Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Worst Set Ever: 1957 Topps baseball (started June 2024)

Friends and fellow collectors from (OBC), a group of low-grade vintage collectors, kicked off something last month that felt inevitible once someone wrote it down. First, know that dozens of us stash duplicates or handfuls of beat-up cards for sets we aren't collecting.

Those cards often sit in boxes for years, waiting for the right moment to pass it along to someone who needs it. Up to now, we dodged the formal question: WHAT'S THE "WORST" SET WE CAN BUILD AS A SINGLE, VOLTRON-INSPIRED GROUP OF COLLECTORS? 

In other words, who gets this masterful collection of rounded corners as their very own and then goes after 49 more just like it?

Each participant picked one set, allowing OBC to focus our inked-up, folded, waterstained, and trimmed treasures into one collection. I went for 1957 Topps baseball, a set I'd last built and then traded for a 1939 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio. It started with one card still hanging around: #400 Dodgers Sluggers, soaked last month to remove paper and make its back legible.

OBC friends moved fast, cards arrived two or five at a time, and my WSE (Worst Set Ever) now sits at about fifty cards. The first duplicate, #67 Chico Carrasquel, also inspired something young collectors used to do all the time: improvement via scissors and glue.

Uno + uno = Chico

My growing set includes all manner of artistic achievement, from Bob Hale's clipped corner... Brooklyn's bevy of bruises... Baltimore's peek-a-boo Schoendienst.

I bet more 1957s will get cosmetic surgery in this quest, since each low-grade card offers its own kind of beauty. Ping me if you're collecting in similar territory and want to swap!

Monday, July 8, 2024

Babe/Baby Ruth and Americana stops on a New Jersey road trip

I bounced between air conditioning and cultural sights for three hot days in New Jersey in my cultural collectors quest to catch 'em all. We focused on Princeton this time, whose cemetery includes president Grover Cleveland and his "baby" Ruth, born in the White House and passed of diptheria at age 12.

That's me, sweatin' to the oldies

Soon after the Babe hit a record 54 homers in 1920, Curtiss Candy renamed their existing "Kandy Kake" bar to "Baby Ruth," hoping to draft off his headline-making swats. They claimed this honored Ruth Cleveland's nickname almost 20 years after her death, a Dom Draper level marketing move.

Thanks to compliant court judges, Curtiss avoided Ruthian compensation and prevented "Ruth's Home run" candy bar on the market. That short-lived product included a small promotional card set and my set profile adds more detail to Curtiss's candy shenanigans. Its "favorite with the kiddies" #5 features Ruth smooching his daughter Dorothy Ruth Pirone.

Surviving "Ruth's Home Run" candy ephemera includes these red wrappers. Given his stature, counterfeits exist, so be wary of buying them unless your dealer knows their stuff.

Princeton Cemetery hosts the shaded grave of Clarence "Pop" Foster, a turn of the 20th century player at multiple levels of organized ball. I appreciated its tree coverage as temps hit 95!

Aaron Burr Senior and Junior lie in state at Princeton, an enduring reminder against "wasting your shot."

The permanent collection of Princeton's Morven House contains this Althea Gibson plaque and photo from a local match onsite, when it served as home to NJ's governor and their family.

More from the Morven House, as their family played some Burro Baseball on a trip to the southwest. I welcome your theories for how one would play it!

Every Princeton visitor should stop by Grover's Mill and its 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast markers.

One of the memorial walk's painted alien stones, so cute

Photo credit Nick Vossbrink for this metal plaque

Pop Foster's pro career included a stop in Quebec, whose Capitales bus I passed at the revived Hinchcliffe stadium in Paterson for a series against its Frontier League rivals, the Jackals.

Atlantic coast residents might know Jersey's Garden State Parkway, which spiffed up its passenger views with sports and cultural honorees. Doby played in Paterson, so merits this spot nearby.

Larry Doby's NJ HOF marker at Brookdale service station

Not pictured, one stop at Popeye's for biscuits and wings! A family dinner there is like $30 for six meals, it's nutty.