Wednesday, September 26, 2012

RIP Chris Stufflestreet of the Vintage Sportscards blog

Big blow to the collecting world this month, as we lost expert blogger Chris Stufflestreet last week at the far-too-soon age of 39. His regular writing included The Vintage Sportscards and 1973 Topps Photography, along with an unending supply of helpful answers to questions posed by collectors of all eras and interests.


Chris spent most of his life around cards, as evinced by the above black-and-white photo, snapped by a local reporter at a card show in the mid-1980s. Chris's friend Tom Housley of OldBaseball.com (aka, OBC) composed this fitting tribute card, modeled after 1973 Topps "Boyhood Photos" subset.

1973 Topps #341

Due to his prolific writing and forethought, new (pre-scheduled) articles have continued to appear on both blogs following his passing. Thanks again Chris, I'll be reading each and every one.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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

Today's post gets a catch-all "ice cream" title because several mid-Atlantic food makers shared the same design for these 60-player promotional sets distributed with ice cream or candy products. They were probably big news for kids in those days, given the great "ice cream + baseball" combo--I would've been over the moon for them)--but the ho-hum design underwhelms as a collectable. Set photos might be reused newspaper or team program photos cheaply acquired, leading to a visual hodge-podge.

W502 card front in SGC holder

Hall of Fame catcher Gabby Hartnett got #5 in this full-length warm-up shot. Even to a vintage collector's eye, these hazy photos on white stock resemble photocopies in real life. Unfortunately, set rarity also means reprints and fakes exist--it's hard to separate the real from the chaff and few collectors attempt to build complete, authentic sets without sticking to graded cards.

Card back with game text

Each of the involved food companies 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)

It's not clear if kids kept their cards after getting free ice cream, but I suspect not; companies might've recirculated redeemed cards to save on further printing costs.

Here's a list of companies known to use this front design with varying backs, followed by catalog number. (Links go to their Old Cardboard set profiles, which include checklist and back variations.)

The "Game Backs" include simple baseball situations like "ONE BAGGER" above. With enough cards, I assume kids could flip their way through 9 innings a la 1951 Topps Red Backs and Blue Backs or the 1978 Topps game.

It's hard for me (or collectors in general) to get excited about crude black-and-white sets when soon-to-follow 1930s Goudey cards look so great.

1933 Goudey #202, Gabby Hartnett

Yeah, that's better. A lot better.

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: This graded #5 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.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

1967 Topps Baseball Stand-Ups #5, Ron Swoboda

Who's ready for more Topps test issues? Finally found a proof scan for this obscure and pricy Stand-Ups set on eBay last week and its #5 type card features a guy New York fans know best as a member of the 1969 Miracle Mets.

Proof card front, no die-cut (blank back)

Stand-Ups rank as the rarest non-standard 1967 Topps issue, behind comparatively plentiful 5"x7" Pin-Ups (set profile) and peel-off stickers for two teams (Pirates and Red Sox set profiles). It's hard to find much info about their production process, as it's almost certain they never saw life outside of a Topps print shop.

Robert Edwards Auctions sold a few 1967 Stand-Ups over the years, both of uncut proofs like the scan above and some thicker, rarer die-cuts. Their $41K auction for 12 die-cut versions included this set commentary.
"Rarer and more desirable [are the] thick die-cut variety, which is the form in which the cards were actually intended to be issued (as opposed to thin proof cards cut from sheets). 1967 Topps Stand-Ups are one of the rarest and most intriguing of all 1960s Topps issues. It is almost certain that these cards were never issued to the public, and their astounding rarity is consistent with this speculation...the cards were produced on one-quarter inch thick cardboard stock which has been die-cut punched. The design allows the player's head to be punched out of the black background. Additional small punched-out pieces along the bottom of the card, when properly used, were intended to allow the player's head to stand for display."

In other words, pick die-cut over "plain" proofs when you're sifting through those 25-cent "test issues" boxes at card shows!


This group scan from the auction illustrates the die-cutting, punch-out "head stands," and some amazing teeth on Don Drysdale. Its full checklist includes 24 floating heads.

UPDATE: Here's how the stand separates from the frame. You then insert a player plaque into its center notch for creepy, floating head display.


Value: eBay seller Irishhosta listed the #5 proof for $2500 on eBay, the first time I've seen it outside of an auction house. (Their lot went unsold.) Choice quote from its listing: "No major grading company has ever professionally encapsulated a single specimen of Ron Swoboda." I vote we keep Mr. Swoboda in one piece, thanks.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any fakes in the market, but they're so valuable and simple in design it's possible they exist. I recommend buying from dealers who are willing to guarantee the purchase price.

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Kids On The Bench Contest Winners

Lots of great submissions in last Friday's freshman name contest. Let's catch them in a rundown.

Every one of these entries meets or exceeds my personal baseball name standard-bearer, Biff Schlitzer.


In awarding prizes, I disqualified three (in italics) for being either not rookies (Petit and Alburquerque) or not in the bigs (Odor). They're still winners in My Book of Winners, just not winners in My Book of This Contest. :-(

Top 5 Winners in My Book of This Contest
  • Didi Gregorious, which multiple people (deservedly) wanted to choose
  • Adieny Hechavarria, which got bonus points for the lineup backstory
  • Adron Chambers, who sounds like a Victorian-era action hero
  • Jurickson Profar, who I've nicknamed "Jurickson Profar Blondes" (tm) (lol)
  • Tanner Scheppers, which should also be a beer

Greg Z, Buckstorecards, Madding, Night Owl, Mad Guru: send your preferred vintage team and mailing address to glidden period matthew at gmail! Thanks to all for reading and kicking in so many great names.

Friday, September 7, 2012

New Kids On the Bench (aka, Roster Expansion Giveaway)

Now that we're safely into September, it's time to discuss one of my favorite baseball things, player names.


Each new roster expansion means tons of new players in MLB uniforms. Long-term fans probably remember guys like Chili Davis, Bump Wills, and Biff Pocoroba. More recently, there's this guy.


And this guy.


So who are your favorite fresh-faced freshmen?

WHAT TO DO: Nominate your favorite baseball name from 2012 rookies or September call-ups in the comments. I'll accept nom-de-plume-inations through Sunday and pick five Best New Name winners from all players mentioned.

WHAT YOU WIN: Pre-1980 cards (team of your choice), as selected from my dupes box. Good Lucky Lohrke to all!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

1969 Topps Super Baseball #5, Carl Yastrzemski

This week in 1983, Carl Yastrzemski hit his final career homer, a 2-run shot off Cleveland's Rick Sutcliffe. The Red Sox chased Sutcliffe from the game early, but--as with so many of that year's contests--let their lead slip away and lost 8-6. Boston finished a mediocre 6th in the division, as Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray powered Baltimore to both AL East and World Series titles.


Thanks to 23 years (!) in Boston, Yaz holds the games record for one-franchise players (3308) and is second all-time to Pete Rose (3562).

Today's post has special relevance to modern sets as the progenitor of glossy, high-quality photos on thicker, better-than-cardboard stock. Topps turned 1960s printing technology advances into a multitude of limited-run "test issues," creations similar to those published as inserts and parallels today. (More about these "tests" at OldBaseball.com.) My own #5 lost some paper from the front--I buy affordable--but still stands out as a sharp picture and distinctive design for its era.


Topps editors pulled out all the stops in 1969, shipping 8 different sets to some part of North America.

Looking to catch all 66 Super cards? It's possible for patient collectors who can invest $1000+ in a set. I've been working on a low-grade version for 8+ years and need about 10 more, mostly HOFers. Set your sights on the star-filled checklist, if you feel lucky.

Value: Super Baseball's sharp look and limited availability make it pricy to modern collectors. This Yaz was $50, even with paper missing. Lesser-known players run $10-20 in low grade, but superstars like Clemente and Mantle cost hundreds more.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace, in part because many dealers slab all of their Supers, which would (hopefully) catch the bad ones.

Type collection count: This post marks #700 on the blog; thanks to all who've read this far. Only 14 away from Babe Ruth!