Are CDVs and Cabinet Cards Baseball Cards? Yes, No and Maybe

This post contains assorted topics on CDVs and Cabinet Cards, baseball card proofs, a curious Honus Wagner fake,  essential tips for beginning collectors, and a common misdating caused by collector psychology.

Are CDVs and Cabinet Cards Baseball Cards? The Answer is Yes, No and Maybe

Though personal definitions may change in detail from collector to collector, the general definition of a baseball card (short for baseball trading card) is a card (look up the dictionary definition) with a baseball theme that was commercially issued, or at least intended to be commercially issued, as a collectible for the general public.  The commercial part means they were sold as a product in and of itself (such as with today’s cards), with a product (Topps and gum, T206s in packs of cigarettes) or otherwise in relationship to a product, service or similar (premiums, advertising trade cards, etc).

As you see, a baseball card is not defined just by its physical makeup, but its useage nature and intent. Even though it fits any dictionary’s definition of a physical card, no one I know considers a baseball player’s business card to be a baseball trading card. 

All this leads to baseball cartes de visite (often referred to by the acronym CDVs), cabinet cards and similar early photo cards.  These 1800s to early 1900s photo cards (a paper photograph affixed to a cardboard backing) fit the physical definition of card.   Baseball CDVs in particular look very much look like baseball cards.

The second question of the trading card equation is if CDVs and cabinet cards fit the commercial issue for general public collecting definition of a trading card.  The answer here is some do, some don’t and for many the answer is unknown and unknowable.

CDVs and cabinet cards were just standard photograph formats and were made for different purposes. Some were indeed used by tobacco and other companies as premiums or advertisements, and some were sold directly to the public as collectibles.  For these, there is the advertising right on the cards and/or we know how their distribution history.  Collecting commercially issued CDVs of celebrities, from Abraham Lincoln to Prince Albert, was a popular hobby in the Victorian era.

Old Judge Cigarettes cabinet card with advertising on front
Old Judge Cigarettes cabinet card with advertising on front

Most of the baseball CDVs and cabinet cards, however, were family or personal photos not issued to the general public.  If you find a CDV or cabinet card of a high school or college baseball player or town ball team, it was more than probably a family photo or similar.  Even many card photos of star Major League players were made for personal, private use of the player or teams.  By the trading card definition, these are not baseball cards.  Collectible and often valuable, sure, but not trading cards.

A problem for those who like things to be well defined and to fit into air tight categorizes is that for some of the

Family photo cabinet card of a young player
Family photo cabinet card of a young player

old baseball photo cards it is not know how they were issued.  They may be of a famous early team or player and made by a well known photography studio, but it is unknown if it was made for the player or team’s personal use, or as a collectible sold to the public.  Baseball card collectors tend to like clear cut answers, but, in the area of early baseball photographs and ephemera, things are often ambiguous and murky.  

This in part explains why determining what card is the first card is impossible and a never ending debate.  Beyond the debates over a card’s exact date of origin, whether or not it really depicts baseball and the fact that there are likely early photo cards yet to be uncovered, it is often impossible to know if the card was a commercially issued item for the general public or a photo made as a personal memento for the player or team.  We can make intelligent guesses, but the are still guesses.  I half-jokingly call this area of eternal debate ‘baseball card theory.’  

1869 Peck & Snider Cincinnati Reds card
1869 Peck & Snider Cincinnati Reds card

This also explains why, even though there are earlier baseball CDVs and card photographs, the Peck & Snyders are still considered by many to the first known baseball cards (emphasis on the word known, as in known to be).   Unlike earlier photo cards, it is known that the Peck & Snider Reds were used for commercial purposes and issued as general public collectibles.  Some have advertising on back and we know that some were sold through Peck & Snyder’s mail order catalog.

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Authentic Colors?

Uncolored 1874 Harper's Woodcut of the Philadelphia A's including a young Cap Anson (bottom right)
Uncolored 1874 Harper’s Woodcut of the Philadelphia A’s including a young Cap Anson (bottom right)

1800s Harper’s Woodcuts, or woodcut prints from the popular New York magazine Harper’s Weekly, are popularly collected today. The images show nineteenth century life, including sports, US Presidents and other celebrities, war, high society, nature and street life.  The woodcuts of baseball are popular with vintage baseball card and memorabilia collectors due to the images of famous early players and teams, including Cap Anson, King Kelly, Billy Sunday and the 1869 Cincinnati Reds.  

Though issued in black and white, some of the prints have been hand colored over the years by the owners. As age is important to collectors, prints that were colored in the 1800s are more valuable than those colored recently.

The problem is that modern ideas lead collectors to misdate the coloring. Due to their notions about the old fashioned Victorian era, most people automatically assume that vintage 1800s coloring will be subtle, soft, pallid and conservative. However, 1800s coloring was typically bright, gaudy, bold and even tacky to modern taste. As Victorian people did not have color televisions, motion pictures or video games, and were restricted in their travel (and paint choices), they liked their images of exotic places and faraway celebrities to be colored bold and exciting. A learned forger might knowingly use historically incorrect colors, as he knows the average person today would consider authentic 1800s coloring to be fake.

The subtle, soft colors on this 1874 Harper's Woodcut are modern
The subtle, soft colors on this 1874 Harper’s Woodcut are modern

My work and research as an art and artifact scholar is in two areas: authentication and theory (psychology and philosophy of perception and interpretation, etc).  They are usually two distinctly separate areas, but this is a case where they overlap.  The misdating of the colors on these collectibles is a matter of cognitive biases.  I have used the above woodcut colors example in both collector’s guides and cognitive psychology texts.

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A Fake Honus Wagner card with an interesting history

freeman

From time to time one sees offered for sale this Freeman Cigar Co. Card depicting Honus (Hans) Wagner. Though usually sold as vintage, it is a modern fantasy card.

There are authentic early 1900s Hans Wagner cigar tobacco labels designed to be affixed to cigar boxes. The labels are rare, and come in various designs. The most expensive examples are usually offered by major auction houses or dealers.  In similar fashion to the T206 Wagner, this brand of tobacco was apparently never issued to the public. All the labels known to exist were not used.  One of the labels has a close design to this fake card.

About 1993, a manufacture of collectible tin signs (all those Ted Williams Moxie and Joe Jackson H & B reprints) made a sign based on the design of the just mentioned tobacco label. This man was selling the signs as modern collectibles, not representing themselves as vintage. The sign was not an exact copy of the label. He added the ‘5 Cent Cigar’ text at the bottom for artistic balance. He also he used a different text font in parts because he could not find a modern duplicate of the original.

A numbers of years later a man used a computer printer to reprint the tin signs as the tobacco cards, roughing and scuffing the cards to make them appear old. He sold them at flea markets to unsuspecting collectors who knew the legend of Honus Wagner and thought they had struck gold.

When shown a picture of one of the cards, the tin sign maker himself said it could not be genuine as it had his 1993 design.

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Essential Tips for Beginning Collectors of Most Anything

Pick a card, any card. They're all cheap reprints.
Pick a card, any card. They’re all cheap reprints.

While experienced collectors may already know most of the following tips, I get many inquiries from total beginners, including many who have gotten burned by buying fakes. Considering this, I think it’s a good thing to periodically bring out my age old “Essential Tips for Beginning Collectors of Most Anything.”  I’ve used this list, and variations of it, in numerous of my collecting and authentication books:

Whether it involves trading cards, celebrity autographs, movie posters, fine art prints, postcards or antique figurines, collecting can be good clean fun for boys and girls of all ages. However, all areas of collecting have problems.  The following is a brief but important list of tips that the beginner should read before jumping into a hobby with open pocketbook.

1) Start by knowing that there are reprints, counterfeits, fakes and scams out there. If you start by knowing you should be doing your homework, having healthy skepticism of sellers’ grand claims and getting second opinions, you will be infinitely better off than the beginner who assumes everything is authentic and all sellers are honest.

2) Learn all you can about material you wish to collect and the hobby in general. The more you learn and more experience you have, the better off you are. Most forgers and scammers aren’t trying to fool the knowledgeable. They’re trying to make a quick buck from the ignorant. Besides, half the fun of collecting is learning about the material and its history.

3) Realize that novices in any area of collecting are more likely to overestimate, rather than underestimate the value of items they own or are about to buy.

4) Get second opinions and seek advice when needed. This can range from a formal opinion from a top expert to input from a collecting friend. Collectors, including experienced collectors, who seek advice and input are almost always better off than those who are too proud or embarrassed to ask questions.

5) Start by buying inexpensive items. Put off the thousands dollar Babe Ruth baseball cards and Elvis Presley autographs for another day.

Without exception, all beginners make mistakes, as that is a natural part of learning. From paying too much to misjudging rarity to buying fakes or reprints. It only makes sense that a collector should want to make the inevitable beginner’s mistakes on $10 rather that $5,000 purchases.

6) Gather a list of good sellers. A good seller is someone who is knowledgeable and honest. A good seller fixes a legitimate problem when it arises and has a good authenticity guarantee and return policy.

It is fine to perfectly fine to purchase a $9 trading card or piece of memorabilia from an eBay stranger, but it is best to buy expensive and rare items online from good sellers, including those you have dealt with or those who otherwise have strong reputations.

Ask other collectors who they like.  Discover good sellers on your own by buying a few inexpensive items from an eBay seller and seeing how good are the transactions.  The seller you bought that $9 item from may be added to your list of good sellers.

7) If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

 

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When in doubt assume a baseball card is not a proof

The trading card hobby puts a premium on proof cards. Proofs are pre-production test cards the card printers use to check graphics and text before the final print run. Antique card proofs are often blank backed, sometimes on different stock than the final cards, often with hand cut borders and little pencil written crosses on the borders. Proofs sell for good money as they are rare and offer a look at the creation of the cards.

The collector should be aware that many cards resembling that proofs are not proofs. The manufacturers sometimes accidentally printed cards with blank backs and inserted them into the packs of gum or tobacco. As a kid I pulled a blank backed card from a Topps pack. These are not proofs, but printing errors.

There are also ‘cards’ that were long ago scissors cut from vintage advertising posters, tobacco albums and kids’ notebooks. As these cutouts have hand cut borders, blank backs and different than normal stocks, they are often mistakenly called proofs.

Collectors will also come across printer’s scraps, often of T206 baseball cards. These scraps came from a printer’s rejected sheet, often with

T206 scrap with printing error and handcut
T206 scrap with printing error and handcut

poorly printed images, bad color registration and other graphics problems– which is why it was rejected, or scrapped, by the printer. These rejected sheets were rescued from the trash bin by workers, often to be taken home for the kids. The individual scrap cards that we see today were hand cut from the sheets. As the cards are hand cut, often oversized and usually with printing defects, they are often mistaken for proofs. As with the above mentioned blank backed cards, scraps are simply factory mistakes.

As you can see there are lots of non-proof cards that resemble proofs. When in doubt it is best to bid on an unusual card assuming it is not a proof, because it likely is not. Scraps and other printing mistakes are collectible, but are much more plentiful and inexpensive than genuine proofs.

 

Hispanic Heroes: A Seattle Mariners promo card set

In 2005, the Seattle Mariners gave out a nine-card set featuring their Latino players as part of their annual “Salute to Hispanic Béisbol”.

The cards featured an action shot on the front with the player’s name and position listed in Spanish.  Cool, right?  The flip side showed a smaller player photo with bilingual information and the player’s home country’s flag.

When the set was released in mid-September 2005 commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month, I joked with the Mariners marketing manager about the Cuban and Puerto Rican flags.  You will note that the Cuban flag includes blue and white stripes with a white star in a triangular red field, while the Puerto Rican flag includes red and white strips with a white star in a triangular blue field.  I smiled and told him he got right.  He smiled back with a sigh of relief!

While the Mariners, of course, have given away cards sets in the past, this was the very first time that they released a set in Spanish featuring their Latino players.  A cultured observer, however, will note that two of the nine cards include the player’s last name correctly spelled with an “ñ”, while several of the cards are missing accent marks.  The set includes:

PLAYER POSICIÓN HOME COUNTRY
Adrián Beltré tercera base Dominican Republic
Yuniesky Betancourt campocorto Cuba
Eddie Guardado lanzador zurdo USA
Félix Hernández lanzador derecho Venezuela
Raúl Ibañez jardin izquierdo USA
José López segunda base Venezuela
José Mateo lanzador derecho Dominican Republic
Joel Piñeiro lanzador derecho Puerto Rico
Yorvit Torrealba receptor Venezuela

I’m hoping that the team will look to release a new bilingual set September 2017.  Felix would be the sole member left from that 2005 squad.

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:

Bell Brand Sandy Koufax Cards: All That And A Bag Of Chips

My apologies for the cheesy headline.

I couldn’t resist.

In case you’ve never heard of the Bell Brand Dodgers baseball cards, they were small regional issues that were inserted into bags of Bell Brand potato chips and corn chips in 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1962. They’re yet another great oddball set for collectors of Sandy Koufax baseball cards to hunt down.

Along with the Morrell Meats issues, these are some of my favorites as a Koufax collector.

And speaking of the Morrell Meats cards, if you read my previous article about those issues, you’ll remember how I had been trying to find a copy of the 1959 Morrell Meats card for about five or six years with no luck. Well, within about three weeks of writing that article, one popped up on eBay and I instantly snagged it. Go figure! Maybe that article appeased the collecting gods or something, who knows?

Anyways, back to the Bell Brand cards.

bell-brand-koufax-cards

Why Bell Brand skipped out on making a 1959 set, I don’t know. It’s been noted that the 1958 cards weren’t very popular and were pulled from production. So, it’s likely that they didn’t think it was worth producing a 1959 set. How I wish they would have made a 1959 issue–guess I’ll just have to daydream about what it may have looked like.

Since the Dodgers would go on to win the 1959 World Series, that was apparently enough to ramp up Bell Brand’s interest in producing cards again as they’d make three more sets from 1960 to 1962.

The cards were originally offered as free inserts inside bags of Bell Brand potato chips and corn chips. I’ve scoured the Internet for pictures of the actual bags in which they came but haven’t had any luck. If anyone comes across a picture I’d sure appreciate it if you could point me to it in the comments section below this article.

Given that they were placed inside potato chip and corn chip bags, you can imagine the wear they endured and how hard they can be to find in top condition. And even though they were wrapped in plastic, you’ll still frequently find copies that show evidence of contact with the potato chip oil.

In this picture of a wrapped 1962 Bell Brand Koufax, you can clearly see the oil stain along the lower lefthand border.

1962-bell-brand-koufax-in-wrapper

1958 Bell Brand Koufax

This is probably my favorite of the four Bell Brand Koufax cards. It’s not necessarily the best-looking, in my opinion, with its sepia color tone and somewhat foggy image of Koufax inside the picture frame border. But that unique design is what makes it easily standout from the other three. Its historic value is quite high, too, given this was Bell Brand’s way to contribute to the hype of the Dodgers first season in Los Angeles. One of my favorite parts of the card is actually the reverse side as it mentions his blinding speed and inexperience. His K/9 of roughly 10.6 in his 1957 season stat line was a hint of the dominance that was to come.

The Koufax card is the key to the 10-card set that featured fellow Hall of Famers Roy Campanella, Don Drysdale, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider. I usually see these in PSA 8 condition sell for $3,000 to $4,000. There are a couple of PSA 9 copies floating around somewhere and I’d love to watch the bidding on those if they ever come up for auction.

1958-bell-brand-dodgers-sandy-koufax-baseball-card

1960 Bell Brand Koufax

This is the second most difficult of the four to collect. Card #9 in the 20-card set features a young Koufax hunched over on the mound at the Dodgers spring training facility in Vero Beach, FL. The color photo is a big improvement over the 1958 sepia image but I wish the weather would have been nicer the day of the photo shoot. The cloud cover leaves the image with a gloomier feel compared to the sharp, bright images on the 1961 and 1962 cards. The back side mentions Koufax tying Bob Feller’s then record of 18 strikeouts in a game and offers clues as to which products featured these cards: bags of 39-cent, 49-cent, and 59-cent potato chips as well as 29-cent and 49-cent corn chips.

As a side note, Snider and Walter Alston are the only other two Hall of Famers in this much larger set. For some reason, Don Drysdale was dropped and wouldn’t appear again until the 1962 set.

1960-bell-brand-dodgers-sandy-koufax-baseball-card

1961 Bell Brand Koufax

The 1961 Bell Brand Koufax card looks very similar to the 1960 issue except for the bluer sky and different camera angle. There were again 20 players in the set but you’ll notice that Koufax’s issue is actually #32 in the set. That’s because Bell Brand deviated from sequential numbering and went instead with a system that utilized each player’s jersey number. Confusing, maybe, but it earns a couple of points for creativity in my book. It’s a special card as it marked the first of his six-season run of absolutely torching the competition during the back half of his career.

1961-bell-brand-dodgers-sandy-koufax-baseball-card

1962 Bell Brand Koufax

This would be the last year that Bell Brand would produce Dodgers baseball cards. And these were their highest quality print runs. The photos were higher resolution and were much glossier. The Dodgers would move from the Los Angeles Coliseum to pitcher-friendly Chavez Ravine in 1962 but unfortunately Koufax would not be able to enjoy a full season there due to injury. He would, however, throw the first of his four no-hitters in June that year and would earn “Player of the Month” distinction. Surprisingly, that was the only time in his career he had earned that title.

1962-bell-brand-dodgers-sandy-koufax-baseball-card

Oddball cards, yes. But the Bell Brand Koufax cards are some of the most fun and challenging to collect. Great imagery, huge historic value, and a small piece of regional Southern California history are enough to place these high on the list of any Koufax collector.

A tribute to Bob Lemke

Sport card catalogers and historians everywhere began 2017 with a great deal of sadness as Bob Lemke, who helped launch Baseball Cards magazine and was the founding editor of the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, passed away on January 3.

I met Bob only in passing and we only talked on the phone once or twice but in many ways, we were exactly the same in our passions. Both of us enjoyed the challenge of finding new items to catalog and both of us enjoyed the research involved in getting the information into collector’s hands. We were also fortunate to have company owners who appreciated the need for increased hobby knowledge and were willing to spend some capital to garner all the data both old and new.

When I left Beckett in 2007, Bob posted the following on the Net 54 boards: “Rich, sorry to hear your association with Beckett has come to an end. I always thought you were a positive force in the hobby and more of a colleague than a competitor. Maybe you and I ought to offer our services as a package deal to somebody in the hobby/industry who wants to compete with the Standard Catalog and Almanac! Good luck, buddy.” Sadly, I was so in shock about leaving Beckett I never took Bob up on that offer but I should have and we would have had a good time.

By the end of our times editing our respective publications, we had codes we used to indicate we knew the other person had a more comprehensive checklist. I would write something like: “We believe there might be more cards in the set so any additions would be greatly appreciated.”  That was my code to indicate that I knew Bob had a better checklist and I was not going to add information until I had proof from a second source. The other aspect of Bob’s work was his creations of cards that never were. I truly appreciate cards which should or could have been made but were not. To me, some cards which could have been printed include (and these will all be Topps cards): 1964 Stan Musial, 1957 Jackie Robinson, 1974 Willie Mays and 1980 Thurman Munson. Bob did excellent work on the fronts and the backs to truly produce cards which would fit in with the original release.

A couple of quick points I wish to make after reading some of the follow up comments on the Net 54 message boards. This is from a poster on the board: “I know he was frustrated after he left SCD that no one there really had the passion to pick up or gather info to update the catalog. I know I tried to give info to SCD a few times with seemingly no interest. When I turned to him he sort of threw his hands up and said time had passed for him to do it. I mentioned he could at least mention things in his blog which he did do a few times.”

There any many of us with the passion to add and update catalogs but as mentioned, unless you get ownership or management to agree, all the passion in the world is not going to get you are new listings on Vassar sweater cards. Today, everything comes down to: does a new listing benefit the bottom line.

So. as a hobby, we can all appreciate the terrific work Bob did while at Krause Publications in truly making the Standard Catalog a hobby staple and we can only hope someday we can make hobby cataloging great again.

Rich Klein is a free lance writer living in Plano TX with his wife and 2 dogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using a Black Light in Baseball Card Authentication

This article shows methods for using an inexpensive black light in the authentication and fake detection of baseball cards and related ephemera. 

For card collectors, black light is primarily used with Pre-World War II cards because it can identify modern paper and cardstock and, thus, modern reprints and fakes of Pre-War cards. However, as this article shows, black light is also useful when examining modern items.

What is a black light and how does it work?

A black light is a light, often resembling a little flashlight, that gives off longwave ultraviolet light. The common nickname for longwave UV is black light. A black light allows the collector to see things invisible in normal daylight.

Ultraviolet light and black light are outside of the human’s visible spectrum, meaning it cannot be seen by human eyes. However, in a dark room materials can fluoresce (glow) under black light. Most of us have experienced black lights that make the whites on our shirts or shoes or rock posters glow brightly. Some materials fluoresce brightly, some not at all and the rest somewhere in between. The fluorescence varies in color. Under ultraviolet light, minerals, plastics, paints and antique glass can fluoresce red, yellow, green, purple, white and orange.

Without going much into the science, the fluorescence, or visible light that is emitted from a material when black light is shined on it, happens at the atomic level. You are adding energy to the atoms then observing what light the atoms gives back. The color and brightness depends on the atomic makeup. Physicists and chemists can go as far as identifying the specific chemicals in materials by shining ultraviolet on them. Happily, you don’t have to be a scientist or even know the science to effectively use a black light. For collectors, it is as easy as observing the fluorescence and knowing what it means.

Common handheld LED blacklight flashlight
Common handheld LED blacklight flashlight
Common style of blacklight flashlight
Common style of blacklight flashlight

Tips on effective use of black light

A black light must be used in a dark room, the darker the better. Take a minute or three to let your eyes get adjusted to the dark. The cards should being examined on something that does not fluoresce. Something that does not fluoresce will appear black under black light. If your background fluoresces too brightly, it can be hard to judge the fluorescence of the cards or memorabilia.

It is best for the cards to be removed from any top loader, glass, plastic sleeve or other holder. The holder itself can fluoresce or otherwise mask the card’s fluorescence. Shine the black light on all sides of the cards. Some trading cards and photographs have coatings on one side that can block fluorescence.

For comparison purposes, you may wish to have a shard of modern computer paper that fluoresces brightly. Between the black table and bright shard, you will have a range on the spectrum for comparison.

Practice using the black light. See what items from all years look like under black light. Feel free to look at magazines, books, paper, glass vases, plastic. Some around the house materials that fluoresce brightly include granular laundry detergent, vaseline, plastic items, textiles and some reading glasses.

Identification of Reprints and Forgeries of Pre-War Cards

A black light is effective in identifying many, though not all, modern paper and cardboard stocks, and this is its most common use with trading card and paper ephemera collectors. If a so-called 1933 Goudey, 1909 T206 or 1925 postcard can be identified as being made from modern cardstock, it is obvious that it is a modern made fake. For many modern fakes, identification is as simple as shining a black light on them.

Starting in the late 1940s, manufacturers of many products began adding `optical brighteners’ and other new chemicals to their products. Optical brighteners are invisible dyes that fluoresce brightly under ultraviolet light. They were used to make products appear brighter in normal daylight, which contains some ultraviolet light. Optical brighteners were added to laundry detergent and clothes to help drown out stains and to give the often advertised `whiter than white whites.’ Optical brighteners were added to plastic toys to makes them brighter and more colorful. Paper manufacturers joined the act as well, adding optical brighteners to many, though not all, of their white papers stocks.

A black light can identify many trading cards, posters, photos and other paper items that contain optical brighteners. In a dark room and under black light optical brighteners will usually fluoresce a very bright light blue or bright white. To find out what this looks like shine a recently made white trading card, family snapshot or most types of today’s computer paper under a black light.

If paper or cardstock stock fluoresces very bright as just described, it almost certainly was made after the mid 1940s.

The bright light blue uv fluorescence shows that this 1880s Old Judge is a modern reprint
The bright light blue uv fluorescence shows that this 1880s Old Judge is a modern reprint

It is important to note that not all modern papers and stocks will fluoresce this way as optical brighteners are not added to all modern paper. For example, many modern wire photos have no optical brighteners. This means that if a paper does not fluoresce brightly this does not mean it is necessarily old. However, with few exceptions, if a paper object fluoresces very brightly, it could not have been made before World War II.

The beauty of this black light test is you can use it on items where you are not an expert. You may be no expert on 1920s German Expressionist movie posters, World War I postcards or American Civil War etchings, but you can still identify many modern reprints of those items. The infamous Hitler Diaries were identified as forgeries in part because black light showed that it contained materials that were were too modern.

A 1930s photo on top of a 1980s photo under blacklight, showing how the older photo is darker
A 1930s photo on top of a 1980s photo under blacklight, showing how the older photo is darker

In the same way, the black light can also identify modern reproductions of antique cloth items, as the cloth and even stitching sometimes fluoresces very brightly if made after WWII. Game used and military uniform experts often use black light.

The fluorescent tag shows this old fashioned fedora is modern
The fluorescent tag shows this old fashioned fedora is modern

Identification of restoration and alterations

Black light is helpful in identifying many types of restoration and alteration to cards, posters, paintings, prints, furniture, photos, vases and more. These items can be altered by the addition of paper, glue, paint, varnish and/or other material. Items are typically restored to fix damage and make things appear in better condition.

As the added material often fluoresces differently than the rest of the item, the restoration can often be identified under black light. The restored part will stand out by either being brighter or darker than the rest of the material under black light. With paintings, restoration often appears as black spots and forged signatures often fluoresce much brighter than the rest of the painting.

Black light shows restoration to a vase
Black light shows restoration to a vase

To identify alterations, one should also look for visible light differences in texture, gloss, and opacity. In normal visible daylight light, when a print is put at an angle nearing 180 degrees to a desk lamp, the added paint, ink or paper will often have a different texture and gloss from the rest of the card surface. The added material also may be physically raised from the rest of the surface or an erased area will have different gloss. You might be able to feel the area with your fingertip.

Opacity is the ‘see through’ effect when you hold an item up to a light in visible light. If material is added to a poster or print, it will often appear darker than the rest of the translucent collectible.

Some dealers and collectors remove autographs from baseballs for aesthetic or financial reasons. For example, a single signed Joe DiMaggio baseball can be worth more than the same ball with the bat boy’s signature beneath. There is one or more companies that will remove autographs. While the removal may be difficult to see under normal daylight, the restoration shows up clearly under black light.

In some cases, baseball card forgeries are alterations to original cards. For example, a inexpensive baseball card may be changed into a rare and valuable variation by changing text, such as with the 1990 Fleer NNOF Frank Thomas and T206 Maggie spelling error. Close examination under black and visible light will usually give it away.

In a few cases, the forger covered the entire baseball card in a clear substance to try and cover up the alteration handiwork. The substance however gives the card a different gloss and black light fluorescence than other cards in the issue. Once, a beginning collector did not notice the altered text of one of cards, but was curious that the card was much glossier than his other cards from the same set. Examination by an expert revealed the alteration.

Another Way to Identify Reprints and Counterfeits Using Visible and Black Light.

A standard and effective way to detect trading card counterfeits and reprints is by directly comparing the card in question with one or more known genuine examples. Granted, it is uncommon for the collector to already own duplicates, especially if it is a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth or 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. However, good judgment can be made when comparing a card to different cards from the same issue. Comparing the Ruth to a bunch of low grade Goudey commons and the Mantle to a handful of other 1952 Topps.

A T206 Ty Cobb, and even a T206 Honus Wagner, was printed on the same sheet as T206 commons. The printers did not bring out special cardstock and VIP inks for the superstars. When you are studying the qualities of T206 commons, you are also studying the qualities of the T206 Wagner and Ed Plank.

In nearly all cases, counterfeits and reprints are significantly different than the real card in one and usually more than one way.

Comparing cards in both visual and black light is highly effective in identifying modern counterfeits. If you know how to properly compare cards, you should be able to identify a fake 1986-7 Fleer Michael Jordan and 1979-80 OPC Wayne Gretzky.

Before examination, the collector should be aware of variations within an issue. A genuine 1956 Topps baseball card can be found on dark grey or light grey cardboard. While the 1887 Old Judges are usually sepia in color, pink examples can be found. The examiner must also take into consideration reasonable variations due to aging and wear. A stained card may be darker than others. An extremely worn or trimmed card may be shorter and lighter in weight than others in the issue. A card that has glue on back will allow less light through when put up to the light. The collector will often have to make a judgment call when taking these variations into effect. This is why having experience with a variety of cards is important.

The following is a short list of things to look at. You are welcome to add your own observations to the list.

Obvious Differences: This can include text or copyright date indicating the card is a reprint, major size difference, wrong back. Many of these problems are obvious even in an online scan.

If you are experienced with an issue, perhaps you have collected Goudeys for the last few years, most reprints and counterfeits within that issue will be obvious. They simply will look bad even at first glance. The experienced eye is one of the most sophisticated scientific tools.

Black light Test. Studying the degree and color of fluorescence under a black light is an unbeatable tool for comparing ink and cardboard. If you spread out in the dark a pile of 1983 Topps with the exception that one is a 1983 OPC, the OPC will be easy to pick out with black light. The OPC is made out of a different card stock and fluoresces many times brighter than the Topps stock. This is the way it often works for reprints and counterfeits. Reprints and counterfeits were made with different cardstock and often fluoresce differently than the genuine cards. The reprint may fluoresce darker, lighter or with a different color. In some cases, a reprint and an original may fluoresce the same, but in most cases the black light will pick out the reprints with ease.

Visual light appearance of card stock and surfaces: This includes color, texture, feel, etc. The correct gloss is hard to one of the hardest things duplicate on a reprint, and most reprints will have different gloss than the original. Make sure to check both sides. A T206 and 1951 Bowman, for examples, have different textures front versus back. Make sure to check the thickness, color and appearance of the card’s thickness or edge. The edge often shows the cardstock to be different.

Visual Light Opacity: As already mentioned, opacity is measured by the amount of light that shines through an item, or the ‘see through’ effect.

Cardstock and ink vary in opacity. Some allow much light through, some allow none, while there rest will fall somewhere in between. Most dark cardboard will let through little if any light. White stocks will usually let through more. While two cardboard samples may look identical in color, texture and thickness, they may have different opacity. This could be because they were made they were made in different plants, at a different time and/or were made from different substances.

Testing opacity is a great way to compare cardstock and ink. The same cards should have the same or similar opacity.

Opacity tests should be done with more than one card from the issue. Comparisons should take into consideration variations due to age, staining, soiling and other wear, along with known card stock variations in the issue. It must be taken into consideration that normal differences in ink on the card will affect opacity. If one genuine T206 card has a darker picture (a dark uniformed player against dark background), it should let less light through than a genuine T206 card with a lighter picture (a white uniformed player against a light sky).

In nearly all cases, the differences between a questioned card and genuine examples will be significant enough that the collector will be nearly certain it is a fake.

Purchasing a black light

The collector should purchase a longwave ultraviolet light (‘black light’), as opposed to a shortwave ultraviolet light (often called UVC or germicidal light). Shortwave is important in a few specialty areas, including identifying stamps and gem, but longwave is the safest and all you need for the purposes of this article.

Black lights will usually be advertised as longwave, will have a wavelength of about 300-400 nanometers/nm (shortwave is usually 254nm) and are much more plentiful and cheaper than shortwave lights. A black light can be purchased for well under $20, while a decent shortwave light is in the $100+ range. This article pictures the two most common styles of black lights for sale, with shortwave lights usually looking significantly different.

Safety of black light

Black light is used by many collectors and hobbyists and is safe to use. In fact, sunlight and office and home lights give off UV. The key is to not stare directly at the light source, just as you shouldn’t stare at any light. 

Ending This Article With Some Interesting If Useless Facts About Ultraviolet Light

There is a wide range of ultraviolet light, with black light only being a section of it. Ultraviolet research and use is a fascinating and varied area and the following are just a few interesting facts.

** Astrophysicists study the ultraviolet light emitted by planets, stars and galaxies to identify the chemical makeup and ages. Some distant stars can only be seen, and thus discovered, in the ultraviolet range. As the earth’s atmosphere blocks much ultraviolet, the ultraviolet is recorded and photographed from space stations and rockets.

** The Dane Niels Finsen won the 1903 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his use of ultraviolet in treating diseases, and ultraviolet light is used in many areas of medicine.

** Some animals can see black light and this vision has practical uses. Bees and butterflies identify flowers by markings that can only be seen in ultraviolet, and this is important for finding species of flowers in the shade and dark. Reindeer use their ultraviolet vision to find their staple food lichen and to avoid their predators, Polar Bears. Polar Bear urine can be seen in the ultraviolet range. Scorpions have ultraviolet sensors in their tails that tell them when it is safe to go outside at night.

** The goldfish is the only animal known to be able to see both ultraviolet and infrared light. Infrared is a range of light invisible to human eyes on the other side of the visible light spectrum.

** Ultraviolet is used in many areas of art, including ultraviolet photography, uv fluorescent paintings and murals, and black light theater where the costumes, body paint and props fluoresce. Image google “ultraviolet fluorescent portraits” and “blacklight murals” to see some interesting stuff.

MLB adds UV markers to important baseballs, including this Barry Bonds home run ball
MLB adds UV markers to important baseballs, including this Barry Bonds home run ball