Yay Team?

I see a lot of team collectors out there – Orioles, Pilots, Red Sox obsessives (an endless number of Red Sox obsessives). It’s not my thing. I’ve been a man without a team for 40 years. Some of you know the story.

I was a die-hard Mets fan.  Like the team, my first season was 1962 (though I was a mid-September call up). It couldn’t have been any better – World Series win at age 7, another World Series appearance at age 11, and Tom Seaver, always Tom Seaver. Until….

When the Mets traded Tom Terrific on June 15, 1977, it broke my heart and I realized I loved Tom Seaver way more than I loved the Mets. I was liberated from team based rooting, appreciated the game without the emotional swings that are the fun, and the noise, of being franchise bound in one’s reactions. I instantly had a player-centric point of view that created a straight line that led to the writing of Split Season:1981. Better still, I got to tell both Nancy and Tom Seaver my story and how his trade changed my whole outlook on the game. They both approved.

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Still, there are teams that pique my interest. The Indians always seemed to need fans, so I kept an eye on them, starting in the late ‘70’s. I always had a soft spot for the Giants and Dodgers.  But there are some clubs that never make me feel much of anything. So how did I end up with their cards?

Here are a few sets you may not know about. I don’t know why I know about them, and it’s even more confusing why I have them.

1970 McDonald Brewer panels

If you’ve ever beheld the gorgeousness of Volpe prints, then this set isn’t for you. Like the hastily repurposed Pilots uniforms made Milwaukee when the team moved, this 6-panel set is a cut rate job.

It’s pretty damned ugly, though certainly worth having. The whole thing is easily gotten for less than $20. If you have first year Brewer sentiment, or one year Pilot grief, these cards serve a purpose.  Not so much for me, though I do love a good Max Alvis card.

 

1970 Washington Senators Traffic Safety

Distributed by the D.C. DMV, this is one of the first police sets. The pictures are black and white, basic enough, but come in two tints. Pink, used in the first run, is much harder to get than yellow, used for the second and third printings. Of course, I have yellow

While the cards are 2 ½” X 3 7/8”, my set is an uncut sheet, not a particular area of interest for me. (In fact, I’m looking to unload a beautiful uncut sheet of Michael Jordan cards from 1994). It’s not a very attractive group of cards, and the checklist is what you’d think, though it would be a bit more exciting if Manager Ted Williams were included. (Then I would’ve been fending off those Red Sox maniacs).

 

1977 San Diego Padres Schedule cards

I still firmly believe that Mike Champion and Billy Almon are the double play combo of the future, just not in this dimension. In this chaotic set, they get a lot of attention.

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A team issue, this set contains 89 cards, some with promo information on the back, some with blank backs. I’m sure I bought it because, back then, there weren’t too many card issues in a given year. I thought I had the whole set, but I learned that maybe I don’t, and now I’m annoyed.

Several Winfields make it desirable, and there’s a Dave Friesleben card in a Washington uni years after this was a dead story, but it’s quirky, in a way the Padres have always been quirky – in a dull, frustrating kind of way.

I have other team sets that are inexplicable to me. I’ve got no interest in the team or the players on the team, and the designs are lackluster. Still, you know, they’re cards. What are you gonna do?

“M is for the Many Cards They Gave Me”

One of the great joys of this blog and its Facebook page, and baseball card Twitter, is the discovery of other peoples’ interests and the resulting desire to join in on newly discovered cards. There’s a lot of trading that goes on on Twitter, and most people put up pictures of their new additions.

It’s a doubled edged sword, sharing information and creating possible new competitors for subsequent bidding wars, but, in reality, that’s a non-issue. I’ve been so happy to inspire other collectors to dive into 1952 Parkhurst and 1960 Leaf.  Now it’s my turn to become equally motivated.

I love Mother’s Cookies cards and have 12 team sets from the late ‘80’s to early ‘90’s (I have A’s, Mariners, Dodgers, Giants, Astros and Rangers over those years). They’re beautiful – super glossy, nice smaller size, cool little envelope – what’s not to love?  Richard Borgstrom wrote about his Mother’s Giants experience on the blog.

A few days ago, someone (I can’t remember who), posted a few pictures of oddball cards he was sent. In the lot were some Mother’s Cookies cards, but not the kind I was used to seeing. The team sets I have are of the then-current squads. These were different and I had no idea they existed.

Here they are, in their entirety: the 1987 Mother’s Cookies All Time Oakland A’s All-Stars. Behold the magnificence:

Such a great collection and, despite Canseco’s current place in history, it was way cool that he and Reggie were teammates in Jax’s last year. A card commemorating that is worth having. (I saw Mr. October’s last game, at Comiskey Park. He doubled of Floyd Bannister and singled off Bobby Thigpen).

The nice thing about this set is that there are plenty out there, all around $10 or less. I’ll pick one up in January (I’d already spent my December self-imposed card allowance). I have no fear of getting boxed out by my readers, so go for it!

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Happy New Year to you all. Hope 2018 treated you fairly well (I wish it did for me!) and that 2019 is a great one, bringing you all the cards you want.

Turning Over the 1960 Leaf Set (or, Am I Losing My Marbles?)

If you don’t know the 1960 Leaf set, let me be your guide.

First, they are beautiful, regular size cards featuring black and white portraits with a photo quality gloss and superior card stock. Second, it has a weird checklist, with very few big names, and even the big names aren’t that big (no Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Koufax, etc.) I like offbeat checklists (see my multiple posts on the 1936 Goudey Wide Pens Type 1 set). Third, the full set has only 144 cards, though the second series is way tougher than the first. Fourth, there aren’t too many variations and only one variation is pricey.

Let’s go deeper.

Before the real set hit candy stores and five and dimes, Leaf made eight cards in pre-production, similar to the final design, but not exactly the same. These “Big Heads” are expensive, like, in the thousands per card expensive. Luis Aparicio, usually a lower level Hall of Famer in demand and price, is the Babe Ruth/Mickey Mantle in this smattering of players.

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The actual cards, though referenced as Leaf, were copyrighted to Sports Novelties, Inc. in Chicago. (Leaf was a Chicago based company, so there may be a connection between the two.) To avoid the Topps gum monopoly, the cards were issued with a marble. The first series is pretty attainable, relatively cheap. Lots can get you nice cards for less than a couple of bucks each.

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The second series is the tough one. Commons (I’m hoping) can be snagged in the $5-6 range.  According to my beloved 2009 Standard Catalog, an influx of over 4,000 high numbers hit the hobby in the late 1990’s which helps. I’m starting to snoop around for bargains.

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The variations are few, but fun.

There’s this one:

Real Brooks Lawrence (not a variation)

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Real Jim Grant (variation)

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Brooks Lawrence as Jim Grant

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Why is Brooks Lawrence so much happier when he’s Jim Grant?

The Hal Smith card has three different backs, for those of you who care about that. The back information on these cards is like a short story, way too much for me.

Regular

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No team

no name

Blacked out team, which will run you in the hundreds of dollars

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Not a variation at all, but credit to Leaf for addressing the 1960 Hal Smith issue.

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The second series has two errors (not variations), for a total of four players.

Obviously not Chuck Tanner (it’s Ken Kuhn)

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Stover McIlwain (it’s actually Jim McAnany, but who would ever know)

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It’s a lovely group of cards, with the higher priced names still reasonable – Aparicio (regular sized head, of course), Brooks Robinson (another Brooks entry), Duke Snider, Sparky Anderson, Orlando Cepeda and Jim Bunning.  You can come for the Hall of Famers. I’m in it for the Stover McIlwains.

Put your focus on the first series. I don’t need any competition as I search for low budget high numbers.

A Hinton Price Discovery (or, Causey effect)

One of the nice things about pursuing sets that are out of the mainstream is that there’s a real chance for bargains. I need an ungraded 1956 Topps Mantle in VGEX. It’s going to cost me $350-450; maybe more, unlikely less.

The cards I tend to go for have relatively little demand and, even when there’s somewhat less supply, the paucity of interest works in my favor.

I just nailed down the final coin I needed for the 1964 Topps set. If you read my last post, you know what it is.

Fine, I’ll tell you again; it’s the Wayne Causey All-Star coin, NL back variation. I’ve seen them go for $20 and up, but was holding out for $20. I picked it up for $13.50, plus postage.

The reason I was holding out was because of the other “NL” variation, Chuck Hinton. Both errors (they were corrected to AL backs, but not before some NLs got out) are harder to find than the other coins (even the Mantle variations, which were purposeful), but neither is more or less scarce than the other. So why did I get Hinton for $6, and have to wait awhile to get Causey for less than $15?

Patience helps, but lack of interest helps more. People are not really running after these variations, so, in time, they settle to a price I can be happy with. My goal was to get them both for a total of $20. I came close.

It’s easy to assume sellers/dealers are very knowledgeable, but many aren’t. The guy I bought my coin from knew he had an error, and listed as such. Last month someone listed three Causey All Star coins and two of them were of the NL kind. He had no idea. I tried to swoop in cheaply, but someone else in the know grabbed them in the final seconds. At the recent Boston show, I talked to a guy selling coins and a guy looking to buy them. Neither knew about the variations! I told them all about them (after I had looked through the dealer’s stock), but I was shocked at their ignorance.

Here’s some good background on the whole set (and other coins), but I’m still puzzled. The Causey and Hinton All-Stars, #161 and #162, are at the end of the set, with all the other NL stars. Why are the fronts blue, like all the AL All-Stars? If Topps (wrongly) assumed they were NL players, they should have had red fronts. If Topps knew they were actually AL stars (or what a KC A and Washington Senator came close to in 1964), why were they numbered with the NL guys? The linked post has a guess, but I’m not so sure there was a reason. I can’t figure it out.

Lack of consistent price discovery can bite as well. When I was finishing up my 1952 Parkhurst set, I tired to get a seller to pull a Bob Betz card from his lot. He wanted to charge me $100 for it and I was in disbelief (and told him so). He went through a whole rigmarole about how Betz was moved off the Ottawa Athletics quickly and, as a short print, it was tough to come by. I argued that there were other players in the same boat and they cost me between $5-15. I came away from that exchange knowing that guy was a dope.

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Then a Betz card came up on eBay. I figured, OK, I’m getting down to the end of the set so I’ll pay $20. I ended up paying $80-something. I was bugged that, 1) someone else was forcing me to pay more and, 2) that other guy was right!

So it works both ways, but usually I get the best of the deal. I’m waiting for delivery of a 1963 Bazooka All Time Great Babe Ruth card. I fully expected to pay $35 if I was lucky, $50 if I wasn’t. I got it for $19. It helped that the guy listed it as “Bazooke.”

Thanksgiving-Time Gluttony

If you’re lucky enough on Thanksgiving, your plate is overflowing. Sometimes too much is good, sometimes it’s, well, too much.

I’m a pretty linear thinker, the “shortest distance between two points is a line” kind of guy, but I find myself taking on more sets to complete than I’m usually comfortable with. I’m a good multi-tasker, but the key to that is keeping the multis- to a minimum. There are different reasons I’m not sticking to this way of living in my card world, but I find myself working on 10! sets, two more if you count variations. Here’s are those different reasons:

1 – These are gonna take some time and have a price component:

I’m halfway through my 1933 Tattoo Orbit set, (31 of 60) and, though I’ve been getting commons in VG, VGEX and EX for around $30-40 each, there are some Hall of Famers I need that’ll run me around $100 per, and a few – Dean, Foxx and Grove, that’ll cost far more. Getting what remains in the condition I want, at a price that makes sense, is going to be a long long process.

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I’m down to the last card I need for my 1956 Topps set and, as planned, it’s Mantle. Can I get a nice enough, raw, Mickey for around $400? Seems so, based on sold listings. It won’t be easy, but it’s doable, and it’s going to take patience. If I waited to get this card and wrap up this set before tackling the next set, I’d be stuck. So I continue.

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2 – These are gonna take some time but don’t have a price problem:

You all know my undying love for 1936 Goudey Wide Pens, Type 1 (of course). The finish line is in sight, with only three to go – Cavaretta, Galan and Hartnett (what’s with the Cubs? Short prints?). Price won’t be an issue. Gabby will likely run me $25-30, the other two, $15-20. Problem is they haven’t been coming up. There was a nice Augie Galan, though with a pin hole, that I was outbid on.

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Ah, the 1953 Bowman Television and Radio Stars of NBC, much-loved topic of my last post. I’m in the home stretch here and will need to wait it out. Who knows how long it will take to get a nice Dennis Day?

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The 1963 Bazooka All Time Greats are a nice diversion and I’m about 50% of the way through this 41 card set. Ruth and Gehrig will set me back around $30-40 each, but I’m hoping to get the others, all commons, though all HOFers, for $5-6 each. Definitely going to take a while.

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I’m whittling away at the 1972 Fleer Famous Feats set, drawn by Laughlin. I should have to spend more than $1.50-2 for each card, and that stubbornness is going to add years to this pursuit. I can buy all six that I need for less than $20 on COMC, but I can’t bring myself to do that. Full sets can be gotten for $25-35. And so I wait.

Paul-Waner

3- These shouldn’t take too long or cost too much:

I glommed on to the 1961 Post set because, actually I don’t know why. I had 30, got another 85, and all of a sudden I was on my way. What I want to pay for commons may hold me back, but no too much. The real issue is the short prints – Shaw, Estrada, Stobbs and McMillan, which will set me back $50 or so but don’t appear too often (this is what is meant by short prints).

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1975 Hostess is the only year I cut them out of the boxes, which bugged me for decades but now I see as a blessing. Decent hand cuts are cheap and, though I need 36 to complete, my grand total shouldn’t be more than $25. I just need to find them.

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Announcing the two most recent additions to the set quest – 1970 Topps Super Glossy Football and 1971 Topps Football. I’ll admit these are simply time killers, though I’m waiting for a lot of Glossys that’ll put me with in 10 of the end.  These cards have notoriously bad cuts, which doesn’t bother me much. The 1971s I have put me close enough, in a condition good enough, to get them all at a reasonable price.

4 – The variations:

1964 Wayne Causey All-Star, NL back. Bidding on one now, another is listed as a Buy It Now. $20 is about the going rate, but there’s satisfaction in getting it for $15. Silly, I know. I got the Chuck Hinton NL back for $6, so that became my new price goal, though there’s no way I’ll luck out twice.

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There are two 1973 Johnny Pro Orioles Jim Palmers. I need the windup variation. A lot of five Palmers, three windup and two follow through, was up recently, but it went for more than I was willing to pay, even having an Oriole collector on board to split the cost. Oh well.

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I’m very curious about how you approach set building. Is it the norm to tackle a lot of sets, or is the one or two at a time method most common? If you take a very long time to finish a set, how do you keep it on your radar so it doesn’t get lost?

With that, Happy Thanksgiving. Hope you have a lot of things to be thankful for and that your card pursuits have been gratifying. As we know, that’s what’s really important.

Non-sports Detour

I’d heard about the Greater Boston Sports Collectors Club show from SABR members/ committee members and the Facebook group crowd, so with my youngest son now living in Waltham, I figured I’d check it out. Nicely, the Celtics were home against the Bucks, setting up a great weekend. (At that game, the Red Sox came out hoisting the World Series trophy. Way cool.)

I had my goals – 1961 Post, 1975 Hostess, 1963 Bazooka All Time Greats, 1972 Fleer Famous Feats; you’ve been reading about those, if you’re following at home. There’s a certain feeling I (and maybe you) get at a card show. If I don’t see anything I need early on, it all feels like a big waste of time – why did I come so far?, can I leave early?, I’m getting tired, etc. Then the first success comes and everything’s OK.

I made a good dent in the Post set, 22 more cards putting me in to the final 25%. Also, found 6 Hostess, though, because decent hand cuts aren’t worth dealer’s space and time, they were hard to come by. No Famous Feats, no Bazooka ATG, at least that I saw. My biggest success was with a set I expected nothing from, the 1953 Bowman Television & Radio Stars of NBC. I know this is a baseball card blog, but this is what I’ve got for you this week.

The TV & Radio sets, a 36 card set with horizontal backs and a 96 card set with vertical backs, are beautiful. Different checklist and, for the few names that are shared, different pictures. Similar to the Bowman baseball issues of that year, the NBC roster is portrayed in gauzy Hollywood headshots, not as crisp as the baseball color cards, nicer than the black and whites. I’m working on the vertical backs and it’s been an interesting group to pursue. (I did get two horizontal backs – Gertrude Berg of “The Goldbergs” and Judy Canova.)

For some reason, I had the Bob and Ray card and a Hoagy Carmichael and have had them for years. There are some big names – Groucho Marx and Bob Hope, some lesser names – Carl Reiner, Dinah Shore, etc., and some unknowns. It’s in the long forgotten “stars” that the fun resides. I’m not a back reader by nature, but the bios are remarkable, actors, actresses, newscasters, bandleaders and a chimp, all at the peak of their fame.

I don’t know enough about how short prints come to be, but the 1953 Bowmans are weirdly made. Even number cards are cheap, my average price on those has been less than $2, but odd numbers are harder to find. Still, pricing is erratic, and I’ve gotten odds for the same price as evens. As in many things, it depends what the seller knows. At this show, some sellers were wise to the distribution patterns.

Thankfully, the first seller wasn’t and I got a handful of cards for $1.50 each. The big payoff was a dealer who had recently gotten a complete set and was breaking it up. I spent most of my time, and money, with him. I’m now within real striking distance of completion.

A few highlights from a set you likely don’t know:

Who is this adorable, non-menacing urchin? I’ll reveal after the picture.

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It’s Little Ronnie Walken, now Christopher.

I got this Arnold Stang for $6, but can you really put a price on it?

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Let the baseball collectors chase Mantle, I got a Sid Caesar!

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Carmen Dragon, father of Daryl, The Captain from Captain and Tennille.

Poor Lucille Wall! Imagine being her in the ‘50’s. Worse, being her agent. “No, I represent Lucille Wall. Wall, with a ‘W.’ People love her too!” And check out her bad instincts – “Would like to try tv but not at the expense of radio.”

A completed page. In 1953, Phil Harris (lower left) was the biggest star. Who could’ve predicted that Little Ronnie Walken (2nd from left on top) and Today Show girl Estelle Parsons (below Walken) would win Oscars?

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All in all it was a great show, made better from a deal I made last week. A Facebook friend was looking for lesser condition 1969-1971 Topps baseball and that’s exactly what I had, 1,100 cards worth from Poor to EX! Everything I made in that sale went to this show, a very solid trade and an excellent bit of timing.

The next Boston show is in April, maybe, I hope, coinciding with the Red Sox schedule. Maybe the Celtics will come out and interrupt that game.

Post Post

Until early this year, I had one Post card – a 1961 Tony Kubek. Why? I have no idea. I’m pretty sure I bought it at an early ‘70’s card show, when I collected in a more aimless way and picked up stray cards that struck my fancy, at least for a moment.

Then Mark Armour and I did a second trade (the one that set me on the path to working on the 1969 Topps Decals set), and, boom, now I had 30. Not really enough to start working on a 200 card set, but enough to get me thinking.

Thinking turned into action last week when I bought a reasonably priced lot on eBay, 85 cards in varying condition, but good enough for me. I’m not going to be too worried about condition on this one. I’ll be OK as long as they’re decently cut and not creased (or not too creased). Backing up those words with deeds, 22 of the cards I got had a little bit of writing on them, stat updates that, at first, passed me by. The seller was good enough to refund the amount of these cards. I won’t go about replacing them. They’ll do; not my preference, but fine.

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Fine, in more ways than one. Fine, because I’m going to have to put together a full set from an assortment of variations and not be a stickler about anything. There are cards cut from boxes – thick stock – and cards issued by the company on perforated sheets – thinner stock with, at times, tabs visible.

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Ultimately, my set will be put together with the cheapest variations I can find, a mix of box and company, Minneapolis and Minnesota (both in the first year of the Twins existence), with and without “sold to” or “traded to” lines, big or small headed Gene Conley, etc. There are some short prints, company only issue of Chuck Estrada, box versions of Roy McMillan and that type. I’m hoping that the big stars I don’t have can come relatively affordable since condition is not a focus. I’m by no means an expert in Post cards, but I’ve already learned a lot.

Though I intended to dive into Nabisco Team Flakes, I still haven’t found a lot to start with yet. The 1961 Post cards have taken their place, for now. I’m already close to some completed pages. Wish me luck.

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