Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Flashback: Wartime baseball cards

Today, we remember American veterans of the world's many conflicts, a day that also has close ties to multiple generations of baseballers. Back in August 2008, the #5 blog profiled a 1975 TCMA set of major league players stationed or traveling in Guam. It featured a lot of vintage names, several unique photos, and an essay (on card backs) that talked about the tour in detail.

Card front

Find details on the set, more on players in the photo above, and a full set of front and back scans at 1975 TCMA Guam #5!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Contest winnings from Rain of Error!

Not long ago, fellow card blogger Mad Guru asked for custom cards based on Robert Coover's novel The Universal Baseball Association. I adapted a 1976 Topps Father & Son card, since the book focuses on just such a relationship.

The recently arrived winnings for this contest!

1. Season of the Owl, by Miles Wolff, Jr. (A mystery set in the home town of a Southern minor league champion.)

2. Lots of #5 cards! A few will get individual entries, so here's a scan of the others.

Clockwise from upper left, they are:
  1. 1990 ProCards Las Vegas Stars
  2. 2008 Upper Deck Baseball
  3. 1990 Score Highlights
  4. 1989 Donruss Baseball
  5. 1990 Topps Hockey
  6. 1988 Topps Hockey Stickers
  7. 1982 K-Mart MVPs
  8. 1987 Topps Hockey
  9. 1987 Topps Hockey Stickers - Gretzky!
Thanks again to Guru for running the contest. Check out his blog Rain of Error for more on books and baseball!

Friday, May 28, 2010

1969 Oakland A's (Black & White) #5, Joe DiMaggio

Best known for enduring achievements like a 56-game hitting streak and 9 championships in only 13 seasons as a Yankee, Joe DiMaggio later spent 2 years as a VP and coach for the relocated Athletics. Tired facial expression aside, seeing the Clipper in green-and-gold (okay, B&W) just looks...wrong.

Card front (blank back)

This simple 21-card set came out a year after the A's move to Oakland. I assume it's numbered by uniform, with #5 visible on Joe's jersey. (The Yankees also retired it in his honor.)

DiMaggio spent 3 bittersweet years in the US Army during WWII, achieving a rank of staff sergeant but never coming close to actual combat. I can't say enough good things about Gary Bedingfield's site Baseball in Wartime and his profile of Joe includes a ton of great photos and info.

Value: This is a pretty obscure issue, but individual cards aren't particularly expensive. This DiMaggio cost around $20 on eBay, by far his cheapest card from an in-uniform year. (Reggie Jackson also has a rookie card in this set, which almost certainly costs more.)

Fakes / reprints: This is an easy set to reproduce, being black-and-white and on common card stock. It's unfortunately not an easy issue to authenticate--other than by its innate obscurity--so buy only from reputable dealers. (My eBay purchase included some provenance-checking.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Type Site: The Great Orioles Autograph Project

Recent #5 site follower Ryan (aka Orioles Magic) runs another excellent "goal" site, The Great Orioles Autograph Project. He's looking for signed cards of every different Baltimore player and currently has over 700, obtained by mail, trade, or in-person. With 133 posts under his belt in 2010 alone, there's something new to read almost every calendar day.

This post reminded me of all those mid-80s Mariners games I went to as a teenager, cards and ballpoint pen in hand. Fans could get a lot closer to players in those days and you could get at least 10 new signatures every Sunday afternoon. (My record day was around 25.)

May 24, 2010: "Some Recent Autographs from O's Games"

Speaking of former Mariners...

You don't have to be an O's fan to enjoy the blog. Read more at The Great Orioles Autograph Project.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

1953 Bowman Black & White Baseball #5, Dee Fondy

Veteran of WWII and the 1944 landing on Normandy's Utah Beach--historical details thus--Dee Virgil Fondy played 8 major league seasons, mostly for the Chicago Cubs. He could hit and run, but didn't take enough walks to be a real on-base threat. Thanks to, we know Dee was the 438th-best fielding first baseman of all time, which is probably damning with faint praise.

Card front

Bowman printed two cards sets in 1953, one with color photo fronts (160 cards) and this back-and-white follow-up (64 cards). Popular wisdom holds that full-color proved so expensive to print, they couldn't afford to run all 224 players.

Card back

1953 Bowmans have a unique "This Year" stats column, which some young collectors filled in after the season. Adding a stat grid was one of 1952 Topps' biggest contributions and their competitors noticed it enough to immediately adopt the practice.

Value: Low-to-mid grade 1953 Bowman B&W cards like Dee run a few dollars. The series proved less desirable than the color set, but still includes HOFers like Johnny Mize, Casey Stengel, and Hoyt Wilhelm.

Fakes / reprints: Not many B&W reprints out there, since demand is higher for the color series.

UPDATE: Just for Chris, here's a 1953 Bowman with a filled-in stat line!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

1922 Neilson's Chocolate Baseball #5, Lu Blue

This photo's a nice fielding shot of Luzerne Atwell Blue. An excellent ballplayer with both glove and stick, Lu served briefly in the Army during WWI and his body rests in Arlington National Cemetery. (Might this start a run of veterans to Memorial Day, 2010?)

Card front

Check those uniform details: even high socks can't save you from long sleeves and thick, woolen fabric. Imagine donning that for 9 innings on a summer's day! No doubt about it, today's players vastly prefer playing night games in the dog days of August, synthetic fibers or no synthetic fibers.

The ornate borders surrounding each player include a lot of baseball elements, with bat, ball, and gloves. Several candy makers shared this basic design for 1922, in both Canadian (Neilson's) and American (E120, W573) sets.

1922 American Caramel E120 (from

1922 W573 strip cards (from

W573s still show up in 10-card strips, so apparently collectors could buy them from vending machines. Neilson's and E120s, on the other hand, cut their cards individually and probably packaged them with chocolate bars or other candies.

Neilson's printed two series in 1922, one numbered and another unnumbered. (Mr. Blue obviously comes from the former.) Both sets used the same 120-player checklist, but the "numbers" have much thinner card stock, about the feel of 3 sheets of notepaper.

Card back

Unfortunately, no player info or bios in this set. Just absolutely pure chocolate bars. Want more chocolate cards? Check out Poor Old Baseball Cards post of this set's Wally Pipp.

Value: OldCardboard estimates VG "commons" at $22. My Lu Blue cost $26 on eBay, so it's in the same ballpark.

Fakes / reprints: Being a black-and-white issue, it's pretty easy to reprint this set. Look out for faked Hall-of-Famers, especially Babe Ruth. Remember to check the paper stock, with numbered cards being really thin and unnumbered slightly thinner than typical Topps cards.

Monday, May 24, 2010

1969 Topps Baseball #5, AL Home Run Leaders

Today's trio of sluggers managed a rare "Era of the Pitcher" feat, hit 30+ homers in a season. Only 7 such gents did so in 1968, including 4 National Leaguers. (Hank Aaron didn't figure among them, as he hit 29.)

Card front

It bugs me that Harrelson gets no Boston cap love on this card. He's the league's #3 slugger, spent all year with the Red Sox, and Topps couldn't be bothered to get something better that an airbrushed shot from his days with KC or Washington? THE HAWK DISAPPROVES.

Card back

I do like that they highlighted 1968's grand slams. Jim Northrup's 4 is quite an achievement in any year and Joe Foy hit 2 out of only 10 total homers! (Note that Mantle only hit 18 round-trippers in 1968, his final year, but still walked more than 100 times.)

Value: You can probably find this card for $1 in low-to-mid grade. Leader cards with Hall-of-Famers run up to $10.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any reprints of this card specifically, though Topps used this set design for a bunch of vintage-style cards in the modern era.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Type Site: Oh My O-Pee-Chee!

New #5 type collection follower GCRL runs an excellent site of his own called Oh My O-Pee-Chee! It fills a big hole for North American baseball collectors, visually comparing and explaining Topps (American) and O-Pee-Chee (Canadian) card differences. You might not think this is a big deal, but I sure do.

Imagine that you normally collect modern cards, but find this Hall-of-Famer for a bargain price. No problem with the front, just your typical Topps card, right?

But then you turn it over and compare the back to a 1974 Topps checklist. I assure you, the number won't match what's there. (Topps #196 is Jim Fregosi and Catfish Hunter is #7.)

Fear not, hypothetical collector, Oh My O-Pee-Chee has your back! Check out its 1974 Jim Hunter entry for scans of  both Catfish cards. Did all of your concerns evaporate? For even better news, 1974 OPCs are harder to come by than their Topps equivalent and could be more valuable.

There's a complementary overlap between GCRL's coverage of the Hank Aaron specials and my own #5 post for 1974. Read them all and be an informed collector! (Or at least see lots of classic cards.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

1969 Topps Baseball Stamp Album #5, Atlanta Braves

Spiritual cousin (and one-year predecessor) to the 1970 Topps Story booklets, today's set is actually a combination of two 1969 issues, stamp sheets and stamp albums. They include 10 players per team and come in standard card size, 2.5" x 3.5". Number 5 features the Atlanta Braves, home team of Hank Aaron...and some other guys. :-)

Topps issued the stamps in their own wax packs, with a 12-player sheet (folded down to 4-player size) and one team album for 5 cents. Some sheets unfold vertically, similar to the 1960 Bazooka Stamps, and others horizontally. Each one contains a mix of teams; 24 teams at 10 players each equals 240 stamps for the full set.

Only 200 homers to go!

Bonus! Team autographs

Baseball added 4 new cities in 1969 and its accompanying expansion draft moved a lot of guys from team-to-team. MLB wanted to connect fans to their new players ASAP; Topps took the cue and created two such sets, these stamp albums and the (much larger) team posters.

Value: Full stamp sheets run $10 and up, depending on the players pictured. Albums cost a lot less, typically under $5. Set notables include Mickey Mantle (in his final year) and the Miracle Mets.

Fake / reprints: The albums would be easy to fake, but probably not worth doing. (You'd also need glue-back paper for the stamps.) I haven't seen reprints for either in the market.

1970 Topps Baseball Story #5, Vada Pinson

I assume card companies put a ton of design work into each new set. Fronts, backs, stats, and photos all take careful and artful arrangement. In 1970, Topps took "artful" a step further by publishing a 24-booklet set of player comics, each with a 6-page story. Its #5 features all-around great player Vada Pinson.

Click images for more detail

Credit your battery-mate, kids!

The swimsuit's an odd touch...

OK, even I know no stadium has yellow basepaths

That checklist is a full range of all-timers and one-timers, Willie Mays to Wally Bunker. I've never seen anyone build the set--be the first on your block! :-)

Value: Booklets cost very little, relative to regular cards. Hall-of-Famers run up to $5 and most cost $1 or less. So much for the high cost of modern art!

Fake / Reprints: It'd be easy to fake this set, but probably wouldn't be worth it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Type Site: The Bespectacled Spectacle

Recent #5 site follower AB also authors an excellent theme blog, covering baseball cards with awesome glasses. How great are the spectacles he features? Very great.

1979 Topps #138

Now those are some best-of-the-1970s glasses. I can practically hear Rose Royce playing in the background!

Mark Lee shows up in my favorite Bespectacled Spectacle post, "Are Glasses Performance Enhancement?," which also features previous #5 player Cookie Rojas.

1963 Topps #221

This 1963 card airbrushed a Phillies hat over the sleeveless Cincy uniform, which isn't Topps' best work. At least the specs add something of interest. (Also peep his glasses in my 1967 Venezuelan post.)

Read more meditations on baseball eyewear at The Bespectacled Spectacle!

Friday, May 14, 2010

1962 Sugardale Wieners Baseball #5, Jim Perry

Prior to the record-breaking Neikro Brothers (details at the 1988 Topps #5 profile), Jim and Gaylord Perry set the gold standard for combined brotherly pitching victories. Today's guest picked up 215 of their 529 wins over 17 years, mostly with the Twins and Indians.

Card front
My favorite part of this card? The vertical notice at far right: "THIS CARD MAY BE WIPED WITH A DAMP SPONGE." Sugardale packaged each one with tasty wieners, so removing the "juice" made them less likely to get thrown out by stink-conscious moms.

Card back
Sugardale made two (nearly identical) sets of cards promoting Cleveland-area baseball in 1962 and 1963. Most picture Indians and are numbered, like Jim Perry. Hoever, both years include a supplementary lettered series of cards featuring Pittsburgh Pirates. If you want to chase a truly tough card, look for the 1962 Roberto Clemente! (Full 1962 Checklist at

Value: Sugardale cards are fairly tough to come by. Jim Perry's tricky, because he's also an expensive short-print in the (nearly identical) 1963 set. Prices for the 1962 card seem to run higher just by association. (I bought this low-grade Perry for about $40 on eBay in 2010.)

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any fakes or reprints in the market, probably because most players are too obscure to maintain a high demand. I would watch out for fakes of the Clemente card!

UPDATE: Here's a picture of me proving the "damp sponge" advice. There's a decent plasticky coating on the card, so no harm done!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Poll wrap-up: Return a counterfeit card?

It's almost unanimous, 9 of 10 folks voted to return the 1971 Bazooka of debatable authenticity. One said to destroy the card, which would protect any "downstream" collectors from buying something questionable. I completely understand and would've considered it more seriously for a cheaper card. (Apparently, my "take one for the team" cutoff is somewhere below $20.)

1971 Bazooka #5, sorta
To the card seller's credit, he did accept my return and process it quickly. This whole deal's just one card transaction in an ocean of buying and selling, but it's the closest I've been to a 1971 Bazooka's numbered proof set #5. Quoting many a baseball team, "just wait 'til next year!"

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

1971 Bazooka Baseball (Numbered) #5, Carl Yastrzemski

Card front (blank back)

Here's the rare-but-affordable card from the poll "Would you keep a counterfeit card?" Bazooka created two issues in 1971, one readily available set without numbers, and a limited proof run with "No. X of 48 cards" on the bottom. As mentioned there, a few problems stand out for this Yaz.
  • Front ripples: the card should be smooth--odd gluing shows up even in this scan
  • Re-printed paper: there's ink on the paper behind Yaz, prior to the front being glued to its cardboard backing (not out of the question for a proof set, but unlikely for Topps)
  • Dotted printing: Color printers leave a haze of dots around black areas, which stands out along dark lines and text areas. (A magnifying glass helps big time here.)

Value: Picked it up for about $20 on eBay, thanks to its likely fakeness. It's hard to set a price for numbered Bazookas thanks to rarity; I've seen asking prices $10-$40 for singles and $100+ for stars. (For comparison, unnumbered non-stars cost a few dollars.)

Fakes / Reprints: Indeed, this is probably not the only 1971 Bazooka Numbered card of questionable provenance out there. Be aware!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Type Site: Captain Canuck's Waxaholic

New #5 site follower Captain Canuck has published a collecting blog called Waxaholic for the last two years, which is almost two decades in Internet time. He posted a staggering 342 updates last year alone, covering almost anything under the sporting sun, from current events to tobacco era cards. But do his Canadian origins mean nothing but polite language and only non-controversial topics? Let's check some select quotes!
  • "I am just a [hockey] fan, watching his game be ruined by a [redacted] in a suit who never played the game."
  • "The [MVP] finalists were announced today, and amazingly enough, the NHL screwed the pooch on this one too."
  • "What the HELL?!?! A Maple Leaf? How did a Maple Leaf get on this blog?!?!"
  • "Keep your damn useless FA rookie never-has-been wannabe autos....GIVE ME MORE JERSEY CARDS!!!!!"
  • "...[redacted] card shops and their owners. Dooming themselves, and the hobby in one fell swoop!"
When he's not telling you how it is, C.C. (aka Brian) covers a vast array of sports and cards. My favorite recent post's "Tobacco Mania Part One: Hungarian Hotties," featuring a 1930s European film stars set. Check out this snazzy chanteuse!

Check out more of everything at Waxaholic.

Monday, May 10, 2010

1974 TCMA Cedar Rapids Astros #5, Tom Rima

Today's Astros uni, taken from their A-league Cedar Rapids squad, has a simple logo treatment of the parent club's own late-60s and early-70s shooting star. The zip-up front caught my eye, given that most baseball shirts used buttons then and still do today; that alone makes it look more like a warm-up jacket.

Card front

Thomas Rima patrolled minor league outfields in the Astros farm system from 1974 to 1976. Only 34 of Tom's 231 career hits went for extra bases, which unfortunately limited his future as a big-league outfielder. (Recent 1975 Kellogg's #5 Greg Gross already had the "high average, low-power" role nailed down in Houston proper.)

Card back

TCMA started producing cards in the mid-1970s for minor league clubs. This Cedar Rapids set's one of two they made in 1974 and it contains 28 players (with, unfortunately, no major stars). Find the checklist on's minor league page.

Quality increased significantly as time went on, with TCMA sets going full-color by 1979. By the early 80s, they made cards on par with Fleer, a nice achievement given their minor league focus.

Value: I found Mr. Rima on Beckett Marketplace for $5. That's somewhat high for a minor league card, but not egregious.

Fakes / reprints: It'd be relatively easy to fake a black-and-white card, but probably hard to find a buyer. I haven't seen any reprints in the marketplace.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Would you keep a counterfeit card?

I recently purchased a never-saw-it-before #5 Bazooka card on eBay. Though rare, it's not outrageously valuable and the seller set a Buy It Now price around $20, the high book for its condition, according to SCD's annual guide.

The seller's favorable feedback % and high number of total sales pushed me to buy the card, since who knows when it'll pop up again? It definitely didn't seem like an eBay scammer trying a 1-time con. (Most experienced buyers have seen those guys in action.)

Short story, my purchase turned out not so authentic; three things gave it away.
  1. Its front picture had "ripples," where the picture-to-backing glue dried unevenly. I've never seen this on authentic Bazookas.
  2. Paper peeling at the card edge revealed a hint of colors behind the player photo. In other words, something was printed on the back, flipped over, and reused for more printing. Topps almost never did this.
  3. Modern color printers use "dotted" ink printing. Vintage cards don't and this card had it. This is the most damning proof, but can be hard to see with the naked eye. (Check out #3 in this counterfeit-spotting guide.)
The seller accepts "any reason" returns, so I sent the card back. While professional about the process, he also remained confident of its authenticity. Unfortunately, there's not a middle ground for us--it's either an original or not.

Knowing that the seller will probably resell this card, I had second thoughts. Keeping (or even destroying) the #5 might make more sense than returning it. After all, this saves the trouble of a less experienced buyer picking it up, thinking they've got the real deal, and getting a rude surprise much later. Of course, that also wastes my $20!

This week's poll: what would you do? Return the card as I did? Destroy it? Keep it as a souvenir? Add comments if you have other proposals.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

1935 Goudey Baseball #5-B, Cincinnati Reds

This Goudey set's most identifiable by its 4-on-1 layout, featuring half-a-field of players on each card. Some put everyone from a single team together, but today's mixes Ohioans--two Cleveland and two Cincinnati.

It's interesting to get 4 players at once, but there's nothing really "new" here. All four players have the same image on previous Goudey cards.
  • 1933 Goudey Glenn Myatt #10
  • 1933 Goudey Jim Bottomley #44
  • 1933 Goudey Willis Hudlin #96
  • 1934 Goudey Adam Comorosky #85

Check the back for this set's "innovation," a series of puzzle pieces that assemble into one of several complete images. Here's a quote from the excellent set profile.

"The puzzle pieces form nine different pictures: Detroit Tigers team, Chuck Klein, Frankie Frisch, Mickey Cochrane, Joe Cronin, Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons, Cleveland Indians team, or Washington Senators team. The interesting thing about these puzzles is that there are more puzzle pieces (72) than cards in the set (36). As a result, all cards have several different backs. This may have been designed to entice the card buyers of 1935 to buy more, but the exact reason can only be speculated. In any case, most collectors piece together their 1935 Goudey sets based on the fronts, without paying attention to which puzzle piece appears on the back. For those chasing a "master" set, there are a total of 114 different front-and-back combinations."

Although Babe Ruth appears in the set--his only "playing days" card as a Boston Brave--they didn't create a puzzle portrait for him, possibly for lack of studio shot or to avoid paying a larger licensing fee.

Value: So many Hall-of-Famers appear in this set, it's hard to find a real "common." My #5-B cost about $10 because of the front staining. Anything with a superstar can command big money.

Fakes / reprints: Full-set reprints exist and individual stars have likely been faked. Check the card stock carefully and compare the print quality to others from the same era when buying.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Friday poll wrap-up (aka, "when bad things happen to good cards")

Mucho gracias to folks who voted in last week's poll about the "special treatment" your cardboard heroes received during those days as a youthful collector. I gave several options open to anyone with school supplies, including pens, rubber bands, and hole punches. The only one no one picked was "I left my cards alone!" Clearly, we're all veterans of the School of Card Knocks.

You want specifics and we have them.

  • Ink autographs, glasses, and beards: 4
  • Rubber bands: 5
  • Hole punch: 1
  • Staples: 1

Here's to cards that put up with that extra love!

Available for only $4!


1933 Goudey Baseball #5, Babe Herman

This low-grade beauty comes from Goudey Gum's wonderful 1933 set. It's arguably the first "modern" baseball issue, featuring multi-color fronts, professionally written player bios, and a large (for the time) 240-count checklist.

Goudey honored Babe Ruth with four different cards in this set and several other players got two each. The whole thing's a cavalcade of Hall-of-Famers and legendary stars, from Lou Gehrig to the Waner brothers.

Card front

No doubt about it, my #5's seen better days. Here's the same card in much better shape, courtesy of The Virtual Card Collection. (It also has the full set.) Babe looks about 10 pounds lighter without all the creasing and corner wear.

Herman's "C" cap reflects his move to the Cubs, following several years in Brooklyn and one in Cincinnati. His powerful stick and quick feet led to a ton of triples, averaging more than 10 per year from 1926 to 1933, with a league-leading 19 in 1932. (Check my 1933 World Wide Gum #5 for his infamous "triple that wasn't.")

Card back

Nope, I can't read that back text, either. Here's what his bio says.

"Boy, can't he hit the ball! He's a big fellow, six feet, four inches tall, and weighs 180 pounds. Hits and throws left-handed.
Hit 16 home runs last year and batted for .326. Played five years in the minor leagues before he got a real chance to break into the big league. Brooklyn bought him in 1926. Broke in with a wallop. Hit .319 and has been slugging the ball ever since. Second best batter in the National League in 1930 and made 35 home runs.
Born in Buffalo, N.Y., June 26, 1903."

Value: Many folks charge more for first series 1933 Goudeys, cards #1 - 60, due to perceived rarity. Herman runs more than a typical common, about $20 - $30 in low and mid grades. (I traded for my poor-fair version.)

Fake / reprints: There are lots of full-set reprints and faked Goudeys in the market. The "official" reprints have thinner card stock and say "reprint" on the back. (Watch out for cards missing paper near the "GOUDEY GUM CO." text, as someone could've scratched it off in an effort to deceive.)