Feats Don’t Fail Me

Last year (a year and a month to be exact), I posted about my Laughlin regrets, how I missed my chance 40 years ago to buy those wonderful card sets of the ‘70’s. While I did finish my 1972 Fleer Famous Feats set, that seemed to be the end of it. No way I was going to get any of the other sets I wanted, prices being what they are. [NOTE: COMC lists the Fleer set as 1973. I think it may have been both years, based on shaky memories of buying them in candy stores and ice cream trucks.]

Still, I never gave up, keeping a futile eBay search alive for Laughlin sets. Last week, I finally succeeded, with the 1972 Laughlin Great Feats set for less than $50. I assume these came out before the Fleer ones though I’m not sure [Editor’s note: Correct!], and I was fascinated by both the slight differences in the cards that appear in both sets, and the fantastic drawings of players/events that I’d never seen before.

First of all, there are two versions of this set. One is in red, with simple black and white drawings. The other, in blue, has flesh tones colored in. Here’s the different looks (yes, my blue Mize is signed.)

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The cards common to both the Laughlin and Fleer sets are identical, save for color. At first I thought there were cropping differences, but it was an optical illusion brought on by the Fleers being oversized. The art space seems the same size.

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Some of the feats in the Laughlin set are obvious, and, in retrospect, it’s hard to believe DiMaggio’s hit streak and VanderMeer’s two no-hitters didn’t make the Fleer issue.

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Others are of lesser renown, though the all-time pinch-hit record used to be a big deal. Smoky’s record has long since been surpassed (I had to look up who’s first – Lenny Harris with 212), but Burgess is still fourth on the list. Glad he topped the record book in 1972, because this card rocks.

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These three are spectacular as well…

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…and prove that Laughlin would have made an excellent Simpsons animator (check out Casey’s hand).

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I was struck by the Mantle card. It’s wonderful, for sure, but it stands out as being the only card signed by the artist. I wonder why? Did he need to make his mark on one card to stake his claim, or was he a big Mantle fan and wanted to be associated with The Mick? Perhaps Mike Aronstein or Pete Henrici at Baseball Nostalgia know. I’ll have to check.

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The last six cards of the set, all unseen in the Fleer issue, stand out. They make for a perfect page.

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There are other Feats sets: a 40-card Fleer set from 1980 with blank backs and a 22-card Fleer set from 1986 with logo/sticker backs. A good idea is hard to leave behind.

Editor’s note: More history on the connection between the Laughlin set and the Fleer set is available here, including this Laughlin ad that explains how his first Great Feats set came to be self-produced.

eBay eTiquette

A few months back, a friend and I were talking about selling on eBay. He was surprised that I would sell low priced cards, $5 and less. Why bother? (I think I sold this for $1.50).

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Three reasons: 1) money is money and $3 net is better than $0 net, 2) it’s very easy for me to send cheap cards via plain white envelopes and almost as easy to go to the Cooperstown Post Office if need be (I know a trip to the local post office is harder in other places) and 3) set collectors should be served. As one myself, I’m thrilled when someone has a single, inexpensive card listed that I need, or will break up a lot for me, and I’m happy to help someone else looking for a single card.

I’m always a bit shocked when someone won’t break up a lot for me. Not the big sellers, I get that. They have hundreds, if not thousands of auctions/Buy It Nows going off all the time, so asking them to peel off a single card or two from a lot and changing the listing is a hassle for them. But non-pros, or smaller sellers – why not? I’d do it for you!

I was recently annoyed by a guy selling three 1960 Leaf cards. Two low numbers, including a Hall of Famer (Luis Aparicio) and one high number (Joe Hicks), which you know I’m working on (read here and here).

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I was willing to pay more than half his listing price for the Hicks card, and he told me no, he wants to move them all. Now, the guy doesn’t owe me anything, but he’s likely to get the same sale price (or more) if he peels off the high number to me and relists the other two, including Aparicio.

My favorite part about eBay is the interaction, when it happens, and finding out what people are collecting, and why they’re selling. I send and receive a lot of messages. Usually people are willing to meet my needs.

The same idea of aiding set collectors is a big reason why I’ve been selling off, or trading, a lot of my 1970’s doubles. They don’t do me any good sitting in boxes, I can sell cheaper than dealers, and, in recent weeks, I’ve parlayed around 1,000 dubs for a 1965 Soupy Sales set, and 1969 and 1970 Topps Football sets. I’m ecstatic to have those sets, and I know the people who have bought cards from me are very happy with my nice old cards.

So, eBay sellers, think of the collectors and do the right thing. Fill want lists!

News from the Post Office

I’ve been working on some football sets lately that I’ve always wanted to complete, and a few non-sports sets. (Have I told you about the glorious 1965 Soupy Sales set! That was a fun project.) I haven’t been working on baseball cards too much because I’m stuck. I literally need one card to complete the 1936 Goudey Wide Pen set (Type 1) and one card to finish the 1963 Bazooka All Time Greats set. I’m treading water on my hand cut 1975 Hostess set (14 to go) and my 1961 Post set.

With three more 1961 Posts in transit, I’m down to needing 26 to finish. It’ll end up a pretty nice set overall, maybe VGEX-EX. I’ve enjoyed getting hand cuts because condition is harder to peg. Nobody seemed to really know how to use scissors back then. I picked up a Mantle that was very nice, except for a crease (the price was right and I’m happy with it) and a Bob Shaw short print that was well below what I expected to pay. That’s all good.

What I’m running into is a clear case of short prints that, according to my admittedly out of date Standard Catalog, are not listed as SPs. I’m not talking hard SPs (Estrada, McMillan, Stobbs) or even tougher variations (Minneapolis v. Minnesota, company issue v. box), I’m talking about cards that should be priced as commons, but aren’t. Some examples:

58 – Gary Bell

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I can’t find it for close to $2-3, which is where it’s supposed to reside (company or box).

Orioles Group:  71 – Milt Pappas, 74 – Steve Barber

Box version of Pappas should be cheap, and all I want is the cheaper variation. I know Barber should be a buck or so more, but that’s not where I see them priced.

Phillies Group:  115 – Dick Farrell, 116 – Jim Owens, 122 – Ken Walters

Again, a mystery in cost. Eventually I’ll pull them in for less than $3, but that’s going to feel like a rip off.

West Coast Group: 142 – Johnny Antonelli , 156 – Norm Larker

No reason I shouldn’t be able to find these for $2 or less, but it’s not happening.

I do realize I’ll have to pony up for the Estrada, Stobbs and McMillan cards, but I think there are relative bargains to be had. If anyone knows why the cards above are harder to find than I figured, let me know. Maybe it’s because I’m using a 2009 Standard Catalog and discoveries have been made since then.  That has certainly been the case with certain numbers in the 1975 Hostess set, which came as news to me.

Of course, if you’ve got dubs of any of them (and the others I need), let me know.

The Grand TCMA Decade Sets (Some of them anyway)

Followers of this blog and our Facebook and Twitter accounts have been a bit TCMA obsessed since several of us gathered in Cooperstown for the opening of the Hall of Fame’s Shoebox Treasures exhibit in May. A chance run in with Andrew Aronstein, son of TCMA founder Mike, touched off a bit of TCMA frenzy. (I’ve known Andrew and Mike for a few years, so I’m glad others in our card world are getting to know them).

My own recent TCMA interests have circled around the big baseball decades sets (and the football, basketball and hockey sets). Not all of them, actually, only the 1950’s and 1960’s sets. These are all beautiful, simple cards, with magnificent photos, as you’d expect. I picked up the entire 1950’s set at Baseball Nostalgia in Cooperstown (where else?), which started over 40 years ago as the TCMA flagship store.

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The cards are wonderful, the checklist is wide ranging and they look wonderful signed. Released in 1979, the 291 card set is a must have.

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With that set safely acquired, I marched forward to get both 1960’s sets, but was warned at Baseball Nostalgia that they’re harder to find than the ‘50’s set, and pricier. This proved to be true. The first set, released in 1978 with 293 cards was easier to spot, but I didn’t want to buy that series without the more difficult second series attached. (I learned this lesson when I picked up a cheap TCMA football base set and still find myself struggling to get the 12 card update at a reasonable price. I’d have been better off waiting to buy both sets.)

The 1981 (yay Split Season!) series 2 has 189 cards, but the problem is that about 1/3 were printed compared to series 1 (according to the Standard Catalog). Whenever that series would appear, it was too pricey for me.

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Well, as of last night, my long waiting is over. I got both sets for a good price and they’re on their way! I can’t wait. Like the 1950’s cards, the 1960’s sets have fantastic variety of names, from superstars to non-stars to Jim McKnight.

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And they look wonderful signed.

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Fun Buttons, Not Food

I asked people to send me their “junk wax” faves at the end of this post on Fleer Classic Miniatures and I got a lot of solid suggestions. The 1985 Fun Foods set was one, and I took it to heart. I am now the proud owner of a complete 133 button set.

I was not unaware of the Fun Foods set; I’ve always had a soft spot for it. I’ve had the Seaver button, and only the Seaver button, for decades.

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The beauty of this little item was not lost on me, but I never went for the whole set. Not a cost issue, the set should run $20 tops, more of a storage issue. Where would I put 133 buttons – in a box? In sheets? I really couldn’t figure it out, so I passed.

When I started pursuing the 1964 and 1971 Topps coins sets, I ended up with some coin sheets whose pockets were too small. Too small for the coins, but perfect for the buttons! (Never throw anything out!). Here’s how they display:

It’s a super attractive set – the colors are vibrant, the photos are sharp, the checklist is terrifically 1984/1985.

They’re thick enough that my binder won’t close now, but I’m not worried. It’s a binder full of metal discs, not cardboard. No bent corners here!

I won’t claim to doing much looking into this issue: they were sold as complete sets and in packs of three, though I never saw those packs in the wild. As to Fun Foods, I have no idea what they did, or made, or how much fun their product may or may not have been. Maybe all they made were the buttons, maybe the buttons were meant to be eaten. I have no idea (though don’t do that.)

Whatever business Fun Foods was in is of no matter to me. They made cool buttons, I now have them all, and that’s enough for me.

It Was 47 Years Ago Today (Give or Take)

I’ve been spending a lot of time in 1972 the last week, the first year I completed the full Topps set (and the last year that brand new, very old Mets’ pitching coach Phil Regan had his LAST card as a player.)

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The week began with a little Father’s Day present to myself – a binder and box of sheets. I tend not to put complete baseball sets I already have in binders. I reserve that for sets I’m building. It’s so much easier to put a recently acquired card or two in a binder than pull out a box that is, invariably, in a logistically hard to get place. However, in the interests of maximally efficient storage, a binder for the ‘72s was necessary.

It’s a set I love more for what it reminds me of than how it looks (though I like how it looks). We had moved to the middle of Suffolk County, Long Island (Lake Grove to be exact) in December 1971. It was a hard move to make, going from Brooklyn in 1971 to LI stuck in 1961. By spring and summer of 1972 it was getting better for me, but the baseball cards of that year were my best medicine. I can see myself on the concrete pad outside our front door opening a full box of packs, my greatest youthful extravagance, $2.40 of cobbled together loose change brought much joy.

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Looking at the sets 9-card pages at a time, brought to mind a constant question of mine. Why is the last series so much brighter looking?

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One Twitterer commented that he thought “The later series were much clearer images than many found in the first few. It looks like there is a blue filter on many of the earlier 1972 cards. This photography was done in spring training.” Here’s #130, Bill Freehan.

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Another collector thought, maybe, that Topps used different card stock at the end of the baseball line, as they turned to football. They don’t feel any different, but I don’t know.

It seemed like the 6th series never made it to me (similar to the 1972 3rd Series Football, though less extreme). I bought tons of packs back then, so there’s no reason I can think of why I have only three doubles. I ended up buying the whole series after the season ended and, weirdly, the toughest series is my best condition one.

And, speaking of doubles, I sold 492 cards this morning to a friend who only recently found out I collected cards. As my wife said afterwards, collecting is so intrinsic to who I am, it’s amazing everyone doesn’t know. Funny, you all do, but many people who I know well don’t. That says something about me, though I’m not sure what.

I have been selling cards lately, but there’s something extra nice of getting them to someone who really wants or needs them. My friend now has a nice running start on a set in EX or EXMT condition, and he got to pick from multiples for the card he liked best.

I don’t think almost 10 year old me would have liked parting with those cards, but almost 57 year old me approves.

Not Cool for Katz (1979-1984)

Steve Wynn sang about it on The Baseball Project’s 3rd album.

Tyler Kepner and I talked a bit about it over dinner and cards in Cooperstown.

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I experienced it myself, from 1979 – 1984.

Did you?

I can tell you that cards became, if not uncool, then put in forced hibernation, before my senior year of high school. Up to that point, I wasn’t shy about having people know I collected cards. Kinda late, now that I think about it. Why were baseball cards (and other cards) something to be proud of, well, if not proud of then unashamed by, through 11th grade, but not 12th?

I have no idea. I do know that bailing on cards when I did bit me in the ass, at least when it came to hockey cards. I bought the complete Topps set every year until 1979. Yeah, 1979 was the first year I stopped buying complete sets. Yeah, 1979!!!!!

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I missed cards during those years and I could have very easily kept up on the down low. No one needed to know but me. Still, there were a lot of things that went on during those years – leaving high school, having first relationships, going to college, graduating from college, getting a job. Looking back, cards would have provided me some much needed comfort, very similar to what they give me these days.

I’m not sure I thought they were uncool. Despite my vaunted record store running background, I was never the cool-type. I had my aesthetic, and that appealed to some and worked for me. Actually, staying with cards would have enhanced that image, not taken away from it.

Hard to say how I felt then. All I can remember is my first inching back, my toe-dipping into the pool.

It was September of my senior year at SUNY-Binghamton and a bunch of us were driving to Cornell to see Graham Parker. It was his tour behind The Real Macaw.

Right out of campus, we stopped for gas and I bought a couple of packs of 1983 Topps baseball. I don’t know who I got in those packs, but I was stirred, though not moved enough to go all in.

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I graduated in May 1984, had a job and lived with my parents in Staten Island. I needed all the comfort I could get and dove back into cards, catching up on the sets I’d missed (Topps, Fleer and Donruss) but only baseball. (My second, and last chance, at the Gretzky rookie!). Lucky for me, I started piecing together some older sets I had started pre-1979.

Though my card interest has had its peaks and valleys since then, it’s never gone away and there isn’t much I missed that I regret (maybe 1986 Fleer basketball, but that’s more monetary than emotional.)

Nick Vossbrink’s recent post about his kids and their joy in the hobby is a wonderful read. I hope they stick with it as long as they love it, and not be influenced by what others may or may not think is cool or worthwhile. Most of us have failed that test at least once, with cards or without.