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 ( 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.


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!