had a hard time accepting that I would pay more money to a company for cards which feel like they are made on a worse stock.  Admittedly, I am not the primary collector Topps is going after, but if the set was priced reasonably, say $20 and not very limited, I might consider purchasing a set, solely to make up for never being able to purchase a Topps Traded set as a child. 

What Are They Trying to Recreate

Topps seems to be trying to recreate two ideas from their past with this release: Scarce High Numbers and a Year-End Traded set contained in a single box.

Going backwards, in the 1980s, Topps released a traded set on a year basis.  The sets seemed to only be available in hobby stores and came in brightly colored boxes.  As there was only one Topps product each year at the time, the updated cards reflected trades and new rookies not previously eligible for a Topps card, using the same design as the flagship set.  As a child, I was quite excited about these sets, but was never able to find one at a reasonable price, such as under $40.  Of course, I lived in a fairly awful place for card shops in my youth and was unaware of shows, so your experience might vary.  Aside from the 1982 set for the Topps Traded Cal Ripken, these sets today are pretty much worthless and I passed on an opportunity about a year ago to pick up all of the sets from 1983 on for about $20 total, which is about the price you would pay for one in a brick and mortar shop. 

And by limiting themselves to 1,000 sets, Topps is artificially creating the scarcity of high numbers for their pre-1974 sets.  As you likely know, Topps used to release their cards by set, as they do now.  Only back in the day, there was no strongly organized hobby store industry and cards were available in grocery and newspaper stores.  As the year went on, some people naturally lost interest in the cards and with each passing set, it seems less cards were sold and therefore less cards were printed. 

In many cases, trying to complete a Topps set in this era can be challenging, due to the "enhanced" prices which dealers charge for these cards, as they are believed to be "scarce".  I suspect, few cards are actually legitimately scarce and instead the demand for rookie cards, more likely to be in a later release after their debut, really created the market for far greater prices on later releases.  By doing this, Topps has recreated the charm of making a set difficult to complete without making an investment with Topps. 

The Economics

What I find strange is that Topps has capped their revenue on the set at $100,000, given that 1,000 sets at $100 only brings in this much money.  And even here, they will likely take less as a decent number of their customers will have $10 coupons from the Golden Giveaway which could be used towards the set.  In fact, those very coupons probably eliminated any chance of the set being reasonably priced.  Still, I suspect that there are more than 5,000 people interested in the set at $25 sans autograph. which would likely create similar sales, with the thought being you don't need to limit production on the sets at a lower price point. 

What I find really surprising is how Topps is going about cutting out the hobby shops and online dealers.  For many, if not most of us, this is how we are able to obtain our yearly Topps cards.  By taking high-profile items, such as this and Topps Mini, they are preventing dealers from getting hot items.  This takes customers out of the store and direct margin profit from these stores.  If you asked me, I think Topps is starting to take steps towards vertical integration.  With vertical integration, Topps would basically stop selling to hobby shops and instead sell directly to the consumer.

If Topps feels that orders are generally soft from hobby shops and more are likely to go under, then this is an optimal strategy.  Without a strong hobby store base, which we all know is rapidly disappearing, then Topps loses their primary distribution network.  This new set is a way to see what a new sports card order would look like, with the companies themselves becoming both a creator and a seller on the terms of a Blowout Cards. 

We the consumer would be still be able to purchase our hobby boxes directly from Topps. Topps would be able to keep costs down in the short term by converting profit previously going to the hobby shop into savings.  If Topps sold us $60 boxes of 2013 Series 1, they would likely get a steep, short-term increase on profit margin.  Of course, without competition, we would likely see prices rise fairly dramatically a few years later as the company needs to keep adding profit at the expense of the consumer, but we would likely see that anyway, as I would expect there to be half as many hobby shops in ten years as there are today without any intervention.

Summary

In closure, I think this set is a short term attempt by Topps to gauge the market for direct delivery, as was Topps Mini.  From the fact that it is a week and they've been unable to move 1,000 units, I suspect this set will be a flop, especially in light of the Chris Getz autographs which could be your "hit" in a $100 product.  However, we as buyers, should get used to these types of products, as they are unlikely to go away in the long term, especially as our supply of hobby shops continues to shrink.