Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Workmanlike Performances

I recently accepted a position at the wireless HiFi company Sonos, so am pulling regular hours again. This means a little less time to blog, but inspired me to look for players who come ready-made for hitching up their overalls and putting in a hard day's work. (All found via B-R's name search.)

2013 Panini America's Pastime, Brandon Workman

My place of work's in Cambridge, just across the river from Boston's baseball club.

1982 Topps #479, Rowland Office

I'm pushing electronic papers, not breaking rocks, and most of it happens in an office.

1922 E120 American Caramel, Walter "Duster" Mails

I send a lot of emails.

Clarence Beers (photo)

The break area does have some beer.

1937-38 Zeenut PCL, Harley Boss

The founders, our company bosses, are on the West Coast. They say I'll be visiting HQ soon enough, and I bet people clamor for it during New England winters.

Enough blogging, back to work!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

1949 Bowman Baseball Wantlist (Updated Sept 25, 2016)

This post tracks progress on my low-grade 1949 Bowman baseball set. Some collectors call it the ugly duckling of post-WWII issues, given its stark (and probably cheap) hand-tinted colors over black-and-white photos, but it also broke ground in set size (240 players) and featured plenty of stars, most notably New York's Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants.

1949 Bowman #50, Jackie Robinson (his first Bowman card)

Ron Hobbs noted Bowman printing sheets had space for 252 cards, but "reprinted" a dozen players from earlier series, so numbering stops at #240. Stock and design variations push the master set to 324, a real challenge considering the scarcity of higher numbers (#145 and up).


April 19: Three arrived from eBay, including Fritz Ostermueller, a pitcher called out as "targeting" Jackie Robinson in the movie 42. (His daughter objected to the portrayal and the scene itself gets several points wrong, which can happen when moviemakers pick larger themes over real events.)

#227 Fritz Ostermueller
#145 Sylvester Donnelly
#190 Jim Hearn

Feb 8, 2015: Edwin "Duke" Snider and Dom "Little Professor" DiMaggio arrived!

Late in 2016, I procured Jackie Robinson's first Bowman card and put this set to bed! Thanks to everyone who traded and sent cards along the way.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

1922 T85 Strollers Tobacco Actors & Actresses #5, Barbara La Marr

Hollywood writer and actress. Six movie roles per year in the Roaring Twenties. Touted as The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, capital letters. That's one way to find yourself on a trading card.

Those winsome eyes belong to Hollywood's silent film star Barbara LaMarr. First employed as a writer and soon encouraged to perform, she burned through silver screen stardom in just six years (1920-25). Her candle-burning schedule included almost no sleep, at least one drug habit, five marriages, and death by tuberculosis at age 29, one of the hardest of hard-lived starlet lives.

A decade later, actress Hedy Lamarr "inherited" her screen name from this La Marr via studio head Louis B. Mayer, who considered Barbara one of his favorites.

Some T85 backs show a Strollers Tobacco ad instead of the personal bio. I'm not certain if all subjects have multiple backs or certain cards always show the ad instead of a bio; this might vary by type of issue.

Strollers Cigarettes ad for T85 movie stars

A terrific 1922 T85 gallery supplied my #5 scans and includes luminaries like Gloria Swanson, Rodolph (Rudolph) Valentino, Jackie Coogan, Norma Talmadge, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Lionel Barrymore. It's a who's-who of early Hollywoodland and the set's a great one for movie fans to attempt, in any of its three permutations: Type 1 (100 cards, sepia), Type 2 (220 cards, black-and-white, numbered), or Type 3 (220 cards, oval portrait). Per the full checklist, #201-220 are labeled "© Mack Sennett" and don't identify the actresses shown.

Strollers also marketed this series via the Montreal-based Tobacco Products Corp. and collectors catalog it as C142 ("Strollers Canada").

Value: Non-sport type cards cost a lot less than 1920s tobacco equivalents and this #5 can be had for $10 or less in low-grade.

Fakes / reprints: Don't know the non-sports market well enough to say for sure, but I imagine the set's most famous names might have been reprinted or faked. I doubt that a lesser start like La Marr would be vulnerable to it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

1975 TCMA Larry French Baseball #5, Brooklyn Dodgers years (1941-42)

Collector and dealer Mike Aronstein's publishing company (TCMA) spent the early 1970s making retrospective looks at baseball, temporarily bringing past players and teams to the fore as simple black-and-white designs with a common theme. As with their other "focused" sets, today's biography of pitcher Larry French started with a handful of contemporary photos (six total), found an interesting "baseball-plus-war" story to tell, and sold them via mail order to collectors for a few dollars each.

In baseball, Larry French was a classic 1930s innings-eating pitcher, one of those guys who made 30 starts every year and won often enough to keep management happy. He pitched often enough and long enough, in fact, that he's one of only 90 pitchers to allow 3000 hits from the mound. It's a much rarer feat for batters to achieve, but also says something about your longevity and effectiveness as a hurler to hit the same mark. (HOF Phil Niekro holds the top spot and is the only pitcher to give up over 5000 hits.)

French's back text story ("The Porkchop Pitcher") covers his baseball and personal life and reads much like TCMA's companion set about ballplayers stationed in Guam. Their brief biography, partially told in his voice, was co-written by Harrington "Kit" Crissey, who later published a WWII baseball book called Teenagers, Graybeards, and 4-Fs.

UPDATE: Wrigley Wax scanned some TCMA ads from 1984 that show how the company marketed their sets (and several made by others) via hobby publications.

So that's how TCMA did it

Value: I bought this #5 on eBay for $6, which isn't beyond the pale. They're hard cards to track down, perhaps because TCMA collectors rarely break their sets into singles. As of April 2014, there's an autographed #5 on eBay for $14.

Autographed TCMA #5 on eBay

Fakes / reprints: I doubt anyone would make money faking obscure TCMA sets, even if it'd be easy to do with modern equipment.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

1975-76 Calbee All Star Game Baseball #5, Tsutomu Wakamatsu & Katsuya Nomura

This is my latest "one that got away," a scarce Japanese type card that ended with me as runner-up bidder on eBay.

According to collecting expert Rob Fitts and reader Ryan G, this card's from a multi-series set covering Japan's 1975-76 seasons and pictures a 1975 All-Star Game. The batter's future Hall of Famer Tsutomu Wakamatsu, who played, broadcast, and managed for the Yakult Swallows franchise. The catcher's another future Hall of Famer, Katsuya Nomura, who was then player-manager for the Nankai Hawks.

Here's a 1977 trading card of the sharp-hitting Wakamatsu, as found in a tribute to 2009 Japanese Hall of Fame inductees.

The 1975-76 back's titled "Pro Baseball Card 5," followed by what I believe are details about the 1975 All-Star Game pictured on its front. Japan played three such exhibitions that year and this one's dated July 19th (7/19).

Calbee itself is a food company and packed their cards into potato chip bags like the one above. They printed large sets, some numbering over 1000 cards, but proved so discardable (and localized) that few exist in American collections today.

1975 Calbee #329, Sadaharu Oh

Japanese-Taiwanese slugger Sadaharu Oh's the best-known player from 1970s Calbee sets and often appeared on a dozen cards each year, thanks to their generous set sizes.

Former major leaguers played overseas often enough they also pop up in those sets, but I especially enjoyed this custom "1975 Calbee" of Frank Howard by Cards That Never Were. Big Frank barely played thanks to a back injury, but appears on a handful of vintage and retro cards in Japanese gear.

Value: This #5 closed at $20 ( $13 bid + $7 shipping). I'll have to track down more Calbee auctions to know whether this is typical for singles. Mid-1970s Japanese issues are obscure (and specialized) enough that setting a real market price is hard to do, so you might have to pay more than expected for specific cards.

Fakes / reprints: Sadaharu Oh might be famous enough to reprint or fake, but it'd be easier for a counterfeiter to stick with more familiar American cards, so the risk seems low.