Monday, August 31, 2009

1964 Topps Giants Baseball #5, Milt Pappas

Today's guest appears on two different #5s, the previously reviewed 1960 Bazooka and this over-sized 1964 Topps "Giant." He won 209 games for 4 different teams, more than half as an Oriole. Still two years removed from being infamously traded for Frank Robinson, our 24 year-old Pappas looks positively sanguine in piped uniform and blue undershirt. It's one of my favorite members of the type collection.

Even for a pitcher, Milt's batting line seems bizarre. In 1962, he reached base safely 7 times in 75 plate appearances, including 5 extra-base hits, 4 homers and 1 double. 15 strike outs for every walk! 1960 batting average of .043! A single stolen base in 17 years! Sans the occasional long ball, he's a one-man argument for the designated hitter.

This large issue, each card more than 3" x 5", remains popular with collectors. Its 60-count checklist includes 19 Hall-of-Famers and features some great photos. Several short-prints frustrate completists, but the set's relatively inexpensive as a whole. The Mickey Mantle card's a gem, if you're looking for a nice-but-affordable card of Topps' favorite son.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Double card arrival from White Sox Cards and Carl Crawford Cards

This blog normally focuses on vintage cards, 1980 and earlier, but that's not the whole story of my type collection. At the binder's far end resides about 100 newer #5s, including Fleers, Donrusses, and other, shinier issues. Prolific blog White Sox Cards added to that total earlier this month with 4 more!

I know the middle two players well, but definitely hadn't seen the Coolbaugh or Calderon cards before. (Few players show up without a hat, so Ivan's 1991 Classic stands out from the crowd.) The package also included a bunch of Seattle Mariners, my hometown team from 1979 - 1999, wootwootwoot. Can they stay in the wild card hunt this year? If only the Red Sox played all of their remaining games against the Yankees and Seattle got the pre-Wild Thing Cleveland Indians from Major League...

The second arrival's also very cool, a "Holy Firetruck!" prize winning from Carl Crawford Cards. The blog recently ran a contest to win some autographed Virgil "Fire" Trucks cards and I came away with the pictured 1950 Bowman. Yesyesyes!

When I featured CCC as a type site, the post highlighted a 1976 Topps #66 Buddy and Gus Bell card. Sure enough, his envelope included the same card as a bonus.

Thanks for all of the above, guys!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

1921 W520 Baseball strip cards #5, Art Fletcher

Today's guest served lengthy tenures both on the field and in the coach's box. He followed an unremarkable run as Philadelphia's shortstop with a handful more as their manager, but couldn't lift them from the second division. (This scan shows him in Philly's natty uniform.) He shifted to the Yankee clubhouse in 1927 to coach the team better known as Murderers' Row, where Fletcher remained through 2 decades and 9 titles. (Wouldn't you?)

Art's career batting performance sat at exactly average, an OPS+ of 100, but he regularly led the league in being hit by pitches, "punching up" his on-base percentage somewhat. Four World Series appearances as a New York Giant produced no wins, so I assume 2 soaring decades coaching the Yankees proved more satisfying.

This hard-to-find strip card issue includes 20 players, similar to the recently profiled W521s. Its simple, blank-backed design "shares" front images with a 1920 contemporary, the W522 set. (See the W520 gallery and W522 gallery at

Ungraded strip cards command fairly low prices, given their crude design and typically poor edges, and you can find them for less than $10 online or at shows. Someone trimmed my Fletcher pretty well, but it lost a corner and picked up several creases in the last 90 years. It cost $12 (including postage) from eBay in 2004. If you like old cards and can accept the simpler design, it's much less expensive--if relatively challenging--to assemble W520s compared to the monster T206 set.

Friday, August 21, 2009

1968 Topps Baseball Game #5, Harmon Killebrew

Today's guest bashed an amazing 573 HRs over his lengthy career with the Senators, Twins, and KC Royals. Like many fans, I completely forgot about that final year in powder blue, but 1975/76 SSPC #168 brings it all back.

Jumping directly to the majors as a 17 year-old bonus player, Killer played in the Washington infield sparingly from 1954-58 and knocked a sparse 11 homers. Once he found full-time duty at third base, his compact, powerful stroke knocked 73 more out of the park in '59 and '60. While the team's poor overall performance prompted their move to Minnesota in 1961, Harmon's offensive power and affability served as the franchise's face for more than a decade.

1968 marked a low point for Killebrew, in part due to the honor of making another All-Star game, hosted in the Houston Astrodome. He unfortunately suffered a leg injury fielding a throw at first and sat out half the season, dropping his HR count below 26 for the only time between 1959 and 1972. (See the 1968 All-Star Game broadcast post at The Fleer Sticker Project for details.)

Topps inserted this 33 player set into 1968 packs, with a checklist that includes 11 HOFers and Pete Rose besides. (They also sold a complete, boxed set for those with less patience.) I play its flipping game with trading friends every now and then, since it's already in low-grade. Rounded corners and generic card backs made them easy to flip, but more challenging to grade. provides a scan of what to look for.

Value: When people ask for interesting oddballs to collect, I point them here. They're cheap to get in lots, include some nice portraits, and make for a fun game. Complete low grade versions go for as little as $30 and don't take up much space. Buy two, so you can play with a friend!

UPDATE: Bonus KC Killer content over at Baseball Card Recollections, where they created a 1976 Topps card-that-never-was.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

1921 W521 Baseball strip card #5, Babe Ruth

This rather homely, baseball-only strip card set contains 20 players and slotted the incomparable Babe Ruth fifth. W521 closely parallels one of 1920's W519 strip card sets, copying--but reversing--its images and numbering system. You can easily distinguish one set from another by the player's shirt, which buttons (correctly) left-over-right on W519s and (incorrectly) right-over-left on W521s.

Based on periodic searching, strip cards markedly lag more "popular" 20s and 30s sets in available information. I finally found a decent W521 checklist at subscription site Vintage Card Prices. It includes a scan of #15 Ray Schalk, a White Sox backstop selected to the HOF on the strength of his excellent defense (and penchant for catching no-hitters).

Value: A 2006 auction yielded this W521 Bambino for about $125. My version features heavy wear to the corners and edges, but could be much worse.

Fakes / reprints: I particularly recommend using personally trusted dealers for cards of Ruth, since he generated more reprinting and counterfeiting than any other player.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Type Site redux: Project Baseball 1976's George Foster

Though I already covered MattR's Project Baseball 1976 as a #5 type site, it's impossible to ignore yet another George Foster sighting.

1976 Topps #179 shows the classic "Mean Mr. Foster" in full Big Red Machine fury. While I recently add Hughie Jennings to my list of collected players, perhaps George is who karma wants me to go after.

Monday, August 17, 2009

1886 Allen & Ginter N48 / N508 #5, Lady Baseball Players

It's already a fortnight since Cleveland's 2009 National Sports Collectors Convention, where I talked briefly with Page 2 writer Paul Lukas. Afterwards, he found and linked to this blog, which sent visitor counts through the roof for several days. All was normal Monday and then Tuesday jumped to 75 times that amount. (Baseball bloggers take note, on the outside chance that happens to you.)

Paul's show summary highlighted my best find, a 19th century #5 from Allen & Ginter tobacco. My card's the "Sub Rosa" version, but the set also appeared in packs of their "Dixie" and "Virginia Brights" cigarette brands. (A 2007 Robert Edwards auction listed it with both N48 and N508 catalog numbers; the "N" prefix means "19th century" in most cases.)

Card front (blank back)

The picture looks innocuous, but there's a lot going on. Let's break down the (very) old school details.
  • Produced by Allen and Ginter tobacco for their "Sub Rosa" cigarettes
  • Released between 1886 and 1888 (catalogs differ on exact year)
  • "Sub Rosa," "Dixie," and "Virginia Brights" brands marketed to women
  • Inserted one-per-pack
  • Mixes numbered and unnumbered cards, highest number seen is 7
  • Cards have blank backs
  • Pictures uniform-wearing models in studio poses
  • Some cards show multiple "players" (see first auction picture)
  • Titles describe baseball situation (#5 is "Double Him Up!")
  • Foil stamp in upper right with Sub Rosa logo (which shows poorly on this scan)

N48/N508 cards have a similar feel to their famous contemporary, Old Judge Cigarettes.

Old Judge used somewhat higher-quality studio photos and printing techniques, while today's Allen & Ginter card looks relatively muddy. These 19th century gallery links show many other examples.

BONUS CONTENT: check out Wikipedia's entry for the Latin phrase sub rosa. Is that what cigarette companies market to our 21st century governments? :-)

UPDATE: eBay Bidding recently concluded (at $1300!) for this larger cabinet card with a similar concept. It's also printed by the Allen & Ginter tobacco company, bears the title "Black Stocking Nine," and advertises their Virginia Brights cigarettes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Type Site: Mark's Ephemera

Over the last few weeks, two concepts keep recurring across multiple discussions and personal contacts.

  1. "Baseball cards as ephemera": we amass small pieces of cardboard history, mostly plucked from points in a 20th century time line. Ephemera supersets both sport and non-sport collecting and overlaps with the printing, advertising, and paper making industries.

  2. "George Foster is bad-ass": most 70s hairstyles look foolish now, but Foster's sideburns reign supreme. He still looked good in 80s White Sox garb (1986 Topps card mock-up), not an easy task.

Both worlds collide on Mark's Ephemera, a #5 site follower and "blog about [Mark's] foray into sports card collecting." Typical posts cover new eBay acquisitions, live game trips, and recent trades. He focuses on Hall of Famers, but often profiles others along the way. I particularly enjoyed these recent Foster sightings.

  1. That's Not Rod Carew - nope, it was an George Foster autograph!

  2. George Foster Bat Card - I like the fire-branded "C" on the bat chip

Follow his blog for more forays and cards!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Type Site: White Sox Cards

Who's a prolific writer and wants Harold Baines in the Hall of Fame? Probably this guy.

...but also WhiteSoxCards, a 3-year record of South Side baseball and card interest. You can catch at least one new entry each day and sometimes two or three. Most qualify as one of the site's Regular Features.

Another hallmark is the variety of custom cards, something I consider a raison d'etre for the Internet's very existence. My favorite's the 1986 Topps version of George Foster's last stop.

Mean Mr. Foster played his final 16 games for the ChiSox in 1986, collecting a single homer (career #348). Interestingly, he garnered 2 triples in that competitive fortnight and handled 20 left field chances without error. (George peaked extremely well for the Big Red Machine, but wasn't good enough for long enough to get serious Hall of Fame consideration.)

WSC does a lot of trading, so drop him a line if you have extra pale hose cards kicking around!

Monday, August 10, 2009

1977 TCMA "The War Years" #5, Dizzy Trout

TCMA produced a variety of oddball sets throughout the 70s (and into the 80s), most of which profile a specific team, decade, or list of all-time greats. This 90-card set, 1977's "The War Years," picks out the lesser talents left behind when World War II claimed baseball's top-flight players. Today's guest played a marginal role on Detroit's 1940 pennant winning team, but proved essential for their 1945 championship, going 27-14 with a stupendous 33 complete games. He finished 2nd in MVP voting to teammate Hal Newhouser, himself the only pitcher to win back-to-back awards.

Card front

Card fronts all feature unadorned black-and-white photos. Print quality varies by original picture, though my scanner gave Dizzy a name-appropriate haze the card doesn't actually have.

Card back

The backs include stats from 1941 to 1945 and give a "*" to league leaders, like 1944 ERA champ Dizzy. Want to win some sports bar bets? Ask who did better in any of these career stats, Trout or Dean.

  • Wins: Trout 170, Dean 150
  • Strikeouts: Trout 1256, Dean 1163
  • Shutouts: Trout 28, Dean 26
  • 10+ win seasons: Trout 9, Dean 6
  • Seasons led league in ERA+: Trout 1, Dean 0

"The War Years" complete sets can cost $50 or more, an annoyance for something rarely sought by collectors. Individual cards should be $2 or less, though will vary by seller. (I picked up Mr. Trout a while ago on Beckett marketplace.)