A big pile of photos

A couple of years ago* Marc Brubaker came across a huge pile of 8×10 photos. For a while he was using some for TTMs and posting scans of a few others but aside from a couple randoms that showed up in trade packages they kind of disappeared from his feed.

*Yeah I know at some point “a couple” turned into five and I don’t know how 2020 feels a decade ago while 2017 feels much more recent.

Then a few weeks ago* it seems like he realized that he should offering lots to team collectors, etc. and clear out the storage space that the photos were taking up. I don’t normally pursue photos but for the right lot and the right price (in this case basically just covering shipping) I’ll happily slip them into the binder. Early last week the package arrived and I got to see them in person.

We’ll start with the New York photos. The one that caught my eye is the aerial photo of the Polo Grounds. Turns out that it’s a photo of a halftoned image but you can only tell if you look closely. I like the image because it puts the Polo Grounds in location among buildings that are still there today.

The other four photos—Bobby Thomson, Eddie Stanky, Al Dark, and Hoyt Wilhelm—are all very nice photo prints from, I’m guessing, the Photofile/TCMA archives since I recognize a lot of the images from the various all-time greats cards I grew up with in the 80s and 90s. Nice to see them big and nice to have some good prints showing the details of both the home and road New York Giants uniforms.

There were also eight San Francisco photos. The first four are photo prints of a much more mixed bag of quality. Matty Alou and Mike Aldrete are great-looking portraits of players who you don’t expect to see prints of.* Vida Blue and Juan Marichal meanwhile are the kind of stars you expect to see but the prints are of much lesser quality with Marichal fading badly and Blue looking like it was enlarged too much from a copy negative.

*I was seriously surprised by the Aldrete and have slipped that into my Stanford album.

One of the reasons why I don’t normally grab photos like this is because I have no idea how to account for the fact that they’re modern prints of old photos. They’re a great option for autographing when you can’t get a card* but never feel like they’re part of anything bigger.

*Something I did when I was a kid with Jim Davenport since I couldn’t find a card of him. No not even his 1985 Topps Traded.

I’ve decided to sort these all by about when the photo would’ve been taken and mix them in with the res of the cards. But I can also see yanking them all out and keeping undated photos like this in a separate album too.

The four 8×10 “set” though is not photo prints and as such I actually like more. I have a set of these from 1989* and 1990** so I’m guessing these are from 1991. These came as photo packs from team souvenir stores and while they aren’t cards™ they function in a way that feels much more similar to that world than the individually-ordered 8x10s do.

*Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, Robby Thompson, and Rick Reuschel.

**Robby Thompson, Jose Uribe, Matt Williams, and Will Clark & Kevin Mitchell

They give me a sense of who the fan favorite players at the time were and I immediately relate to them better as objects. I also have zero problems mixing these with cards and they offer a fun alternate timeline in how they connect to Ticketmasters and Jays Publishing photos from the past.

Marc being Marc slipped a bunch of other cards into the envelope even though he’d just sent me a package. The first batch were a small stack of well-loved 1985 Fleers and a large stack of well-loved 1989 Donruss. 1985 Fleer is a set I’ve decided to build. Why? Because that’s what my first baseball card ever was. Do I have a searchlist yet? Not at all because I have maybe three dozen cards total so far.

1989 Donruss I’m closing in on. Under 100 cards left. I haven’t updated the need list yet since I need to do a good look through for condition/photo upgrades. 1989 Donruss has probably the single most variance in printing of any set I’ve seen. I can have four copies of a card, one will be great, one will look sunburned, one will look 4 stops underexposed, and one will be miscut. It’s wild. Anyway I’m happy to have the slots full but suspect I’ll be working on this one for a while despite being close.

A handful of Giants cards. I actually already have a 1979 OPC Halicki already but it’s an even worse miscut than this so I appreciate the upgrade. Marc also continued his streak of sending my my first copy of a card from every non-flagship set. In this case these are both my first 2022 Bowman and my first 2022 GQ.

The Bowman is a Bowman card and looks like every other Bowman card I’ve seen in the past decade. I swear Topps has an AI designing these because they’ve got too much going on to be this boringly generic.

GQ* meanwhile sure is something. The HDR tonemapping look has bothered me for a long time** but I appreciate that it went full steampunk this year. Not convinced about the 3D effect for the team punch card but having designs go over the top weird is much better than playing it safe all the time. A version of these with black borders, foil-stamped photo corners, and a sepia duotoned image would be something amazing.

*I’m honestly shocked that no one’s given Topps shit about using a racist slur in this product name.

**A shame since the photos are often better than Flagship’s.

Some random craziness. I love the Xavi card since at times he’s my favorite player of all time. It’s always nice to add a Stanford card as well. But the real story here are the customs. Marc made a great set of Houston Manager cards based on the 1960 Topps manager design. I’m jealous of his local print shop and the paper he’s able to use since these feel wonderful in hand especially when compared to the flimsy stuff I get from Magcloud.

The Shawn Chacon got to me just in time for the Thunder game last week and I’m very happy to have been able to contribute to his Astrograph project. Dave Trembley meanwhile is a coach with State College so these cards would’ve had to have gotten to me almost a month ago when they were in town. Hopefully he signs TTM there.

And finally. Marc sent me a couple 1990 Donruss factory set variations. I didn’t scan all of them but I did scan the two Stanford guys and combine them into gifs with their pack-pulled cards. The speckle changes are a little too subtle for me to really care about* but it’s nice to have a couple pairs and see how different the entire lockup can be.

*My line appears to be between this and the 1991 Donruss variants which are similarly subtle but feel more intentional than just being a background speckle pattern. 

One of the interesting things about 1990 Donruss is that the script names are not fonts and each card has different letterforms and a different angle to the text. Donruss clearly left things loose as can be seen on the Buechele text jumping all over the place.

This is a reminder about how this kind of thing was all done by hand back in the day and as much as the lack of consistency sort of drives me nuts I also enjoy seeing the printer’s hand in the final product.

Cool stuff Marc. Your Chacon should be arriving any day now.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

4 thoughts on “A big pile of photos”

  1. Ha, ha, love the description of the various ’89 Donruss looks. As for the actual “variations” in early ’90s products — I’ve come to loathe them and am really attempting to ignore them from here on out.

  2. That aerial shot of the Polo Grounds is very cool. If you update your 1989 list within the next week or two, shoot me an email. I was given a large collection that has some 89D in it. The plan was to take it to Goodwill and use it as a tax deduction, but I might be able to help you out before I do.

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