My favorite common

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I have been contemplating writing a post on my favorite baseball card, thinking that it would lead to other people writing a post about their favorite baseball card, and so on.

The risk  of such an exercise is that every time someone runs a poll asking what the best baseball card is, the winner is the 1952 Mantle or the T206 Wagner or something. That’s well and good, but not what I am talking about. I not talking about the card you most want to own or most want to show off, I am talking about a card that reminds you of why you started collecting cards. So I thought I would restrict my criteria to “common” cards, or at least cards that you love for reasons other than their value. A card you can stare in order to teleport back to your childhood.

As it  happens, I have a lot of cards that meet this criteria. I will choose one, understanding that I might choose another next week.

Mike Andrews was the second baseman on my beloved childhood team, the late 1960s and early 1970s Red Sox. He was a very good player, a guy who got on base, had some power, and could field his position. He was not my favorite player, but he was one of them. There was a kid in my Connecticut neighborhood whose name was Mike Andrews, so this was *his* favorite player. Mine was Yaz, which was admittedly the safe choice.

This card though. My favorite cards then and now depict a player posing with a glove or bat under a bright blue sunny sky. Andrews is wearing the bright home uniform — because so many photos in this era were taken in New York, most players (other than Mets and Yankees) tended to be photographed in road grays.  (Happily, there were a handful of Red Sox cards that year taken at Fenway Park — George Scott, Joe Lahoud, Dick Schofield, a few others.  Those were always welcome.)

More than that, Andrews’ expression exudes confidence. As he was getting ready to embark on another season for my team, I needed to see this expression. It heartened me. He looked ready to take on all comers, even those overrated Orioles.

Just so I am not accused of being a Red Sox fanboy, another example I could have chosen is this beauty of Jerry Grote. I love posed catcher cards, and this again has the beautiful spring day thing going for it. And when I look at Campy, who always took beautiful cards, I am transported back to the summer I was six years old and fell in love with cards and the game.

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1969 Topps
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1967 Topps

Electronic Checklists

Jeff Katz’s post a couple of days ago stirred me to my first blog here because he touched on a problem I’m facing: Organization.

I’ve been collecting since 1958, have almost all the cards of the Topps era, (until 1994 anyway) and some earlier material. However, I had always kept them in a giant map case I’d bought at a former British naval base in Singapore. The depth of the drawers was perfect for a standard-sized card laid on its side. More problematic at this point, I had decided to keep them in alphabetical order, with all the Henry Aarons first and all the George Zuverinks last. Each players cards are kept in chronological order.

Now, I feel the need to reorganize them into sets and to insure I still have everything. Thus, I’ve been wondering about electronic checklists and thought I’d ask this group about their experiences and recommendations with the various products available. I’d like to know about

  1. ease of use
  2. whether it is cloud-based or can be downloaded to my hard drive
  3. whether the checklists are complete as to errors, variations and updates
  4. Whether they contain regional issues as well as Topps, Donruss, Bowman and other national issues
  5. Whether any contain checklists for minor league sets
  6. Are any flexible enough for me to draw out sub-lists, such as all Henry Aarons, or all NY Mets cards
  7. Do they offer the ability to record condition as well as whether I have a card.
  8. Do they contain pricing info, and is it regularly updated?
  9. Any other features or problems you are aware of.

Thanks in advance,

Andy McCue

So you want to be a full-time sports card dealer?

The net 54 message board has been my go-to site for story ideas for years. In the past 15 years or so, many leading hobbyists have posted and often they have the best thoughts about this card collecting hobby.

This is an adaptation of one of the threads and discusses what you do when you are working full-time in the card-collecting business. At this point, we should stipulate there are more ways of being full-time in this business than as a card dealer. Those positions include helping to run a show such as the National, being involved in working at a grading company such as BGS or PSA, working for a card company or even working as a PR rep or other card-related position at an auction house.

But for approximately 99 percent of us, when we discuss being full-time in this business, we mean as a full-time card dealer. And frankly, what could seemingly be more fun that playing with, sorting, cataloging and selling sports cards on a day to day basis? Who among us would not want to be our own boss and set our own hours? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but in reality, the existence is nothing like the dream.

Here are some of the aspects one has to consider in today’s world: Make sure you are active on eBay and prepare properly and ship all packages almost immediately. Make sure you are reasonably into technology so that you can scan those cards for posting.  Make sure you get financial advice from a trusted accountant or bookkeeper about keeping track of your finances.  Also remember, unless you live in a few selected areas such as New York, there are not many chances of setting up almost every weekend at a trade show.

To people such as me, one reason I loved starting the shows I run in Dallas-Fort Worth is being “old-school” — there is nothing quite as much fun as interpersonal communication in buying, selling or trading cards. And there is something special about building a rapport with people buying from you who share your interest.  I frankly enjoy discussing things like: What can you discover about 1960’s cards from tracing all the Cleveland Indians, or which Rangers player do you think has the best chance of becoming a Hall of Famer.

meyerAh, but nearly 30 years ago, the world was much different. In New Jersey, where I was at the time, there seemed to be a show or an auction almost every single day. I knew of at least 4-5 auction houses and a few dealers who ran weekday shows,  and there were a plethora of shows on most weekends.  In addition, the standard way of introducing yourself to potential mail-order customers was through publications such as Sports Collectors Digest (SCD) or Baseball Hobby News (BHN).

And. in those days, the definition of a “hit” was certainly different than today. In those days. our hits were usually the key Rookie Cards and if you opened 1985 or 1987 packs you were almost guaranteed of walking into a profit. Remember all those great rookies in those years? Heck, even rookie cards of people such as Mike Dunne or Joey Meyer had their day in the sun. So in those days, there were a lot more people in contact than there are 30 years later.

While I could write a lot more, the basic premise is that being full-time is an interesting proposition but not for everyone, especially those who prefer having a guaranteed income. No income is ever guaranteed when you run your own business so unless you are willing to take a risk, then just staying as a part-timer is the best way to go.

Rich Klein lives in Plano TX with his wife and 2 dogs and can be reached at Sabrgeek@aol.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organized Baseball (cards)

I had two eye surgeries last week. Two! The retina in my right eye got detached, seemingly around 3 months ago, but I only noticed it a few weeks ago when the damage entered my field of vision. The surgeries were successful, but it’s going to take a while before I have improved vision in the eye.

While eye issues kept me from my weekly baseball cards blog post, they didn’t keep me from the cards themselves. I had some stuff to put away and I went fishing for doubles, triples, quadruples I could list on EBay. Though my vision was problematic, it didn’t deter me from easily retrieving what I needed. Why? Because I’m so friggin’ organized!

I’ve always been pro-long box. They are the most effective, and efficient, way to store cards. They also are best because I can access the cards. If you haven’t read Mark Armour’s “Death of a Museum” post, do so. It hits me right where I live. I love to handle my cards and pulling them out of boxes is a real pleasure.

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The only downside to my system is that I have used and reused the same boxes. They’re all labelled, but some are labelled on both ends. I thought I had averted mass confusion, but it took my three weeks to find some old football doubles and I was driven to near madness. Turns out I had them filed under 1992 baseball. Still, I was organized enough to realize (eventually) how I could track them down.

Some sets are still in their original boxes, if need be. I have pulled some sets out when their initial resting place bugged me. 1980’s Donruss came in the worst boxes, flaps folded inside the box. That always struck me as corner dinging by design.

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I use albums and sleeves on occasion. Mostly it’s for oversized cards that won’t fit into regular size boxes. A few “normal” card sets are in sheets. I have no criteria for what makes it to an album enshrinement, but some do. It’s not nearly so satisfying to thumb through Ultra Pro sleeves as it is to have a handful of cards, but it does make it easier to show them to others who may not be as sensitive to handling other people’s stuff.

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I have a close friend who is also a collector and, to be kind, less organized. It leads him to worry that when he kicks the bucket, his cards will find their way to the dumpster. I’ve offered my services for when his demise comes. Still, it would behoove him, and all, to get their card houses in order. If you won’t do it for yourself, at least do it for your family!

 

Note: I am immensely curious how people keep their cards and how they enjoy them. Feel free to drop a comment on that.

 

Are CDVs and Cabinet Cards Baseball Cards? Yes, No and Maybe

This post contains assorted topics on CDVs and Cabinet Cards, baseball card proofs, a curious Honus Wagner fake,  essential tips for beginning collectors, and a common misdating caused by collector psychology.

Are CDVs and Cabinet Cards Baseball Cards? The Answer is Yes, No and Maybe

Though personal definitions may change in detail from collector to collector, the general definition of a baseball card (short for baseball trading card) is a card (look up the dictionary definition) with a baseball theme that was commercially issued, or at least intended to be commercially issued, as a collectible for the general public.  The commercial part means they were sold as a product in and of itself (such as with today’s cards), with a product (Topps and gum, T206s in packs of cigarettes) or otherwise in relationship to a product, service or similar (premiums, advertising trade cards, etc).

As you see, a baseball card is not defined just by its physical makeup, but its useage nature and intent. Even though it fits any dictionary’s definition of a physical card, no one I know considers a baseball player’s business card to be a baseball trading card. 

All this leads to baseball cartes de visite (often referred to by the acronym CDVs), cabinet cards and similar early photo cards.  These 1800s to early 1900s photo cards (a paper photograph affixed to a cardboard backing) fit the physical definition of card.   Baseball CDVs in particular look very much look like baseball cards.

The second question of the trading card equation is if CDVs and cabinet cards fit the commercial issue for general public collecting definition of a trading card.  The answer here is some do, some don’t and for many the answer is unknown and unknowable.

CDVs and cabinet cards were just standard photograph formats and were made for different purposes. Some were indeed used by tobacco and other companies as premiums or advertisements, and some were sold directly to the public as collectibles.  For these, there is the advertising right on the cards and/or we know how their distribution history.  Collecting commercially issued CDVs of celebrities, from Abraham Lincoln to Prince Albert, was a popular hobby in the Victorian era.

Old Judge Cigarettes cabinet card with advertising on front
Old Judge Cigarettes cabinet card with advertising on front

Most of the baseball CDVs and cabinet cards, however, were family or personal photos not issued to the general public.  If you find a CDV or cabinet card of a high school or college baseball player or town ball team, it was more than probably a family photo or similar.  Even many card photos of star Major League players were made for personal, private use of the player or teams.  By the trading card definition, these are not baseball cards.  Collectible and often valuable, sure, but not trading cards.

A problem for those who like things to be well defined and to fit into air tight categorizes is that for some of the

Family photo cabinet card of a young player
Family photo cabinet card of a young player

old baseball photo cards it is not know how they were issued.  They may be of a famous early team or player and made by a well known photography studio, but it is unknown if it was made for the player or team’s personal use, or as a collectible sold to the public.  Baseball card collectors tend to like clear cut answers, but, in the area of early baseball photographs and ephemera, things are often ambiguous and murky.  

This in part explains why determining what card is the first card is impossible and a never ending debate.  Beyond the debates over a card’s exact date of origin, whether or not it really depicts baseball and the fact that there are likely early photo cards yet to be uncovered, it is often impossible to know if the card was a commercially issued item for the general public or a photo made as a personal memento for the player or team.  We can make intelligent guesses, but the are still guesses.  I half-jokingly call this area of eternal debate ‘baseball card theory.’  

1869 Peck & Snider Cincinnati Reds card
1869 Peck & Snider Cincinnati Reds card

This also explains why, even though there are earlier baseball CDVs and card photographs, the Peck & Snyders are still considered by many to the first known baseball cards (emphasis on the word known, as in known to be).   Unlike earlier photo cards, it is known that the Peck & Snider Reds were used for commercial purposes and issued as general public collectibles.  Some have advertising on back and we know that some were sold through Peck & Snyder’s mail order catalog.

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Authentic Colors?

Uncolored 1874 Harper's Woodcut of the Philadelphia A's including a young Cap Anson (bottom right)
Uncolored 1874 Harper’s Woodcut of the Philadelphia A’s including a young Cap Anson (bottom right)

1800s Harper’s Woodcuts, or woodcut prints from the popular New York magazine Harper’s Weekly, are popularly collected today. The images show nineteenth century life, including sports, US Presidents and other celebrities, war, high society, nature and street life.  The woodcuts of baseball are popular with vintage baseball card and memorabilia collectors due to the images of famous early players and teams, including Cap Anson, King Kelly, Billy Sunday and the 1869 Cincinnati Reds.  

Though issued in black and white, some of the prints have been hand colored over the years by the owners. As age is important to collectors, prints that were colored in the 1800s are more valuable than those colored recently.

The problem is that modern ideas lead collectors to misdate the coloring. Due to their notions about the old fashioned Victorian era, most people automatically assume that vintage 1800s coloring will be subtle, soft, pallid and conservative. However, 1800s coloring was typically bright, gaudy, bold and even tacky to modern taste. As Victorian people did not have color televisions, motion pictures or video games, and were restricted in their travel (and paint choices), they liked their images of exotic places and faraway celebrities to be colored bold and exciting. A learned forger might knowingly use historically incorrect colors, as he knows the average person today would consider authentic 1800s coloring to be fake.

The subtle, soft colors on this 1874 Harper's Woodcut are modern
The subtle, soft colors on this 1874 Harper’s Woodcut are modern

My work and research as an art and artifact scholar is in two areas: authentication and theory (psychology and philosophy of perception and interpretation, etc).  They are usually two distinctly separate areas, but this is a case where they overlap.  The misdating of the colors on these collectibles is a matter of cognitive biases.  I have used the above woodcut colors example in both collector’s guides and cognitive psychology texts.

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A Fake Honus Wagner card with an interesting history

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From time to time one sees offered for sale this Freeman Cigar Co. Card depicting Honus (Hans) Wagner. Though usually sold as vintage, it is a modern fantasy card.

There are authentic early 1900s Hans Wagner cigar tobacco labels designed to be affixed to cigar boxes. The labels are rare, and come in various designs. The most expensive examples are usually offered by major auction houses or dealers.  In similar fashion to the T206 Wagner, this brand of tobacco was apparently never issued to the public. All the labels known to exist were not used.  One of the labels has a close design to this fake card.

About 1993, a manufacture of collectible tin signs (all those Ted Williams Moxie and Joe Jackson H & B reprints) made a sign based on the design of the just mentioned tobacco label. This man was selling the signs as modern collectibles, not representing themselves as vintage. The sign was not an exact copy of the label. He added the ‘5 Cent Cigar’ text at the bottom for artistic balance. He also he used a different text font in parts because he could not find a modern duplicate of the original.

A numbers of years later a man used a computer printer to reprint the tin signs as the tobacco cards, roughing and scuffing the cards to make them appear old. He sold them at flea markets to unsuspecting collectors who knew the legend of Honus Wagner and thought they had struck gold.

When shown a picture of one of the cards, the tin sign maker himself said it could not be genuine as it had his 1993 design.

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Essential Tips for Beginning Collectors of Most Anything

Pick a card, any card. They're all cheap reprints.
Pick a card, any card. They’re all cheap reprints.

While experienced collectors may already know most of the following tips, I get many inquiries from total beginners, including many who have gotten burned by buying fakes. Considering this, I think it’s a good thing to periodically bring out my age old “Essential Tips for Beginning Collectors of Most Anything.”  I’ve used this list, and variations of it, in numerous of my collecting and authentication books:

Whether it involves trading cards, celebrity autographs, movie posters, fine art prints, postcards or antique figurines, collecting can be good clean fun for boys and girls of all ages. However, all areas of collecting have problems.  The following is a brief but important list of tips that the beginner should read before jumping into a hobby with open pocketbook.

1) Start by knowing that there are reprints, counterfeits, fakes and scams out there. If you start by knowing you should be doing your homework, having healthy skepticism of sellers’ grand claims and getting second opinions, you will be infinitely better off than the beginner who assumes everything is authentic and all sellers are honest.

2) Learn all you can about material you wish to collect and the hobby in general. The more you learn and more experience you have, the better off you are. Most forgers and scammers aren’t trying to fool the knowledgeable. They’re trying to make a quick buck from the ignorant. Besides, half the fun of collecting is learning about the material and its history.

3) Realize that novices in any area of collecting are more likely to overestimate, rather than underestimate the value of items they own or are about to buy.

4) Get second opinions and seek advice when needed. This can range from a formal opinion from a top expert to input from a collecting friend. Collectors, including experienced collectors, who seek advice and input are almost always better off than those who are too proud or embarrassed to ask questions.

5) Start by buying inexpensive items. Put off the thousands dollar Babe Ruth baseball cards and Elvis Presley autographs for another day.

Without exception, all beginners make mistakes, as that is a natural part of learning. From paying too much to misjudging rarity to buying fakes or reprints. It only makes sense that a collector should want to make the inevitable beginner’s mistakes on $10 rather that $5,000 purchases.

6) Gather a list of good sellers. A good seller is someone who is knowledgeable and honest. A good seller fixes a legitimate problem when it arises and has a good authenticity guarantee and return policy.

It is fine to perfectly fine to purchase a $9 trading card or piece of memorabilia from an eBay stranger, but it is best to buy expensive and rare items online from good sellers, including those you have dealt with or those who otherwise have strong reputations.

Ask other collectors who they like.  Discover good sellers on your own by buying a few inexpensive items from an eBay seller and seeing how good are the transactions.  The seller you bought that $9 item from may be added to your list of good sellers.

7) If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

 

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When in doubt assume a baseball card is not a proof

The trading card hobby puts a premium on proof cards. Proofs are pre-production test cards the card printers use to check graphics and text before the final print run. Antique card proofs are often blank backed, sometimes on different stock than the final cards, often with hand cut borders and little pencil written crosses on the borders. Proofs sell for good money as they are rare and offer a look at the creation of the cards.

The collector should be aware that many cards resembling that proofs are not proofs. The manufacturers sometimes accidentally printed cards with blank backs and inserted them into the packs of gum or tobacco. As a kid I pulled a blank backed card from a Topps pack. These are not proofs, but printing errors.

There are also ‘cards’ that were long ago scissors cut from vintage advertising posters, tobacco albums and kids’ notebooks. As these cutouts have hand cut borders, blank backs and different than normal stocks, they are often mistakenly called proofs.

Collectors will also come across printer’s scraps, often of T206 baseball cards. These scraps came from a printer’s rejected sheet, often with

T206 scrap with printing error and handcut
T206 scrap with printing error and handcut

poorly printed images, bad color registration and other graphics problems– which is why it was rejected, or scrapped, by the printer. These rejected sheets were rescued from the trash bin by workers, often to be taken home for the kids. The individual scrap cards that we see today were hand cut from the sheets. As the cards are hand cut, often oversized and usually with printing defects, they are often mistaken for proofs. As with the above mentioned blank backed cards, scraps are simply factory mistakes.

As you can see there are lots of non-proof cards that resemble proofs. When in doubt it is best to bid on an unusual card assuming it is not a proof, because it likely is not. Scraps and other printing mistakes are collectible, but are much more plentiful and inexpensive than genuine proofs.

 

Hispanic Heroes: A Seattle Mariners promo card set

In 2005, the Seattle Mariners gave out a nine-card set featuring their Latino players as part of their annual “Salute to Hispanic Béisbol”.

The cards featured an action shot on the front with the player’s name and position listed in Spanish.  Cool, right?  The flip side showed a smaller player photo with bilingual information and the player’s home country’s flag.

When the set was released in mid-September 2005 commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month, I joked with the Mariners marketing manager about the Cuban and Puerto Rican flags.  You will note that the Cuban flag includes blue and white stripes with a white star in a triangular red field, while the Puerto Rican flag includes red and white strips with a white star in a triangular blue field.  I smiled and told him he got right.  He smiled back with a sigh of relief!

While the Mariners, of course, have given away cards sets in the past, this was the very first time that they released a set in Spanish featuring their Latino players.  A cultured observer, however, will note that two of the nine cards include the player’s last name correctly spelled with an “ñ”, while several of the cards are missing accent marks.  The set includes:

PLAYER POSICIÓN HOME COUNTRY
Adrián Beltré tercera base Dominican Republic
Yuniesky Betancourt campocorto Cuba
Eddie Guardado lanzador zurdo USA
Félix Hernández lanzador derecho Venezuela
Raúl Ibañez jardin izquierdo USA
José López segunda base Venezuela
José Mateo lanzador derecho Dominican Republic
Joel Piñeiro lanzador derecho Puerto Rico
Yorvit Torrealba receptor Venezuela

I’m hoping that the team will look to release a new bilingual set September 2017.  Felix would be the sole member left from that 2005 squad.

More T206 Goodness

I’m a big fan of the 1909 T206 card set, and about 20 years ago — knowing full well that I would never get my hands on an actual set of these cards — I purchased a reprint set for about $30.

When I received the reprint set, all 500+ cards, they were almost destroyed before I even had a chance to look at them. I had a German Shepherd named Murcer at the time. (Yes he was named after Bobby Murcer) and this dog loved to chew on paper and cardboard. Leave a pair of sneakers on the floor, he wouldn’t touch them. Slippers….no interest, socks…nope. Leave a book, or a magazine, or the mail, or anything cardboard within reach of Murcer and it was kibbles and bits time. He would go to work on these things until there was nothing left but confetti. After a few book mishaps we learned not to leave any temptations around for Murcer to chew, so the problem essentially went away.

The mailman was not aware of Murcer’s love of all things paper. Since all mail went into our mailbox, Murcer wasn’t able to get to the gas bill, magazines, or credit card bills, although I sometimes wished he could. Unfortunately the T206 came in a cardboard box that wouldn’t fit in the mailbox, so the mailman placed it on the floor of my front porch. My wife let Murcer out to do his doggie duties, never noticing the cardboard box on the porch. Murcer, of course, noticed it right away and proceeded to feast on the cardboard delight. Luckily I got home from work just in time to see Murcer shaking the living shit out of a defenseless cardboard box in my front yard. “No…not the Monster!” I screamed as I ran toward Murcer. (My wife thought she heard a little girl screaming, but I assure you I have a very manly scream.) Lucky for me, Murcer had had only enough time to rip open the box that the T206 was shipped in, and he didn’t get the chance to chew any of the cards. Another 15 minutes of Murcer mastication would have been tragic.

Several years ago I put together this framed tribute of some of the greatest players represented in the set. 9 position players and a 1st and 3rd base coach, all positioned on a beautiful rendition of the Polo Grounds as it would have looked in 1911.

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It’s one of the few creative things I’ve ever managed to produce.

It’s prominently displayed on my computer room wall, right over my desk. It’s one of the coolest looking pieces of baseball card iconography that I own. I think Murcer would have liked it as well.