Saturday, February 27, 2010

1975 Tucson Toros Baseball #5, David "Buzz" Nitschke

Not long ago, the 1980 Tucson Toros finished a close 2nd in UniWatch's Worst Uniform Ever contest. Their color scheme started with everything from the hot color spectrum, tossed in some aquamarine, and topped it with avocado. We can imagine that fans were taken aback; only the Colorado Caribou and their jersey fringe bested the Toros in equal "combat." (Full results at the UW blog.)

1980 Tucson Toros

Prior to donning that visual extravaganza, Tucson sported a more sensible, classic baseball look with stripes, piping, and single-tone jersey, as catcher Buzz Nitschke wore on today's card. I like to think Buzz saw the crazy colors coming and got out while he could.

Card front (blank back)

LA drafted Buzz in 1966 and he first shows up in game footage of the 1967 Alaska Goldpanners, where he shared a roster with future big leaguers Bill "Spaceman" Lee, Bob Boone, and Jim Barr.

Buzz played in the Mets, Cardinals, and A's farm systems for 8 seasons; AAA Tucson marked his last stop at age 28. After pro baseball, he taught and coached in Fresno, where (according to the Internet) he still resides. (Full minor league stats.)

If Buzz (or someone who knows him) comes across this post, drop a line. I'd love to do an interview or similar follow-up with more info.

Value: This team-issued card cost $3 on Beckett Marketplace. Very few minor league teams produced sets prior to 1975, so prices climb quickly as you get older.

Fakes / Reprints: I've only seen minor league fakes when the player became a HOFer later, so doubt there are any in the market.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

1962 JELL-O Baseball #5, Mickey Mantle

Would it be hyperbole to credit Maris and Mantle's chase for 61 homers with making baseball cards "mainstream?" Just one year removed from their much-hyped race to break Ruth's record, General Mills certainly acted that way.

What started as single-note cereal promotions in 1960 and 1961 became 4 permutations in 1962 alone, including a LIFE magazine "centerfold" starring #5 Mantle and #6 Maris, all with an eye to selling more sugary grains and boxes of instant pudding. General Mills' 1962 baseball frenzy poured millions of cards into the supermarket on 2 brands, Post cereal (such as Corn Flakes and Grape-Nuts) and JELL-O pudding. (Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire acted out a similar script in 1998, with a home run chase that invigorated fans league-wide and sold plenty of...everything.)

Card front (blank back)

Only a decade after Topps entered the "kids-only" arena of bubblegum cards, this national brand saw collectibles as their link between on-field excitement and buyable products. Today's post covers JELL-O; see links at the end for their other sets from the same year.

Uncut JELL-O box

While Post cereal featured a red-white-blue Americana theme and prominent logo, JELL-O cards use a simple black-and-yellow look and don't mention the company anywhere. The pudding  design also went with a re-cropped photo; today's card shows Mantle's full upper body and some playing field beneath his elbow, but Post stops above the belt line.

JELL-O featured one card per box, far fewer than Post's 7-player panels. I can imagine an excited kid switching from pudding to Corn Flakes for dessert that summer, just to get more cards.

Uncut Corn Flakes box

Here's the full list of 1962 General Foods baseball sets with links to #5 set profiles.

Value: My low-grade JELL-O Mantle cost $18. Based on completed eBay auctions, they go for $12 - $25, depending on condition. (Untrimmed boxes are very rare and cost several times more.)

Fakes / Reprints: Cereal and pudding cards came on thin box cardboard and use relatively low-quality photos, so look easy to fake. While I'm not certain Mantle reprints are out there, it's seems very likely. If you're looking for a high-grade version, pick up some cheap commons first so you know what "real" cards feel and look like.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

1949 Yakyu Shonen Baseball #5, Frank "Strick" Shofner

Imagine you've already played nearly 200 regular season games. As the year wraps up, your manager--former Giants great Lefty O'Doul--delivers some unexpected news.

"Remember that bloody war we fought just 4 years ago? Get on the plane, fellas, it's time for a diplomatic 'road trip.' Bring your glove."

On the heels of its otherwise disappointing 83-104 season, the Pacific Coast League San Francisco Seals made American baseball's first post-war tour, playing (and winning) 7 games against All-Stars from Japan's reborn professional league.

Yakyu Shonen, a kids baseball magazine, printed this 128-card set to promote the Seals' tour and Japan's own pro teams. Cards are small, at less than 2" x 3", and come on fairly thick stock. (Based on the size, I think 12 fit on a page.) Collectors hand-cut them to individual cards, which explains my scan's curved right border. All text is in Japanese, apart from the numbering. (The front translates as "Seals #5, Shofner.")

The Seals' touring team included a few major leaguers and even Lefty O'Doul took the field a few times. None other than General McArthur, effectively the country's "ruler" through 1951, considered the trip an enormous goodwill success. (He also requested a baseball tour personally, so held a stake in its outcome.)

It's hard now to appreciate the excitement this tour generated in Japan, but if you live near SF, see the the Society of California Pioneers own 1949 baseball tour exhibit, which runs through spring 2010. Several former players also discuss the trip in San Francisco Seals 1946-1957: Interviews with 25 Former Baseballers.

Some quick, USA Today-style factoids about the Seals team and Frank specifically.
  • Shofner hailed from Crawford, Texas, better-known now as President Bush's ranch retreat
  • CA natives Joe and Dom DiMaggio both played a few years as Seals in the 1930s
  • Frank played 13 games for the Red Sox in 1947 (his Wikipedia entry links to "cup of coffee")
  • Unfortunately, the Seals folded when New York's Giants moved to SF in 1958

Read more about Lefty O'Doul's significance to baseball in Japan at Wikipedia and the Japanese Baseball Cards blog. also dedicates a section of their site to Japanese baseball tours.

UPDATE: Found this scan of an original magazine, showing both cover and card insert layout.

Value: This creased and marked-up #5 cost me $20. Based on listings at Century Old Cards, $20 - $50 is typical.

Fakes / Reprints: Haven't seen any reprints, but it could definitely happen. This is a rare set with a select collecting audience, so watch for too-good-to-be-true deals and buy from a dealer who knows their stuff.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

1979 TCMA Jackson Mets baseball #5, Paul Wiener (trainer)

Pulling double-duty as trainer and traveling secretary for a pro team says a lot about the demands of minor league basell. Paul Weiner wears it well.

Is there anything one can add to this 70s sartorial splendor? I (and many Mets fans) would love to have that shirt and work so often with their baseball heroes.

Add "Equipment Manager" to the job list!

Dr. Wiener opened a physical therapy practice after his time in baseball. This cameo shows another great piece of New York swag: Wiener's own team jacket.

Paul (as Mets trainer) interviewed by Marv Albert

As Jackson's equipment manager, I bet Paul helped make this on-field story possible.
"In one of the more interesting moments in franchise history, on the evening of 22 June 1978, Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson married Rosa Gilbert at home plate in Smith-Wills Stadium. The ceremony concluded with the couple walking back to the dugout beneath an archway of bats held aloft by Mets teammates. Wilson would become one of at least a dozen Jackson Mets players to wed girls they met during their tenure in Jackson."

Still searching for photos of that ceremony, so sticking to text until they appear.

The Gettysburg Times, Nov 25, 1978

Jackson (Mississippi) served as the Mets' AA affiliate from 1975 to 1990, before moving to Binghamton, NY, a good deal closer to the home team.

Value: This card cost $1 on Beckett Marketplace, typical for most TCMA cards of this era.

Fakes / Reprints: Haven't seen minor league reprints in the market, apart from TCMA's own second printing for their Collecting Kits, which contain visible design differences.

Monday, February 22, 2010

1978 Burger King Rangers Baseball #5, Jon Matlack

This card's seriously packed with color. Its over-the-top combo of Astroturf green, Pepsi's American-flag logo, and an extremely airbrushed Texas home uniform nearly blow my visual receptors.

Jon's normal 1978 Topps #25 pictures him as a Met (see it at, so the Burger King version's his first card as a Ranger. Matlack moved west from New York in a 4-team trade executed on December 8, 1977--a swap so huge it requires 7 bullet points.

For those counting along at home, 3 NL teams, 1 AL team, and 11 players!

This 1978 Burger King team set includes 22 numbered players and 1 unnumbered checklist. Backs match Topps' normal set exactly, down to the "PLAY BALL" game. (See other BK team sets in my blog archives.)

Folks often mistake Burger King and Topps issues for each other, since they usually share front photos and identical backs. See the master Burger King checklist to match your card to its correct set.

Value: This Matlack cost $1 from Philly Sports Cards. Most consider the 1978 Rangers a team of "commons," though they did have two guys named Doc (Medich) and Dock (Ellis).

Fake / Reprints: Haven't seen any Burger King reprints in the market. (As mentioned, I've seen people who don't know about the BK sets call them Topps "errors" until more fully informed.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

1967 Tab Cap Dodgers #D5, Don Sutton

Coke produced a number of soft drink cap sets in the late 1960s, featuring both individual teams and league All-Stars. Adding baseball promos to Tab (their original diet cola) was just one way of spreading marketing dollars around the many Coca-Cola brands.

Bottle cap (inside)

Today's Dodger-specific set includes future HOFer Don Sutton, looking extremely young and entering just the second of his 23 pitching seasons, 16 of them for LA. (Full career stats.)

Surprisingly, he's the best-known player from 1967's set. Koufax retired after 1966, Drysdale curiously doesn't get a cap, and few other members from their 8th-place squad made a lasting impression.

Bottle cap (top)

I love this bottle cap. (There, I said it.) The classic 1960s design, stitched baseball, and blurry/sharp mix look very pop-artistic.

Check out the 1967 Dodgers gallery at Philly Sports Cards. They carry a variety of Coke bottle sets and that's where I bought my Sutton cap (and a few others for future posts).

Value: $12 got me a pristine HOFer, about the high water line for Coke or Tab caps. Common players in lower grades run $1 or less.

Fake / Reprints: Fortunately, I doubt it's possible to fake a bottle cap.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

1980 TCMA 1961 Cincinnati Reds #5, Pete Whisenant

Just 49 years ago, the Reds captured their 4th pennant, besting the recently relocated (LA) Dodgers and (SF) Giants down the stretch. Five of the eight NL teams finished over .500 that year and the Pirates fell just short, thanks to doormat seasons from Chicago (64-90) and Philadelphia (47-107, oucheroo)

Card front

Cincinnati manager Fred Hutchinson won his only pennant in 1961, just a few years before his untimely death at age 45. Much-loved for both playing and managerial success, he's memorialized by a cancer research center (started by his brother, a physician) in Seattle. The Reds retired his number 1 and inducted Fred into their Hall of Fame.

Card back

The Reds outfield didn't need much beyond Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, and Wally Post in 1961, so Pete played sparingly. He retired as a player following the series and served as a full-time coach for the 1962 season.

Value: Pete cost $2 on Beckett Marketplace, about average for 1980 TCMA sets. Frank Robinson's the star for this team set and costs $5 to $10.

Fakes / Reprints: Haven't seen any reprints in the market and it's probably not worth faking.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

1979 TCMA Holyoke Millers #5, Kevin Bass

On Feb 15, Topps launched their 2010 set tie-in, the Million Card Giveaway. Collectors redeem card codes for one of many, many past cards. Ideally, you get a classic HOFer like 1962 Topps #5 Sandy Koufax. More likely, it'll be 1989 Topps #323 Gary Thurman.

Night Owl Cards posted his day 1 redemptions, which included an action-filled 1987 Topps Kevin Bass. (Details and scans at "There are a million other things I should be doing...") I say, why stop at just one?

Card front

The Millers played ball for fans in Holyoke, MA as part of Milwaukee's farm system 1977-1980 and California's 1981-1982.

Card back

For a team that folded in the 80s, they've got a pretty active Facebook group!

Value: Kevin Bass cost me $1 from Beckett Marketplace, in the usual range for minor league "commons."

Fakes / Reprints: Haven't seen any reprints of 1970s minor leaguers, other than guys who eventually made the HOF.

Monday, February 15, 2010

2001 Sunoco Dream Team #5, Jim Palmer & Frank Robinson

Lots of folks blogged up 2010 Upper Deck's weird handling of MLB logos, which they (supposedly) aren't licensed to display. They do leave off team names, but any avoidance of logos is "casual" at best.

As a well-heeled company focused on the card market, UD might set precedent where past oddball makers didn't see a battle worth fighting. A quick sift through the type collection turned up this ready example.

Card front

With the same players-only license, Sunoco wiped out hat logos and used cities instead of team names. The Orioles become "Baltimore" on the front and "Outstanding O's" on the back.

Card back

Sunoco's set honored 12 combos and doubled up on 2 classic teams, Boston and New York. Links go to any card scans I located.

  1. PIT: Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski
  2. PHI: Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton
  3. CIN: Tony Perez and Joe Morgan
  4. NYY: Yogi Berra and Don Mattingly
  5. BAL: Jim Palmer and Frank Robinson
  6. BOS: Carlton Fisk and Luis Tiant
  7. BOS: Fred Lynn and Jim Rice
  8. DET: Sparky Anderson and Al Kaline (a manager? wow)
  9. PHI: Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts (with painted logos)
  10. NYM: Tug McGraw and Gary Carter
  11. CLE: Lou Boudreau and Bob Feller
  12. NYY: Catfish Hunter and Roger Maris

Palmer and Robinson rank among the best O's ever, but are they #1 and 2? Check out Frost King Baseball's "All-Time Best Orioles (Since 1955)" for a stat-friendly answer.

More Jim Palmer posts:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Giveaway: SMOOCHES! And cards.

Be like Shawon Dunston and spread a little love around today. Also, cards!

1996 Score Dugout Collection #5

If you're like me, asking for baseball cards on Valentine's Day gets baseball cards. TODAY'S GIVEAWAY changes that up! Add a note to this post with a kind of card you want to receive and I'll find something to send out. The available stack's pretty large, so I encourage creativity.

  • Chicago Cubs (or another team)
  • Multi-player cards (Leaders, team cards, etc.)
  • Individual players (Bagwell, Piazza, Thome)
  • Vintage players
  • Specials (Diamond Kings, inserts)
  • Guys with gloves
  • Dads (will probably include the Dunston card)

Note that asking for "Cards made of metal that scan awkwardly" will get you this:

1996 Donruss Steel Stats #5, Jeff Conine

Friday, February 12, 2010

1948 Swell Sport Thrills #5, "Three Strikes Not Out!"

Dem Bums reached the World Series regularly in the 40s and 50s, six times in all. Unfortunately, New York's pinstripes beat them back to Brooklyn with regularity. Prior to 1955, hometown fans fixated on flubs like 1941's ball-in-the-dirt, a bobble that handed the Yanks a 3-to-1 series lead. This card shows catcher Mickey Owen chasing the errant curve ball as Tommy Heinrich starts a sprint to first.

Card front

Gum Inc (as Bowman), Philadelphia Chewing Gum (as Swell), and Topps Gum (as itself) all produced their first post-WWII sets in 1948.

  • 1948 Bowman looked a lot like Gum Inc's predecessor, 1939 Play Ball
  • Swell's "Sport Thrills" play out like mini-cinema news reels, 20 cards in all
  • Topps' tiny "Magic Photos" proved humble origins for a 60-year (and growing) legacy

Card back

Swell's punchy writing stands apart from Bowman's and Topps' limited efforts. I wish they'd make more sets with lusty swings and slashing doubles! (Check the set gallery at Virtual Card Collection.)

Value: Action shots like #5 cost around $10 in low or mid-grade. Individual players run a few times more and nice stars up to $100.

Fakes / Reprints: No one's officially reprinted Swell cards, but players like Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, and Lou Gehrig cost enough that you should be wary of deals too good to be true.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

1979 TCMA Albuquerque Dukes #5, Dave Stewart

I love this casual shot of the 1980s' most intimidating pitcher, Dave Stewart. Good lighting and complimentary card-uniform coloring make it one of TCMA's best.

Card front

Though the Dodgers drafted him as a catcher, Dave quickly switched to pitching exclusively and reached the bigs for a single game in 1978. LA "seasoned" him for a few years, including a 2-year stint for Albuquerque, and added him for relief duty during their 1981 championship run.

Card back

Dave threw a no-hitter for Oakland on June 29, 1990, just prior to Fernando Valenzuela turning the trick for the Dodgers. It remains the only time pitchers hurled no-hitters in both leagues on the same day. But hey, let's see some intimidation!

Value: Dave won 3 World Series rings (Dodgers, Athletics, Blue Jays) and almost 200 games, so fans want more of him than your average minor leaguer. This Dukes card cost $5 on Beckett Marketplace.

Fakes / Reprints: Haven't seen any TCMA reprints for Mr. Stewart.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

1973 Johnny Pro Orioles Baseball #5, Brooks Robinson (fielding)

This is the largest of my "punch-out" type cards, measuring about 4" x 6". Johnny Pro Enterprises of Baltimore published a total of 28 cards in this Oriole-only set, numbered by player uniform. The set count includes alternate poses for Jim Palmer (wind-up and follow-through), Bobby Grich (fielding and batting), and Brooks Robinson (fielding and batting).

Collectors punch out the upper-right tab as a base for the player pose. I've only seen full cards for sale, so assume that's most of what remains in the market.

Card front (blank back)

Many years ago, I sent Mr. Robinson this letter with an autograph request and a few questions. As I recall, it was back in my hands less than two weeks later, pretty quick for a HOFer! Very fittingly, he wore #5, which the Orioles retired when Brooks hung 'em up in 1977.

(Click through for full-size scan)

Value: Nice condition HOFers Robinson and Palmer sell for $10 to $20 and "commons" cost a few dollars. (Johnny Pro also published a set of Phillies cards in 1974, which includes an early Mike Schmidt.)

Fakes / Reprints: I haven't seen any reprints of the Johnny Pro sets. It'd be hard to reprint this kind of die-cut card and probably isn't worth the money to try.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Card That Puzzles Me

AMERICA, baby. Even if your team plays in Canada.

1994 Fleer All-Stars #5, Joe Carter

I really like the pose captured here. Great swing, obvious contact, ball going a long way. But WHY WHY WHY the American flag? This is even the "card year" after Toronto won back-to-back titles! At least The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame knows what it's all aboot, and elected Joe to their roster in 2003.

Monday, February 8, 2010

1979 Cramer Phoenix Giants Baseball #5, Rocky Bridges

What did classic players do after their playing careers ended? Rocky Bridges followed 11 years of utility service for 7 teams in the 1950s with 21 years of minor league managing for 3 more organizations.

Although his teams won a little less often than they lost, he did pick up a couple of Manager of the Year awards along the way. Find entertaining details of Rocky's run in the title story for I Managed Good, But Boy Did They Play Badedited by Ball Four author Jim Bouton.

This energetic shot of Rocky appealing to the Southwestern sun sits in the middle of a 9-year managerial run for San Francisco's AAA affiliate, Phoenix. They finished 59-88 in 1979, under-performing their already dour Pythagorean W-L record by an amazing (and depressing) 5 games. Exhibit A for the angle "they played bad." (Mr. Bridges' minor league managerial record.)

Cramer Sports Productions kicked off with these 1970s minor league sets, occasionally in partnership with a local business like Phoenix's Valley National Bank. As mentioned in my 1978 Spokane Indians #5 profile, they eventually became MLB-licensed cardmaker Pacific and were themselves acquired by Donruss in 2004.

Value: Minor league singles of "common" players cost from $.50 to $2 on Beckett Marketplace. Many guides price them only by complete team, but more and more dealers list individual cards.

Fakes / Reprints: It's highly unlikely someone would fake or reprint minor league sets, unless they contain big-name major leaguers.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What Upper Deck didn't do

2010 sets from Upper Deck don't have a license from MLB Properties, so (supposedly) aren't allowed to display team names or logos. They're now dealing with a lawsuit from Major League Baseball and it might boil down to whether or not printing a picture of a player wearing a logo is the same as reproducing the logo itself.

Of course, plenty of companies licensed the right to show player pictures in the past without getting MLB permission to show uniforms. This Nestle card's one example.

1988 Nestle #5, Ozzie Smith

While a great close-up of Ozzie Smith, Nestle calls the team "Cardinals" and airbrushed everything to solid red, as if The Wizard actually plays for a weekend softball team.

Upper Deck could've gone this route (by photo-editing each card) and clearly chose not to do so. I doubt that a 700-card set of bland pictures would sell well, so wonder--did they have much of an alternative?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

CARD GIVEAWAY: 1974 TCMA Babe Ruth Postcards

[UPDATE: All 3 cards have been claimed! Keep an eye out for future giveaways.]

I'm pretty sure the TCMA founders culled these black-and-white photos from their own collections. This 6-count, postcard-sized set shows Babe in several outfits (player, coach, and civvies) and with contemporary players from the 1920s and 1930s.

Interestingly, none of these 3 cards put the Babe in pinstripes. The Dodger coaching uniform looks particularly unusual, considering his immutable image as the King of all Yankees.

Cards shown:

  • Babe and 1934 AL All-Stars
  • Babe and Tony Lazzeri (another former Yankee great)
  • Babe, manager Joe McCarthy, and Lou Gehrig

Interested in one of these cards? Add a comment to the post and let me know!

Friday, February 5, 2010

1978 Cramer Spokane Indians #5, Jamie Quirk

I recently picked up a large quantity of minor league #5s, thanks to some of the larger dealers on Beckett Marketplace. The haul included this interesting--or at least colorful--Spokane team issue of long-time major league Jamie Quirk, then playing in the Brewers system. (He went on to log 17 years in the bigs, primarily with the Royals.)

Card front

Jaime's full name comes off very stilted for a baseball card. Doesn't "James P. Quirk" deserve to be followed by an "Esquire?" (It might also explain his puzzled expression.)

Card back

That's right ladies, Mr. Quirk was single back in 1978. Wait, did we really need to know this? Who can Jamie collar for that random, third-party disclosure of his marital status?

Cramer, who would later become Pacific, produced a bunch of minor league sets in the 1970s. Quirk's stats include a mixture of MLB and minors performance, something often seen on Topps cards. If Spokane's team set came out in mid-1978, I assume the set editor cribbed them from the back of Topps #95. (Scan at

Value: Guides typically price minor league cards by the full team set, since they're rarely broken up. Most individual players that didn't become big names in the majors cost $.50 to $2 on Beckett Marketplace.

Fakes / Reprints: I doubt there are any reprints of this Spokane set. Quirk's teammates from that year include future managers Ed Yost and Tony Muser. (Checklist at

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Can cards be investments?

Mario of Wax Heaven posted worthwhile commentary on Upper Deck's current situation today. Collectors and bloggers seem to like their late-2009 and early 2010 products, but the company faces a murky future after MLB properties quickly served up a lawsuit over the unlicensed portrayal of team logos.

The article also pointed back to a 2009 interview with author Pete Williams, who profiled Upper Deck's early history and explosive business influence in the book "Card Sharks." This question from Mario (and Pete's answer) caught my eye.

Q: If given just one choice, which card would you invest in and why: a 2001 Bowman Chrome Albert Pujols autograph or a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle?
A: I would never, ever invest or even talk about investing in sports cards or memorabilia. The notion of sports memorabilia as investment is a huge misnomer and everyone who perpetrates it should be ashamed of themselves. If someone offered me one of these two cards, I’d take the Mantle. Any value the Pujols card has is manufactured by the perceived scarcity of Pujols’ signature. Last I checked, Albert is still with us and signing on a daily basis. Admittedly, Mantle appears to have signed quite a bit since his death in 1995.

In the modern age of collecting, whether you start with Fleer and Donruss in 1981 or Upper Deck in 1989, card values appear to swing with the economy or performance of individual players. Unfortunately, most don't actually swing; instead, they start at their highest point and drop, fast. Cards hidden in an unopened pack, which will be mostly "commons," are worth significantly more before you tear the foil. Most become giveaways the moment light hits them. As a buyer, you pay a premium for the fun of discovering what's unknown.

One encouraging side effect of dropping values is that most vintage cards cost much less than you think they would. Even seemingly big-time "investments" from a generation ago, like the 1975 rookie cards of George Brett or Robin Yount, now qualify as cheap. According to a search of eBay's completed auctions, most Yount RCs sell for under $15 shipped, less than a new blaster box at Target. You can also build or buy many 1970s sets for under $100, less than many new hobby boxes.

This isn't a call to flip the card market, despite my own focus on vintage stuff. After all, I could simply amass scans of old cards for free from Google Image Search and eBay. Rather, it's to frame how Topps, Upper Deck, and MLB's licensing wing promote their products as right-now investments, when history shows they have little direct influence over what will be popular another generation from now.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

1980 TCMA 1959 Dodgers #5, Dick Gray

Just four years after capturing their only World Series in Brooklyn, the re-minted L.A. Dodgers turned the trick again in California. They beat the Chicago White Sox in 6 games despite being shut out twice. (In game 5, Sandy Koufax failed to clinch, losing 1-0 at home; Larry Sherry finished the series in Comiskey Park two days later.)

Card front

Dick made his MLB debut as L.A.'s opening day 3rd baseman in 1958 and hit 2 homers to key a 6-5 win. Unfortunately, he never locked down a regular role and the Dodgers traded Gray to St. Louis partway through 1959.

Card back

Many fans know Bill Mazeroski anchored 2nd base for the Pirates for 15 years and eventually made the HOF, largely on his defensive abilities. You might not know Pittsburgh had another excellent player, Julian Javier, stuck behind him at the same position. Dick Gray was one part of a 1960 trade that moved Javier to St. Louis, where Julian became the Cardinals' everyday 2nd baseman for a full decade and made 2 All-Star teams.

Value: This card cost $1.50 on Beckett Marketplace in January 2010, typical for oddball singles from the 1970s and 1980s. Superstars from this set like Koufax, Drysdale, and Snider cost about $5-10.

Fakes / Reprints: I've never seen reprints of TCMA highlight sets and assume the value and demand are too low to be worthwhile.

Related set profiles on this blog:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Number 5 blog now on Twitter

This blog's now on Twitter as Number5TypeCard, another handy way to track site updates.

  • New articles (also available by RSS and email)
  • Article updates with higher-quality card scans or new info (doesn't show up on RSS or email)
  • Interesting links from other sites (doesn't show up on RSS or email)
  • Card giveaways (to be determined if they'll be in RSS and email)

Also on Twitter? If so, I'm also asking a two-fold favor!

  • Follow the blog and add it a baseball Twitter list, if you keep one
  • Nominate other baseball sites you contribute to or enjoy reading (and I'll promote them)

As a bonus for people reading this far, I wrote up the 1967 Topps posters Hank Aaron for "Things Done to Cards" in December. It's one of my favorite Hammerin' Hank "cards."

Monday, February 1, 2010

1962 Shirriff Baseball Coins #5, Woody Held (aka Woodie Held)

Today's picture of Woodie Held might look familiar--this blog already covered a nearly identical issue, the 1962 Salada Tea coins, in June 2009. Both sets feature hand-colored paper head shots inserted into plastic holders about the size of silver dollars. The international food packager Salada-Shirriff-Horsey, Inc. debuted this design for the NHL's 1961 hockey season (scans on Google Image Search) and started producing baseball sets in 1962.

It's hard to tell how much of each player picture is "real." Woodie's shoulders look suspiciously narrow for a 20HR-per-year slugger, so I assume they hand-drew a uniform below an actual head shot.

While the backs say "200 baseball coins," both Salada and Shirriff sets actually contain 221. Shirriff packaged individual coins in bags of potato chips and wrapped them in plastic slipcovers to prevent food stains, just like Kellogg's went on to do with their cereal cards. (Find the full 221-coin checklist at

Value: As of Feb 2010, eBay includes ungraded 1962 Shirriff baseball coins with Buy-It-Now prices from $15 to $50. That's significantly higher than recent completed auctions, which averaged $3 for commons and $15+ for HOFers. (I bought my Woodie Held coin for $3 in 2006.)

Fakes / Reprints: I can imagine someone faking the paper picture of a superstar and inserting into a real plastic back, but haven't seen it happen anywhere in the market and don't know of any reprints.