Friday, April 30, 2010

1933 Goudey "Sport Kings Gum" #5, Ed Wachter (Basketball)

Most vintage collectors know Goudey for its artistic 1933 debut, the "Big League Gum" set of 240 baseball cards. Less regarded, but arguably more ground-breaking, is today's 48-card multi-sport set, whose #5 features one of basketball's earliest pros, Ed Wachter.

Of course, my card looks more like pirate Ed Wachter, yarrrrr! (I should make an eye-patch version.) My favorite design element is the silhouetted players at the foot of each card. I appreciate that Sport Kings were resurrected as "Sport Royalty" in recent years to honor multi-sport stars as inserts in otherwise single-sport issues.

The original Sport Kings set includes 3 baseball players, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Carl Hubbell. A wide variety of sports make up the others, including another "Babe," lady golfer Didrickson, its only female athlete. Jim Thorpe appears as a football player, along with gridiron legends like Knute Rockne and Red Grange.

It's not easy to read my card's worn bio, but here's the first sentence.
"Known as the greatest center in the history of the game of Basketball, Ed Wachter has been active in this sport for over thirty years."

In short, Ed Wachter preceded better-known centers George Mikan and Bill Russell as their generation's preeminent centers. Ed's Wikipedia page (as of writing) is shorter than the card text, which seems a shame, given his apparent stature. At least the basketball Hall of Fame added Ed in 1961!

Find a more detailed Sport Kings Gum profile at

Value: A friend sent this #5 gratis, which is a pretty sweet gift. Low-grade Wachter cards run $10 to $20, depending on how close to a pirate Ed looks. Yarrrrr!

Fake / reprints: There are definitely full set and star card reprints out there. I doubt anyone did one of Wachter specifically, but it's possible someone faked the complete run. As always, be careful when buying pre-war cards and know your dealer!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Baseball Card Recollections" on SportsPickle

I love that the satire site SportsPickle added a feature on cards. They even honored card photo legend Don Mossi with page 1 of the article.

Don always gets clear satellite reception

The 1960s K.C. green-and-yellow color scheme comes about as close as you can to distracting from those ears.

Read more at Baseball Card Recollections!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

1934 Goudey Baseball #5, Ed Brandt

Candy companies finally nailed a reliable, factory-producible chewing gum recipe in 1928. That, combined with the growing, gnawing Great Depression, opened the door for two sea changes in baseball collecting.
  1. Bigger cards: gum worked better in thin sheets and proved easier to package than cube-like candies. Large squares of gum encouraged larger, squarish baseball cards.
  2. Marketing to kids: children didn't get much respect in the early 20th century, but growing city populations made them both more visible and created money-making opportunities. Gum cost so little, companies could sell it and full-color cards for pennies.
For the record, a packaged 1934 Goudey card and gum cost one cent.

Card front

The blue Lou Gehrig banner decorates 2 sections of the 1934 set, cards #1 - 79 and 92 - 96. A red banner featuring hitting champ Chuck Klein appears on #80 - 91. I've read that Gehrig disputed his likeness appearing on every card and Goudey redesigned a portion of the high-numbered printing sheets pending a new endorsement deal, which apparently worked out.

Card back

Ed Brandt, native of Spokane, WA, played a total of 11 seasons for Boston, Brooklyn, and Pittsburgh. I can't help but notice he's yet another 6', 180-pound player. It's a common enough size today--that's basically me--but probably seemed strapping in 1934. 

Value: Mr. Brandt cost $10 at a 2005 Philly Show and is a nice card, apart from the hole punch. The very rare high numbers routinely go for $100 and up.

Fakes / reprints: I've seen multiple 1934 Goudey reprints, both of star players and the entire set. Watch for "reprint" on the back or spots of missing paper near the "Goudey Gum Co." or "Boston" text on the back, where that word would be.

Monday, April 26, 2010

1933 DeLong Baseball #5, Charlie Gehringer

DeLong Gum produced a single run of 24 cards in 1933, the same year Goudey debuted with their comparatively large (and classic) 240-card set. Bright colors, thick stock, and professionally written text help both sets stand out from a mishmash of drab 1920s candy issues.

Company founder Harold C. DeLong worked for Goudey until 1932 and likely left to start a competing gum business. He almost certainly helped Goudey develop their baseball promos, so it's natural his next company would also feature cards. Its use of black-and-white photos over a painted ballpark compares favorably with Goudey's own design, but DeLong apparently couldn't afford to print many cards and failed to draw wide interest from collectors.

Card front

Gehringer's one of baseball's best second basemen ever, both with the stick and the glove. In 19 seasons, he only played 15 games at any other position, a handful each at first and third. Mazeroski was probably a better fielder, but nowhere near Charlie's .320 career average and 8 top-10 MVP voting finishes (and one award in 1937).

Card back

This hacked-up card's definitely in the spirit of my current poll about evils youngsters visit upon their possessions. I don't remember going all "crazy with scissors" like this card's owner, but might've just blocked it out. At least they left most of the back text intact, giving us insight into the hazards of base-running in Charlie's era.
"When a baserunner is attempting to steal second, Gehringer races over and straddles the base, standing with his feet pressed against the sides of the bag (see drawing). Thus he keeps his feet and ankles protected from the sharp spikes as the runner comes sliding in. After Gehringer takes the throw from his catcher, he holds the ball a foot or so in front of the base and allows the runner to slide into the ball, touching him on the ankle. Never attempt to touch a sliding runner on the upper part of his body."
In today's game, some fielders straddle the bag--without making clear contact--when turning a double play. This is theoretically to protect their legs from an aggressive slide and umpires usually call the out anyway. (To be fair, they're much pickier about making the tag on stolen bases.)

Value: The DeLong set is quite rare and 15 of its 24 cards feature Hall-of-Famers. This bumps its total value sky-high and even a "less famous" player like Gehringer runs $100 or more in low-grade. (Many Lou Gehrig collectors consider the DeLong his "Holy Grail," pushing even PSA 1 cards well above $1000.)

You might never own a DeLong, but the full set's part of the Virtual Card Collection!

Fakes / reprints: Several companies reprinted DeLongs over the years and I'm sure fakes also exist. Watch out for typical warning signs like too-bright paper, laser-cut edges, and dot printing. My best advice starts and ends with "buy from a reputable dealer who knows vintage inside-and-out."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Poll:

Not sure if I wrapped up the last poll adequately. It gave a bunch of "sizes," card-to-poster, and asked what you collect. In other words, is there an upper limit?

Summary: you fine blog readers collect almost everything not nailed down. While no one picked "posters and Fatheads" explicitly, many said anything was fair game. For my part, the big 16" x 20" 1969 Topps Team Posters remain a favorite set!

Today's poll question covers card abuse. Youngsters (and adults?) often make cards their own by adding facial hair, faking a player's signature, or simply binding them securely with rubber bands. My favorite? Ink beards. What kind of "special features" did you add to cards?

Dr. Inkenstein!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

1976 Venezuelan League Baseball Stickers #5, Dave Concepcion

Is this the worst picture one could wish on a best-of-the-70s player? A lucky #13 helmet, spaced-out expression, and way overexposed picture make me wonder about both Venezuelan picture technology and Dave's love of the game.

Card front (blank back)

It's not only the photo that defies expectation. Neither are 1976 Venezuelans "stickers" compared to typical American equivalents. Instead, they're printed on plain paper, without any "sticky" on the back. The set maker did make an album for organizing players into teams, but kids had to supply the glue. (It was, in other words, more like mounting stamps.)

So what's 10 times better than Dave's lousy #5 shot? Try this shot as a Reds player, where teammates like George Foster make you more bad-ass by sheer proximity.


Value: This set's rare but low-demand, given its cheap construction and checklist of predominantly unknown (in the US) players. Concepcion is a star in the set, so cost me about $20. Like other Venezuelan issues, prices vary hugely, depending on a dealer's outlook and whether a buyer's willing to pay high book for typically low-grade examples.

Fakes / reprints: Never seen a reprint in the market, but it would be almost trivial to do with modern scanners and printers. I highly recommend buying Venezuelan cards from foreign-savvy dealers.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

1955 Topps Baseball #5, Jim Gilliam

Vin Scully recently marked six decades in the broadcast booth, a full 3 years longer than this vintage Topps card has walked the earth. What does Scully mean to the Dodger faithful? My dad, an Internet-less resident of northwestern Arizona, still drives his car into the pass between two nearby mountains to catch radio broadcasts from LA--that's what.

Card front

Jim "Junior" Gilliam succeeded at a job few would want, displacing Jackie Robinson from 2nd base. His range, speed on the base paths, and good batting eye proved essential for Brooklyn and LA Dodger teams that appeared in seven World Series between 1955 and 1966, winning four.

1955 Topps closely resembles (pre-sembles?) the superlative 1956 set, showing both portrait and action shots on the front. 1956 adds the action shot in full field context, which makes for some awesome composition.

Another great 1956 Topps action shot

1955 card backs mix stats--both batting and fielding--with classic cartoons and a one-paragraph bio. I like 1956's front design much better, but still rank 1955 in the top 3 sets from that decade, behind 1956 and 1952.

Card back

Value: You can find low-grade Gilliams for under $10, but they often cost more due to Brooklyn's cachet and Jim's significant role on so many title winners.

Fakes / Reprints: Now that Topps is "repackaging" their vintage designs on a yearly basis, watch for cards that look like they came from 1955--but didn't--as reprinted by Topps or faked by scammers. Superstars from this set will cost quite a bit, so also beware of too-good-to-be-true deals.

Monday, April 19, 2010

1979 Sports Reading Series Baseball #5, Ted Williams

This unusual combo of story and photo looks more "place mat" than "baseball card," given its 9-inch x 14-inch size and washable, laminated finish. Its front-side story tells of Ted's last at-bat, a long home run into fading September light, and career dinger #521.

Card front (9" x 14")

The "Sports Reading Series" tells 1 baseball story each, with 50 pages in all. The back adds some vocabulary and reading comprehension questions, so it's obviously meant as a reading aid for kids. I assume they marketed (or gave) them to schools.

The checklist covers a whole range of eras, from a 19th century Cy Young to 1970s Ron Guidry. A lot of 1969 Mets fans probably need this for their collection and Eddie Gaedel's single at-bat get its very own card, a nice choice given his kid-size appearance. They don't show up very often, so building a set piecemeal should prove quite a challenge.

Card back (9" x 14")

History matched Ted Williams with the quote, "I want people to say, 'there goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.'" (Albert Pujols gets the same association today.) It's deceptively easy to jump from that assertion to a belief Williams actually was the best and I'm as guilty as anyone for buying in. It therefore felt refreshing to get a fuller treatment from John Updike, excerpt below.
"In sum, though generally conceded to be the greatest hitter of his era, [Ted Williams] did not establish himself as "the greatest hitter who ever lived." Cobb, for average, and Ruth, for power, remain supreme. Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Joe Jackson, and Lefty O'Doul, among players since 1900, have higher lifetime averages than Williams' .344. Unlike Foxx, Gehrig, Hack Wilson, Hank Greenberg, and Ralph Kiner, Williams never came close to matching Babe Ruth's season home-run total of sixty. In the list of major-league batting records, not one is held by Williams..."
Read Updike's complete "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" story in the The New Yorker archives for more!

Value: $10 fetched this from eBay in early 2010. They don't turn up very often, but shouldn't cost more than $20, even for NM or mint examples. (I also doubt any grading companies can handle a piece this big.)

Fakes / Reprints: It would take a lot of work to reprint this kind of "card," so I don't expect to ever see one.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

1977 Shakey's Baseball All-Time Superstars #5, Grover Cleveland Alexander

Known as "Old Pete" during his career, Grover Cleveland Alexander stands with Walter "Big Train" Johnson and Christy "Matty" Mathewson as the 20th century's tallest pitching titans. Collectively, they won almost 1200 games and struck out more than 8000 batters. This mighty trio appears as #4, 5, and 6 in Shakey's set of 25 all-time greats.

Card front

Old Pete pitched during the dead ball era, when games used (and re-used?) a single leather sphere until it was stained with dirt and scuffed to hell. Their relatively solid interior got less and less springy at each contact; today's horsehide bounces off the bat by comparison.

Card back

The card bio calls Philly's home stadium, the Baker Bowl, "notorious" because of its hitter-friendly short right field and high wall. Winning an ERA title there would be like turning the same trick in Fenway Park today.

Known primarily as a Phillie, Alexander actually won less than 200 games in Philadelphia. He pitched another 8+ seasons in Chicago, and 3+ in St. Louis, rounding out his win total. The 1926 Cardinals finally provided his lone World Series title at age 39.

Value: This Alexander card cost $3 at a show in 2005 and should run $1 to $5. (As of this column, an eBay seller's asking $10 each for cards in the set, which seems excessive for a retrospective set with so-so photos.)

Fakes / Reprints: As a small-scale pizza chain, Shakey's didn't produce a lot of these cards, but I don't expect to see reprints in the market--it's just not interesting or valuable enough.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

1971 Carl Aldana Baseball #5, John Ritchey

I cannot get over how weird this portrait of John Ritchey looks, especially in that face-like area. Really, Jay Leno wants a jawbone like that. Unfortunately, it suits the overall the card's discontinuity. Odd font, weird color contrast, and disjointed first and last names. Is there an upside to this card? Fortunately, yes, and read on for details.

Card front (blank back)

I doubt many people have seen this 16-card set and there's mystery about its naming, origin, and distribution. Typically called "Carl Aldana" after its artist, some sources, including COMC, add a "Yesterday Heroes" subtitle.

Though the portrait shows Ritchey as an Indian, he never played in the majors. There is a window where John might've worn the uni, as a member of the 1949 San Diego Padres, a one-year PCL affiliate for Cleveland. There aren't a ton of 1940s minor league photos out there, so Mr. Aldana likely used what he could find--a single spring training shot, perhaps?

Despite never being a "big leaguer," Ritchey does rate as a baseball hero, by breaking the color barrier for blue--OK, black--players in the Pacific Coast League. His 1948 debut in San Diego continued a career begun in the negro leagues and lasting for 10 pro years as a high-average, gap-power backstop. (See the site for a nice profile.)

Value: This card cost $10 on eBay last year. They're pretty scarce, but usually come in high-grade as a direct-to-collector issue. The set contains no higher-priced "stars" to speak of.

Fakes / Reprints: Despite their overall rarity, they're probably not worth reprinting.

Monday, April 12, 2010

1976 HRT/RES 1942 Play Ball #5, Charles Wagner

Ask Boston fans to name some life-long Red Sox and guys like Ted Williams, Yaz, and Johnny Pesky float to the top. 90 year-old Pesky, a.k.a. "The Needle," currently reigns supreme with--as of 2010--almost 60 years of Fenway service.

Card front

Pesky's an ideal Sox story and link to baseball's golden era--but he'll need to reach a spry 100 years old to match Charles Wagner's amazing 70 years as a Red Sox player, coach, and scout. Following his debut as a pitcher in 1938, Wagner remained on the Sox payroll until his death in 2006 at age 93. When 2004's team ended the Boston drought, team management even honored Charlie with a World Series ring. (Read more at "Remembering 'Broadway' Charlie Wagner.")

Card back

Ted Taylor (H.R.T.) and Bob Schmierer (R.E.S.), promoters of Philly's long-lived card show (, created this 36-card Play Ball "extension" to showcase a nice group of vintage player photos. Some card backs relive the WWII era with "Keep Baseball Going" or "Buy U.S. War Bonds." Others promote the card show itself. You could probably buy complete sets at the show or through the mail.

Value: As a "common," Charlie Wagner costs about $1. Stars like Gehrig, Williams, and DiMaggio run $5 to $10.

Fake / Reprints: Other than being a spiritual "reissue" of past Play Balls, I've never seen actual reprints of this set in the market.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

1978 Jack Wallin Grand Slam Baseball #5, Hank Greenberg

Hank Greenberg's on the short list of classic players I'd love to have seen in person. At least those of us who came after can watch the eponymous 2001 documentary, "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg." (Details at Today's card catches him in a nicely pensive pose.

Memorabilia dealer Jack Wallin sold this 200-card, black-and-white set directly to card collectors. It's slightly undersized at 2 1/4" x 3 1/4", with a glossy front and "GRAND SLAM 1978" tagline. All pictured players were still alive at the time of its publication, so lots of autograph seekers snapped them up. (Hank lived until 1986 and signed several, perhaps dozens, of this card.)

Wallin followed these up with a similar set of "Diamond Greats" in 1979. He saved some costs by dropping the player bio, adding a career stat line to the front, and using a blank back. This blog profiled its #5, Yankee HOFer Joe Sewell, in 2008.

Want to see more cards from this set? Check out the dedicated blog at Grand Slam 1978! The intro post has plenty of production notes and its #5 post talks in detail about Hank Greenberg as a player and symbol.

UPDATE: Jack Wallin published a similar set of famous football players called Touchdown Club. Here's the #5, Mike Michalske. A near-set of signed cards sold for over $1700 in May 2011.

Value: This Hank cost me $6 on eBay in 2005, about right for a high-grade single. They're pretty hard to find, but demand isn't particularly high for the set as a whole.

Fakes / Reprints: As a collector-targeted issue, I doubt anyone reprinted these cards. Since the set specifically encourages signature hunting, however, be aware of faked autographs on real cards!

1976 Funky Facts Baseball #5, Baseballeese

Also known as "The Weird World of Baseball," this 40-card set blends drawings and trivia questions into something like a rotating display of newspaper comics. Card #5 sticks to elementary visual puns about man hugs and overly clean umpires.

Funky Sales Corp--apparently their real name--packaged it like regular baseball sets, 10 cards per pack and 36 packs to a box. Based on this card, I'd be very wary of spending time or money collecting it. includes the full checklist, but card names like "Umps are Human Too" and "Not in Shape" sound as dry as "Baseballeese" proved to be.

The editor clearly missed something and swapped the "answers" for #1 and #2 on the card back. Aside from that gaffe, anyone even vaguely familiar with baseball should clean up on the other 5 questions.

What passes for humor in this set seems so obvious as to be just...odd. Did 10 year-olds laugh at a "fireman" being someone who keeps people at the stadium from smoking? (Hopefully, I'm overthinking things and should really just relax.)

Value: Thanks to eBay, you can buy unopened boxes of Funky Facts for less than $20. (I assume a bunch of sealed packs and box went unsold.) Singles should also cost very small money.

Fake / Reprints: Haven't seen any in the market and I doubt anyone could rationalize reprinting Funky Facts cards.

Friday, April 2, 2010

1966 Fleer Baseball Weird-Ohs #5, Conk Conklin

You might think this is another April Fool's Post, but no kidding--it's a real card set from the 1960s.

Card front

Given today's awareness of head injuries and harsher penalties for throwing at batters, would a 21st century card company even consider mocking beanballs? And what's up with the incredibly bloodshot eyes?

Card back

Fleer put out multiple mid-60s sets of "Weird-Ohs," with this one exclusive to baseball. (Others combined sport and non-sport "subjects," if that's the right word.)

"Good old friendly Conk aims right for your ear and never misses no matter how hard you try to duck. This kook walks all nine men during the first inning by conking them on the noggin, of course. Then with the other team's first string either groggy or out with injuries...our hero usually goes on to rack up another no-hitter."

This does raise the question--when was the last time someone tried to (strategically) knock an opponent out of the game from the pitcher's mound? I assume it happened, though maybe not recently.

Value: I found this NM card for $2 at an oddball table in 2008, about right for an obscure set not in high demand.

Fakes / Reprints: Doubt you'd find any reprints in the market, since they don't picture actual players or teams.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Changing the Blog Focus

Type199: Hand Turkey
After 2 years at the keyboard, I'm finally running out of #5 cards to profile. While there will be a couple more entries to finish things up, it's time to preview phase 2 of my special collection posts.

Celebrity Hand Turkeys.

That's right, people of at least nominal fame who've been convinced to not only sign something I put before them, but actually trace out their hand and decorate it with prose and doodles.

I decided to start local, by invading the personal space of Helen McWilliams, lead singer of Boston punk band Tijuana Sweetheart. (Still not sure what the name means, but what the heck, it sounds famous to me.)

Check out the excellent attire Ms. McWilliams added to her illustration, in observation of what the turkeys call "Formal Plorbsday." That is quality hand poultry!

If you like trashy punk music, read more about Tijuana Sweetheart's new album on their web site,

BONUS: See in-action hand turkey photo at Flickr.