A new year and some new trade envelopes rolled in. Not as many as I was expecting to receive (some appear to be stuck in the eddies of the USPS backlog) but with my local Target completely dropping cards from its inventory it’s nice to get a card fix from somewhere.
The first mailing of the year was a PWE from Marc Brubaker containing almost a dozen cards. The oldest ones are three 1983 stickers which include a couple fun photos in the Milt May catcher action and Al Holland sporting a fantastic warm up jacket. As for the Matt Williams card, I have no idea what kind of release it’s from but it’s wonderfully odd.
The rest of the cards from Marc were newer ones including a bunch from retails issues that I refuse to purchase. Bowman Platinum remains a product I don’t understand. As does Topps Gallery. As always it’s nice to include a sample in the binder for variety’s sake though. I can’t imagine looking through pages of either of those but a couple here and there makes things interesting.
A week or so later I received a bubble mailer from Robby which contained a bunch of more-recent cards. I’ll start off with a half dozen inserts from the past couple years. These are again, the kind of thing I don’t chase but enjoy sliding in to the binder. I have mixed feelings about the design re-use but I much prefer seeing such things done in inserts rather than as complete sets.
The #1 Draft Pick Joey Bart is a particularly great use of an old design since Topps can’t do draft picks in flagship anymore. I’m be curious why Topps hasn’t done draft picks as inserts in other Topps sets though.
The rest of the mailer was a bunch of 2020 cards. A few Updates, two Diamond Kings which I didn’t have, a decent amount of Big League and Donruss which finished off my team sets. Highlights here are the orange Big League parallels and the Gold Star Flagship parallels.
I’m not a huge fan of colored parallels but the Big League oranges look great with the Giants cards. If we could dump the whole rainbow of variants and just have a single team-color parallel set then I’d probably like them.
The Gold Star parallels meanwhile are one of those things that dissuaded me from buying a factory set this year. I don’t want to pay marked up prices for a chance at a bunch of parallels I don’t desire. Getting a team set in the mail though is completely different. Since these are the kind of thing I actively avoid it means that they’re the kind of thing that I never have in my albums. I’m perfectly happy sliding them in as an example of what kind of things were going on in the hobby that year.
Picking up with my pre-war card posts with another set I got last year, the 1934 Wills Cigarettes Animalloys. This was one I got because it was just too much fun. The premise is that there are 16 animals with three cards per animal. You can put them together in complete animals or mix and match to create all kinds of interesting animals.
Besides being a fun concept, this set satisfied a bunch of my other interests. The printing is fantastic with pre-halftone stippling that results in ink screens which were designed to add texture to the image. The type is kind of a trainwreck when you put the cards together but there’s something about it which I love. Not a font but feels like one until you realize that each card is lettered individually.
And something about the animals themselves just reminds me another age. The art style reminds me of classic circus posters and the idea that many of these animals were exotic specimens from abroad. Yes it’s a bit weird for me to see a raccoon included but I can totally see how they would be exotic animals in Europe.
The opossum cards though deserve special mention. When I put the set together these three had me confused. Thankfully I had the set so I knew hat the other 15 animals made sense otherwise I would’ve thought that these didn’t in fact go together. Googling around brought me to the Australian Brushtail Possum so I’m guessing that Wills production staff was unaware that opossum was a different exotic animal from possum.
All in all a fun set to page through which looks quite a bit different than anything else in my binders. I’d love to see Topps do something like this with Allen & Ginter nowadays maybe even going with images that span five cards so they page even more nicely.
Yes it’s been a garbage year which feels like it stole a season of baseball from my kids and me. But it’s also been a surprisingly good one for me within the collecting hobby. I’ll start off with a round-up of some activity that’s been outside of my work at the SABR Baseball Cards Blog since I’ve been interviewed for a couple of articles this year.
The first interview was before the pandemic hit but got buried by COVID news for a few months. It did however finally post on Slate in November and is a fun piece about digital baseball cards and collectibles. Between the hobby going gangbusters and everyone increasingly living their lives online it’s been interesting to watch the digital side of things develop and see how many of the older members of the community react to the new-fangled stuff.
Along those lines I participated in a SABR discussion about the future of baseball cards where I occupied the skeptical but open-minded side of the spectrum. It’s very easy to get excited at all the possibilities in the digital side of things and there’s a ton of potential in augmented reality and other ways of combining cards with computers. At the same time, there’s the question of how technology ages and degrades to consider. One of the things that makes cards great is that ink on paper, while a pain to store, is not subject to the whims of any technological maintenance.
Getting to work within SABR. I assisted with the committee’s First Annual Jefferson Burdick Award, helped with the biographies, and produced the baseball card which commemorated the winner. I was honored to introduce the award at the Zoom presentation because we couldn’t do it at a convention.
I also helped produce and compile SABR’s 50 at 50 list of fifty cards for fifty years which tells the story of baseball and baseball cards over the first fifty years of SABR with one baseball card per year. That was a lot of fun to work on and I’m definitely proud of the result.
And finally I was lucky enough to actually meet some collectors before everything got shut down. It would’ve been nice to meet more but I’ve very glad I got to meet Mark Hoyle and Ralph Carhart before all hell broke loose.
Okay to collecting highlights. Not a lot of card acquisitions this year due to COMC shipping being broken, retail being a trashfire, and access to card shops being non-existent. As a result this year has been mainly prewar cards acquired through ebay or twitter.
The pre war category has everything but I’ve really enjoyed following my gut here. Where I have set rules to keep me on task for baseball cards, the pre war world is so all over the map that as long as I keep a high bar of what interests me and why, I find that I end up enjoying all of these because of how unique they are.
I did also grab some prewar baseball. It’s noteworthy that three of these are San Francisco Seals card and I’ve decided that doing a Pacific Coast League type collection of one Seals card per set is a project I’m going to attempt. It’ll be a backburner attempt but the degree I enjoy each and every Zeenut card is going to make it a lot of fun.
The one more-recent card purchase highlight was this Lewis Baltz card from Mike Mandel’s Baseball Photographers trading cards. I don’t have more to add to the post I already wrote but this definitely deserves to be in the wrap-up since it’s not every card that I’d call a white whale.
And with that we’ll move on to trades. A decent amount of both incoming and outgoing mail this year. Before I get to card highlights I have to note that trading this year finished off a bunch of sets I was working on. I finished my 1986 Topps, 1990 Fleer, 1990 Upper Deck, 1991 Donruss, 1991 Studio, and 2019 Stadium Club builds this year, leaving me a bit at odds with what to build (if anything) next. Two of my remaining builds almost done too (I only need two 1987 Topps cards and one 1994 Topps cards) so it’s really just 1989 Donruss and 2014 Topps that are on the list now.
As for individual trade highlights, I have to highlight three Willie Mays cards from threedifferentguys. All of these were unexpected and extremely welcome additions to the collection. Willie Mays was the one vintage card I wanted for Christmas when I was a kid and still I get the same thrill every time I add one now.
A few more highlights from trades. Lots of more-modern cards as well but those all kind of blur together (this doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them). These though are the kinds of weird and wonderful things that stand out. Diamond Matchbooks, National Chicle, Remar Bread, Jay Publishing, and that awesome MacGregor card are particularly fantastic.
Most of my activity this year though was via TTM request. Being homebound for almost ten months meant that going though my duplicates, making customs, and writing letters was a nice way to escape and relax.
I got a few Hall of Famers this year. Yes a lot of them are on 1986 Topps. I must’ve been building that set or something. It’s always especially fun to get one of these guys in the mail and it’s always something that my kids get excited seeing as well.
Much of my TTM activity though has been with customs and related projects. This year for example I scanned all the Giants Magazine covers from my youth and printed them out at 25% so they fit into 4-pocket pages. A large part of this is because I just enjoy seeing the covers but I also had an eye toward sending out some of the more-fun photoshoots for autographs. Getting the Don Robinson and Will’s World covers signed made the whole exercise especially worth it.
I did a lot of my usual customs too. A decent number of the 1956ish design. Many more of the 1978 design I’m using for Stanford players. I love getting these back and they look great all together. It’s hard to choose highlights here as well since they’re all so different.
I sent a bunch of Giants customs out during spring training and got many of them back despite the Covid-interrupted season. Many of the returns are from guys who don’t have regular Giants cards too so it’s especially nice to add them to the Giants album.
I’ve also been sending out cards with photos I like. These make for easy letters to write too. I figure that even someone who’s become somewhat jaded about being on cardboard must like to see that their card made an impression on someone and be reminded that they had a memorable photo.
And finally a few other favorite players/cards I got in the past year. It’s been super productive on the TTM front and a good reminder that while I’m hoping that next year is completely different in terms of how I enjoy the hobby, a lot of positive things have happened this past year.
Rather than focusing on all the plans that blew up I’m choosing to remember that 2020 brought a lot of good things. Outside the hobby I’ve had a ton of time to just hang out with the kids and spend time as a family without having a calendar full of activities. I hope there was a lot of silver in everyone else’s clouds too.
Catching up on a few more PWEs which accompanied holiday wishes. It’s getting to the point where I’m considering making hobby-oriented holiday cards to send out to people I’ve traded with over the past year.
The first card came from Mark Armour and contained a 1977 Willie Mays exhibit. This is a nice reprint of the 1947–1966 era exhibit photo and even feels like it has better tonality than a lot of the vintage exhibits do. The border is kind of goofy though and the less said about the apostrophe catastrophe in the bio text the better. Still this is the kind of thing I enjoy adding to the album and it’ll slide in right next to a bunch of Jeff’s bycatch.
Mark also included a custom card of himself. This is also something I’ve thought about doing but have never gotten around to. A lot of traders have their own custom cards that they toss in like business cards and I enjoy keeping those around.
A few days later I found an envelope from Tim in my mailbox. Nothing big, just an insert from 2020 Opening Day which doubled the number of 2020 Opening Day cards in my collection. This is one of those products that I buy for my kids and stay out of for myself.
This isn’t a critique of the product. If anything it’s a critique of how flagship has effectively pushed my kids away. Neither of my kids wanted a complete set of flagship this year for Christmas. They’ve both realized it’s not the set for them. Too expensive and not really any fun.
A pack of flagship costs like $5 now and that’s a lot of money to pay for a bunch or guys they’ve never heard of. Opening Day at least is mostly players they know. And yes Major League Baseball does a lousy job marketing guys, but Topps also creates checklists that are dominated by rookie cards instead of guys who are actually playing.
So they’ve gravitated toward Opening Day and Big League and I let them enjoy those products. As a result, I don’t get much Opening Day so if it comes in via trade I’m happy to slide it into the binder.
A PWE from Lanny brought me a single 2002 Kenny Lofton card. This might not look like much (though it’s one of Lofton’s few Giants cards) but it’s actually part of Topps’s trainwreck of a Traded set where someone at Topps decided that intentionally shortprinting the first 100 cards was a smart idea.
It was not. I have heard of way too many people who swore off all Traded/Update sets for years just because the 2002 set was so bad. The shortprinted cards meanwhile are impossible to find yet no one actually wants to spend serious money for them.
A perfect storm of awfulness which I would avoid completely except that I wanted the complete 2002 team set for World Series reasons. This Lofton completes the set and I no longer have to think about 2002 Topps Traded ever again.
I also got an envelope from Jason with a couple Giants first basemen. A couple retired numbers even. No it’s not just two 1991 Will Clark cards, these were the packaging surrounding the card Jason intended to send me.
The two Will Clarks were sandwiching this beauty which is not only a great example of the National Chicle Diamond Stars artwork with its solid blocks of color and industrial backgrounds* but represents the first Giants retired number from before the modern era of baseball cards to enter my collection.
One of my long-term collecting goals has been to try and get a card of each Giants retired number from their playing years. I have all the obvious ones who played during the years when Topps was the card of record. Irvin, Mays, Cepeda, McCovey, Marichal, Perry, Clark, and Bonds* all have multiple Topps cards as Giants to the point where I have multiple cards of all even players like Irvin who I never expected to own any cards of.
*Interesting to me to realize that all besides Bonds of those debuted in MLB with the Giants. And yes I’m going to be distinguishing between MLB and “major leagues” from now forward.
McGraw, Mathewson, Terry, Ott, and Hubbell though were always going to be tougher. Fewer cards in general, and the affordable ones are often super ugly in terms of design* or just through being well loved. The Diamond Stars cards of Terry, Ott, and Hubbell are some of the more-desirable options out there and I’m astounded at Jason’s generosity at sending me my first one form this set.
*/me waves at M. P & Company.
Thanks a lot guys. I hope you’ve enjoyed this holiday season and I hope next year brings better tidings all around.
A couple weeks ago I received a notification that Chris (Nachos Grande) was sending me a package. I was very confused. He’s been running a lot of cheap fun breaks but I’ve not signed up for any in a long time.* And I couldn’t think of why else he would be sending me cards.
*This is a reflection of my collection becoming large enough that it no longer makes sense for me to buy into a break for the off chance I get one card I don’t have.
When the package arrived it all made sense. Way back in July he ran an Allen & Ginter mini set bracket on his blog. I took part because the insert minis are really the only thing I actually like about Ginter. I was a bit disappointed that the winner was a baseball set but it was a fun way to learn about all the different mini sets Topps has created. I very much like the social studies and science based sets and how they remind me of how interesting card collecting used to be.
Chris had multiple contests set up to reward people who were voting and participating and I ended up on a list of prize winners. Since I wasn’t participating for the prizes (and given everything else that’s gone on in the world since July) I promptly forgot about expecting a mailing. It took him a while but my prizes arrived a week and a half ago.
The list of offerings was all kinds of stuff. Sets, relic cards, autographs, etc. When I submitted my list of what I preferred I think I prioritized the autographs. Despite being somewhat lower on the pick list it looks like other people wanted other items since I ended up with two of he autographed cards.
The Trevor May framed mini is pretty cool. I’ve never handled a Ginter framed mini card before. It’s an interesting object with the card floating loose in the middle of a cardboard frame and two plastic sheets on each side to create a nice little display. Much to my surprise the resulting object isn’t that thick and in fact fits just fine in a 9-pocket page.
I’ve been a bit curious about these since I wasn’t sure how they were manufactured nor how they handled. They’re definitely neat little cards and I very much like them over relics. I’m less impressed at the plastic feeling since it seems at odds with Ginter’s overall brand but there’s no other way to do this kind of thing.
Griffin Jax meanwhile is still in the Minors. He bounced between AA and AAA in 2019 and scored a non-roster invite to Spring Training last season. No call-up to the Majors but he remains on the bubble.
He’s more interesting though for what he’s going through to play baseball. As an Air Force Academy graduate, he’s been jerked around a bit by the military in terms of being allowed to pursue a baseball career instead of being active duty. It’s very interesting to note that he can’t be paid by the Twins and is still fulfilling his reservist duties while playing baseball.
Chris also tossed in a dozen or so Giants cards to “make up” for being so late with the package. Definitely not something he had to do especially since this was a free package anyway but I’m certainly not complaining.
A lot of these I have already so they’ll go on the duplicate pile that I’m using to create piles for my kids. My youngest for example will love the Metal Mark Gardner and the more 2013 Heritage World Series cards I can give them the happier they’ll be.
There are however a handful of new ones that I’m very happy to add to the album. The 1998 Upper Deck Darryl Hamilton doubles the number of Giants cards I have form that set. As does the Pacific Bill Mueller. The Jesse Foppert is new to me as well and reminds me of a name I’ve not even thought of in decades. He was such a prospect back in the day. The Upper Deck Goudey Noah Lowry is an interesting retro design. I don’t know if I hate it or love it but I like that it didn’t try to make the photo a fake painting. And the Pinnacle Buster Posey is a fun addition from Panini’s first year back in the hobby.
Very cool stuff Chris and thanks for both the cards and running the bracket/contest.
A recent post from Night Owl coupled with my Bill Bathe return in October has me thinking about the equivalent Giants team from my youth which I truly followed all the way through the postseason. Where Greg chose the 1977 Dodgers, for me it’s the 1989 Giants who represent my peak youth fandom.
No surprise that we are both eleven years old for these teams. There’s something magical about that age when you’re old enough to truly geek out out about sports while still being young enough that all the other distractions haven’t materialized yet. When you’re eleven you have an allowance—or at least birthday/holiday money—with nothing to spend it on except for what you want. It’s a great year to follow sports and collect cards.
This was also a magical year for me because of our Philadelphia trip. I didn’t just get to know the players as players, I learned how to recognize them in their civvies and got to meet most of them in person. This also gave me a massive head-start on putting to together a complete roster of signed cards.
For example, the starting lineup* are all guys I met in Philadelphia. The Roger Craig and Terry Kennedy cards are later acquisitions since they’re on my team ball but every other card is an in-person signature that I got when I was eleven. Of these nine, Kennedy is the only one who doesn’t count as a fan favorite.
Yes even though we booed Brett Butler once he went to the Dodgers, I think we all still prefer to remember him for the good years he had in San Francisco.
The pitching staff wasn’t as simple to assemble. Garrelts, Robinson, and Lefferts are from Philly while Reuschel, Hammaker, and Brantley are other in-person experiences.* There are also three notable pitchers missing. Kelly Downs and Mike LaCoss are the only two players on the postseason roster whose autographs I don’t have and Randy McCament is the only other pitcher who appeared in over twenty games
*I have an in-person Trevor Wilson too but I couldn’t not use that 1990 Upper Deck for this post.
Of these, Gossage is the only one who I forget was a Giant. The rest are all memorable even if they only played with the team a short while like Bedrosian.
Filling in the rest of the post-season roster. Gossage and Wilson weren’t on it despite appearing in a decent number of games that season so these last seven (a mix of in-person and TTM returns) take my total to 22 out of 24 players from the post-season roster (just missing Downs and LaCoss as stated earlier).
Of these seven are guys like Earnie Riles who was the third baseman for the first half of the season until Matt Williams became a star. Despite Williams’s emergence, Riles actually played more games at third. Sheridan and Nixon meanwhile both played a lot of games in the outfield, Manwaring was the backup catcher, and Oberkfell, Litton, and Bathe were among the standard pinch hitters.
The last eight cards here join Gossage and Wilson on the list of players who appeared with the Giants in 1989 but who didn’t go to the playoffs. A fun mix of players. Fan favorite veterans like Speier, Krukow, and Brenly whose careers I didn’t get to see but who I saw enough of to learn why the fans loved them. Prospects like Benjamin, Mulholland, and Cook who I remember for their potential. A veteran rental like Joe Price. And of course the incomparable Dave Dravecky who only played in two games but provided both the highlight and the lowlight of the season.
So this means I have 32 out of 45 players* who appeared for the Giants that season. Notable players I’m missing are Tracy Jones and Ed Jurak, both of whom appeared in at least 30 games. The other eight players played anywhere from two (Stu Tate and Russ Swan) to 17 (Mike Laga) games and include a couple names like Jim Steels and Jim Weaver who I not only don’t remember, I don’t even recognize them at all.
*The complete list of missing players: Mike LaCoss, Kelly Downs, Randy McCament, Tracy Jones, Ed Jurak, Mike Laga, Bob Knepper, Ernie Camacho, Jim Steels, Jim Weaver, Charlie Hayes, Stu Tate, and Russ Swan.
One of the reasons I’ve not been a completist about this is that a few of the down-roster guys don’t resonate for me and the point of a project like this is the memories that it does bring back. Settling on just the postseason roster plus whoever feels right is fine.
The feels right concept is why I’m happy to have all but one of the coaching staff from that year as well. Not sure why I knew who al the Giants coaches were but I did. Things were simpler then, just 5 coaches—hitting, pitching, bench, 1st base, 3rd base—and nothing like the current team* where I can’t keep anything straight.
*In addition to the bench, 1st base, and 3rd base coaches, there are two hitting coaches, a director of hitting, a pitching coach, an assistant pitching coach, a director of pitching, two bullpen coaches, and two other assistant coaches.
The only coach I’m missing is Norm Sherry. Also it’s a shame that Wendell Kim never had a proper baseball card. He’s on a couple Mother’s Cookies coach cards but aside from a few minor league issues he never got his own.
Will these ever get framed like Night Owl is doing? Not a chance. But one reason I like scanning everything is that I can mix and match sorting and put things into posts like this or just have a dedicated category for the 1989 autographs. I can throw something together digitally, see all the guys again, and remember that 1989 season when I was the age my eldest son is now. I hope he’s able to have a team next year which is as memorable to him as mine was to me.
Apparently he grabbed a huge lot of commons and ended up with tons of duplicates. No stars but enough for a team set of Giants minus Clark/Bonds/Williams and the All Stars. And yes I was interested. I actually had a handful of them already (including Matt Williams) but I’m a sucker for anything Spanish-language and it’s great to be close to a full team set.
Just showing the backs since the fronts are indistinguishable from base 1994. I also don’t have much to add over my SABR post so I’ll just reiterate that one reason why I love bilingual cards is how they remind me of how I learned Spanish via watching soccer on TV and listening to baseball on the radio. Sports vocab can be very different than school vocab.
Also, the Giants had a lot of guys whose last names started with B this year. Seven on this page makes eight including Bonds.
I appreciate the full-color backs and action photos on this design. I do not appreciate the way the card numbering moves card-to-card. Nor do I like it when said number is not located in the corner. That said, as a photographer, I’m glad that Topps has thought about what direction the player is looking and letting him look into the card.
Last page includes the Matt Williams card I already had as well as my Orlando Cependa Leyendas card. Looking at the Steve Scarsone card I noticed that Topps included a Rookie Card badge under the logo. I want to say that this is the first year Topps denoted regular base cards as being Rookie™ cards. I much prefer this method to using the RC badge on the card fronts.
John Racanelli (@phitter72) is a good Twitter follow and a fellow blogger over at SABR. He’s been making both a silly series of literals customs and a cool series inspired by 1949 Leaf. In the beginning of the month he sent out a request for suggestions for his Leaf set.
I suggested Hank Thompson with the Browns. Why? Because Hank Thompson is the only player who integrated two Major League baseball teams. While I have his 1950 Bowman rookie card with the Giants, there’s no card featuring him with the Browns.
John went ahead and made cards of most (if not all) the suggestions and then reached out to see if I wanted a copy of the Hank. Last week I got an envelope from John and inside found two Hank Thompson Leafish cards.
The Browns card is great. A nice photo and the whole package feels right. The Giants one suffers a little from the mixed white-point issue that frequently bedevils modern creations that are intended to look old.* But they’re both more than welcome in the binder.
*If the border is supposed to be old paper then nothing else on the card should be a brighter white than the border.
Dodgers April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson
Indians July 5, 1947 Larry Doby
Browns July 17, 1947 Hank Thompson
Giants July 8, 1949 Hank Thompson, Monte Irvin
Braves April 18, 1950 Sam Jethroe
White Sox May 1, 1951 Minnie Miñoso
Athletics Sept 13, 1953 Bob Trice
Cubs Sept 17, 1953 Ernie Banks
Pirates April 13, 1954 Curt Roberts (also Carlos Bernier)
Cardinals April 13, 1954 Tom Alston
Reds April 17, 1954 Nino Escalera, Chuck Harmon
Senators Sept 6, 1954 Carlos Paula
Yankees April 14, 1955 Elston Howard
Phillies April 22, 1957 John Kennedy
Tigers June 6, 1958 Ozzie Virgil
Red Sox July 21, 1959 Pumpsie Green
We’re each putting together our own rules for what kinds of cards we want. For my part I’m looking for cards that are as close as possible to when they integrated the team without requiring myself to break the bank. And the cards should feature the player with the team they integrated (ruling out the Ozzie Virgil Giants cards I already own).
The Hank Thompson Browns custom fills a hole because it’s one of the player/team combinations which isn’t available on cards. At least he has cards though. Nino Escalera and John Kennedy don’t even appear on cardboard.
Right now I have cards of Hank Thompson (1950 Bowman), Monte Irvin (1953 Topps), Minnie Miñoso (1954 Bowman), and Elston Howard (1967 Topps). The Elston Howard is a bit too old for my preferences in this project but until my COMC pile gets here it’s fine. My COMC pile though has another nine cards for this project.
1950 Bowman Sam Jethroe Braves
1954 Bowman Carlos Bernier Pirates
1954 Topps Bob Trice Athletics
1954 Topps Chuck Harmon Reds
1954 Topps Curt Roberts Pirates
1955 Topps Carlos Paula Senators
1959 Topps Ossie Virgil Tigers
1959 Topps Elston Howard Yankees
1961 Topps Pumpsie Green Red Sox
Most of these are pretty close to the players’ debuts. Howard is still a bit off but 1959 is still way closer than 1967. Aside from the players who don’t have cards this leaves me with a big four left. Three of those four are Hall of Famers. I don’t expect to ever get a Jackie Robinson card. Larry Doby has an affordable 1959 card but I’d like one from his original stint with the Indians. Those aren’t too bad but are worth waiting for one at the right price. Ernie Banks is similar to Doby. And Tom Alston’s 1955 Bowman is surprisingly expensive but unfortunately it’s his only card.
When my pile gets here I’ll scan everything and put them (aside from the Giants) into eight-pocket pages. So expect a follow up post on here about how the project is coming sometime next year once COMC gets its act together.
Pretty sure I’ve said this before one of the largest draws of pre-war cards is the actual craft that goes into the artwork and printing. They’re not all great but every once in a while I’ll see a set that takes my breath away.* Recently I became aware of the 1936 United Tobacco Sports and Pastimes of South Africa set and had a similar reaction.
Oftentimes I see such a set and when I check out the price, am able to quickly convince myself to walk away. Other times though these cards are pretty reasonable or I get lucky on ebay and find a lot that’s priced to move.
This case is the latter. As I understand things this set isn’t particularly easy to come by since it’s a South African release but I found a good partial set of 36 (out of 52) cards with domestic shipping even.
To the cards. I love the way that the artwork almost exclusively relies on solid inks in the design. The only screens show up in some of the dark browns and their use is restricted to fabrics that could very well be tweed. Everything else is solid and the resulting image just feels different than any of my other cards.
There’s a richness in having a print which is all ink and doesn’t rely on balancing the screens or even registering too tightly. The result reminds me of other 1930s work like the WPA posters and makes me want to get a silkscreen rig set up for custom cardmaking.
There’s also a richness in the amount of inks that are being used. I can’t fully tell how many are involved since I can’t quite wrap my head around how some of them interact but there’s got to be at least six. What’s awesome though is that not all colors are present on all cards. Some, like the fishing card, are super colorful while others, like wrestling, are completely missing a couple colors.
The backs are nowhere near as lush as the fronts but they manage to fit a decent amount of information in considering they’re bilingual English/Afrikaans. I also appreciate the variety of approaches. The golf card lists a series of champions and almost makes me think it depicts Lawson Little.* Rugby contains South Africa’s cumulative record against England, Australia, and New Zealand. River fishing is about how the rivers have been stocked with trout. And wrestling provides a snapshot of the current athletes in the sport.
*Not conclusive enough for me to move it to my Stanford album though.
The cards are also a mix of horizontal and vertical orientations with the horizontal cards being particularly beautiful. The Horse racing card is amazing in its sketchy detail and the way the crowd is rendered. The swimming card somehow manages to create water texture and movement without a lot of fine detail. The automobile racing has awesome speedlines which are a combination of black ink and paper left inkless. And the hurdler looks to be leaping out of the card.
I’m amazed at how different and distinct each card here is while they still manage to be graphically consistent with each other. Also it really weirds me out to see horse racing on a clockwise track.
I don’t have much more to comment on the backs except to note that I was caught by the reference to Robben island on the swimming card and how it captures the beginning of when swimming to the island became a thing and how that it’s now an event which marks the end of Apartheid.
A few more cards of note. The baseball card is neat in that it shows the worldwide spread of the game. I also like comparing it to the more dynamic batsman pose on the cricket card. I really dig the framing of the long jump card where the athlete is just hanging in the air. Cross country meanwhile is like the fishing and automobile racing cards in terms of being set in much more colorful landscapes. The red and white stripes are also a great look for the artwork.
Two comments on the backs here. first off, it appears that the cross country card features Paavo Nurmi. Second, the long jump card mentions “Jesse Owens, a young American negro.” As beautiful as these cards are, I can’t help but see them as being part of a deeply racist culture that was in the process of adopting measures which would officially become Apartheid in a dozen years.
It’s not lost on me that all the athletes depicted on the cards are white* and, from what I can tell, Jesse Owens is the only one mentioned on the backs whose race is included. I also have to point out here that these cards clearly pre-date the 1936 Berlin Olympics since none of them mention the results of those games.
*The Garbatys, while coming from Nazi Germany, are a pretty international group though I’m not sure they feature any Black or Jewish actresses.
Definitely a fun set and I could’ve scanned all 36. I feel no desire to complete things and am perfectly content with four pages worth to enjoy. It also takes me to having trading cards from eight different countries (USA, Canada, Japan, UK, Germany, France, South Africa, and Australia) which is pretty cool too.
One of the things that’s starting to happen over on Card Twitter is that guys will celebrate a player’s birthday* by showing off a page or two worth of his cards of not his complete Topps run. This is always cool to see but also frequently serves to remind me how my focus on Giants has left me with a collection that has basically none of the memorable players from the 60s and 70s.
*or as has been happening a depressing amount of the time recently, his passing.
Last week I made a comment about this regarding Dick Allen and Matthew Castelhano (@Mattypabst) immediately suggested that this needed to be rectified. Matthew is another collector who spends a lot of his time with pre-war cards of all sorts and we’ve compared notes and been bad influences on each other in terms of pointing out cool sets that are worth lusting after. He’s also a member of the group of us which are passively collecting cards of every player who broke a team’s colorline.
A couple days ago the envelope showed up and inside was this 1976 Topps Dick Allen card. Allen is in the last years of his career here and has returned to the Phillies after three years of being an All Star in Chicago. I’d still like to get a card of him from the 1960s but it’s great to have one card of a player who’s on the shortlist of players who are the larges absences from the Hall of Fame.
Matthew packed the Allen with three other cards including a couple more which also represent firsts in my binder. I have Yastrzemskis from 1978 and 1983 but none from his true peak years. This 1968 Topps Game card doesn’t get more peak as it comes after his MVP season. Winning the Triple Crown and MVP in 1967 put Yaz on the same level as Mantle and Aaron in this game, only trailing Clemente, Killebrew, Frank Robinson, and Mays.
Boog Powell is another star who I have no cards of. This 1970 comes from his MVP season and features a very 1970 photo taken a Yankee stadium with the random players in the background. It’s always nice to see the frieze though. I was also unaware that Boog’s full name is actually John Wesley Powell. That’s quite a dude to be named after.
Matthew apologized for the condition of the Yaz and Boog cards but they’re as good, if not better than the kind of cards I buy.
The last card in the envelope was a 2019 Heritage Candy Lid of Buster Posey. I love getting cards like this in the mail since while I would never buy them. I do very much enjoy putting them in the binder.
The same day Matthew’s envelope came I also received one from Tim Jenkins. The big item inside was a postcard of Steve Whitaker. I think Tim’s printing these himself and a lot of us have been getting them. I got a Whitake postcard because he played 16 games for the Giants in 1970 (he also got a 1970 Topps card)
Also in the envelope were a pair of cards including my first vintage Bob Gibson—another player I had mentioned online about not having any vintage of. This isn’t a 1960s card from when he was dominating everyone but it’s a very nice looking card with the blue border contrasting nicely with the red jacket while both the jersey design and jacket design are visible. There’s an added bonus here in that an under-construction Candlestick is visible in the background.
The 1974 checklist meanwhile is in really good shape. I have this already but I’m pretty sure mine is marked and beat up since I refuse to spend more money for an unmarked checklist.
Very cool guys and thanks for helping me get a more representative binder.