Lifers

One of the things I enjoy most about collecting cards is putting together checklists of things that interest me. Sometimes these become projects like the action cards or photographer cards that I try and collect. Other times just the exercise of figuring out the checklist and thinking about the theme is enough.

One such checklist I’ve been working on is about baseball lifers and trying to find cards that reflect the longest periods of time in organized baseball. Many of the cards on this list are unobtainable for various reasons but it’s been a fun project to research. I’ve limited to 45 or more years in the game but moving to 40+ would only add a few more guys like Clay Bryant. Also, before anyone questions my math, I’m counting inclusively.

Jimmie Reese

69 years
1925 Zeenut–1993 Mother’s Cookies

It’s fitting that Jimmie Reese’s first and last cards are both regional issues from the West Coast. I remember fascinated by him as the ancient Angels coach in the late 1980s and he was one of the few (if not the only) coaches who occasionally showed up in regular sets as well (he has cards in both 1991 Leaf Studio and 1991 Bowman).

Casey Stengel

56 years
1910 Old Mill Cigarettes–1965 Topps

Stengel was the obvious standout in this department. He benefits from the sheer number of card releases in the pre-World War 1 era. When I was researching this checklist there were a decent number of guys who debuted in pro ball between the wars but who didn’t get cards until after World War 2.

As with Reese, I really enjoy the difference between his first card and his last card. All the pre-war cards just feel like they’re from a completely different world.

Frank Robinson

50 years
1957 Topps–2006 Topps

Compared to Reese and Stengel, Robinson’s cards are much more familiar feeling. If anything, his 1957 card feels much more comfortable to me than that awkward 2006 design.

Felipe Alou

48 years
1959 Topps–2006 Topps

The first pair on this checklist that I can conceivably acquire. While a Frank Robinson rookie is also something that I could get, it’ll always be out of my price range. But these two, as a Giants collector, are pretty much already on my wantlist as it is.

As with the Robinsons, these both feel familiar although I appreciate how both of them are so of their time while also sharing the common Topps DNA.

Del Baker

47 years
1914 B18 Blankets–1960 Topps

Baker is actually the inspiration for this post. I found a 1917 Zeenut card of him at my grandmother’s house and subsequently acquired his 1954 Topps card. When someone else posted about a different 1954 Topps coach card we started talking about baseball lifers, Casey Stengel’s name came up, and then I started thinking about who else should be on the list.

Dusty Baker

Baker1971Topps

46 years
1971 Topps–2016 Topps Allen & Ginter Skippers minis

Dusty was actually the first name I thought of when the topic of baseball lifers came up. Sadly Topps doesn’t make manager cards in Flagship anymore. Nor do they appear to be in Heritage either. So Dusty’s last card as a manager is part of an Allen & Ginter mini set which is either so rare or so boring that the only images I can find online are the Topps promotional ones.

I miss manager cards and wish Topps would bring them back. Dusty also hasn’t retired yet so there’s a possibility he could move up this list if he gets another gig and Topps produces manager cards again.

Lou Piniella

46 years
1964 Topps–2009 Topps

Because of Ball Four I always associate Piniella as being a rookie in 1969. But as has been pointed out before, he was one of those multi-year rookie stars and his first rookie card from 1964 gets him into this checklist.

Leo Durocher

 

45 years
1929 Exhibits Four-in-One–1973 Topps

I’m glad I found one lifer whose last card is in the 1970s. As I mentioned earlier, the hardest part here is finding rookie cards in the 1920s and 30s. Which is too bad since the way that Topps includes coaches in 1973 and 1974 means that there was a possibility for more lifers to have last cards.

Anyway I’m sure I’ve missed some guys. I don’t have anyone whose last card was in the 1980s. Nor do I have anyone whose career started in the 30s or 40s. So I look forward to being corrected in the comments here.

Best Trade Ever

Look at this card:

s-l1600

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.

1976 Payton front059

“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:

s-l1600 (1)

Anyone want to trade one for one for this?:

1974 Wilt front017

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.

IMG_2843

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.

IMG_2824

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.

IMG_2844

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.

Dating and Authenticating Real Photo Postcards

Real photo postcards are postcards with genuine photographic images on the fronts. They do not have “ink-and-printing-press” images but are actual photographs on photopaper. They were designed and printed on the backs to be mailed, often having handwritten letters, addresses and postage stamps on the back.  

Real photo postcards with baseball subjects are popularly collected by vintage baseball card and memorabilia collectors, and prime examples of famous players and teams can fetch big bucks at auction.  However, real photo postcards can be found with a wide range of subjects, including other sports, movie stars, politicians,  nature and animals.  Vintage real photo postcards, including of non-sport subjects, is a major collecting area all around the world.

1920shighschoolteam
1920s high school baseball players
louisebrooks
1920s postcard of silent movie star Louise Brooks

Most real photo postcards were essentially family photographs and snapshots intended to be given to relatives and friends or to be put in the family album. The factory made real photo postcard photopaper that happened to be a convenient size for such purposes. These family photos and snapshots will show standard family poses, including little Jimmy in his school uniform, the family picnicking or a wedding reception.

Many vintage real photo postcards are family photos
Many vintage real photo postcards are family photos

Some real photo postcards were used for advertising or sold to the public at stores and are equivalent to trading cards– and, thus, actively collected by trading card collectors. Many of these show celebrities such as movie stars, sports stars and politicians. You can find examples picturing everyone from Ty Cobb to Red Grange to Greta Garbo to Thomas Edison.

Some famous sports photographers sold real photo postcards.  This includes George Burke (the photographer for the Goudey and Play Ball sets),  Carl Horner (the photographer for many early 1900s cards including the T206 Honus Wagner) and legendary boxing photographer Charles Dana.

circa 1936 George Burke postcard of Joe DiMaggio
circa 1936 George Burke postcard of Joe DiMaggio
Carl Horner postcard of the 1904 New York Giants
Carl Horner postcard of the 1904 New York Giants

 

Dating Real Photo Postcards

Real photos are dated by the back designs and text and, as shown later, authenticated by some basic knowledge of old photography.

In the United States real photo postcards originated in 1901. The American design of postcards was regulated by United States law and can be dated in general by the text and designs. Below is a brief description of the vintage designs.

Post Card Era (1901-1907) The use of the term “POST CARD” was granted by the government to private printers on December 24 1901. Earlier cards were called ‘Private Mailing Cards.’ Only the address was allowed to be written on the back of the card during Post Card Era. A blank panel was put on the front for messages.

Divided Back Era (1907-   ) Postcards with a divided back began March 1 1907. The address was to be written on the right side and the left side was for writing messages. This is the same style used today. The early images were ‘full bleed,’ meaning that they went all the way to the edge of the card. White borders were popularly introduced around 1915. In more modern times, both full bleed and white borders were made, but the white borders almost always date mid 1910s and after.

Post Card Era’ back: With the earliest real photo postcards, only the address could be written on the back. This back dates the postcard as being from 1901-07
Post Card Era’ back: With the earliest real photo postcards, only the address could be written on the back. This back dates the postcard as being from 1901-07
Divided back postcard. The left side was for the letter and the right side was for the address.
Divided back postcard. The left side was for the letter and the right side was for the address.

 

Giving an ApproximateDate to a Real Photo Postcard by the Stampbox Markings

Many real photo postcards have text identifying the brand of paper. If this text exists, they will be found in the stampbox. The stampbox is the little square in the upper right hand corner that the stamps are placed on.

If a real photo postcard has the stampbox text, the below chart will help determine the general period in which the postcard was made. (Chart courtesy of the2Buds.com).

The stampbox is in the upper right.
The stampbox is in the upper right.

 

Stampbox Markings  Dates

AGFA ANCO  1930s — 1940s

ANSCO (2 stars at top and bottom)  1940s — 1960

ARGO  1905 — 1920

ARTURA  1910 — 1924

AZO (Squares in each corner)  1925 — 1940s

AZO (4 triangles pointing upward)  1904 — 1918

AZO (2 triangles up, 2 triangles down)  1918-1930

AZO (diamonds in corners)  1907 — 1909

AZO (nothing in corners)  1922 — 1926

CYKO  1904 — 1920s

DEFENDER (diamond above & below stampbox) 1910 — 1920

DEFENDER (diamond inside stampbox)  1920 – 1940

Devolite Peerless  1950 and later

DOPS  1925 — 1942

EKC  1940 — 1950

EKKP  1904 — 1950

EKO  1942 — 1970

KODAK  1950 — present

KRUXO (nothing in corners)  1907 — 1920s

KRUXO (Xs in corners)  1910 — 1920s

NOKO  1907 — 1920s

PMO  1907 — 1915

SAILBOAT  1905 — 1908

SOLIO (diamonds in corners)  1903 — 1920s

VELOX (diamonds in corners)  1907 — 1914

VELOX (squares in corners)  1901 — 1914

VELOX (4 triangles pointing up)  1909 — 1914

VITAVA  1925 — 1934

azo text in a stampbox
azo text in a stampbox

 

Postage dates and stamps

Postally mailed postcards will have the dated postage cancellation stamp.  No better way to date postcard.  In fact, the blank backed Pinkerton Postcards were confirmed to be vintage (there were doubts by some collectors), because a few were found to have been used as postcards with 1910s postmarks on the backs.

1907 postmark
1907 postmark

 

Other tips between for telling the difference between genuine vintage examples and modern reprints

As old postcards can easily be reprinted on home computer printers these days, the following are some additional tips for telling the difference between vintage and modern reprints. As you might expect the counterfeit ones will be of primo subjects, such as Babe Ruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Jim Thorpe. Needless to say, it is good practice to buy from reputable sellers who guarantee authenticity. If you want a second opinion, PSA and SGC grade real photo postcards.

* Silvering in the image as sign of old age. Silvering is when it appears as if the silver has come to surface of the image. If it exists, it is more noticeable at the edges and in the dark areas of the image, and when viewed at a specific angle to the light. If you change the angle of the photo to a light source, the silvering will become stronger and darker, sometimes disappearing. It can range in intensity and often resembles a silvery patina.

The key is that silvering is an aging process and appears after decades. The presence of silvering is very strong evidence of a real photo postcard’s old age.

silvering is seen in the dark areas of this image.
silvering is seen in the dark areas of this image.

* Early real photo postcards are on thinner stock have matte backs, though the fronts can be glossy. If the back has a smooth, plasticy surface, it is modern. Kodak introduce plastic resin-coated paper in 1968.

* Cyantotype real photo postcards.  You will occasionally see real photo postcards with bright blue images. These are cyanotype photos, with cyan meaning light blue. Cyanotype was an old type process. Cyanotypes, even antique ones, don’t get silvering.

1906 cyanotype real photo postcard of a baseball team.
1906 cyanotype real photo postcard of a baseball team.

* If the front and back have a multi-color dot pattern under strong magnification, as on a modern baseball card or computer print, it is more than probably modern reprint, likely made on someone’s home computer.

 

Reviving the ancient custom

I found reference to the Obak baseball cards in an issue of the United States Tobacco Journal from 1909.

United States Tobacco Journal – October 9, 1909
from Google Books

I found several different advertisements from 1910 that featured the Obak brand, but I haven’t found one for the smokes featuring cards.

San Francisco Chronicle – June 8, 1910
from GenealogyBank.com

Here’s an example of the T212 Obak cards.

Obak T212 – W. Hogan
from the Library of Congress

A nickel a pop?  I’d buy them by the carton.  And I don’t smoke.

Assorted Authenticity Notes, Thoughts and Tips

As well known to my friends and family, I am a non-linear thinker and talker, and this article follows the pattern. Offered here are aleatory notes, thoughts and tips on authentication related topics.

* * *

A concern I often hear from collectors is that computer and digital printing technology is getting so advanced that some day they will be able to make a counterfeit T206 Honus Wagner completely indistinguishable from the original.

The answer is no, this is not correct.

Modern digital printing indeed looks better and better and is more and more detailed at the naked eye, holding-the-card-in-your-hand level. However, it looks less and less like the original 1909 T206 lithography at the microscopic level. And it is at the microscopic level that printing is identified and dated and such cards are ultimately authenticated.

The paradox with printing technology and the duplication of old prints is that the more closely it looks like the original at the naked eye level, the less it looks like the original at the microscopic level. Today’s computer printers use a fine pattern of tiny dots to reproduce graphics, with the finer the dot pattern the more detailed and realistic the reproduced graphics at the naked eye level. However, this fine dots maze looks very different under the microscope from the original, antiquated T206 printing–and the finer the dot pattern gets, the less it looks like the original printing at the microscopic level.

* * * *

If the identifying, dating and microscopic inspection of old printing is something that interest you, I wrote the following guide book. Well illustrated in color, it covers the major forms of antique and commercial printing and was written for collectors and dealers of antique trading cards, posters, ads, signs, premiums and even fine art. It is in pdf format and you can download it for free.

Identifying Antique Commercial Printing Processes

* * * *

Fake detection tip
If a seller is selling online a rare and expensive baseball card with obviously scissors clipped corners that he describes as “natural corner wear,” there is a more than probable chance you’re looking at a fake.

With homemade fakes, one of the harder things to do is to mimic natural corner rounding due to wear. The forger often clips the corners at straight angles then roughs them up a bit. In many cases, the corners remain obviously hand cut.

Of course genuine cards can have clipped corners, but anyone experienced with cards can tell the difference between clipping and natural wear. Even if the there is the odd chance the card for sale is real, why would you choose to make expensive purchases from a seller who can’t identify obvious trimming? Shouldn’t you be buying from the seller who knows what he is doing?

* * * *

Identifying Common Cracker Jack Reprints
The 1914-15 Cracker Jacks cards used no white ink and this helps in identifying many reprints.

The white (actually off white) on the card is created by the absence of ink on the white (actually off white) color of the cardstock. In other words, the white borders and any white in the player picture is the color of the cardstock.

If the Cracker Jack player picture has a large white section of his uniform that directly touches the border, there should be little or no difference in tone between the border white and the white of the uniform. They should seamlessly blend one into the other.

On the common reprints, a giveaway is that the border is distinctly different than the white in the player image. You can clearly see this when the border ends and the touching white in the player picture starts.

wagnercrackerjack
Original 1915 Cracker Jack
crackerjackreprint
Reprint Cracker Jack with brighter border



* * * *

Scams regularly involve greed from both sides

As has been noted by numerous experienced collectors, baseball card scams often involve greed on both sides of the equation–from the buyer and the seller, not just the seller.

Since the dawn of scamming, it is a common scammer’s technique to appear ignorant about what he is selling (often a forgery he made himself!), and have the buyer believe he is getting a steal from a dim bulb of a seller. The scammer will say something on the order of: “This card looks real to me. But as I’m not an expert, I am calling it a reprint to be safe and offer it at a deep discount” or “I found this Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner card. A local card shop says it looks like the real deal and is worth lots of money. But I don’t know for sure so I’m offering it for $5,000.”

The purchaser in these sales correctly believes there is a rube involved in the sale, but incorrectly believes it is the seller. The purchaser also thinks he is getting a steal of a deal from a rube. This is why some collectors feel little pity for such buyers. The buyers are trying to get a steal and think they are taking advantage of the ignorant.

* * * *

For science geeks, this is an old article I wrote on the advanced science used in authentication and forgery detection of art, artifacts and collectibles, including baseball memorabilia. It covers carbon dating, infrared radiation, x-rays and even dendrology (the study of trees rings). Technically, baseball cards can be radiometrically dated (carbon dating is the best known form of radiometric dating), but it is cost prohibitive. The article also shows how there are limits to science in authentication.

The Science of Forgery Derection

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A simple technique for dating a pinback as antique

pinback
Corroded pinback back

If you are at an antique store or garage sale and see a cool antique looking pinback, a simple way to identify it as genuinely antique, and not a modern reproduction or fantasy item, is to check the back. If the back and needle is corroded and rusted brown, you can be confident it is antique.

Similarly, rusty staples on antique items are signs of authenticity. Many antique booklets, magazines, calendars and tickets were stapled. Antique staples have rusted dark, with the rust sometimes spreading to the paper. If the staples are bright and shiny, that is evidence the item is a modern reproduction or at least has been re-stapled. I’ve seen many modern reproductions offered online that are given away in part by the shiny staples.

 

* * * * *

Authenticating playing and game cards
Many playing and game cards, such as the 1913 National Game and Polo Ground issues, have factory cut round corners that make identifying reprints and counterfeits easy, even in online pictures. The corners on the originals were die cut a consistent size and curve. Known official reprints will have a noticeably different corner size, while homemade versions will be obviously scissors cut and usually of different size. If someone is offering one of these playing cards online it is easy to check the authenticity by comparing the corners to a picture of a known authentic card, say one in a PSA or SGC holder.

Die cut shaped cards in general are harder to deceptively forge, because it is hard to cut the shapes to perfectly mimic the original machine cut–especially if the forger is doing it by hand.

gamecard
Original 1913 National Game card
reprint
National Game reprints with different corners

* * * * *

The Issue of Restoring baseball cards
The restoration of baseball cards is a regular hot topic of debate with collectors, and it seems the restoration of high end cards is becoming more common. Some collectors are adamantly against any alterations, some have no issue with it and some say it depends on the situation. I am not here to give the ‘final ethical word’ on the topic, but to look at various aspects of the issue.

The common strong and often visceral reaction against restoration and any form of alteration is based in two reasons. First, the hobby has a long history of deceptive (undisclosed) alterations as part of scamming: trimming, bleaching and other alterations without disclosure at sale. Many collectors consider this equivalent to counterfeiting and forgery. This problem is still ongoing, with unethical resellers who only care about money, altering and trying to sneak cards past profession graders. This is one of the scummy parts of the hobby. For some people, it is anything for a dollar.

The second reason is many collectors like old cards that have honest wear and aging. These collectors think they there is nothing wrong with an old card showing its age–after all they are collecting old items not twenty first century Upper Decks inserts. To them, there is nothing wrong with ‘honest wear,’ so there is nothing to fix.

Many collectors are generally against alterations, but are not zealots about it and feel that there are times where restoration is reasonable. Many collectors say it is ethical to remove items and substances that are not original parts of the cards. They say it is fine to remove a of piece scotch tape, glue or paint on a 1952 Topps, because it is not an original part of card. There are also cases of major damage, such as a card that has a substantial tear or fungus, where conservation will not only make the card look nicer but will prevent further damage. Left to their own devices, fungus spreads and tears only get bigger over time.

One question baseball card collectors often ask is why is restoration so frowned upon in the baseball card hobby, but seemingly accepted and common practice with paintings and movie posters. It is true that restoration is more accepted in those areas, but realize that, as in the baseball hobby, opinions and sentiments vary from collector to collector. Another thing to keep in mind is that movie posters and paintings have different uses and are of different materials.

A movie poster and painting are display items, usually large and designed to be hung on the wall for everyone to see. Baseball cards are little and spend most of their lives in boxes and drawers. Few people want a 2×3 foot display item on the wall next to the dining room table or over the living room couch to be covered in coffee stains, scrapes and scotch tape marks.

Also, movie posters and paintings are often made of materials that are delicate and must be conserved to preserve them and to withstand display. Movie posters are on thin paper, and old paint and the backing on paintings often have deterioration problems that must be fixed. Old oil paintings were originally varnished, with the varnish turning brown over the years. Removing and replacing the dingy varnish not only makes the painting look as it originally did, it often reveals the real colors of the painting. A green appearing flower may turn out to be bright blue.

painting
Antique oil painting with half the original varnish removed

It should also be noted that as part of restoration and conservation, movie posters are usually ‘linen backed’ (backed in linen) so are easy to identify as restored.

As far as valuation of restored versus unrestored posters and paintings go, an advanced vintage movie memorabilia collector told me that a grade Vg movie poster restored to Near Mint looking condition will be valued more than the Vg grade but less than unrestored Near Mint. Painting collectors look for restoration, because it does affect value. All other things the same, a restored painting will be worth less than an unrestored one. So, while restoration is more accepted, there still is a valuation and sentimental difference between restored and unrestored.

One inescapable constant is that all alterations and restoration have to be disclosed at sale. Not only is this the ethical thing to do, it is the law. This is in all areas of collecting, including movie posters and paintings. If a seller knows a physical fact about the item will likely change the value in the minds of the buyers, that is a fact that has to be stated. It is up to the bidders, not the auctioneer, to decide what facts will affect the final bid value.

I end by noting that a veteran collector once said that collectors are temporary caretakers not owners of the items, and that is what people should keep in mind when deciding what to do with a card. Or, as I say, these are historical artifacts and serious collectors are historians. There may be legitimate reasons to restore an item–such as for preservation for future generations or to fix major damage–but a card or other item should never be altered for purely monetary reasons. When things are done strictly and only to make a buck, all forms of unethical and seedy behavior soon follow.

More T206 Goodness

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

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

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

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

t206

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

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

Absolutely Free! The players of the T206 Sporting Life ads.

In the summer of 1909 The American Tobacco Company placed some ads in the Sporting Life publication.  The ads were for cigarettes.  Sweet Caporal.  Piedmont.  Sovereign brand.  The packs featured cards of baseball players.

Sporting Life – September 18, 1909

The ad first ran in the July 3 edition and finished up in the September 18 edition of the paper.

In August the ad changed to the one shown above.  This second ad featured different players and slightly different text.  This text says:

Handsomely lithographed pictures in colors of famous professional baseball players in the major leagues.

Every baseball enthusiast in the United States should secure this superb series of pictures.  Start collecting today.

The images are drawing of the cards Jefferson Burdick designated as T206.  For a great read on that set, download Scot A. Reader’s Inside T206 – A Collector’s Guide to the Classic Baseball Card Set (Centennial Edition).

For this second ad, why these players?  Were they the stars of 1908 / 1909?  Let’s take a look.

I’ve placed letters to easier identify which card / player I’m discussing.  I’ll try to determine why, based on previous performance, they were part of the ad campaign.  Maybe some totally different reason.

Some say that you’re only good as your last at bat.  Part of the “what have you done lately” syndrome.  When this ad was published there were less than 20 games left in the 1909 season.

A. Orval Overall, Chicago, National.  A pitcher for the Cubs since 1906.  Led the National League in Shut Outs in 1907 (8) and 1909 (9).  Led the NL in Strike Outs in 1909 (205).  Orval finished the 1909 season with a 20-11 record with a 1.42 ERA.  The Cubs finished second in the NL standings, 6.5 games behind Pittsburgh in 1909.

B. Jim Pastorius, Brooklyn.  A pitcher for the Superbas since 1906.  In 1908 he posted a 4-20 record.  In 1909 it drooped to 1-9.  In 1909 Brooklyn finished sixth in the NL standings, 55.5 games behind Pittsburgh, his home town.  Brooklyn released him on August 28, 1909, just three weeks before this ad ran.

C. Honus Wagner, Pittsburgh.  We now know that he would enter the Hall of Fame in 1936.  Back then it wasn’t yet a destination.  He’d been playing with Pittsburgh since 1900, clearly an established player for his team, and in the majors.  Where to start on his accomplishments of 1908 and 1909? For 1908 he led the NL in Hits (201), Doubles (39), Triples (19), RBI (109), Stolen Bases (53), BA (.354), Total Bases (308), plus a few other categories.  He seemed to slow down a bit in 1909.  He led the NL in Doubles (39), RBI (100), BA (.339), Total Bases (242) and several other categories.  The World Series didn’t take place until October of 1909.  The Pirates won.

D. Kitty Bransfield, Philadelphia, National.  A first baseman for the Phillies since 1905.  His stats show nothing outstanding.  A solid player with a .303 BA in 1908 and .292 in 1909.  He was fifth in the NL with 160 Hits in 1908.  He had a .989 Fielding % as a first basemen in 1909, leading the NL.  The Phillies finished fifth in the NL standings, 36.5 games behind Pittsburgh in 1909.

E. Willie Keeler, New York, American.  An outfielder with the Highlanders since 1903.  He entered the Hall of Fame in 1939.  Again, it wasn’t yet a destination.  In 1908 his BA was .263.  In 1909 his BA was .264.  Most of best playing seasons were years before.  Born in 1872 he was the sixth oldest player in 1909.  He left the major leagues in 1910.  New York finished fifth in the AL standings, 23.5 games behind Detroit in 1909.

F. Ginger Beaumont, Boston, National.  Outfielder for the Doves since 1907.  He led the NL in hits in 1907 with 187.  His BA in 1908 was .267 and in 1909 it was .263.  Probably his best year in baseball was 1903 when he was with Pittsburgh.  Boston finished in the cellar of the 1909 NL, 65.5 games behind Pittsburgh in 1909.

G. Jim Delahanty, Washington.  One of the five Delahanty brothers.  Jim joined the Senators as an infielder in 1907, having been with five major league teams since 1901.  In 1908 Jim had a .317 BA and for his time in Washington for 1909 he had a .222 BA.  Nothing else those years scream out, “Jim was a great player.”  On August 13, 1909, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers.  Washington finished the 1909 season at the bottom of the AL, 56 games behind Detroit in 1909.

H. Harry Steinfeldt, Chicago, National.  Harry joined the Cubs playing third base in 1906, having been with Cincinnati for the previous eight seasons.  In 1906 Harry led the NL in hits (176) and RBI (83).  In 1908 his BA was .241 and he raised it to .252 in 1909.  The Cubs finished second in the NL standings, 6.5 games behind Pittsburgh in 1909.

I. Charley O’Leary, Detroit.  Charley joined the Tigers in 1904 as a short stop.  In  1908 he had a .251 BA and it fell to .203 in 1909.  Seemingly a solid player, but not a star player.  Detroit won the AL pennant in 1909 but fell to Pittsburgh in the World Series.

J. Hooks Wiltse, New York, National.  A pitcher for the Giants his whole career in the NL he started with them in 1904.  He led the NL in HR given up with 9 in 1909.  A reliable hurler, he went 23-14 in 1908 and 20-11 in 1909, his only 20+ win seasons.  The Giants finished in third place, just 18.5 games behind Pittsburgh.

What have I deduced from looking at these players?  Why were these ten chosen for this ad?

One solid star, Honus Wagner.  A few other above average pitchers, Overall and Wiltse.  A couple players that were probably household names, Delahanty and Keeler.

What about the league breakdown?  National League: 7 players (two Cubs).  American League: 3 players.

Position players vs. pitchers?  Position: 7.  Pitchers: 3.

What about the age of the players?  I’m taking their age from Baseball-Reference for the 1909 season.  The average age of the ten players is 31.6.  The youngest being Pastorius, 27 and the oldest, Beaumont, 37.  By league, the NL players are 30.9 and the AL players are 33.3.

I really don’t know why these players were chosen.  Aside from Wagner, I really don’t.  I should go back and look at the first ad in the Sporting Life to see if there’s any insight.  Future post, I guess.

Let’s not stop the fun with speculation.  Since the ad copy says “in colors” I thought I’d modify the original, inserting digital copies of the actual T206 cards.

Sources:

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.

img_4794

Unfinished (set) business

I’m a man of my word. I keep my promises and I achieve my goals. I don’t get distracted, I stay on task and I always finish what I start. Except…

My income and my passion for cards were at similar peaks throughout the ‘90’s. I finished some old sets I was close to finishing, started some older sets from scratch. There were four sets that I jumpstarted my way into with a series of well-priced, shrewdly purchased lots, and I had every intention of making my way to the end, the final check made in each one’s checklist. I don’t know what derailed me from my goals. Maybe it was the new century and big life changes (job switches, moving to Cooperstown, and so on), maybe it was the changes in the hobby (shifts to grading, disappearance of commons into slabs, moving to Cooperstown, far from big Chicago area card shows), maybe I simply lost interest in those sets. Let’s find out.

 

1933 Tattoo Orbit

tattoo-orbitThere’s something about this size, 2” X 2 ¼,” that grabs me. Tattoo Orbit (or R305, if you want to get technical) is a beautiful little set, 60 cards in all, hyper-stylized. The player photo is slightly colorized and is ensconced in a background that looks like it could have been drawn by a child. Check out Marty McManus here, swinging away, gigantic, in a setting of magnificent red and yellow. It’s a thing of beauty.

I have 16 of the 60, including two of the short prints. Did I ever think I’d really go the distance on this one? In retrospect, I’m not so sure. The set, even in VG, is around $4,000, probably more if I hunt and peck for individual cards. I don’t like spending a ton, so my guess is this one was a bit of a whim, a “yeah, sure, I’ll put this together over time.” Looking at what I’ve got, and how prices have gone up since I began, it’s even less likely I’ll get back to this one. But they are wonderful cards, magnificently simple in design.

 

1947 Bond Bread

bond-breadI’m halfway to the 44 card set of baseball players (though there are also 4 boxer cards). Not sure how these came into my field of vision, but it seems that in the 1980’s a large number of these black and white gems were found in a warehouse and released into the hobby. Maybe that’s why I got so many, definitely why the big time Hall of Famers (Musial, Williams, Jackie Robinson) are relatively inexpensive).

There’s a chance I’ll go back to this set. There are many wonders to be found in the photographs. Stan the Man here looks like he accidentally fielded a grounder during a photo shoot for the new 1947 Packard. Still, hunting down ungraded Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson cards may be a tough task and, it seems like after 2000, a rash of illegally reprinted square cornered cards (some come rounded) made their way not only into the hobby but into grading.  That worries me, though I wonder where the money is in counterfeiting 70-year-old Del Ennis cards.

 

1949 Remar Bread Oakland Oaks

remar-breadWhat’s with the bread cards? Sure, it makes sense to package cards with gum, kids chewing away as they read about their favorite players, but the image of a kid wadding a piece of white bread in his cheek is one I can’t shake. The poor little Oaklander would choke!

There are 42 cards in this set, a strangely sized 2” X 3.” They’re thin stuff, very flexible, but sort of cool. There’s a Billy Martin card, which I don’t have, but is pretty inexpensive in EX, the general grade of the 11 cards I have.

I’ve been scouting out the balance of the set on EBay and it looks like there are ungraded examples at reasonable prices. Completing this set may be a reasonable endeavor, but it’s awfully hard to muster up a real enthusiasm for chasing down an EX example of Maurice Van Robays, whoever the hell he was. Still, I look at my Mel Duezabou card and know that, to someone, he was important. I’m not sure that that someone is me.

 

1952 Parkhurst

parkhurstThis may be the one that got away and that calls me back the most. Almost exactly the size of the 1949 Bowman cards that I love, this 100 card set of Canadian International Leaguers (Montreal Royals, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Athletics) is filled with unknowns and a healthy subset of drawings like “Gripping the Bat.” Look at this page – awesome, right?

Though I have half the set, I have none of the key cards, minor league appearances by Tommy Lasorda, Walter Alston and Johnny Podres. They won’t break the bank. I think if I fish around for these, I’m likely to find one or two sellers/dealers who would sell me a bunch at a reasonable price. What could the real demand for the no-names and sketches be? Then I’ll back myself into a corner and spring for the higher priced cards. That’s my methodology – go cheap for as long as I can and then force myself to pony up for the few costlier cards that stand between me and a complete set.

 

I’ve never been a type collector of random cards, never sought out having one from as many sets as possible, so having four partial sets drives me batty. Is it worth keeping what I have if I’m not going to get them all? I don’t know, I debate that a lot. What’s the point of having 51 of 100 1952 Parkhursts if I’m not going to end up with 100? It’s a small scale struggle, but a struggle nonetheless.