Sunday, August 23, 2015

1933 Goudey "World War Gum" (R174, military) #5, Practice At Camp

Today (August 23) in 1914, over 35,000 British troops encountered Germany's 1st army in Belgium, following similar engagements by France earlier that week. It was Britain's first continental battle of WWI, and while at numerical disadvantage, their forces withstood extended artillery bombardment before choosing retreat over potential envelopment and capture. The German army proceeded into Belgium, pushing Allied forces back to the Marne, where...(Wikipedia can take it from here).


I looked up this engagement (the Battle of Mons) thanks to another of Goudey's 1933 sets, World War Gum. It's largely what you see, as a set of 96 black-and-white photos from a war almost 20 years old by that point. Goudey released it as a pair of 48-card series, likely using sales of the first (and other products, like my favorite: Big League Gum) to finance printing of the second series, later that year.

1933 Goudey World War Gum #55, Surprise Attack

The second series used red borders and enlarged its photo space with a "World War Gum" stamp instead of the bottom edge tagline.


While WWI forces weren't immobile, the European ground war went slowly, and as "practice at camp" describes, soldiers commonly met enemies hand-to-hand with rifle butt and bayonet. Moving from trench to trench by foot meant surging into harsh, open terrain that left you open to enemy fire. A line of soldiers going over the lip of a trench remains an enduring image of WWI combat and one that future armies strove to replace with more nimble, mechanized units.

Why did Goudey produce this set in 1933? Hitler had just come to power that January, and it's likely the roiling European political climate appeared regularly in American headlines. While wide-scale conflict was still years away, Goudey could've guessed that kids would snap up the excitement of wartime events, even those from their parents' generation.

For this set, Goudey used the same dimensions and card stock as their better-known 1933 Big League Gum (baseball) and Indian Gum. These World War Gum set galleries seem drab today, but with 30s cinemas showing mostly black-and-white movies and newsreels, collectors of the day might've accepted it as readily as color.

Value: I bought this low grade #5 at the 2015 National in Chicago for $3. With no special "stars," scarcity and context drive prices for individual cards. A graded set auctioned in 2013 for ~$3000.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace, but my knowledge of non-sports (and its potential shenanigans or pitfalls) is far behind that of baseball sets.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

1960 Topps #389, World Series Game 5 (and the baseball peccadilloes of LA's Memorial Coliseum)

This card's always intrigued me, as it could show Maury Wills making a play at second long before he worked out his unusual contract kerfuffles with Topps (who'd passed on signing him for $5 at a minor league tryout) and first appeared "officially" as a Pirate in their 1967 set. So is this really an unnamed Wills covering second? Yes.


While this is Maury Wills taking a throw as Aparicio steals, it's from game 4 instead. Fellow card blog Horizontal Heroes even found the original press photo that Topps repurposed in its post about 1960 Topps #389; Topps just repurposed it incorrectly as "Game 5."

If that's not good enough for you, the official MauryWills.com gallery also includes this card between Maury's 1960 and 1961 Bell Brand potato chip cards.


No more mystery, then, 1960 Topps #389 shows Luis Aparicio and Maury Wills, Hall of Famer and 1962 NL MVP, respectively.

1986 TCMA MVPs

So what actually happened in game 5? A piƱata of White Sox pitchers combined to beat Sandy Koufax 1-0, so you can imagine why Topps card editors didn't find a lot of great photos to work with. No "SUPER SANDY" or "NELLIE OUTFOXES LA" really fit. I almost wouldn't blame them for intentionally putting Aparicio's steal on the wrong day, as it's a simpler "story" than explaining how Chicago's pitching changes and outfield positioning kept the Dodgers in check. Check out the series highlight reel to see what I mean and wind to 21:21 for Game 5.


Those highlights aptly demonstrate the "every animal in the barnyard" feel of playing in LA's Memorial Coliseum for 1958-59, the franchise's first two post-Brooklyn seasons. Outfielders had to account for lots of unusual features and not just the ghosted NFL yardage lines. Their left field wall stood a scant 250 feet away, only moderating easy homers with an unusual 40-foot screen.

LA Coliseum : "O'Malley's 3AM Plan" from WalterOMalley.com

That 90,000+ fans went through LA's turnstiles for game after game on an oval "diamond" says a lot about California's hunger for Major League Baseball. That Walter O'Malley's Dodgers proved a dominant force for its first decade out west did a lot to maintain Dodgers / Yankees as baseball's Golden Age rivalry. Maybe Topps should've titled the Game 5 card as "O'MALLEY WINS AGAIN!"

UPDATE: Thanks to the Internet, you can relive the whole Game 5 radio broadcast at PodBay.fm (and Game 1 as well).

Monday, August 10, 2015

2015 National Sports Collectors Convention Recap

"It's somewhere in this room. Somewhere. I just need to use my good spyglass and find it."


You can hit three limits at a National Sports Collectors Convention: time, energy, money. If you're there for 3 days, you say: I can't see all these hundreds of tables! If you're there for 4: my feet are dead! If you're there for 5: where'd all my money go!

"Unopened packs. So hot right now."

I lasted 4 days at the 2015 National, arriving for Wednesday's sneak preview, but departing prior to Sunday's unofficial discount day. There's plenty of vintage on display, but personal expectations are always tempered knowing my 1930s and 1940s wantlists aren't easy to hit from $1 card boxes. Low-grade Goudeys have drifted upwards of $5 each and oddball sets remain unpredictable in both location and quantity. But if you've read my Day One Highlights and Day Two Highlights posts, you already know I needn't have worried!

FRIDAY AND SATURDAY

It's easy to summarize these two days as "revisit all those areas that didn't stand out on Wednesday and Thursday." National show floors spread out across a large grid, with large central booths for card companies, publications, web communities, and grading. It's like a Salt Lake City of collecting, a progression of criss-crossed streets expanding out from the massive downtown temple. I visited the "place of worship" (Topps booth) once to get an Allen & Ginter redemption pack.

PEOPLE TO MEET, CARDS TO SWAP

I caught up and swapped cardboard with each of the 20+ friends from OldBaseball.com who traveled to the National. We schedule group events like the White Sox game on Friday (Yankees won big) and a full squad meet-and-greet on Saturday. Here we are in full swing, 1960 team card style.


I also made some Twitter connections, including Stephan of @JunkWaxTwins and @YanxChick, who now works for Topps.

Signed card for @JunkWaxTwins 

BUT ENOUGH OF THE PLEASANTRIES

I bought a lot of cards at the show for the type collection and set building. I felt like this guy, but more smiling.


Let's look at some all of them!

The complete, barely organized haul

#5 PICKUPS


(Links go to blog set profiles, where posted and the others will come soon.)

1900s Stollwerck's Chocolade, OBC gift

1914 T222 Fatima: Reulbach SGC 20, $115

1927 W560 strip cards: Wilson (spades), Sewell (hearts), Uhle (diamonds), $5-15 each

1931 Diana Cigarreras (Venezuelan tobacco), Carratu $150

1935 National Chicle Football Stars, Presnell $12

1955 Robert Gould All Stars, Hegan $24

1956-57 Cuban Chicle, Garcia $100

1967-68 Coke Red Sox crown, Brandon $1

1968 Bazooka Tipps From The Topps, Javier $25

1978 Post Cereal Steve Garvey fielding tips, Not shown in scan, OBC gift

#5 binder feeling the effects
Issue #5, a freebie at one table

If you start to work backward as a collector and talk vintage at Nationals, you soon pick up how much focus the dealers of "old stuff" put on buying from each other instead of just selling to attendees. Many well-heeled collectors around the world don't attend this kind of show, making dealers their proxies to acquire items for long-distance resale or auction house consignment. It feels extra-fortunate to find a key hit when you know a number of monied, educated hands already had their shot.

NEW SETS STARTED

New sets, exciting! Most are from the 1930s to better understand when new card designs and innovations took hold after 1933's explosion of sports interest. Baseball was just a fraction of total card output in that era, so I've added several non-sport sets by Goudey and its close gum card competitors. All sets now appear on my Baseball and non-sport wantlist.


1930 World Wide Gum's Jungle Action Gum

1933 DeLong Play Ball! Gum (2 for $20-40)

1933 Goudey Boy Scouts ($5 each)

1933 Goudey Indian Gum ($1-3 each)

1933 Goudey Sport Kings ($10-40 each)

1933-34 National Chicle Sky Birds, as part of Goudey overview: large lot for $275

1935 Goudey Big League Gum (one for $10)

1936 Goudey Big League Gum, as part of my Goudey overview (several, $5-10 each)

1938 Goudey Big League Gum (several, $10-15 each)

Hobby box of 2015 Allen & Ginter (no notable hits, #bummer)

ODDBALLS

Low-grade Exhibits make for affordable vintage collecting

1936 Goudey Wide Pen: Freitas, Whitehead, $1 each

1936 Goudey Fine Pen: Swift, $1

1947-66 Exhibits: Six, with HOFs Warren Spahn and Lou Boudreau, $1 each

1967 Sports Cards For Collectors #7 Maranville, $1

1969 Sports Cards For Collectors #38 Lazzeri, $1

1976 Topps Cito Gaston (blank back)

IN CLOSING

I continue to enjoy the annual National trips, both as an ongoing set-builder and friend to others on similar quests. There are so few opportunities to get 1000s of collectors in a single room and see new things every hour of every day. I'd hate to miss one, even if 2016 means a return to the social and (if you're a gambler) economic vicissitudes of Atlantic City. See you next year!

Friday, July 31, 2015

National Sports Collectors Show 2015, day two (Thursday) highlights

As time and tide wait for no man, neither do your feet adjust to hours of pounding around the robust concrete floors of Rosemont's convention center. Oy vey. But onto the cards!


I spent two hours sifting through variety boxes at one of my favorite National dealers, Kurt Tourdot. Thanks to John and Len, I also spent awhile thinking about a new haircut. Unitas has a classic gridiron look, but Dawson's closer to what will actually happen on my head.


Speaking of haircuts, here's another guy with a buzz.


Despite finishing my own 1976 SSPC baseball set a few years ago, I'd completely forgotten about its #589 George Brett / Al Cowans Cowens masterpiece of no-budget photography. SSPC showcased several great goofball photos in the "high numbers," but I think this is the best.


It's hard to find subtle, excellent design like the colors and script used for 1962 Post Cereal's CFL set. Would've loved this photo design for Post's baseball sets, which feel cramped in comparison.


Other than last year's Allen & Ginter barbed wire card, Dan Gladden is as close as I'll get to seeing "Glidden" on a trading card.


The barbed wire card, with mention of my great-great-great-uncle Joseph.


I spent an hour-plus sifting through a table of oddball postcards and photos, including this snapshot of Joe DiMaggio looking down at something. He also has a good haircut.


One table featured an 800-count box of autographed 1970s minor league cards. This TCMA manager card from Dubuque's Packers, an Astros farm team, was my favorite for many reasons. They are all cornball and exaggerated reasons.


Nice Yankees patch and perfect companion to this Brooklyn patch from day one.


Longtime blog readers might recall the National Poster Stamp Society's "Eureka Sportstamps" article about their Yankees promotional set. Here's another of their products, a booklet of stick-ons to liven up any kids' binder or desk or what have you.


None of these seals had been sealed to anything, so I suspect it was found in storage rather than purchased for 19c by a sports or seals enthusiast.

At one point, I tried to collect the 1936 S&S Game, one of the hobby's easier 1930s sets to finish. While available primarily as singles into today's vintage market, this was the source for all such cards: a boxed board game called The National Game.


This game came complete with lineups, multiple rule cards, and even a "CASH AWARDS" promo that asked players to write a 100-word essay on why they liked the game itself. That last bit's some cunning work by S&S itself, since customer-written essays would give them a ready supply of marketing research and ideas. In this shape it fetches four figures, well above what I can afford on a collectible.

I found a few more type cards, including these from 1927-29 W560, a multi-sport set with one #5 for each card suit.


In order to better understand the explosion of the 1930s trading card market, I've also picked up more Goudey and National Chicle cards from that era, including some of Goudey's "Indian Chewing Gum," a large set about the American West.


My first two Indian Gum cards ($3 each) feature a settler and a "border patrol leader," spiritual forerunner of today's Texas Rangers law enforcement unit. Clearly a good set for fans of beards.


#49: "[Gen. Ben McCulloch] introduced into the West that death-dealing instrument, the six shooter..."


Speaking of six-shooters and "Indians," here's Sonny Sixkiller, Cherokee and former star QB for the University of Washington, my alma mater. He reprised this role, kind of sort of, as a player in 1974's "The Longest Yard."


Sonny's the true-life QB in this promo photo, instead of leading man Burt Reynolds, who played halfback for FSU. Sonny's career continued briefly as a pro for the 1970s WFL (which itself played but briefly) and he remains in football today as a TV analyst.


In addition to the earlier pair of W560 type cards, I also scored this 1968 Tipps from the Topps #5 panel on turning the double play for $25, starring the Cardinals' Julian Javier. While I'd written about that set based on scans back in 2012 (set profile), it's great to finally own the real deal.

Total #5 type cards owned now stands at 550 for both major and minor leagues! I know that's far more than I thought existed when this project started. Maybe there's another handful to locate before the show's over...? Day three tomorrow!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

National Sports Collectors Show 2015 : Day one highlights

"I just spent all morning flying to Chicago and boy are my jokes tired."


Welcome to suburban Chicago (aka, Rosemont), home of the 2015 National Sports Collectors Show! Just about everything that's a sports collectible can be found here, including this sweet Brooklyn Dodgers patch.


...and this 1923 Independent Baseball League schedule. (P.S. smoke Chesterfield, "they satisfy.")


At the National, "sports" isn't even a requirement. I've started collecting a set of 1930s aviators that includes Amelia Earhart. What should I find but the same card's original art for sale at a cool $15K?


Not every card is super cool and respectful of its star. I can't stop chuckling at this masked Hal Smith and his fastball signal, for example.


A couple buddies at OBC (OldBaseball.com) went the extra mile to create our card packs this year by sealing a pack of member photos inside a collectible wrapper, with gum. Here's the cover:


The wrapper's back text is worth reading, for sure; "Tipton" means a low-grade, well-loved card.


There's our Chicago Cubs style "floating head" team card on top of the pack.


What makes for a great first day at the show? Unexpected finds like these two foreign issues, 1956-57 Chicle (Cuban) #5 Silvio Garcia and 1931 Diana Cigarrillos (Venezuelan) #5, Luis Carratu.


It's a double pleasure to find Carratu, as I both learned about the set and knocked off its #5 type in the same visit; OldCardboard's profile has a little more info on this rare Venezuelan issue.


Silvio Garcia was rumored to be the first choice of Branch Rickey to break Brooklyn's color barrier, but reputedly proved to have the wrong temperament, with more details at the 1956-57 set profile. By this point, he'd switched to coaching and would've moved beyond such trifles...maybe.

Can't wait for day 2, so look for more updates tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, and Goudey's Knot Hole League membership kit

How's baseball going for you this year? As we creep closer to the 2015 All-Star Game, I'm stalking the water cooler for trade deadline rumors and flashing back to that year Cliff Lee was a Seattle Mariner for...three months.

*sigh*

To escape bad memories, check out this fine piece of prewar collecting history, an original mailing envelope and welcome letter for Goudey's Knot Hole League collectors club, complete with faux Lou Gehrig sig.


If you were lucky enough in 1934 to have a candy store that stocked Goudey products and patient enough to save up their wrappers, you'd exchange them for a Knot Hole League membership kit, what we'd call today a loyalty program for their gum cards.


This collectors club came on the heels of 1933, a huge year financially for both baseball and Goudey. Gehrig's business manager (Christy Walsh, "baseball's first agent") spun Larrapin' Lou's popularity into a splashy Knot Hole League President endorsement and likely ghost-wrote this welcome letter, though it could've been PR work from Goudey itself.


Once in the club, you could trade further batches of Big League Gum wrappers for further promotional baseball goods. The 4 cards shown on that flier are catalogued for the hobby as 1934 R309-1 Goudey Premiums, all based around Babe Ruth and the hugely successful 1933 All-Star Game. This card's a store display version from the same promo.


Babe's "November 1st, 1933" expiration date shows our catalogued 1934 date is a year off, as Goudey likely created these premiums immediately after the 1933 All-Star Game and used them to drive sales through the World Series. For 1934 (and beyond), they continued to offer remaining cards as a Knot Hole League mail-in offer. This labeled version sold for $1100+ at a 2012 Legendary Auction.

I covered the Knot Hole League and its place in Goudey's history in this lengthy post, but today's membership kit adds some context to just how they approached new collectors with a personal touch. Getting something like that in the mail would've been exciting for any fan to pop open and pore over.


Very little Knot Hole League ephemera exists in any shape these days, so you'll need a little luck to snag something like Lou's letter or this framed membership kit, which sold for $533 in a 2014 Robert Edwards auction.


Knock wood I can locate one of these badges at the 2015 National in Chicago!