1936 Goudey – Wide Pens and a Why? Checklist

My set collecting these days has been a mix of the ridiculously attainable (1960’s Topps), the slightly difficult (1971 Kellogg’s) and the preposterously obscure (1952 Parkhurst Canadian minor leaguers). Then there are the 1936 Goudey Wide Pens.

For reasons I can’t recall, I once bought a bunch of Wide Pens (Type 1 – there are five types between 1936 and 1937). I must have fallen into two cheap lots in the early ‘90’s. It came as a big surprise to me last year, when I was looking for sets to finish, that I had 80 of the 120. Not a bad start for an 80+ year old set.

Thankfully the cards, 3 ¼” X 5 ½” black and white photos (portraits, posed action, real action) are reasonably priced. Even the rookies of Joe DiMaggio (along with Manager Joe McCarthy) and Hank Greenberg aren’t that expensive. (Frequent readers know I snagged a DiMag/McCarthy in a one for one swap for a 1976 Walter Payton rookie card).

It’s an odd grouping of players. Around 20% are Hall of Famers, two players get two cards each (Dick Bartell and Clydell Castleman), three cards have player/manger pairings and the rest is a hodgepodge of guys who, even in 1936, seem to be odd choices to make the cut.

“Rabbit” Pytlak was a good-field, no- hit catcher for the Indians. Tony Piet was a classic weak infielder. In 1936 he was 29 years old and the third baseman for the White Sox. Think Maicer Izturis. “Rip” Radcliff would  put in a solid year for the Browns in 1940, but in 1936 was a 30 year old outfielder in his second full season for the White Sox. For some reason I can’t fathom,  he was an All Star and finished in 16th place in the AL MVP voting.

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I’ve got no quarrel with having Wally Berger in this set. Berger was a four time All-Star, garnering MVP votes five years in a row.  1936 was the last year of both runs, though decent years still ahead. George Blaeholder was a middle of the road starter who was in his last year in 1936, putting the finishing touches on an 11 year career that ended up with a 4.54 ERA (to be fair, that number equated to an ERA+ of 103, average, not awful).  Cy Blanton was, for one year, worth of his first name. Forgotten now, Blanton had a phenomenal rookie year with the Pirates in 1935, going 18-13 with a league leading ERA of 2.58 (ERA+ of 159). He’d get progressively less effective and be gone after the 1942 season; his last decent year coming in 1938. Still I get why he’s here.  Cliff Bolton, in his fourth season in 1935 finally became a regular in the Senators outfield. Why he gets a card is lost on me, especially considering who’s not in this set (thankfully, since they’d cost a ton) – Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell , Mel Ott, Dizzy Dean, Luke Appling, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx.

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It’s not that there aren’t Hall of Famers; one of every five cards has one.  Alphabetically and numerically, this is a superior run of cards with Charlie Gehringer,” Goose” Goslin and “Lefty”Gomez.  And Charlie Gelbert. Gelbert put in a nine year career as an infielder with a 9.3 WAR. Four of those years he had a negative WAR, in three others he was below 1. Sure, Gelbert over Appling in player selection, why not.

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The quirky roster of players in Wide Pen Type 1 is part of why I like it. It’s rare for me to encounter so many major leaguers I know nothing about. (The backs are blank, so no help there). I’ve been steadily marching to completion; I need 11 more. Some are Hall of Famers, but I should be able to get Bill Dickey, Earl Combs and Gabby Hartnett for $15-25 each. The others are commons, some with name recognition today (Phil Cavaretta, Frank Crosetti, Bucky Walters) but they’ll likely set me back around $10 each. The demand is so low that I’ve been able to get cards regularly between $5 – 12.

It’s a great set. Look at this Gee Walker card and tell me it’s not.

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Purity of Essence (Or, How I Learned to Start Analyzing What Is and Isn’t a Baseball Card)

I’ve been working on completing a 1936 Goudey Wide Pen set, Type 1 of course, and, I’m pleased to say, I’m in the homestretch.  I’ve got 106 of the 120 AND the two keys – Joes DiMaggio/McCarthy rookie (which I basically traded, even up, for a 1976 Walter Payton rookie card) and Hank Greenberg.  I had a pretty good jumpstart on this set; I bought 80 or so back in the early ‘90’s for, what I can only assume, was a steal.

I was showing my friend Jimmy the album with my Wide Pens and he said, “They’re not really cards, are they?”  “Sure they are,” I said, not even understanding the question, but since that day I’ve been mulling over the existential point he was trying to make – “What is a baseball card?”

The Type 1 Wide Pens were in-store premiums (not sure what the method was to acquire them – were they free? Did you have to buy a certain amount of Goudey gum products?), 3 ¼” X 5 ½” black and white portraits or posed action shots with thick facsimile autographs. Overall they’re pretty fascinating, a mix of Conlon-type close ups and various pitchers in windups, swinging hitters and, on rare occasion, a real game photo. The backs are blank. (The player selection is odd and worth a post of its own).

 

So how could this not be immediately perceived as a card? Is it only a photograph? In the corner each Type 1 says “LITHO IN U.S.A.,” so maybe they see themselves as photos.  The 1964 Topps Giants measure 3 1/8” X 5 ¼”, slightly smaller than the Goudeys, but no one would claim they aren’t cards. Is it because they’re Topps? Because they were sold in stores? Have backs?

The 1981 Topps Giant Photo Cards are huge, 4 7/8” X 6 7/8” and were sold in stores. They have something on the back, but not very much. Is this a card? Topps’ own schizophrenia on the issue – “Photo” “Cards” – makes it unclear.

This is a card?

I don’t know the answer to the question but, since Jimmy raised the point, it’s been on my mind. What is and isn’t a card? It can’t be the maker that gives it identity, because the card world has had innumerable manufacturers. Is it distribution? Can’t be. Cards have been delivered in a lot of different ways. In store premiums are not much different than box toppers or mail away offers. Is the back having content or not a dividing line? Plenty of issues have minimal to zero text on the reverse.

Give it some thought, for me.

Best Trade Ever

Look at this card:

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Yes, it’s a Joe DiMaggio rookie card, but a fairly reasonably priced one because it has another guy on it. That other guy is Hall of Famer Joe McCarthy!, but collectors find that takes away from the Joe D-ness of it. I’ve been working on my 1936 Goudey Wide Pen Type 1 set and this card was definitely going to be the hardest to find in reasonable condition at a reasonable price. In VG it books for $150 but I knew I’d never get it at that price. I assumed I’d have to pay $250 or more.

Then one appeared with a minimum bid and that minimum bid was $150. Definitely in a VG or better state, with some staining on the back that is hard to see on the front. I thought about it for days, asked myself  a lot of questions about whether I’d be happy with this particular card and that this particular price. I finally realized I’d never get it in this condition for any less, so I put in a bid.

In the last few weeks I’ve been methodically looking for doubles and triples to sell. One of the doubles I had listed was a 1976 Walter Payton rookie card, NM, with a minimum bid of $100. After I bid on the DiMag  card, I got the familiar iPhone ding signifying eBay action. Someone had bid on Payton. Then there was a message. The guy bidding on the Payton card was the same guy selling the DiMaggio! He’s putting together a complete run of Topps football , he liked my card and hoped we could end our respective auctions early.

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“Are you offering a one-for-one trade?”  I asked. He was. It was about midnight but I hopped out of bed and ran down to the computer. After a series of messages back-and-forth where we tried to figure out how to do this properly and in accordance with eBay rules (he changed his auction to Buy It Now with Offer and I was able to end my auction early and hit his bid), we got it done. Both eBay and PayPal were cut in on the deal but the end result is I got a Joe DiMaggio/Joe McCarthy card for $17 and an extra card I was willing to trade.

What does this say about value? I now have an 81-year-old card with two Hall of Famers, one of them amongst the most legendary, and the other guy got a 41-year-old card of an equally high level icon. Perhaps the value is in our mutual satisfaction and that’s enough. Prices, ages, maybe none of that really matters. Still, I can’t believe my good luck fortune.

Nineteen more cards to go in this set, with DiMaggio replaced by this guy as the highest priced card remaining:

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Anyone want to trade one for one for this?:

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Memory Almost Full?

I pride myself on my memory. When I shop for records, I know at a glance what I have and what I don’t. Same thing for books. Believe me, it’s not that easy to keep such things mentally cataloged when you have thousands of each.

Same holds true for cards. The “got it, got it, need it, need it” knowledge runs deep for me. So, whenever I slip up in life, memory wise, it gets me down. I’m only 55 (almost!) but not having 100% infallible recall worries me.

When I started looking at older sets to finish, searching for those that were reasonably within striking distance, I completely forgot about the 1936 Goudey Wide Pens, Type 1. I was putting some cards away recently and came across them, pages and pages of them. It’s not that I didn’t know I had some; I didn’t know how many and have little memory of when and why I was so into them.

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Turns out I have 70% of the set, 83 of 120, so add another set to the project list. It’s an interesting checklist. Granted, there were only 16 teams back then, but the amount of dross in the roster  is amazing. There is a quasi-DiMaggio rookie card (he’s pictured with Joe McCarthy) and a Hank Greenberg card (of course, I don’t have either), and there are a good amount of Hall of Famers (Gehringer, Waner and Waner, you get the idea) but there are so many people I’ve never heard of. Never. That’s odd.

Odder still is why a blah pitcher named Clydell Castleman has two cards. Two! Greenberg and Gabby Hartnett  only get one each and they were the reigning MVPs. Even John Thorn, MLB Historian, was at a loss when I Tweeted out to him. “Called Slick for some reason…” he offered. That’s something I suppose. Good ol’ Clydell was not much. Even when he won 15 games for the 1935 Giants, he had a mere 0.5 WAR. No one at Goudey knew that. He was out of baseball at 25 years old.

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Besides the less than thrilling checklist, hunting these cards down takes a bit of extra attention. There are three different types of 1936 Wide Pens and two more types in 1937. It can be confusing, but, for those of you keeping score at home, Type 1 have borders and “LITHO IN U.S.A.” printed on the bottom

I’ll admit that the set is not very nice. Seems I have a penchant for unattractive sets, according to some who have said as much when I go on about the 1949 Bowman and 1933 Tattoo Orbit cards. Pretty or not, finishing a set from the 1930’s would be pretty cool, so I’m going for it. Thankfully, no one seems to care for these cards very much. Low supply meets low demand so all cards, even the high priced ones, are not so expensive in EX condition as to be out of reach.

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But, as I pursue these cards, is the chase for Ed Moriarty and Tommy Padden going to knock more important information out of my head? It’s a risk I’m prepared to take.

Collecting Goals for 2016

One year ago, as 2015 was approaching 2016, I was having a conversation on Twitter with some fellow collectors about our collecting goals for 2016. I had not made goals in previous years nor had I made any for the upcoming year. As a disciple of the Yoda-like collecting legend Eric, also known as @ThoseBackPages on Twitter, I have been trained in the ways of #FOCUS and buy the card not the holder so a list of goals was an idea I liked very much.

Following that conversation I scribbled six goals on a sticky note and stuck it on my above my computer screen where I could see it each day. The goals I set for 2016 are as follows.

  1. Acquire a 1967 Topps Brooks Robinson #600 graded in a PSA 7 NM.
  2. Acquire a 1966 Topps Jim Palmer #126, his rookie card.
  3. Reach 65% completion of my signed 1959 Topps set.
  4. Reach 70% completion of my signed 1981 Fleer set.
  5. Reach 55% completion of my signed 1984 Topps and Topps Traded sets.
  6. Reach 50% completion of my low grade 1934 Goudey set.

fullsizerender-5The first goal I was able to complete was the Palmer RC, I picked up a nice example of this card graded PSA 5.5 EX+ in early February. It is an excellent example of buying the card not the grade as the eye appeal is that of a much higher graded card at a much lower price.

The second, third and fifth goals completed were done rather easily as I underestimated the value of the Twitter collecting community in tracking down the people who have some of the tougher signed cards to find available. I reached 65% on the 1959 Topps set in early April with the purchase of signed Billy Consolo and Alex Kellner cards. Nearly two months later I crossed the 55% pole of the 1984 Topps sets with the addition of Gerald Perry and Ron Reed. The 1981 Fleer goal was reached sometime in August, and for the life of me I can’t find the details of which card pushed me over. Looking back as a whole these three goals were undershot by a significant amount as currently stand at roughly 72%, 81%, and 68% in ascending chronological order.

img_4796The fourth and from my view most difficult goal to reach was the 1967 Brooks Robinson in the PSA 7 grade. The card itself is both a high number and short print, and it is also prone to being off-center. Being a tougher card to find in excellent condition, I found it difficult to find one at a price I could live with. Finally after being snipped in several auctions I got a hold of the 67 Robinson in late July.

The often neglected and last completed goal was to reach the 50% mark of my low grade 1934 Goudey set. I completed this goal in late September with a flurry of eBay purchases from a seller I found who did not overvalue these well-loved cards solely because of their age.

Looking back on this journey I feel that it helped me focus and to keep from splurging on cards that didn’t necessarily fit my collections. I have a few goals already in mind for 2017 number one being a 1957 Brooks Robinson rookie card graded PSA 7.

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