Friday, January 29, 2010

1921 W9316 Baseball #5, Jimmie Johnston

I'm a fan of strip card issues from the 1920s and 30s. They're relatively plentiful in low grades, often feature interesting designs, and prove affordable for collectors looking for pre-WWII cards. Win, win, win.

Card front (blank back)

Did I say enough good things already? OK, then, let's be honest. W9316 cards leave me "lukewarm" and Old Cardboard's set profile jumps right to "ugly." The set's extremely basic artwork and 10-player checklist seem like a cheap attempt to cash-in on the strip card concept, an already popular promotional vending machine item.

I couldn't find a good checklist and gallery online, so compiled this from several sources.

  1. #1 Bob Veach (scan)
  2. #2 Frank "Home Run" Baker (scan)
  3. #3 Wilbert Robinson (aka Wilbur, scan)
  4. #4 Johnny Griffith
  5. #5 Jimmie Johnston (scan above)
  6. #6 Wallie Schange (aka Wally Schang, scan)
  7. #7 Leon Cadore (scan)
  8. #8 George Sisler (scan)
  9. #9 Ray Schalk (scan)
  10. #10 Jesse Barnes (scan)

Value: Cards trimmed poorly, like my Jimmie Johnston, cost around $10. Prices go up from there and sellers often ask more than $100 for HOFers in good condition. (Sisler is the best-known player.)

Fake / Reprints: Gah, who would want to? Haven't seen any reprints and there's probably not enough demand to try it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Poll: What do you think of eBay's fee changes?

Earlier this week, eBay sent this note to non-store accounts who sell with some frequency. (A few items a month for me.)

Starting March 30, 2010 selling on eBay will be a better deal than ever!
  • List Auction-style FREE--no Insertion Fees--when you start your Auction-style listing under $1.
  • Get new, lower Insertion Fees for all other start prices.
  • Either way, pay one easy Final Value Fee of 9% of the winning bid (but never more than $50)-and pay only if your item sells.
  • List in Fixed Price for 50¢, with Final Value Fees for the most part staying the same.
This new standard fee structure will replace the current "first 5 listings free"--you'll pay no Insertion Fees whenever you list Auction-style and start pricing under $1!*

Today, I learned that eBay store owners get a very different "deal" that adds significant monthly overhead. This change essentially kills the ability for some card sellers to make any kind of money. Read the White Sox Cards post on The Final Straw of an eBay Seller, excerpt below.

"Why would a company founded on the consumer getting the best deal, shoot itself in the foot at almost every opportunity in the past two years? I haven't been able to offer the best deal on some items for two years. Now, I can't even afford to keep the good fight going."

One angle is that eBay's trying to convert low-margin shops to "active" sellers, where ongoing 99-cent listings allow them to cull more frequent transaction fees. Another take's that they're trying to "clean up" shops that carry over-priced (and thus, under-selling) inventories, by upping the monthly overhead. (I'm thinking of hi-grade slabbed cards from the 1970s for $500.) The impact's not specific to sport cards, of course, yet this seems to impact us more than, say, iPod sellers.

Will this new policy change how you use eBay as a seller (or buyer)?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

1920 Baraja Cine Manual #5, Jugadores de "Basse-Ball"

A friend traded this curious #5 to me in 2004, without any supporting set info. It's slightly longer than a typical baseball card and uses thin, flexible stock. Five trophy-like cups match the numbering and surround 3 batters, not unlike a tarot card's composition. (The players appear to be competing for the ball, similar to field hockey or polo.) Its title translates to "Base-ball players."

Card front

By the best info I've seen--mostly on foreign language sites--Spanish company Baraja produced this 48-card set of sports, celebrities, and other subjects in 1920. Online images show 4 "suits" (cups, swords, sticks, and balls) numbered 1-to-12 like a deck of cards. (This scan shows most of the "cups.")

I found a handful of complete sets for sale online, so assume Baraja sold them as one (boxed?) unit. The cartoon style and bright colors suggest kids or parents as the target audience and recognizable characters include Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and other athletes and performers from the 1920s.

Card back

Each card back includes a number, Felix the Cat-like cartoon picture, and "CINE MANUAL" title, which translates to "HAND MOVIE." Unlike the suited fronts, back numbers go from 1 to 48. If you stack them all in numerical order, the pictures animate like a flip book. It's a very interesting addition to an already colorful set--and apparently the company gained a patente on the concept.

Searching for info on Baraja Cine Manual uncovered a PowerPoint presentation that profiles several sets produced outside the USA. Each slide profiles a set by scan and description, though non-Spanish speakers might need Google Translate to read them. Find the slides at CROMOS DE B√ČISBOL.

Value: I found about a half-dozen foreign listings asking from 25 to 70 Euros for the set. Singles and mixed lots are probably out there, though not easy to locate.

Fakes / Reprints: No idea if anyone's faked this set, though it'd be pretty easy with modern tools.

Damon Rutherford card contest entry

The Rain of Error blog recently challenged readers to create a card for Damon Rutherford, a focus character from the classic baseball book The Universal Baseball Association, Inc. (Check out its contest post for more details.)

While Damon's a primary character, the book also highlights his (former great) father Brock, so I felt inspired to do a 1976 Topps "Father & Son"-style card.

Card front

Card back

My pair copies #66 most directly, Gus and Buddy Bell. (Read its card profile at Project 1976.) Seeing Gus' 1953 Topps card and knowing that Satchel Paige appeared in the set cemented the idea for me. He became Brock and Angels pitcher Ervin Santana stands in as the son. (The autograph's actually Ann Rutherford, whose first name's tolerably close to "Damon" when written.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Type Site: Baseball Card Nirvana

Since August 2009, #5 type collection follower CPDungan ("Captain of Police Dungan?") has blogged interesting cards and classic baseball seasons over at Baseball Card Nirvana.

Favorite features:

Looking forward to more replays, as they include new photos of vintage players and make you think how different the sport's history could be.

Monday, January 25, 2010

1909 Philadelphia Caramel Baseball (E95) #5, Albert "Chief" Bender

In an era steeped with tobacco, NJ-based Philadelphia Caramel produced one of baseball's earliest "candy" issues, this comparatively brief 25-card set of 1" x 2" caramel box inserts. Its hand-tinted design closely resembles the mammoth T206 cigarette set and other contemporaries, a standard card "look" for about a decade. Chief Bender's tight-brimmed hat and serious expression contrasts dramatically with today's action-based photography.

Bender, stereotyped as "Chief" for his Ojibwa heritage, pitched in Philadelphia for legendary manager Connie Mack from 1903 to 1914, winning 193 games in 12 seasons. (Full stats at After retirement, Albert worked in a handful of coaching and scouting roles, with most of them served, once again, under Mack.

Bender's career with the Athletics organization reminds me a lot of Johnny Pesky's lifetime with the Red Sox, as both men built strong reputations for personality and baseball smarts. (Ty Cobb, not one to slather praise, called Bender the most intelligent pitcher he ever faced.)

One year coaching for the New York Giants brought Bender into this photo with John McGraw, though they mislabeled him in the legend. (Note the handwritten correction.)

This solo photo also mislabeled Bender as a Giants ace, instead of an A's ace. Time to put a new guy on the baseball beat!

E95 is one of the first sets to number its cards, listing the players by last name and team on the reverse. Philadelphia Caramel followed up with a similar 25-card set in 1910, the E96s. (This blog profiled its #5 in Oct 2008.)

All six teams from this set were part of the AL or NL 1909 pennant race, pointing to a late-season release date. One guy stands out as unusual for inclusion, being a light-hitting, part-time player in 1909: Fred "Bonehead" Merkle, best-known at that point for his 1908 base running blunder. I guess all is fair in love and war baseball cards!

Value: E95s cost a lot of money, even in lower grades. As a HOFer, this poor-fair Bender ran about $60 in 2003. When the vintage market jumped a few years ago, this set followed suit. These days, most sellers ask at least $50 for commons and many times that for legends like Wagner and Cobb.

Fakes / Reprints: At least one modern company reprinted this set (and perhaps more). The site created an excellent guide to distinguishing them from original E95s.

"Blog labels" poll wrap-up

More voters from last week favored teams and decades over card value and best-of. I'll take that angle when updating blog labels in the near future.

Thanks for your feedback!

Friday, January 22, 2010

1979 TCMA Hawaii Islanders Baseball #5, Andy Dyes

How far can an American travel to see some baseball? Back in 1979, a Boston resident could circumnavigate a fifth of the globe, 5087 miles total, and see the Hawaii Islanders play AAA ball at Honolulu's Aloha Stadium. If you do, be like Mr. Dyes and bring your beach towel.

Awesome tie-in, courtesy of the team's Wikipedia entry:

The Islanders baseball team is mentioned on a number of occasions in the 80's television series of "Magnum PI". The main character played by Tom Selleck was a baseball fan for the Islanders and often he wore a Detroit Tigers ball cap.

(The 1979 Islanders served as a San Diego affiliate, not the Tigers; that part's Magnum all the way.)

TCMA left Andy's 1978 stats off his card, possibly because he split time between 3 organizations--Seattle, Toronto, and the aforementioned San Diego. (Full stats at It proved his best professional season; Andy retired after two more years in Honolulu, something we can all aspire to doing.

Value: I bought this #5 on eBay for $1, about what you'd expect to pay for minor league singles.

Fakes / Reprints: People have probably reprinted valuable minor league league cards of big MLB stars, but I don't know of any for commons.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

1979 TCMA Columbus Clippers #5, Garry Smith

Between 1976 and 1981, the Yankees won 100+ games 3 times, the AL East 4 times, and the World Series twice. Most accuse them of buying players and titles, yet their AAA farm team also excelled, providing a steady stream of surrounding talent for their free agent acquisitions.

  • 1976 Syracuse Chiefs: IL champs
  • 1978 Tacoma Yankees: PCL co-champs
  • 1979 Columbus Clippers: IL champs
  • 1980 Columbus Clippers: IL champs
  • 1981 Columbus Clippers: IL champs

Card front

Card back

In 1978, Yankee farmhand Garry had his finest season. He played everyday (116 games), registered a .419 OBP, and set career highs in hits and RBI. (Full minor league stats.) For all the winning and periodic good play from Smith, the parent club never rewarded him with a call to the majors. It's likely a crowded New York outfield made it almost impossible to break through; Lou Piniella, Mickey Rivers, and Reggie Jackson manned those spots in 1979, with vets Oscar Gamble, Bobby Murcer, and Roy White backing them up.

Value: I bought this #5 on eBay for $1, about what you'd expect to pay for minor league singles.

Fakes / Reprints: People have probably reprinted valuable minor league league cards of big MLB stars, but I don't know of any for commons.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Original Yankee Stadium seat #5 up for auction

Check it out, Clean Sweep is auctioning off an original Yankee Stadium seat stamped #5! (Listing details.)

It started at $700 and I assume will finish upwards of $1000. Add $155 for shipping and it's still a bargain. :-)

New poll: Are blog labels useful?

This blog's nearing 200 posts and it grew a weedy garden of "labels" (years, teams, leagues, etc.) along the way.

At first, making lots of them seemed like good planning. Down the road, readers could see all the old Brooklyn cards with just one link! While technically true, it's also easy to search for "Brooklyn." Player names and card companies are also easy to find that way.

I'm considering use a small list of more abstract labels like "best of," "minor leagues," or "war time." Some bloggers nominate specific entries as their favorites and they're usually good. Card rarity and valuable also makes an impression. We amass huge amounts of cardboard and like them for a bunch of different reasons, yet the first question non-collectors ask is, "what's your most expensive card?"

This week's poll asks what, if any, blog labels you find useful. It'll be open through Sunday and thanks for votes and comments.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

1964 Bazooka Stamps sheet #5 (aka, 1964 Topps Stamps)

Topps published this stamp set (in sheet form) through boxes of Bazooka gum in 1964. While small in stature at about 1" x 2" each, it's full of stars, from Aaron to Mantle to Yaz. (Not to mention Zimmer; full 100-player checklist at

Glue-backed and intended for a companion album, they checklist using the upper-left corner number. This is the only #5 I've seen, so I picked it despite having only 8 of the 10 stamps you'd find on a complete sheet. (Norm Cash and Orland Cepeda are the missing pair from its bottom edge, which would've bumped the price significantly.)

Topps published stamps thoughout the 60s and early 70s, with most sets sharing a very similar design. (Compare 1964's sheet to The Topps Archive's profile of 1974's stamps and team albums.)

I've seen dealers and collectors confuse one year with another, so familiarize yourself with a stamp set's design details--mostly name-and-team banner--if you plan to pick some up.

Value: Full sheets list in the 2010 SCD guide for $25 and up, depending on pictured players. Individual commons run about a dollar and stars up to ten.

Fakes / Reprints: Glued backs and perforations make faking a full sheet challenging technically, though not out of the question. (I haven't personally seen any reprints in the market.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

1979 TCMA Tucson Toros #5, Mike Bucci

The present-day Toros play in the independent Golden Baseball League. Their previous incarnation served as AAA affiliate for several clubs, including nearby Texas and Houston. 1979 marked Tucson's final year playing for the Rangers, who the pictured uniform obviously copies. (Compare it to this 1980 Topps Johnny Grubb card.)

Card front

In November 2009, Paul Lukas of Uni Watch let readers vote on the title of "WORST UNIFORM EVER." I was honored (?) to submit an eventual finalist, the 1980 Tucson Toros. Their toreador-homage--yellow, orange, red, different orange, avocado, and turquoise--no doubt pushed the boundaries of what you could pay players to wear. (Worst Uni Finalists and Voting Results.) See that stunning design in my 1980 TCMA Tucson Toros set profile.

Card back

This card leaves off Mike Bucci's 1978 stats, a curious omission for an everyday player. (For the record, he sported a nice .438 OBP in 115 games, full minor league stats at Baseball-Reference.) He also played as both third baseman and outfielder, not just in the infield. TCMA produced 50+ sets in 1979, so I expect lots of cards sport at least one typo or research error.

Value: I bought this #5 on eBay for $1, about what you'd expect to pay for minor league singles.

Fakes / Reprints: People have probably reprinted valuable minor league league cards of big MLB stars, but I don't know of any for commons.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

1979 TCMA Tacoma Tugs #5, Tom Brennan

TCMA published an almost limitless number of minor league team sets during the 1970s and 1980s. They ramped up slowly with a few midwestern teams in 1974, but grew to almost dominate the market by 1978.

According to the SCD, 1979 contained more than 50 TCMA team sets, covering teams from Florida to British Columbia and Massachusetts to California. (This is the blog's 5th profile of a TCMA minor league set and first from that prolific year.)

Card front

Future big-leaguer Brennan had no problem holding the pose you see, left leg cocked and held at the ready. In fact, he usually pitched with a significant pause at the leg-lift stage, similar to Hideo Nomo's full-stretch windup. (Check it out in Nomo vs. Ichiro, circa 1996.) Tom eventually released the ball sidearm, a complete delivery that no doubt puzzled opposing batters.

Card back

Tom spent a long time in baseball, with 12 seasons of minor league work sandwiched around a full year with the Indians in 1982 (full stats at He played for 10 different Cleveland farm teams from 1974 to 1983, including two quality years with the Tacoma Tugs in 1979 and 1980, where he went 21-10 with 4 shut-outs.

Value: My 2010 SCD lists the Tacoma Tugs set at $17.50 and I picked up this #5 for $1, about what you'd expect to pay for that era.

Fakes / Reprints: It's likely people have reprinted valuable minor league league cards of major stars, but I doubt it'd happen for lesser-known players.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010 National Chicle Parody Card

This is my entry to Stale Gum's National Chicle parody contest.

I started with a W516 #5 Ty Cobb, changed the name to another (in)famous Tiger, and tinted in some outfield grass. Play ball!

Monday, January 11, 2010

1966 Bazooka and 1967 Bazooka Baseball #5, Mel Stottlemyre

I think of Mel Stottlemyre as the heir apparent to HOFer and fellow Yankee Whitey Ford. Each spent their whole career in pinstripes, just in quite different eras. Whitey oversaw New York's 1950s ascendence, captured six World Series titles, and passed his "staff ace" baton to young Mel in 1965. (Despite their Yankees swooning to a sixth-place finish that year, Stottlemyre went 20-9 and Ford 16-13.)

Today's 1966 and 1967 Bazooka sets straddle Ford's handoff. Whitey retired after 1966, just in time for Mel's Yankees to spend their next decade in the AL doldrums, never reaching the playoffs.

1966-67 Bazooka #5 (blank back)

Stottlemyre pitched well despite New York's adversity and received MVP votes four different years, placing as high as tenth in 1968. While a rotator cuff ended his pitching career at 32, his coaching career lasted decades, and garnered five titles.

Boxes of Bazooka gum offered all manner of enticements in the 1960s, sport and non-sport, including this water-and-spoon science experiment and a chance to buy their 60-cent chemistry set.

During baseball season, Bazooka sold boxes of gum with a 3-player panel on the back. The company got a little lazy with their 1966 checklist and 1967 checklist, publishing many players with identical pictures and numbers, including Mr. Stottlemyre at #5. That makes it impossible to tell which year Mel's from, unless you own a full box.

1966-67 Bazooka complete box (baseball panel)

Flip a 1966 Bazooka box to see Sandy Koufax next to their "3 baseball cards" promo.

1967 switched to Mickey Mantle, as Koufax retired following 1966.

While it's fun to look at classic Bazooka designs, it's even better to remember how skilled I was at cutting things off those boxes.


Value: You can buy Bazooka cards several different ways, with rapidly escalating prices. This clean-cut #5 cost about $10, on the high end of single commons. Full, uncut panels can cost several times that and complete boxes run $100 or more.

Fakes / Reprints: Unfortunately, someone faked the whole 1963 Bazooka set in the last several years, so it's entirely possible others got the same treatment. (I don't know of any legitimate reprints by Topps or their reincarnated Bazooka brand.)

Follow-up on latest poll

Last week, I asked if the #5 blog should re-focus for 2010 on a specific type of card: new, old, or oddball. (I also added "whatever" for "keep doing what you're doing.") A bunch of folks voted, with a split between "old" and "whatever," with "oddball" close behind. On the upside, most pre-1960 stuff is definitely unusual, so look for more of that.

Thanks to all who contributed, I appreciate your feedback!

Friday, January 8, 2010

1978 Burger King Yankees Baseball #5, Ed Figueroa

Burger King published 9 sets from 1977 to 1980, mostly team-specific collections like today's 1978 Yankees (full BK set list). This one includes 22 players and an unnumbered checklist, featuring HOFs Catfish Hunter, Goose Gossage, and Reggie Jackson.

Most of the set reuses the "normal" Topps player picture. Fortunately, Goose Gossage got a new photo, as 1978's #70 is an awful airbrush job from his time as a Pirate. (Compare Topps' bad art to BK's portrait.)

Like other 1978 Burger King issues, only the checklist differs from the Topps design ( has a nice gallery), so people often confuse the two sets. Card number (and pose variation, if any) distinguish them.

Ed Figueroa went 20-9 in 1978, becoming the first Puerto Rican pitcher to win 20 games. Arm injuries limited his effectiveness in 1979, "earning" a release by the Yankees. He finished with a year each in Texas and Oakland and retired in 1982.

Value: Complete sets go for $15-30, depending on condition. Besides the HOFers, semi-stars like Ron Guidry and Willie Randolph cost more. ( ranges from $.15 to $4 for singles.)

Fakes / Reprints: Burger King cards are available on eBay (and elsewhere online), so Yankee fans can probably get them. They're not valuable enough to be worth reprinting or faking.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

David Segui for HOF and a Cecil Fielder #5

Two things caught my eye this morning.

  • Totally Cecil featured Cecil Fielder's 1994 Topps Black Gold #5, with front and back scans. I sat over the dugout once at a Mariner game against the Tigers and can confirm that Cecil "pushes a ton of freight" from close up. I can only imagine the post-game buffet.

  • Core Contrarian asks "Who voted for David Segui?," as the former Oriole, Met, Mariner, Indian, Ranger, Expo, and Blue Jay picked up one HOF vote yesterday. (I collect Segui-as-a-Mariner cards, so might've voted for him, but don't have that power.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

1977 Topps Stickers #5, Bert Blyleven

Today's guest just missed 2010 HOF election, falling 5 votes short of the required 75% (full story). Some writers have made his long-time excellence for (mostly) middling teams a fulcrum to critique the business of baseball and Cooperstown's own political history. I just remember Bert as a worthy opponent for my Mariners, going 14-7 against them in 27 games pitched (career splits).

Card front

In 1977, Bert led the AL with a career-best 1.065 WHIP (BB + H / IP), yet went "only" 14-12. Being third starter behind Gaylord Perry and Doyle Alexander meant missing a start every now and then, but a few extra wins probably wouldn't have gained Cy Young notice. (Sparky Lyle, the Yanks' dominant closer, took the award by winning 13 and saving another 26.)

Card back

Topps printed this 55-sticker, cloth-front set as a companion to their normal 660-count issue. It came in its own wax packs and proved relatively popular. The peel-away, self-adhesive back includes player highlights, though I think stats would've worked fine. (Perhaps that would've cost more than this one-off project was worth to them.)

1977's the best known cloth sticker set, but Topps tried them first in 1972. Robert Edwards Auctions sold a pair of uncut 1972 sheets for $1K not long ago.

Value: Ungraded sets go for up to $50 and singles cost a dollar or two. Nolan Ryan is the top star and could cost you $20.

Fakes / Reprints: Haven't seen any fakery for this set, as it's too costly to replicate a sticker issue for just a few dollars.

Monday, January 4, 2010

1978 Burger King Tigers Baseball #5, Dave Rozema

Another of Burger King's 70s / 80s card surge (full set list), this 23-card issue covers Detroit's improvement from 1977's tepid 74-88 record to 86-76 in 1978. Unfortunately, they actually dropped in the standings, as 4 AL East teams won at least 90 games in '78.

This card's also important for folks who collect the Topps All-Star Rookie trophies (the Wikipedia profile lists them all). With one player per position, Eddie Murray (DH) and Andre Dawson (OF) were Rozema's best-known teammates (1977 ASR selections).

Dave tossed an excellent 15-7 rookie campaign, a win total it took another 3 years to match. Despite obvious pitching skills, a penchant for bizarre injury (karate kick bobblehead here) limited him to 10 seasons and a 60-53 record.

Value: Complete sets go for $10-20, depending on condition. Jack Morris, Mark Fidrych, Lou Whitaker, and Alan Trammell are the stars.

Fakes / Reprints: Burger King cards circulated in the Detroit area and show up on eBay, so Tiger fans can probably get them. I don't know of any reprints and they're probably not pricey enough to be worth doing.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Poll: What kind of cards for 2010?

Vote in the new poll to let me know what you enjoy most in the type collection and I'll add more of those in the new year.

  • Newer means cards from the 1960s, 1970s, & 1980s, so "new" is a comparative term
  • Older means 1950s and before
  • Oddball means regional, one-off, and obscure issues published throughout the 20th century
UPDATE: and Whatever means I'll keep picking targets of opportunity!