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.
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.
A few months ago I attended the Frederick Ivor-Campbell 19th Century Conference at the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Fred is my favorite of all of the SABR conferences because of the intimacy, the subject, the location and the camaraderie. One of the presentations that weekend was entitled “The Birth of Baseball Cards.” The panel was moderated by MLB historian John Thorn and featured the SABR Baseball Card blog’s very own Jeff Katz, Hall of Fame curator Tom Shieber and author Peter Devereuax. Devereaux’s book, Game Faces, is an inside look at many of the early baseball cards that constitute the Benjamin K. Edwards Collection at the Library of Congress and served as a jumping off point for the panel. Game Faces should be on the reading list of everyone in this group.
Over the course of the panel the question was brought up of just what it is that defines a “card.” It is a question that is often addressed in the hobby; has, in fact, been addressed in this blog by Mr. Katz. It is also a question with no definitive answers, although Shieber, who was one of the driving forces behind the Hall’s new permanent baseball card exhibit entitled “Shoebox Treasures,” listed a few personal criteria. To be clear, Tom does not espouse to be the final voice on this subject, but much of what he said rang true to me. To him, the item in question should be: intended as a collectible, part of a set, directly related to baseball, and there should be a “cardyness” about it. That last one is admittedly vague, though for most of the folks reading this, the idea is likely akin to the old adage coined by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart about pornography. We know it when we see it.
This panel was the highlight of the weekend for me, not just
because it was dedicated to one of my favorite subjects, but more so because I
have wrestled recently with this very question. As I mentioned in my last post,
in my quest to complete a collection of the rookie cards of every Cuban who has
appeared in a major league game, I have had to stretch certain
standardly-accepted definitions, beginning with the idea of a what constitutes a
“rookie card.” In the interest of finding at least one card for every player, I
have had to not only step outside of some of the accepted definitions within
the hobby, but I have been confronted numerous times with the issue of whether
or not an item I am looking at even counts as a “card.”
Such is the case with the 1943 set issued by the Havana-based, cracker, candy and chocolate manufacturer, La Ambrosia. As with major league baseball, the arrival of World War II created a vacuum of talent in the Cuban professional league. The league had already been struggling financially since the political upheaval of the overthrow of President Gerardo Machado, in the early 1930s. When the war began, it stemmed the flow of top-tier American talent, the quality of play suffered, and the league found itself at a low point. The silver lining of this nadir was the maturation of the Cuban amateur leagues.
With no minor league system in place, Cuban clubs would find
their promising young talent on the sugarmill teams that dotted the countryside.
Similar to the American company teams that would produce exciting local
baseball that filled the void before the advent of radio and television broadcasts,
the sugarmill teams were a loose collection of business-based semi-pro clubs.
One of those clubs was sponsored by La Ambrosia, and would feature the likes of
such luminaries as future Cuban batting champ Claro Duany and Orestes “Minnie”
The candy giant capitalized on their sponsorship of the club by publishing a set of 240 images that were released as “stamps.” Collectors were encouraged to get all of the stamps and then stick them inside an album, similar to the more ubiquitous Cuban release issued by Caramelo Deportivo during the 1945/46 and 1946/47 seasons. Printed on thin paper that most closely resembles magazine stock, the La Ambrosia stamps featured the largest single published collection of Cuban amateurs that I have found.
Unlike the Deportivos, in which the images are black and white and often grainy, the La Ambrosias are in color. They have the distinctive look of the tones being both vibrant and muted, as though the photos had been tinted with watercolors. The images look especially bright when mounted on the yellowed pages of their original album. It is those albums which resulted in the Deportivos and the La Ambrosias sharing another unfortunate trait. There are few remaining of either issue that do not have serious flaws, including backs that were damaged by adhesives.
For many, including the auction houses that sell these sets, the descriptions of these issues have evolved from “stamps” to “cards.” They certainly fit with Shieber’s first three criteria. But what about “cardyness?” They are not published on what we think of as a card stock. But does that matter? What is that quintessential piece that makes a card a card? Does an item need ALL of Shieber’s (self-proclaimed arbitrary) criteria? Are three sufficient? What about two? Or one?
The “cards” I have included in the collection for the Aragóns, Ángel and his son Jack, are a perfect example of this latter question. Their short major league careers, as well as the fact that they played during war years (Ángel appeared in 32 games with the Yankees during World War I and Jack’s lone major league appearance was in 1941), led to neither of them having what would be thought of, traditionally, as a card. I have not even had any luck by expanding my search to include cards that portray them in foreign leagues, although Jack’s extensive minor league career gives me hope that I may discover him in an obscure set someday. At the moment, though, they just don’t seem to exist.
However, while trolling through ebay, I came across a seller
who was offering images of both Ángel and Jack. He had come into possession of
a number of old periodicals, including a 1914 Spalding Guide and a 1949
publication called, “Historia del Base Ball Profesional de Cuba,” written by
Raul Diez Muro. The seller, scissors in hand, cut up both periodicals into a series
of head shots for the players that appeared in the two collections. The Spalding
Guide offered a number of publicity photos of minor league players, including Ángel.
Jack appeared in the book by Muro.
I have decided to include these hand cut bits of newsprint in lieu of “cards” because there aren’t any other options for these players and they do have the advantage of originally being printed concurrent with the player’s career. They pass virtually none of Shieber’s criteria. While the publications themselves could be considered collectible, they certainly became less desirable after the scissors were taken to them. The subjects are definitely baseball related, but they are not part of an intended set, nor do they feel very “cardy” to me. I have blurred the line considerably in the interest of completing my checklist.
I am now at the point where I need to decide if, since I have expanded my definitions for the Aragóns, do I do the same with the remaining Cubans who were never issued a card? Are pictures cut from newspapers enough to check that box, especially if I hold true to the criteria of the images being published during their careers? I know it’s my set, and I can do with it as I damn well please, but I’m not a fan of cheating. I suppose the best answer would be for me to wait to make a similar discovery of a player who is cardless, and decide when I see the actual item. Because, like Stewart’s porn, I believe I’ll know it when I see it.
Author’s note: I thought some of you might be interested in seeing the collection as it develops. I have created a flickr album that you can access here. The cards appear in the album not by the year in which they were issued, but rather in the order in which the player made their major league debut. Thus, even though the card for Esteban Bellán wasn’t produced until 2014, he is the first one in the set.
During the height of the baseball card frenzy, there were a lot of sets. Many many sets. Too many sets. There were incredibly crappy and pointless sets (I’m talking about you, 1990 Topps Doubleheaders).
There were sets of historical worthiness, nicely put together, worthy, but monetarily worthless (1987 Donruss Rookies comes to mind).
Plenty of other sets came and went with a Why? These are ugly! Haven’t I seen something like this a million times over? (Presenting the KayBee Team Leaders box.)
Then there are sets that are really nice, worth the time, and, though forgotten, lots of fun.
Sitting on a shelf with a bunch of Topps Updates, Donruss Rookies and assorted others, sits my 1986 Fleer Classic Miniature set, 120 small cards in a tiny box. The ’86 Fleer set is simple and solid, and, though the minis are in the same design – THEY ARE DIFFERENT PHOTOS! Good ones too.
Here’s Dwight Gooden (mini on left, regular issue on right).
Here’s Tom Seaver (same order):
And Eddie Murray:
I was so taken by this set, that I hadn’t looked at in decades, that I went searching for the others – 1987 and 1988. I found a guy on eBay who was selling both (perfect!). He wanted $10 plus shipping. A little quick research showed that there are listings for bulk lots that end up with the sets at about a buck each, and sold listings topped out at $3. I offered $5 for both sets and got them.
Picking up these stray complete sets that I don’t have and are appealing is a great little sideline for me as I stall in completing some older, slightly more difficult sets to wrap up. The price is right, the cards are beautiful, and, though unfortunately lumped into the “junk wax”/baseball card bubble period, are worth having.
I’m sure there are tons of low priced sets that people love and I don’t know about. (I recently picked up a set of 1983 Topps Foldouts that I had never heard of and now adore).
The floor is yours. I want to hear about your faves (which I will then buy for pocket change.)
Yes, Shoebox Treasures, the new baseball card exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, is extraordinary. Yes, I had a lovely talk with Doug McWilliams, the legendary Topps photographer, at Doubleday Field during the Hall of Fame classic. Yes, I’m given special things on the plaque for Shoebox Treasures (and, being named in the Hall of Fame is, in some respects, the same as being in the Hall of Fame, which, taken a step further, is like being a Hall of Famer), but this, and the other things, are not what made this past weekend great.
Starting on Thursday, when my friend Jimmy arrived from Chicago, the weekend was filled with gatherings of friends/collectors. In my living room, or on my front porch, and at Yastrzemski Sports and Baseball Nostalgia, Jimmy, Mark Armour (the new SABR President and co-founder of the SABR Baseball Cards Committee, Mark Hoyle (Red Sox collector extraordinaire) and Jason Schwartz (one of the new co-chairs of the committee) talked baseball, baseball cards, and our collections. It was incredibly fun, incredibly enlightening, and somewhat rare to be surrounded by so many like-minded people.
(L to R, Mark A, Tom, Jimmy, me, Mark H. Jason took the pic.)
On Saturday night, Tom Shieber, senior curator at the Hall and key cog in the cards exhibit, joined us and tossed some 1982 Topps packs our way, resulting in a new, exclusive, club of stickered phones.
As Jimmy and I were walking to Main Street on Sunday to meet the guys for some group baseball card buying, which was enormous fun, with everyone now knowing each other’s interests and pointing out their finds, he asked me for my Mission Statement. He loved that Mark Hoyle had a very specific mission – he collects Red Sox cards. Which kind of Red Sox cards? All of them.
I thought I had a pretty good answer. “I collect complete sets and build sets that are of interest to me.” Jimmy wasn’t having it.
“But that doesn’t tell an outsider anything in detail about what you collect.”
“I don’t care what someone outside of me thinks about my collection,” said I.
Still, the question refined and reaffirmed where my head has been at lately. I am a collector of complete sets and I do like to build complete sets. Could be a baseball, other sports, non-sports, whatever. I like the sense and order of completion. In fact, that day I managed to put together a complete 10 card set of 1993 Kellogg’s College Greats from the cheapo bins at Yaz Sports, and bought two cards for the 1971 Kellogg’s Football set I’m working on. I was true to my mission statement. (I did buy one baseball thing – a signed index card and TCMA 1960’s card of Juan Pizarro).
Further, my toe-dipping into selling my pre-war cards has gone full blown. Why? They don’t really fit what I collect and have no emotional ties. They’re cool, some way cool, but that’s doesn’t feel like quite enough. Yesterday I began listing them.
Here are some of the ones I’m moving out:
They’re sweet, and maybe I’ll miss them, but I know if someone wanted to trade a complete 1966 Topps set for a handful of pre-war beauties, I’d make that deal in a heartbeat. A full set that has a direct connection to my early pack buying days for a bunch of random cards?
I have 15 of 66 cards from the 1965 Topps Soupy Sales set. I’m not there.
I have 6 of 88 1957 Topps Hit Stars. Not yet.
I have 6 of 24 1968 Topps Posters, off condition donated by friends. I’m uncommitted.
1960 Leaf second series. I’m all in.
I wrote about the 1960 Leaf set in December. Soon after I posted, I grabbed a Harry Brecheen.
Then I picked up Henry Mason and Earl Torgeson in a COMC order. I told myself I was casually working on the set. That’s even in my name for the spreadsheet I created.
But am I? I bought a Faye Throneberry at COMC (not in hand yet), and then five from one eBay seller.
Now I’m 1/8 of the way there and going for it. (By the way, all the cards are standard shiny white. Not sure why they photographed so dingy. They’re nice, though not as nice as my first series.)
At less than $9 per card in EX to EXMT, I could happily acquire more commons, though this condition at that price is a challenge. The second series cards are out there, but tend to be listed for more. I’ve been lucky so far. Some cards will set me back – Sparky Anderson, Orlando Cepeda, Jim Bunning, the two Hal Smiths (one card), maybe Curt Flood.
I’m happy to be swept in by these cards. It’s a good, manageable project that crept up on me and, all of a sudden, I was in for keeps.
When I first traveled to Cuba in 2015, I had hoped to bring home some cards of the stars I would be seeing while I was on my baseball tour. Still naive about the differences between Cuban baseball and the major leagues, I believed that there would be such a thing. I knew the stadium amenities weren’t going to be luxurious (they weren’t) and the food at the park was bound to be lousy (it often was, though the pulled pork sliders I bought outside of Estadio 26 de Julio in Aretmisa remain vividly delicious in my memory). Still, surely an enterprising soul, or the government, had managed to publish a few sets of baseball cards. I was quickly corrected by none other than fellow traveler and Cuban baseball expert Peter Bjarkman. He informed me there were no modern cards in Cuba. There was one set published in 1994 which included pre-MLB cards for the Hernández brothers, Liván and Orlando. The one before that was sold in the 1950s.
I had never given much thought of what it would be like to be a youthful fan
who could not regularly experience baseball cards. I loved the cards long
before I truly loved the game. In the days before the internet and daily
airings on team-owned networks, they were my most direct connection. I thrilled
with each new pack and the treasures I found inside.
That same passion, this time on the faces of a gaggle of Cuban children, was on display whenever a member of our group pulled out a pack of Topps at one of the five Serie Nacional contests I attended. They would swarm, a collective that would consume any gleaming picture of a hero-in-action they could get their hands on. Bonus points if it was Yasiel Puig or Aroldis Chapman. At one point I pulled out a business card to give to a local sportswriter and a child’s eager hands immediately reached out to me. Just the image of a baseball on my card was enough to ignite their imaginations.
All of this got me thinking about the Cuban stars of the past, and whether they had baseball cards. I had learned that generations of Serie Nacional heroes have never had one. But, what about the hundreds of Cubans who played in the major leagues? Surely many of them must have cards. I first considered starting a collection of all of the cards featuring Cuban-born players. I quickly realized that a complete collection of Cubans was going to necessitate far too much energy and money pursuing just José Canseco. There are roughly 3000 distinct cards of the tainted slugger. I decided that maybe the best way to approach this new whim would be to just get the rookie cards. The set would become relatively finite and definitely more achievable.
Many of them have rookie cards, but certainly not all. Some never had a card issued at all, at least none that my current research has revealed. Others have cards, but not ones that modern collectors consider “rookies.” Cards from a player’s minor league days do not qualify. Neither do cards from foreign leagues, such as the pre-revolution Cuban Winter League.
Such is the case of the Acosta brothers, José and Merito. The two appeared
on Clark Griffith’s Cuban-laden Washington Senators of the 1910s and 20s.
However, neither made enough of a mark to appear on a card during World War I
and the lean years of the hobby that followed. Cards were produced in smaller
sets, thus players like Merito, who appeared in 180 games in the outfield over
five seasons, and José, who pitched in 55 games over three years, often fell
through the cracks.
However, while playing for the 1923/24 Marianao squad of the Cuban League, they both appeared in a set that was issued in their homeland by Billiken. Like their American counterpart, these cards could be found in packs of cigarettes. In addition to Cubans, they also featured American Negro League legends like Oscar Charleston and Andy Cooper. Per the definitions set by modern collectors, these do not qualify as “rookie cards.” I decided that because so many of the pre-revolution members of the fraternity fell into this category, I was expanding my criteria to include first-known cards, as well.
As of this writing, there have been 208 Cuban-born men who have played or managed in the majors. So far, and research is ongoing, there appear to be 194 cards in the set I have designed. I had four at the outset, just by culling from my own collection: a 1990 issue of Tony Fossas, a 1989 Orestes Destrade, a 1987 Rafael Palmeiro and, from a pack bought in the interest of the project, a 2015 Jorge Soler. All of them happened to be Topps. There are numerous other publishers in this set, including Bowman, Upper Deck and Fleer. Going back before World War II, there are Zeenuts, T207s, an E135, and multiple cards from the candy manufacturer Caramelo Deportivo.
The day after I finished the first draft of the checklist for the set, I
paid a visit to a comic book store in New Paltz, New York. My ex-wife and I
meet there sometimes when we exchange our daughter. B is a fan of comics and I
like to encourage my kid to become a nerd, just like her old man. While not a
large shop, the collection is extensive and a fan of the genre is certain to
What it does not have, however, is very many baseball cards for sale. The
two collectibles will often appear together at small retail shops like this,
though such stores usually lean more heavily in one direction. No one would
ever think of this place as a local card shop. But, it does sell packs of the
current sets and that day had about 50 individual cards up for grabs. Of those
singles, the inventory was split between medium value cards of current players,
a sprinkling of stars from 1970s, 80s and 90s, and a few lesser known players
from the 60s.
One of those latter cards was from the Topps 1965 set, number 201. Minnesota Twins rookie stars César Tovar and Sandy Valdespino share the honors. Tovar, a native of Venezuela, had a fine twelve-year career with the Twins, Phillies, Rangers, A’s and Yankees. He finished in the top twenty-five in MVP voting every year from 1967-1971 and led the league in doubles and triples in 1970. The Trading Card Database has identified 56 unique cards manufactured for Tovar.
Hilario “Sandy” Valdespino lasted for seven seasons with the Twins, Braves, Astros, Pilots, Brewers and Royals. He did not share the same success as his card-mate, though he did get eleven at bats in the 1965 World Series, contributing a double and a run. Valdespino was born in San Jose de las Lajas in Mayabeque and became the 106th Cuban to appear in the majors when he made his debut on April 12, 1965. Number 201 is his official rookie card, one of only nineteen different identified cards of the outfielder ever produced.
The odds of finding that card, in that place, just days
after I decided to pursue this quest, cannot be calculated. It was a divine
intervention, a gift sent by the baseball gods in the form of a fifty-year-old
piece of cardboard.
Today I have 115 of the cards from the set. The latest pickup, a W514 of Dolf Luque, is a real beauty. The corners are a little rounded and there are some minor markings on the surface, but it is crease free and remarkably sturdy for something that was printed a century ago. Luque, the first Cuban superstar, is an underappreciated name from yesteryear and a personal favorite. Finally acquiring his card inspired me to tell this story.
As always, the final cards of this set are the most
challenging and, of course, the most expensive. It is also a set that is always
expanding. Despite the recent short-sighted pronouncements of the current
presidential administration, Cubans will continue to find a way to travel those
ninety miles to American shores to play the game. Last year, six more made
their major league debut. Three of them have rookie cards, so far, and the
recent call up by the Yankees of Nestor Cortes, Jr., who had a
less-than-impressive debut with Baltimore last March, increases the chances of
him getting one at some point this season. When he does, I’ll be there.
2001 Upper Deck Decade 1970s. Always liked these. Bought the 75 I needed to complete the set via @Sportlots. Even with postage it was about .25 per card. @SABRbbcards
To which, Rob Neyer replied, “Aren’t you the guy who doesn’t like Heritage?” (I paraphrase.)
Yes, that is me, the guy who doesn’t like Heritage, for reasons stated here. Why do I like Upper Deck’s version of a classic Topps design? It got me thinking.
I’m not anti-nostalgia, which I think people assume goes hand in hand with my disdain for Heritage. Collecting cards is, by definition, a nostalgic enterprise and even buying new packs and sets is an attempt to recreate an old, warm feeling.
What I like about the Upper Deck set is that it isn’t marketing itself as some kind of replica product, updated, which has always been a false claim of any Heritage set. The differences between Heritage and the originals are deep, as I posted about, and mar the effort for me. They don’t feel the same; they come across as less than accurate knockoffs. They’re replicants and their flaws come out.
Upper Deck doesn’t try to mimic the past. Rather the Decade set is an homage, stealing a design as close to 1975 Topps as likely legal. The pictures are nearly all great (some black and white photos negatively affect the overall look) and the set evokes the era nicely.
The subsets are swell, a mini-history of the ten years. All in all, there’s a lot crammed into a 180 card base set.
As Tweeted, I had more than half the set and, at .18 per card (pre-postage), it was more than worth my while to finish the whole thing. I got a big stack of cards and a complete set.
I try very hard not be generation based, and avoid at all costs the “everything was better when I was a kid” mentality (it wasn’t). One of the things I enjoy about this Committee, and the Twitter baseball card world, is that collectors younger than I have the same feeling about 1989 Topps as I have about 1971 Topps and that’s as it should be. Cards are like music – what you love as a kid stays your truest love. There’s a reason that John Lennon always preferred Chuck Berry. Lennon was a kid when he first heard him.
And maybe that’s at the root of my Heritage problem. I don’t need to see today’s players framed as if they were players then. Baseball is the only sport whose fans insist that the players of today are lesser than the players of their youth. “Clayton Kershaw isn’t half the pitcher Jim Bunning was. You know Bunning used to throw 300 innings a year?” We’ve all heard variations of this insipid argument. Spare me.
So let today’s players have their own design and let the ‘70’s players have theirs, or something close.
Cool card, right? Hall of Famer, glove on hip variation, rare back, sharp corners, a real beauty.
Why do I have it? Well, around 20 years ago, I decided that it would be awesome to try to get a card of every HOFer from their playing days. I started accumulating some, but knew, in my heart, I’d never get there. Expense, rarity, fluctuations in income and time would prove me right. This was a pipe dream.
Pipe dreams can be fine; having a Holy Grail has its merits. It’s not for me. I like to collect sets, manufacturer ordained sets. I’m not a Personal Collector, looking for every Max Alvis card (though I’ve thought about doing that), or a Team Collector, or a Type Collector. Great pursuits all, not my thing.
So now I’m left with a bunch of nice pre-war cards that, because of my nature and the reasons I acquired them, have no emotional hold on me. Mark Armour and I spent a long time on the phone last week talking about emotion and collecting, and how, for us, they’re inextricable. I think we all know this. The cards in our collection that we’ve known since we were kids feel different to us than the cards we’ve purchased along the way. I can assure you that the 1977 Burger King Yankees set that I got last week brings me more joy than ol’ Muggsy’s T206.
You’ve read about my travails in grading and I can report that I sold the Ruth and Cobb for about as much as I think I can, based on lots of offers and auction results. I only had a little post-partum blues, but they faded fast. The main reason I sold those was to buy a nice 1956 Mantle, which I did.
What’s interesting to me is that a 1956 Mantle is about equal in my mind (and heart) to the McGraw. Mantle retired around when baseball started to blossom for me and, even when I started collecting cards in the early 1970’s, he was never a guy I dug. So why, in effect, trade a Cobb Domino Disc for a ’56 Mick?
I think I do have a reason. When I was first buying old cards, I fell in love with the 1956 set. For years, it was the vintage set I had the most of (about 40 cards). I started pursuing the set in earnest a couple of years ago and needed Mantle.
Rather than bringing me back to my youth as a pack buyer, which, I have to say, finishing low value insert Football sets – 1970 Super Glossy, 1971 Game and Posters – did in spades,
the 1956 Mantle brings me back to my youth as a collector. I can see 12-year old me with his first ‘56s, remember buying beautiful Pee Wee Reese and Whitey Ford cards, and there’s a certain pang that comes with those cards.
We’ll see where this all goes. In reality, there’s a limited amount of cards from my growing up that I don’t have, or still want. In retrospect, I should’ve bought the 1979 Topps Hockey set instead of this McGraw card. Maybe that’s my next deal, selling Little Napoleon to buy The Great Gretzky’s rookie card.
Soon after we moved to Cooperstown, a neighbor, now knowing I liked cards (or assuming Joey, then 8, liked cards), gave me (or us) boxes of mid-1990’s basketball cards. The neighbor’s son clearly saw gold in them thar hills, loading up on Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf cards, but, as we know, all that came crashing down.
I hadn’t looked at those cards since, other than to combine them into as few boxes as possible. A couple of days ago I dragged them out. Nothing of monetary value there, but, I have to say, I was struck by how nice nearly all the different sets and subsets were. The 1997-98 Fleer homage to 1934 Goudey is so nice that I pulled it out of the pile.
Tucked into the scads of hoop cards were some other sports. Very little baseball though, but I stumbled across these two, both Eddie Murray.
They’re from the 1997 Donruss Limited set, a fancy 200 card series that were $4.99 a pack twenty years ago! (And you only got five cards.) Some thoughts:
I was struck by how incredibly wonderful the Murray/Jefferson card is. It’s super-glossy on the front, without being as noisy as a lot of refractory cards tended to be. They feel good too, not overly slick.
The “Exposure – Double Team” card is also very nice, though less so. Simple, not as shiny, but solid.
Eddie Murray as an Anaheim Angel in the Disney togs is something I’d forgotten long ago. Seeing him in that vest, which I kinda love, is a surprising treat.
In various blog posts/Tweets/Facebook comments, we’ve engaged in the idea of “junk wax.” I, like others, deplore the name. They are fairly worthless dollar-wise, but the cards of that era (maybe 1986ish-2000? I don’t’ know that anyone has bracketed the period in detail) are almost always beautiful, in all sports. In a highly competitive market, innovation in design was a must. Some fell flat, others soared, but because they aren’t sellable, fantastic looking cards have been left behind. I don’t believe I have ever seen a 1997 Donruss Limited card until now.
Now that I’ve seen these cards, I’m not sure what to do. As a die-hard set collector, it’s all or nothing for me. Usually. Sure, I poked around eBay to see if I could find a set, but nothing is listed right now. I saw a complete set of 200 sold for somewhere less than $100.
Maybe it’s that I don’t feel like having to store another late-‘90’s box, or that, perhaps, the glow I have from the two cards won’t hold through 200. Or, maybe, I’ve fallen victim to the “junk wax” tag and have a subconscious resistance to buying any set from the time, unless it’s $5-10.
Regardless, nothing will get in the way of enjoying these two cards. I like them so much I haven’t put them away yet, keeping them close by to sneak an occasional peek.
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.
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.
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?