Tuesday, July 18, 2017

1948 Sommer & Kaufmann San Francisco Seals Baseball #5, Kenneth Gables

"Regional issues" remain an interesting, and often elusive, aspect of type collecting. Most often, regional sets start with a local business trying to expand in their market. They'd license some photos of the local players, print a modest number of sets, and add those baseball players to, for example, packs of lunch meat or post-purchase shopping bags. Today's set hails from the SF-based Sommer & Kaufmann boy's clothing store. We can assume stores gave away these cards or team sets with in-store purchases, or at least dangled them as freebies to encourage kids to shop there.

The Seals were SF's Pacific Coast League team and this black & white design closely resembles a handful of other late 40s SF Bay area sets. I suspect one local print shop arranged underwriting for all six of them. (Links go to my #5 type profiles for each set.)

Remar cards remain the easiest to find in today's market and Smith's not much harder. You'll grow old and die waiting for specific Sommer & Kaufmann singles to turn up, though. Be ready to spend $$$ on them when they do.

Note those stats are career totals. Kenneth did not pitch in 148 games with 81 decisions in just the previous season, but rather in 1942-47 combined (career stats). Going 40-41 in one year would be a scary amount of overuse.

My favorite regional issue? That's the 1954 Johnston's Cookies #5 of Hank Aaron (set profile), which also happen to be a Hammerin' Hank rookie card.

Value: I paid $80 for this Sommer & Kaufmann #5 in 2017 and might've gone as high as $100. Don't wait on this set to "come around again" when deciding whether to buy. It's rare with ice cream on top.

Fakes / reprints: Real cards have thin card stock and a shiny surface similar to a sales brochure. This set's obscure enough that counterfeits might not exist. If they do, I haven't seen them (yet).

2015 Carl Aldana "1950 Sommer & Kaufmann" #5, Manuel Perez

At least one modern direct-to-collectors set replicates this look-and-feel under the name "1950 Sommer & Kaufmann." There was no vintage 1950 set. Longtime collector and publisher Carl Aldana created the "1950" set in 2015 as a modern retro version, priced at a few dollars each.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

1928 Ice Cream & Candy Baseball (F50, W502) #5, Gabby Hartnett

This post earns its catch-all "ice cream" title because several mid-Atlantic food makers shared one 60-player checklist and design for multiple promotional sets distributed with ice cream or candy products. Hall of Fame catcher Gabby Hartnett's full-length warm-up shot got #5.

W502 card front in graded holder

The "ice cream or candy + baseball" combo would've been big news for kids in those days, but its ho-hum design underwhelms as a collectable. These hazy photos on white stock resemble photocopies when held in real life, so need close examination to authenticate. Few collectors attempt to build sets without sticking to graded cards.

Each food company customized their card backs with promotional info, a brief player bio, or trade-in contests that encouraged kids to swap Babe Ruth or complete sets for ice cream. I profiled TCMA's reprint of one such set in 2010.

1972 TCMA Tharp's Ice Cream reprint (back)

Here are the backs of my two Hartnett type cards, one with ONE BAGGER...

Card back with promo text

...the other with THREE BAGGER, a straight in-store promo exchange. This tells us baseballs and perhaps other giveaways accompanied the card shipments. (Rewards weren't always ice cream or candy.)

It's not clear if kids got to keep their cards after getting a freebie, but I suspect not. Companies might've reclaimed and recirculated redemption cards to save on further printing costs.

At least five companies share this same front design and checklist with varying backs, linked below by catalog number to their Old Cardboard set profiles, which show checklist and back variations.

UPDATE: Here's the rarely-seen Babe Ruth card, scarce thanks to the ice cream bar trade-in offer.

UPDATE #2: Here's a #5 back with Yuengling's ice cream offer, Babe Ruth for a bar or the whole set for a gallon.

Value: Each graded #5 type cost me $40 on eBay. Sellers want to believe singles are worth hundreds of dollars, but dozens of dollars is more likely. Bigger superstars legitimately run $100 and up, with Ruth cards netting $1000s.

Fakes / reprints: Reprints and fakes exist, so buy from reputable dealers if you're looking for a type card and aren't familiar with the sets themselves.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Goudey's many "Babe" Hermans and George Herman "Babes"

If you wrote a book about Goudey Gum's 1930s trading card sets, at least one chapter would talk about the many, many times they squeezed multiple cards from a single photo. Here's a quick look at the guy who got that treatment more than any other, George Herman (Babe) Ruth.

Goudey reworked this on-deck photo four times in 1933 alone, from the above R309-1 Premiums stand-up to three different cards in the main set.

1933 Goudey #53 (yellow)

1933 Goudey #144 (full-length)

1933 Goudey #149 (red)

Ruth changed to a dugout pose later in 1933, perhaps after collectors complained they'd seen the same Babe three times.

1933 Goudey #181 (green)

That's five Babes from two photos in 1933 alone, but Goudey wasn't done. They got another card out of this pose for their 1935 4-in-1s. As with all players in that set, they're re-cropped from earlier Goudey cards. Babe's only meaningful change is "Braves."

1935 Goudey 4-in-1, Braves (Ruth)

Close to my heart is the "other" Babe Herman, #5 in Goudey's 1933 set. It's not clear if this Babe, who was also a phenomenal hitter in the 20s and 30s, picked up the nickname from his Ruthian exploits.

1933 Goudey #5

Why stop there? Herman got the same cropped treatment for 1935 4-in-1.

1935 Goudey 4-in-1, Pirates (Herman)

I'm surprised they didn't blot out Herman's C(hicago) cap, given the move to Pittsburgh, but it was The Great Depression and selling gum packs meant more than minor details like "current team."

Babe's earlier days in Brooklyn included his infamous "double into a double play," explained well by the Parker Pioneer in "Three Men on Third Base."

Monday, June 5, 2017

1934-36 National Chicle "Diamond Stars Gum" Baseball #5, Tom Bridges

This stylish card of Detroit righty Tom Bridges overlays a realistic, posed follow-through on top of an Art Deco outfield and horizon. It shows off the set's typical intense color (more pictures here), with vibrant red and green fighting for your visual attention. It's believed prewar sets show such colorful skies because the coal soot of urban industry transformed late afternoon sun into red, orange, and purplish clouds.

Tiger Stadium (aka Briggs Stadium in those days) might not allow for this exact shot, but the artist appears to have placed actual Detroit skyline highlights behind Tom. Boxes show the relative position of Tommy in black and two prominent "New Center" buildings in grey, as they were in the 1930s. I'm told our leftmost building's the Fisher Building, home to live performance at the Fisher Theater. Its steeple is broadcast tower for WJR. Our rightmost building appears in many skyline photos, but can't find a name so far.

Bridges' long, slender fingers enabled him to throw a highly effective curve. Toss in a decent fastball, adequate control, and you get plenty of strikeouts. Tom broke the Tigers team record for Ks in 1941, which stood until Hal Newhouser came along. This #5 Diamond Star Gum card discusses how pitchers grip the ball, appropriate for his talents.

"Pitching Tips - How to Grip the Ball. Most major league pitchers grip the ball with the fingers across the seams, to obtain a firm purchase. Tom Bridges of the Detroit Tigers, one of the most effective pitchers in the game, holds the ball thus. Yet a few well-known moundsmen hold the ball with the fingers between the seams. This is a matter of choice. But always be sure to hold the ball the same way, both for your curve and fast ball. Do not curl your thumb back when about to throw your curve, a familiar habit among schoolboy pitchers. Smart batters notice such habits. Hold the ball with medium firmness, keeping the fingers and wrist flexible."

I love this phrase: "Tom Bridges...holds the ball thus." That's old school sportswriting. Boston American columnist Austen Lake supplied the set's text and received a byline on each card. Also note those 1933 stats after his bio, because they're our key clue to tracking yearly variations.

National Chicle printed #5 Tom Bridges all three years of their 1934-36 run, revising his short bio paragraph with the previous year's stats. This 1935 series reflects Tom's 1934 win/loss record and World Series success. The copyright date remained the same across all of Tom's cards, even as the stats changed.

1936's printing switched to blue ink and include Tom's 1935 win/loss record. Detroit reached the World Series again in 1935 and this time Tom won twice.

VALUE: I was lucky to receive this card gratis from a collecting friend. Diamond Star Gum "commons" run about $10 on eBay, but players like Bridges, a key part of the first Tigers championship in 1935, could cost more if a team collector's on the hunt.

FAKES / REPRINTS: Many reprints and counterfeits exist for the full set and individual stars of this Diamond Stars set, so familiarize yourself with prewar's thicker card stock and other aspects of similar sets to avoid buying a reprint as the real thing. Bright white borders and thin paper are the easiest way to know for sure you have a postwar reprint.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

1935 Diamond Stars uncut test sheet and the rarity of #68 Sam Leslie

In 2013, a Net54baseball.com collector shared this photo of an uncut test sheet from the middle of National Chicle's 1934-36 "Diamond Stars Gum" set. You can't tell from this side, but it's a classic of both baseball and Art Deco design.

Backs comprise #61 to 72. This is the flip of that test sheet, with no printed fronts.

Chicle printed their 108-card Diamond Stars Gum set across three years and this sheet is from 1935. This PSA-created graphic breaks down cards printed in each series.

PSA Diamond Stars 1934-36 variations

That group of 12 "reprints" in 1936 of earlier numbers supports the notion that each sheet comprised a dozen different players at a time. 1934 started with two sheets, #1-12 and #13-24. 1935 included the next four sheets, #25-36, #37-48, #49-60, and #61-72. Theoretically, test sheets could exist for any 12-player printing, but few paper artifacts survived the Great Depression.

The Net54 owner reported this breakdown of his 12-player, 35-card test sheet.
  • #61 Bill Werber x2
  • #62 Fred Frankhouse x2
  • #63 Travis Jackson x4
  • #64 Jimmie Foxx x2
  • #65 Zeke Bonura x4
  • #66 Ducky Medwick x4
  • #67 Marvin Owen x4
  • #68 Sam Leslie x1 (apparent short print)
  • #69 Earl Grace x4
  • #70 Hal Trosky x2
  • #71 Ossie Bluege x2
  • #72 Tony Piet x4

It's not known if other sheets with different layouts "balanced" the staggered 1/2/4 numbering for #61-72, but one can argue that limiting some numbers would keep kids buying packs, hunting for numbers not easily found. No law mandated they fill in the gaps or make it easy to finish sets. National Chicle's crosstown rivals Goudey Gum teased collectors in 1933 by leaving #106 out entirely. Buyers eventually realized it didn't exist and complained to Goudey. They created #106 Nap Lajoie in 1934 to fill this gap and "complete" the 1933 set.

1935 Diamond Stars #68, Sam Leslie (short print?)

Today's #61-72 test sheet might not be the final (or only) card arrangement, so we don't know for certain Sam Leslie made it into packs at 1/4 the rate of guys like Ducky Medwick. But it sure seems possible.

If so, is Sam more valuable? Not necessarily. Sam's a common, so proves most valuable for Dodger collectors or as part of a complete set. Price pressure on one 80+ year-old card's controlled by the small number of people working on prewar sets in the first place. Even if Sam's "rarer," modern collectors can find #68 without much hassle on eBay.

VALUE: Uncut prewar sheets are nearly unheard of, so value is speculative. Low grade #68 Sam Leslie ranks with the Diamond Stars commons at $5-10.

FAKES / REPRINTS: Lots of Diamond Stars reprints exist and I always recommend buying prewar type cards from dealers you trust. If you plan to make prewar part of your collection, familiarize yourself with the various ways people faked them in the past.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bobby Doerr

Sometimes when I'm down, I remember Bobby Doerr (our oldest living HOFer, now 99) started his pro career in 1934.

...when this guy still wore pinstripes.

1934 Quaker Oats premium, Babe Ruth

...and then I feel better. Here's to those long-term guys.

Hope you all have a good week.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Today's the day!


Happy Chandler served a long life in politics and earned a Cooperstown nod as MLB's second Commissioner of Baseball. As coda to Jackie Robinson Day this weekend, Wikipedia notes that Happy Chandler's "most significant action" as commissioner was approving Jackie's contract, officially allowing integration to proceed.


No better day than today for some of Luke's "Easter Eggs":

"As a player, Easter was best known for his powerful home runs, colloquially known as "Easter Eggs". While with the Grays in 1948, he became the first player to hit a home run into the center field bleachers at New York's Polo Grounds during game action, a section that was 475 feet from home plate. During his rookie season, he also hit the longest home run in the history of Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, a 477-foot blast over the auxiliary scoreboard in right field; the only other player to match that feat was Mickey Mantle, who did it in 1960. Finally, during his twilight days with the Bisons, he became the first player to hit a home run over the center field scoreboard at Buffalo's home park, Offermann Stadium, doing so twice in a month in 1957. 
When told by a fan one time that the fan had seen Easter's longest home run in person, Easter is reported to have replied, "If it came down, it wasn't my longest."

Tip of the cap to Happy and Luke!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

1916 (D329) and 1917 (D328) Weil Baking Co Baseball #5, Leon "Red" Ames and Fred Anderson

Louisiana! Home to endless choices for great food, great music, and Joanie on the Pony.

Joan of Arc statue - (c) Ashley Merlin

Louisiana! Erstwhile home to one of those food choices, Weil Baking Co., and their paeans to baseball, the 1916 D329 and 1917 D328 sets. You know them from this advertising back.

1916 D329 (1-3/8 x 3, above) is slightly smaller than 1917 D328 (2 x 3-1/4, below), which shows in the amount of white border.

Helpful D328 inscription, more scans on Net54

As often happens with early sets, hobby pioneers like Jefferson Burdick didn't have perfect data resources, so didn't put everything in perfect order. Based on player and team listings, we now know D329 came a year before D328. Their 200-player checklists run alphabetically and share many names in common, but changed enough year-to-year that D328 is Fred Anderson and D329 is Red Ames.

1916 D329 #5, Leon "Red" Ames

1917 D328, Fred Anderson

Most consider D328 and D329 sets as back variations of the 200-card M101-4 and M101-5 sets, as conceived and printed for licensing to regional businesses by Felix Mendelssohn. Felix's print company pitched its blank-back sets to businesses, who added ad info like "H. Weil Baking Co.," etc. Those businesses then sold or gave away singles, lots, and sets to baseball-loving customers as incentives.

Sample of M101-based ad backs

Because of the newspaper's nationwide reach and lasting appeal to baseball fans, The Sporting News is the easiest ad back to find in today's market, so collectors have also cast that umbrella name over these sets. Cards that still have blank backs are properly catalogued M101-4 or M101-5, depending on their checklist and cropping. OldBaseball.com's gallery of M101 backs shows all known examples, which vary greatly in rarity and price premium. For an updated, in-depth look at M101 back scarcity, see "Details of M101-4/5 Backs" at OldBaseball's Reference Library. It's great work.

Office, H. Weil Baking Co.

You can read much about H. Weil Baking Co. and see its set checklists at LouisianaCards.com, which specializes in that state's early 20th century baseball sets.

Value: I've seen low-grade M101s for $10, but Weil Baking runs 2-5x times that because of back scarcity. Weil's not a truly obscure back, fortunately, so you can find an affordable type card with patience.

Fakes / reprints: Many M101-based reprints exist, both as sets and for individual stars. Some eBay sellers are especially shameless about selling reprints without calling them out as reprints. Use caution and look for dealers who carry a breadth of authentic vintage material.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 5 Photos from R313 National Chicle "Fine Pen" Premiums

The 1930s produced great vintage sets, including some of my favorite individual cards.

1933 Goudey #155, Joe Judge

Those blue lines and bloused uniform, wow. Such clean, outstanding work.

Hand-tinted, line-heavy figures like this Joe Judge reflect similar Art Deco stylings of the era.

Laurence Fellows (1885-1964) - 1930s Fashion

Boston gum competitors National Chicle and Goudey, top card makers of the 1930s, each took a shot at on-card Deco, possibly sharing the same on-card artists, since both companies operated just a few miles apart in Boston and Cambridge, MA. National Chicle made "Diamond Stars Gum" in that style and it still looks great.

1934-36 National Chicle #9, Mickey Cochrane

Artists hand-painted each player from photos, adding spirit and depth to black-and-white originals. As with Mickey Cochrane, they often swapped out realistic backgrounds for something more artistic.

But painted pieces don't tell the whole story. As the Great Depression deepened and fewer fans had pocket change for luxuries, card makers cut costs by creating less "artistic" options to offer alongside their fancier packs. Both companies printed batches of postcard-sized "premium" photos later catalogued as R313 (National Chicle) and R314 (Goudey). Collectors swapped their card wrappers for these photo premiums in stores or via mail.

Since R313 and R314 black-and-white premiums aren't as familiar to modern collectors, let's look at five of them to get a feel for their style.

1. Chicago City Series, Washington Safe

Most R313s show player portraits, but several were action shots with descriptions scrawled on the front. I had to Google "Chicago City Series" for more context on this play at first.

"Chicago City Series" would've been familiar to 1930s fans, but it's a tradition that's gone by the wayside. It alludes to a postseason matchup between the Cubs and White Sox that ran 26 times between 1903 and 1942. After many of those regular seasons, both teams faced off in a World Series-like best of 7. (See SABR's overview of this particular city series.)

I'm not aware of play-by-play from these games, so can't say for sure what play this photo shows, apart from White Sox OF George Washington about to beat #14 (Cubs P Larry French) to first base, as French searches for the bag with a raised foot.

2. Glenn Uses Football Play At Plate

The play below's much more dramatic than #1's infielder grounder and could easily send a guy to the locker room for x-rays. I mean, look at that knee, ouch.

This play's from a preseason exhibition, given its rural background and long woolen sleeves on the runner. "Glenn" is Yankee Joe Glenn, a part-time backstop for several seasons in the Bronx and elsewhere (career stats). Not sure who the runner or umpire would be, but remember the shape of that tree on the left...

3. Joe DiMaggio Slams It, Erickson catching

This 1936 photo shows a dynamic Joe DiMaggio tracking his shot to left field and headed for first. It's one of Joe's earliest pro images and perhaps his first card in a real Yankee uniform. We know this is spring training in part because Joe entered Yankee camp as #18, but changed numbers by Opening Day.

"Erickson catching" is Reds backstop Hank Erickson, who played sparingly in 1935 and failed to stick in the bigs for 1936 (career stats). This is Hank's only card in a Cincy uniform and he appeared on just one other during his career, as a minor-league Toronto Maple Leaf on Goudey's aforementioned R314 Premiums.

Remember that tree earlier? Look behind Joe and you'll recognize the same limb and leaf structure. Also compare the angled roof above that umpire to the circular inset on this postcard from New York's St. Petersburg training site. It confirms where we are: the ball fields at Crescent Lake Park.

Given the similarity in camera angles, I suspect both card photos come from the same 1936 Yankees vs. Reds spring training game. It wouldn't be the first or last time a card maker saved money by creating several cards from the same game!

TIP: Want a DiMaggio card from his playing days? This R313 remains his most affordable, running $100-300 in low grade.

4. Oswald Bluege for WGN

This candid of lifelong Washington Senator Oswald Bluege holding a WGN microphone is ahead of its time and would be right at home in a modern Topps set. High five to National Chicle for including something so whimsical at a time when baseball served as an important distraction from the Great Depression for many Americans.

5. Honus Wagner

The immortal Honus holding a baseball. That works for me.

Wagner turned 62 in 1936 and was inducted that year as part of baseball's "first Hall of Fame class" with Ruth, Cobb, Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. He's shown in uniform as the Pirates hitting instructor and continued in that capacity through 1952.

If you're ever in Pittsburgh and stop by its terrific PNC Park, you can still touch history by visiting the Honus Wagner statue. The Flying Dutchman himself attended its unveiling in 1955 and his likeness followed the Pirates to a pair of new ballparks since. The past is never far away!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

1980 AL baseball TV broadcast slides #5, Earl Weaver

I recently asked Twitter, are these cards?

Computer-driven graphics hadn't taken over sports coverage in the 1970s and 80s, so TV producers leaned on still photos when they needed an inset or single-player highlight. For example, did Weaver get tossed out once again arguing balls and strikes? (He's third all-time in ejections, with 94.) Here's a photo to flash on the screen while talking about it.

I took Earl's HOF visage from what appears to be the "team set," numbered contiguously for convenient storing and use during Baltimore broadcasts.

TV needed to cover multiple teams and sports, so Earl and his Orioles are just one of many, many slides out there. Not sure if it's possible to make a comprehensive list of what "full sets" would be, but the numbering will help someone who wants to take on that challenge.

I expect hunters of specific players are most likely to grab slides for their collections. Here's an interesting one, Pete Rose during his 1984 stint with the Expos (as of writing, it's $17 BIN).

Poll results: Twitter responses voted 10-to-1 that slides don't count as "cards," but commenters agreed they're interesting. Best wishes to those taking on the challenge!

Value: eBay sellers list single slides and team sets for $10-40 (here's an example), depending on the mix of players.

Fakes / reprints: Even for stars and HOFers, I doubt photo slides are valuable enough to spend the time and trouble faking.