Friday, August 31, 2012

What Do I Collect?

A simple question with an oft changing answer.  The oft changing answer is the bigger part of the problem, as I have a tendency to acquire items which are often neat in the moment, but not in the long term.  Nonetheless, I've tried to summarize my collecting goals, if for no other reason than to give me some additional structure in my acquisitions.

T206 Cards


This is where it all started for me again, with one Orval Overall leading to a tobacco collection of 457 unique T206 cards.  My goal is to collect the set to 518 and given the progress I've made in the last two+ years, I think this is a fairly attainable goal.  Most of my purchases are of the lower grade variety, in the trimmed/poor to good range.  To push me toward finishing the set, I've tried to pick up not only the commons when I find them, but to seek out the more difficult cards on the journey up front, since you never know when you will find them again at an affordable price.  I've picked up a substantial majority of the hall of famers, including the four Ty Cobb cards and managed to get most of the shorter print cards to 518 with the exception of the Elberfeld Portrait Washington card, which always manages to elude my grasp.  Now, collecting to 518 means no Wagner, Plank, Magee, Slow Joe Doyle NY National, O'Hara St. Louis or Demmitt St. Louis, but I can live with that.  The cards I own still have a sense of history and are stunning pieces of art, even though they are stunning pieces of art used to stiffen cigarette packs and encouraged people to smoke more.

Nonetheless, I am always happy with my T206 cards and they really are the core of my collection.

Orval Overall

Overall M116

Who is Orval Overall?  Well, in terms of sports greatness, he was a very good second or third starter for the Chicago Cubs around the last time they were viable World Series contenders.  His claim to baseball fame is that he won the last game of the 1908 World Series for the Cubs. 

My interest stems from some research about 10 to 12 years ago, when I wrote some of the biographies for Stars of the Deadball Era, National League.  While his life after baseball is what most people would call pedestrian, such as being a banker, I still find I have a strong connection to him.  Given the timeframe and the cards available, it became a natural for me that I would collect his cards beyond the T206 set.  There are a decent number of caramel and other tobacco cards, silks, discs, pins and even west coast candy cards to collect.  His popularity is not so great that his cards are prohibitively expensive, like chasing Ty Cobb or Christy Mathewson cards from their playing days.  That being said, the variety is nice, while not having too many exotic cards which I would have a slim chance of owning, due to the small populations available.  

Mike Scott

Scott Ticket Promo

Growing up, my favorite player was Mike Scott.  There is something about a pitcher who comes out of nowhere, to dominate for a few seasons, which lures me in.  Especially once you put in the orange uniforms, split-finger fastball, false accusations of scuffing and complete and utter dominance of the 1986 Mets in the NLCS. 

Collecting Mike Scott cards gives me a great appreciation of how many oddball series were created in the 1980s.  I have heavy bronze cards, disc cards, bakery cards, fire prevention cards, coins and all sorts of other random cards which have crept into my boxes over time.  I am always on the lookout for a new Mike Scott card I've never seen before, so I can add it to the growing stack of orange and white cards containing an often bespectacled man. 

Other Collections

I also from time to time, pick up cards which fit into these categories.

Late 1980s and early 1990s Pittsburgh Penguins, such as Paul Coffey, Tom Barrasso, Ron Francis and other non-Lemieux and Jagr players as cards become available.  I'm especially a sucker for any relic cards for these players.

Non-Sports Tobacco cards.  I have a fairly decent sized collection of non-sports tobacco cards.  I especially enjoy cards containing pictures of flags and animals.  I managed to complete the entire T59 Flags of the World set, which makes is likely the only time I can mention Saxe-Coberg-Gotha and card collecting in the same sentence.  T29 Hassan Animal cards are my set in progress, as I have about 45 of the 80 cards in a binder directly behind the Flags of the World.  I also have my strays which I pick up at card shows and antique stores, which include Silk Flags, World War I picture cards and Franz Liszt. 

Deadball Era players on Post-1960 Cards.  Topps has done a great job in putting out cards containing Christy Mathewson and Ty Cobb over the last few years.  They even put out cards for less famous members of the Deadball Era, such as Kid Elberfeld, Willie Keeler, Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown and even George Davis (who is both a Hall of Famer and possesses quite possibly the coolest, most apocalyptic background found on a T206.).  I am such a sucker for these newer cards, that I almost always buy up these cards at shows when I see the guy who has the "new" Topps cards for sale.  Quite possibly, the card from this era at the top of my list is the 2011 Topps Ty Cobb driving a car card.  I'm sure you've seen the picture and somehow a Hall of Famer driving an open top car in 1910 or 1911 is begging to be in my modern collection. 

I probably also pick up cards of Astros in technicolor orange uniforms and I am working on a low grade 1973 Topps set which has fallen by the wayside, but left me with about 250 duplicates sitting in various boxes near the binders.

So, I think that covers what I collect, which is far broader than I hoped it was.  I'm sure more of these cards will be showing up on this blog soon.  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why I Hate My LCS: Hobby Versus Retail

I hate to admit this, but I hate all of the local card stores near me.  I am quite lucky there are three within driving distance of my home and one of which is in walking distance of my job.  Two of the card stores are own by the same operation, while a third is operated independently.  It used to be different, as the card store near my job used to have great cards, but limited product.  I purchased two of my T206s from the store, including a very nice (possibly VG) horizontal Barney Pelty with great color and just the slightest hint of a crease in the lower left hand corner.  I also bought a Wilbur Goode there as well for a decent price.  Of course, like all good things, it must end, as he ended up going out of business and selling to one of his competitors. 

Today, being a summer day and already in my car to run an errand near work, I chanced upon stopping at the local card store.  While I do hate them, I still frequent them, because shows aren't every weekend, nor open on weekdays and cards conveniently available is a big draw.  Now, if there is no parking right near by, I can keep on driving, but as usual, there was decent parking available on a Thursday afternoon.

I walked in and saw the same selection of merchandise, jerseys, cards from the 70s through 90s, expensive vintage packs, which unsurprisingly I've bought from during my nostalgic piques and moved over to the new packs, as I was already aware there would be no tobacco cards to be had in the store.  In fact, the one time I asked, I was told that he has other customers who always buy them from him.  As a proprietor in this day and age, I am quite pleased to see he does not need any additional business or people to purchase his wares, but nevertheless, let my desire for convenience beat my pride. 

So, I saw there were some 2012 Topps Archives packs available and noticed there were only three dollars a pack, which is cheaper than the five dollars a pack I saw the last time I was in the shop.  So, not wanting a whole box of highly overpriced cards, I purchase one pack and leave the store.

Now, as you may know, for Archives, Topps made the relic cards quite common in the retail packs and quite rare in the hobby boxes, with the inverse being true for autographs.  In fact, the one pack of Topps Archives I bought at retail this year contained a Yovani Gallardo relic card which sits somewhere amidst my card boxes.

For some reason, I decided to look at the back of the package and notice, lo and behold, my local card shop is selling Retail packs, as the odds of obtaining a relic card were 1 in 30.  I was very disappointed by this.  If I want to buy retail packs, I can go to Target, where people seem to genuinely want my business, rather than the LCS, whose primary draw is Hobby packs.  It's not even a matter of odds or results, it is the principle.  I think it is incumbent on the hobby store owner to indicate he is selling retail.  If I go to a card show, the guy who sells retail boxes and packs indicates quite clearly you are buying retail and not hobby, as he understands the expectations of his patrons. 

Not so, the less than jovial fellow who owns the LCS by me.  He believes we should all be experts and know the difference from 8 feet away over a counter and not feel like a sucker when he is taken like this.  In fact, it is things like this in my childhood that led me to stop collecting cards for a very long time. 

Despite this, I did enjoy the contents of the pack, as the top card was a Nolan Ryan in the very classic 1984 Topps design and my "insert" was a Carl Yastrzemski archives card, which was quite nice as well.  Of course, I still couldn't shake the feeling of how tainted it felt, because the proprietor failed to provide the necessary information about the cards.  Were I to feel even more strongly about the issue, I would call is a lie by omission. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

W575-1 Fred Toney

Every so often, a card arrives at my doorstep which reminds me of what I love most about card collecting, tying memories to a historical artifact.

In addition to writing the biography of Orval Overall, I was able to research and write about Fred Toney for Deadball Stars of the National League. Fred Toney was in many ways a far more interesting character, violating the Mann Act, pitching in the only double no-hitter in history, joining the New York Giants, but he never captured my attention the way Orval Overall did.

I did, however, want to find a card of Fred Toney to add to collection. My search was not always active, but something which existed in the back of my mind. About a week ago, I found the above card in a posting leading to eBay. I was quite excited and was preparing to make my bid on a one day auction when I noticed the auction ended.

Given the current climate, I assumed someone had swept in and made an off-site offer to obtain the card, leaving me to wait for another Fred Toney card to come across my path. However, upon returning to Net54, I found the card was not bid upon and was going to be listed for sale again.

I managed to find the card early Wednesday morning and sent a message to see if the card was available. Fortunately for me, the card was and nearly a year ago, the card arrived in my mailbox safe and sound, unlike this entry, which lingered, unwanted and unfinished in my drafts folder.

I want to thank Tony for selling me this card. It is the first Fred Toney card I own and potentially it is my last, because no other Fred Toney card will be able to take its place.

An Upgrade for An Upblog

Photobucket The first card I bought for my T206 Set was a T206 Orval Overall portrait, like the one found above, but not nearly as nice.

A few weeks ago, I was able to go to the East Coast National. I planned on trying to fill in some holes in my T206 set and was not very successful. I purchased four cards, one upgrade, one "oops" I already own it and two cards I actually needed for my set, pushing my set that much closer.

The upgraded card is the Orval Overall portrait seen above. I stopped by bbcards at his table in the back of the show and saw his stack upon stack of higher grade T206s. If there was one card in the case, there were 800 graded T206 cards in case.  I was sorely tempted by the very rare Bill O'Hara St. Louis variation, but could not bring myself to commit moving to collecting up to 520 T206 cards for my set instead of 518. (Nor could I stomach spending such a large amount of money on a single piece of cardboard, no matter how nice a Fair it was.)

I did, however, browse for a T206 Orval Overall portrait, as it is one of my favorite cards in the set and the only Deadball era player whose cards I collect beyond the T206 set. At first, he showed me a PSA 5 EX Orval Overall portrait, which I liked, but was not blown away by the color, which to me is the selling point of a higher grade card. I walked away and continued my tour of the show, which last about two hours.

I returned and looked at the PSA 3 VG T206s and found the above card.  Looking at the card, I was drawn in by the great color and strong registration. I also picked out a T206 Carl Lundgren KC in VG, but wasn't prepared to pay a strong premium for that particular card.  I was however, enamored with upgrading my Orval Overall and happily paid the price I was quoted.  Like all show purchases, was slightly higher than I would pay online, but you can easily talk yourself into buying something for a higher price with the card in hand. That tactile sensation makes it yours and once it is pay the man the money he wants.

With that being said, this is now one of the nicest grade tobacco cards in my collection and one of my favorite cards that I own.