Liebig 1925 Le Piu Belle Piazze d’Italia

It took a while after getting my first Liebig set but I finally picked up some more earlier this year. The oldest one I grabbed was from 1925 and features “the most beautiful piazzas in Italy.” The artwork is great with vibrant chromolithography that works perfectly with the scenery but the main reason I got the set was because half of it depicted places that I’d visited in my first trip to Europe twenty years ago.

I’ve only been to Europe a couple times but my first trip was to Italy. While we flew into Rome our tour group immediately got on a bus to Assisi. Which mean that my first real experience was making the walk to San Francesco and seeing that piazza for the first time.

assisi-sanfrancesco.jpg

Replace the monks with tourists and you have pretty much exactly what I saw. I really like the night scene with the stars and the way the stippling adds texture to the roof. There’s also a lot more wear and tear visible on the buildings. When I visited, the rebuilding after the 1997 earthquake was just about complete and everything looked so brand-spanking new that the whole town felt a bit Disneyfied.

I also visited Florence and Venice on that trip. No photos that match these views but the images are still great reminders. As with the Assisi photo I love the skies and the way the stippling provides texture on the buildings. It looks like stone on the Palazzo Vecchio and simulates the design on the Palazzo Ducale.

There’s also something wonderful about chromolithography in the way small bits of color remain incredibly vibrant. This is most evident in the San Marco detailing but you can see it in other parts of the cards as well.

I don’t want to say that being in these old Italian cities is like being in a time machine but it’s impossible to not be aware of the history of the place and how it’s been depicted in various media over the centuries. Seeing them on 100-year-old cards and how they’re very much the same (aside from being less crowded) is a bit of the same phenomena.

The other three cards in the set are Rome, Milan, and Trento. I would have loved if there were a Siena card but alas. I don’t have much to add about these aside to say that the flowers on the Spanish Steps are fantastic and I can’t not think of Richard Scarry* whenever I see them in an image. Also the skies continue to be fantastic as does the stippling detail and texturing.

*Yes and Roman Holiday.

The Trento card however does deserve a few notes. This set is dated to 1925 which puts it right at the border of Mussolini going full fascist and declaring himself Duce. I can’t help but note the basic Italian tricolor without any additional flags or markings which makes the card almost dateless instead of being clearly fascist. At the same time, that piazza is no now named the Piazza del Duomo rather than after Victor Emmanuel III and I wouldn’t surprise me if that changed happened in the post-WW2 years.

The backs are blurbs about the squares. Some, like Assisi’s are pretty brief. Others are a lot more involved.

San Francesco in Assisi celebrates the life of Saint Francis, was designed in 1218, and features gothic architecture influenced by Germany due to German architects helping after construction difficulties.

In Florence, the Piazza della Signoria is formed by the Palazzo Vecchio (built in 1298), its 95-meter bell tower “La Vacca,” and the Loggia dei Lanzi (with Andrea Orcagna given credit for the design). The card also mentions Cellini’s Perseus and Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes as being in the Loggia a well as copy of Michelangelo’s David in the square. I need to point out that Judith and Holofernes was in the Loggia from 1506 to 1919 when it was moved to the front of the Palazzo Vecchio which makes either the card or the dating of the set incorrect.

The Venice card lists seven of the buildings that make up the piazza and then handwaves the rest. This takes up most of the card back but it also mentions that the Venetian republic was very prosperous at the time of construction. It also specifically addresses how the campanile collapsed in 1902 and was subsequently rebuilt in 1912.

Rome is clearly the first card of the set since much of the back introduces the set theme and how an Italian piazza can stand in for the entire city in representing the region, the way the buildings form the square, and reminding us of historical moments. It doesn’t say a lot about the Piazza de Spagna aside from noting the steps, Trinità dei Monti, and Bernini’s fountain.

The Milan card is interesting because it claims that a statue of Oldrado da Tresseno was the first equestrian statue of the Middle Ages but said statue has since vanished and been replaced with a well. Replacing a statue with a well seems weird to me plus I can’t find anything online that suggests that such a statue existed. There is a statue/relief of Tresseno on horseback on the Palazzo della Ragione, which the card describes as “the most glorious building in Milan” (l’edificio più glorioso del Comune di Milano) due to its place as the center of official communication. The card also mentions that the colonnade of that palace has interesting acoustics, ostensibly to encourage the discovery of conspiracies. Finally it mentions the Loggia degli Osii (oddly spelled as OSII).

Finally, to Trento and what’s now known as the Piazza del Duomo. According to the card this was known as the Piazza Grande before it was named after Victor Emmanuel III. The fountain of Neptune gets special mention due to Trento’s Roman name being Tridentum and Neptune’s trident therefore being the symbol of the town’s name. The Cathedral and its construction from the 10th to 16th centuries is also mentioned (but not the Palazzo Pretorio whose bell tower features so prominently on the card) as is Santa Maria Maggiore which, despite not being pictured at all, gets a call-out as the location of the Council of Trent.*

*All of a sudden why the Tridentine Mass is named what it is makes sense to me.

Is funny. In typical pre-war fashion, the cards which most attracted to me to the set ended up being the ones that I was least interested in once I read the backs. I had zero interest in the Trento card until I really looked at it but in some ways it’s the most interesting of the set.

¡Por Fin!

A quick roundup of a few mailings that I haven’t posted about yet but which I did not receive while I was on vacation. The first one came from Mike Sommer before I left. Mike blogs over at Wax Pack Hero and is one of the few guys who are big into the selling side of the hobby who I can stand.

There are a lot of guys on Twitter who sell cards and claim to be collectors but who are really just flippers looking to make a quick buck without offering anything of value themselves. Mike though specializes in the long tail and is willing to put the work in to turn large lots of cards into organized 18¢ singles on his Sportlots.

While I’d love to dig through big unsorted boxes of cards like he does, I’d much rather pay him 18¢ a card just for the cards I want rather than spending 100 times as much and having to deal with sorting and storing everything.

Anyway a couple months ago he was sorting through some 1984 Fleer and tweeted that he’d come across the legendary Glenn Hubbard card. I responded that I still hadn’t purchased one  for my collection and he just offered to send this one to me. Which means that at least one gaping hole in my 1980s and 1990s iconic card photos* is now filled.

*Still need Jay Johnstone, Billy Ripken, Bo Jackson, Gary Pettis, and Mike Perez.

This is such a weird card in how it’s both a common and not. No one wants to spend a ton of money on a Glenn Hubbard card just because it has a silly photo. At the same time, everyone wants one of these and holds on to them. They‘re frequently not available on any of the card purchasing sites which is an astounding thing to say about any card from the junk wax era.

Thanks Mike! I’m super happy to finally have this one in the photography binder.

On the topic of photography, a couple weeks ago Shlabotnik Report saw me mention my appreciation for the goofiness on 1976 SSPC and promptly filled up a PWE to send me a few. Only three SSPCs but they definitely fit the bill—especially the Jim Colborn card.

He managed to fit a dozen cards into the PWE though and managed to hit with most of them. Lots of Willie Mays inserts which I didn’t have. A shiny Kris Bryant insert.* A fun Joe Panik card from San José Giants. And of course a SPAM card** for the Python collection.

*Interesting to see Panini trying to keep Donruss Elite a thing still. As if the hobby would go bananas about a /10,000 “limited edition” card nowadays.

**Oh lord is it dangerous to know that SPAM cards exist. One of these days someone out there is going to send a whole mailer of SPAM cards. Also I should definitely consider converting a 1980s/90s food oddball to be a SPAM oddball for a se of Hawaiian-born players. 

Awesome stuff, thanks Joe Shlabotnik!

Gartmann’s Chocolade

I’ve mentioned @prewarcards’s Twitter sales and how they’ve cost me money before. Sometimes I buy from him* but more often he just puts things on my radar that I’ve never seen before and want more of than just one card. Sometimes these are content-based desires but the usual thing is for me to see artwork that makes my jaw drop.**

*Calcio Storico, Zeenuts, Carl Hubbell, Italian soccer

**I’d link more but I forget all of them.

The latest sets in this category are chocolate cards from Germany made by the Gartmann’s Chocolade company. As with Stollwerck, Gartmann appears to still be in business. They even have a fun section of their website devoted to their trading cards. Unfortunately though I haven’t been able to locate a website that details the various sets and albums.

While the ebay listing just says “early 1900s” the first set I got is actually listed in TCDB with a release date of 1907. Described as “Mood Pictures,” I thought they depicted various climates from around the world. I got them because I liked how they looked—in particular the card which seems like it depicts Monument Valley—and how they were more dramatically colored than most of the landscapes I see on prewar cards.

Turns out I was a bit mistaken since the six cards are evocatively named “in the desert,” foothills, cliffs, “grail castle,” evening, and barrow while the text on the backs is even moodier and darker than the fronts.

The backs feature verse which describes each scene. It’s interesting to me that the same rhyming schemes differ card-to-card but I was surprised at how dark the actual verses were and how often death is mentioned.

“In the Desert” talks about camping out in with Bedouins, moonlight on the Nile mountains, sands drifting past bleached skeletons, the occasional vulture’s screech, and a ghost caravan (Geisterkarawane) of spirits who previously perished on the route.

Foothills describes almost a dance between a mountain (male) and a cloud (female) as the mountain tries to catch a cloud as it passes in order to drink of its water after a day of baking in the sun.

Cliffs are as dark and moody on the back as it is on the front. Miserable pines. No joyful springtimes. Just rocks covered in moss which dulls all sounds.

What I thought was monument valley is in fact “Grail Castle” instead of being rock formations is a literal castle by the sea in late sunset red light with a moon in the sky, fog all around, and a soundscape mixing festivities from the castle with the sound of wind and waves. I don’t quite understand the last stanza but it looks like it gets kind of dark in a way that suggests the writer is dead.

Evening is about the winds blowing leaves off the trees, forests getting ready for winter, and the way a denuded willow tree reminds the author of a dead friend they’ll never see again.

Barrow—which I’m really not seeing on the card front, maybe Hünengrab means something else too?—is the weirdest verse of the bunch since it’s only concerned with a portentous sky that threatens rain before the sun breaks through.

The second batch is from Album 16 instead of Album 7 so I’m assuming it’s a (relatively) more-recent issue. That it uses the logo that Gartmann still uses today is another important sign here. I got these because mainly because the set includes a printing card and I may just be collecting those.

Anyway the whole set is is about artists and the six featured cards are a painter, silhouette cutter, wood carver, lithographer, engraver, and sculptor.

The text on the backs is not verse this time and, except for one card, offers a short history of the art form. The painter is the exception and instead of history is a vignette about the generic painter depicted on the card front. He has a fourth floor attic studio with high ceilings and clear natural light from North-facing windows. Sketches and pictures cover the walls while the smell of paint and turpentine fills the air. And he’s all dressed to go out but has one last adjustment to make to the painting.

Everything else describes the art form but I appreciate the silhouette cutter description the most because it’s not a craft I’m especially familiar with beyond its existence. I don’t see silhouettes in museums unless they’re of famous people and it occurs to me that it’s the outlier of the six arts in this set because it’s never become a “fine” art.

According to the card silhouettes appeared in 1757 and are named after the French Finance Minister at the time, Étienne de Silhouette, as a bit of snark about how cheap they were. Aside from specifically mentioning its popularity in Rococo and Biedermeier periods the card is very clear that silhouettes are now unfashionable, consigned to fairs and similar large markets. This is consistent with how it remains the kind of thing you can find in Disneyland’s Main Street but really no where else.

Woodcarving mentions how carving is universal but its German heyday occurred in churches from the Middle Ages. It also suggests that wood carving was recently regaining popularity along with other arts and crafts—which I’m assuming is referencing Art Nouveau/Jugendstil.

Lithography is about how the art was invented by Alois Senefelder in 1796 and really tries to explain how it works. The card mentions transferring drawings to porous slate*, etching the stone with acid, and making impressions on paper but misses the key element of how it’s an oil and water resist method. It does however flag how color printing has become popular and how printing in color requires multiple plates.

*note, it’s actually limestone.

Unfortunately though both of these Gartmann sets are not printed via chromolithography and are merely basic halftone screens.

The Engraver covers how it’s a German invention from the early 15th century with the earliest dated Copper plate being 1446. It names Martin Schongauer and Albrecht Dürer as the most important representatives. And it mentions the multiple ways (line, dot, stipple, etc.) that the drawing can be executed.

Finally,  the sculptor card, like the woodcarving one, references the long human history of sculpture as reaching back to the Stone Age. According to this card the pinnacle of sculpture was ancient Greece and Rome (yeah no mention of the Italian Renaissance and guys like Bernini) and while it mentions there are still excellent sculptors around no example is given.

And that’s about it. Two fun sets from a new-to-me manufacturer.

So some of you may have noticed all the ſ characters…

One thing I expressly have to point out. While these cards all use Roman/Antiqua lettering, the artist cards also use the long-s (ſ) This is something that most typefaces/languages had dropped at least a century earlier and persisted mainly just in Fraktur typefaces in Germanic states.* The German Wikipedia page about the long-s ties its usage in Antiqua with the rise of the “ß” character** and how for much of the 19th century “ſs” and “ſz” were used until the spellings were standardized and, starting in 1904, the “ß” became normal in typefaces. It took a decade for “ſ” to be expressly ruled out in the 1915 Duden.

*I mentioned some of this ages ago when I got my first Sanella card and got into the Antiqua-Fraktur dispute.

**Which has its own interesting story

As a type nerd seeing “ſ” in the wild in non-intentionally-archaic 20th century printing is kind of special. Hard to read but definitely not something I’ve come across before. Some of the cards feature both “ſſ” and “ß” in their typesetting which only confirms the transitional nature of the type.

Vacation PWEs

While I was on vacation, in addition to the sixteen TTM returns I was also pleasantly surprised to find a handful of PWE trade packages waiting for me as well. Always nice when it’s not just bills and junk mail waiting.

The first package is from Greg/Night Owl and includes a page’s worth of fun. I missed out on his giveaway* and apparently these are the only remaining 1985 Fleers he had to get rid of. I’ll gladly take them though and remind myself to put a need list together.**

*Relying on an RSS reader means I miss out on any timed contests.

**Though I also don’t have enough cards to feel like a needlist is necessary yet. Who puts a set needlist up with over 600 cards?

The two 2009 O Pee Chee black borders are great. The more I look at the last 25 years of baseball cards the more sets like this one stand out for being distinct in both feeling like a traditional set while also not directly copying an old design. It would’ve been nice to see what Upper Deck did with this brand had Topps not grabbed an exclusive license in 2010.

Not much to say about the rest of the cards though I do appreciate the 2022 2021 Big League Crawford since I’m not hitting that set hard at all. Also I’m super curious how Greg, as a Dodgers fan who doesn’t go for all the fancy shmancy new stuff, ended up with a 2019 Montgomery Club Giants team card.

A PWE from Jeff Katz almost works as a TTM return. Years ago I was playing around with photoshop and throwing together some Ginter-like cards. Jeff was one of the first I ran through the Ginterizer since his moment wearing the Mayor Quimby sash for the Simpsons day was brilliant. Yeah I couldn’t get all of “Mayor” to fit without making Jeff look like Kingpin.

When Marc printed these all up he sent them to everyone. I got my copies but when Jeff got his I asked for a signed one. He signed small so it would fit on the paper. I’m curious how a silver sharpie would’ve worked instead but not everyone has those lying around.

Another PWE had two packs of John Racanelli’s Literal Cards. This has been an ongoing thing on Twitter where John posts often awful but also often hilarious tweaks on existing cards. I never expected him to actually produce these but I’m glad he did.

There’s something about making them real cards that takes the joke to the next level. My kids also enjoyed them—especially Les Rohr and Willie Mays—which surprised me a little because they always groan when I make these kinds of jokes.

And finally a mini-zapping from Kenny who came into a nice lot of Card Gens and generously decided to spread the wealth. These are always welcome in part because it gives me an excuse to link to Kenny’s You Tube video again but because the actual use of these cards is so far outside how we’ve thought of using cards in the US.

The few Card Gens I have have all come from Kenny and to-date, have been from the 2010 set. This is the first 2012 I have and the fact that it’s a Giant is even cooler. I still hold out hope that I’ll run into the 2012 Sam Fuld on of these days since it’s the only card he got that year.

Very cool guys and thanks for livening up my post-vacation mail pile.

1926 Player’s Cigarettes Straight Line Caricatures

This post is about a set of cards I got way back in the beginning of March and totally forgot to blog about. Sometimes I’ve put a post off because it’s a lot of work. This time I actually thought I’d already scanned and written about the set and wasted way too much time driving myself crazy by searching my blog for the post.

Anyway, Player’s Cigarettes Straight Line Caricatures set from 1926 is one I had been eyeballing for a long time. A lot of the caricatures sets are either too cartoony or feature no one on the checklist who I recognize but this one has striking art and a decent checklist of prominent men in the British Isles.*

*“British Isles” used purposely as I’ll mention later. As is “men” since no women made it into the checklist. There is however one non-white guy as The Aga Khan is included.

I’m not scanning all the cards and instead am just grabbing a nice gallery of recognizable names to give a flavor of the set. Charlie Chaplin is probably the most exciting card due to his fame and how excellent his iconic look works with the art style.  But it’s fun to see authors like J.M. Barrie and Rudyard Kipling as well.

Churchhill and Marconi are obviously big names. In 1926 Churchill has yet to become famous for what most of us know him for while Marconi is 30 years past demonstrating his wireless telegraph and has gone full fascist.

Jack Hobbs is one of the few sportsmen in the set and is probably the best choice for this time period in British sport. I don’t know much about Cricket but certain names have made their way into my consciousness and Hobbs is one of them.

Like Marconi, Douglas Fairbanks is one of the few subjects who isn’t from the British Isles. But in 1926 he was on of the biggest movie stars around.

Finally the G.B. Shaw card is why I say “British Isles” since 1926 places this set after Irish independence and there are a decent number of cards that feature Irish statesmen or artists and even mention the settlement of the “Irish question.” Shaw is another card with artwork that I really enjoy but he’s also written some of my favorite plays.

The backs are generally positive descriptions of the subjects which omit a ton of specific highlights from their careers. No mention of Chaplin having just released The Gold Rush* in 1925 or Fairbanks and The Sheik in 1924. Shaw winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 isn’t mentioned nor are the titles of any of his plays. None of Kipling’s books are named though I do love the last line of the card about how “the British Empire is his world and Imperialism his religion.” The only work which is named is Peter Pan on Barrie’s card and that’s used in a way that assumes that you’ll understand the reference.

*Not at all surprised at no mention of the Lita Grey scandal.

This trend is consistent with the other cards as well. Zero description of Hobbs’s performances in any specific matches or setting the record for first class 100s. Lots about Churchill’s personality but, aside from a vague reference to him as a turncoat which could be referring to either or both times he switched parties, nothing about his politics.

Marconi is one of the few who has a specific achievement mentioned and dated. This makes me wonder if he was perhaps less well known at the time and the cardmakers thought that they had to name him as the inventor of the wireless telegraph in order to justify his placement in the set.

One of the most interesting things about this set though is how it captures a moment in time right before everything was about to change. Talkies were about to take over Hollywood and while Chaplin has his greatest movies ahead of him, Fairbanks career was about to basically end. In Europe, fascism and the rise of the Nazis were on the horizon and Marconi would go a very different direction here compared to Kipling and Churchill.

Some Random Pickups

A short post of a few pickups that came in before I left for vacation. These are all cards I never expected to get since they’ve been generally out of my league pricewise but one day my phone lit up with multiple Twitter DMs linking to the same ebay auctions for these at actually-reasonable prices.

Y’all are bad influences. But let’s go through these in order from oldest to newest.

Starting off we’ve got a 1958 HiRes Rootbeer card of Darryl Spencer. I have mixed feelings on this design. I don’t really like it on a personal level. At the same time it’s so weird and goofy that it’s the perfect oddball card. I also love this particular image since the khothole gang design works way better with action photos than portraits and the outfield advertisements add a ton of visual interest.

This design is also especially noteworthy as being one of Bowman’s three 1956 prototypes. One reason I don’t like it is that it’s way too visually similar to 1955 Bowman’s wood-paneled TVs. But I can totally see it being the starting design for 1962 Topps’s peeling posters on wood design (and by extension 1987’s wood panel homage to 1962).

I always wanted one of these, never thought I’d get one, so having one in the binder now makes me super happy.

Next is a 1966 Topps Rub Off of Jim Hart.* Unlike the Hires cards these never really appealed to me. Besides the reversed image they’re also pretty flimsy and blurry. At the right price though I can obviously be convinced to get a sample.

*Which confuses me a little because so many of the letters in his name are symmetric and I can’t not read this as Trah Mil. 

It is indeed fun to get to know all the different things Topps tried in the 1960s and I’ve only scratched the surface with the Rub Off and this 1968 sticker of Mike McCormick. I’ve no stamps, decals, stand ups, or god knows what else but these are definitely fun to add to the binder even though I never search for them.

I think the McCormick sticker was peeled off and stuck to something at some point since it feels like the kiss-cut outline of a real sticker instead of a janky handcut. Plus the back could totally be no-longer-sticky adhesive. This set is more fun than the Rub Offs with it’s brighter colors and heavy black outlines and while I don’t feel it for these small stickers I absolutely feel he appeal for the full-size ones. Those however are definitely out of my price range.

Thanks goes to everyone who let me know about these. You troublemakers know who you are and my collection is definitely better and more interesting as a result.

Admiral Moffett

I’ve been away for about a month now* finally spending time in the Bay Area again for the first time in three years. Before I left though I did scan a bunch of stuff to write about if I felt like writing on my vacation. For the most part I haven’t felt the urge but this one card seems appropriate.

*Observant readers (optimistically using the plural here I know) may have noticed that posts have dried up a little.

The 1934 National Chicle Skybirds set is one I’ve admired for a long time. The artwork is great and early aviation is kind of wonderful to read about. At the same time the set itself is a tough one to work and I’m incapable of buying singles just to have singles. I need a hook of some sort.

In this case, with no Stanford guys in the set, I found my hook in the Admiral William Moffett card. Moffett is an interesting guy, not a pilot or flyer himself but the leader of the development of US Naval Aviation in the post-WW1 period. For my purposes though he’s both the namesake of Moffett Field and the proponent of the project that resulted in Hangar One.

I grew up under the Moffett flight path. I got to hear and watch P3-Orions* most days and see the Blue Angels roar overhead for a week each summer. It was just normal to see and hear planes at very low altitudes turning overhead in their approach to the base.

*I wish there were a P3 card in the Power for Peace set.

Getting a card of the man who is credited of the creation of the base is the perfect hook, especially since it was named after him after his death. Those are very much key childhood memories (even though I’ve never actually been on the base) and I should probably grab an old postcard to go with the Sky Birds card.

It goes beyond just the base though. Moffett’s involvement in dirigibles represents something that continues to fascinate me. I knew better than to exalt in the blatant pro-war nature of stuff like the Blue Angels and having a large Naval Air Station nearby as a potential target during the Cold War was a little unnerving. Lighter than air aviation though is a complete alternate history which represents a path not taken in both aviation and combat.

When I was a kid the Goodyear Blimp was a novelty that showed up at sporting events for aerial shots and advertising. The idea of those being actual functional aircraft that people used to travel is the kind of thing which ignites my imagination.

I remember looking at old books about the Macon (and Akron) and reading about how they were used. Hanger One is an unforgettable sight from the freeway yet I can’t even fathom how big it actually is. I can’t help thinking about how different air travel could’ve been had things broken differently and I love seeing movies where this kind of thing is explored.

In some ways it makes perfect sense that I now live down the road from Lakehurst. While it doesn’t make sense to visit Moffett until Hanger One is restored I should look into scheduling a visit to Lakehurst and seeing its Hangar One as the East coast equivalent.

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.

Playland at the Beach

So the problem with getting into matchbooks is that Ebay starts recommending them. Normally I can resist this kind of thing since my interests are way more narrow than the algorithm can handle. But there are exceptions, oh yes there are exceptions. And while I can’t explain them I absolutely know them when I see them.

For example. How could I pass this up? Playland is one of those legendary San Francisco establishments which was before my time but left such a mark on the area that I grew up hearing everyone’s stories. I think it only survives now via the Musée Mécanique,* the Cliff House, and the ruins of Sutro Baths.

*Which somehow I’ve never been to but my parents have taken my kids.

It’s a very San Francisco thing and part of my mind can’t wrap itself around the concept that a massive amusement park existed right there at the end of the Great Highway. The other part of my mind can absolutely see it since that part of the city now is* kind of empty in that way where you can feel that something used to be there.

*Or was last time I was there.

Anyway, aside from Playland being legendary and evocative, the actual design of this match book is beautiful. A fantastic graphic with so many details that I notice something new every time I look. The hint of nighttime stars. The silver border framing everything. The seller didn’t list a date but this is screaming late-1930s to 1940s to me with a bit of that streamline moderne feel in the type.

To date the matchbook I have to look on the inside. A few clues. Mentioning the Cliff House places this as post-1937 since Whitney only acquired it that year.  Similarly, no Sutro Baths means that it’s pre-1952.

There’s also the line about four streetcar lines to downtown. By 1950 there was only one line. 1948 is three. 1944 though has four. Which narrows things down to a window from 1937–1947 which is good enough for me and confirms my sense of the design as well.

When I was researching the matchbook I was starting to become amazed that I couldn’t find any postcards of Playland at the Beach. I eventually realized that searching for “Cliff House” might be interesting and it turns out that there are a decent number of postcards showing Playland from the Cliff House. So I grabbed the cheapest one.

This is a linen postcard which dates it to 1930–1945, in other words, around the same era as with the matchbook. And I can see that the matchbook graphic does indeed match the view of Playland from the beach. Yes it looks like the Great Highway basically turns into a parking lot. This does indeed seem to be exactly what happened.

More importantly for me, this really helps solidify in my mental map exactly where Playland used to be and how it fit into the city.

The back is mostly uninteresting though I can’t help noting that even though it was produced in San Francisco the text uses Coney Island as a reference point. It’s also worth pointing out the Fleishhacker Playground reference. This was another legendary San Francisco institution although one which I don’t remember any stories of (though the name sticks in my head). Unlike Playland though I know exactly where this was since I went to the zoo a lot as a kid and it remains one of my kids’ favorite refuges from the summer heat when we visit.

Mailday from Bru

Found a nice PWE from Marc in my mailbox last week. School is over and summer has officially begun so it’s nice to start it off with some cards in the mail.

This isn’t the usual fare but as we’ve all stopped ripping new cards and sort of filled in the obvious collection items, I think we’re all casting about for other stuff to send each other. In this case, Marc has come into a good-sized lot of 1979 Topps cards and remembered that I had’t put together my Candlestick page for that set.

Being an Astros collector means that Marc has a decent number of cards feature The Stick in the background. These seven 1979s definitely complete my page and the 1980 Andujar doubles the 1980 Candlestick cards I own. Og these I like how the Lemongello shows off the black hole in center and how Cabell captures the left field bleachers and scoreboard.

All seven didn’t make my 1979 page but four of them definitely did. Once I get more than nine cards I try and spread things out to get different views and I definitely like how that page looks now.

The early-1980s needs work but I’ve not yet gone looking for cards here. It’s nice to have a complete page though even if it spans 1980–1985.

Marc also included two 1979 cards form the Jean-Michel Basquiat checklist. I enjoy the connection to the “real” art world and it’s a fun mini-PC to put together. Rather than digging through the comments of my SABR post I’ll list the checklist here.

  • Joe: Steve Henderson
  • Jerk: Bob Randall
  • Hot Dog: Steve Kemp
  • Wally: John Matlack
  • Bus Pass: Ed Glynn

These are the first two I own from that theme (I had a Steve Henderson but sent it out TTM a couple years ago and it never returned)

And yes even though we’re not ripping product Marc apparently is still. A handful of Donruss cards is very much appreciated, especially the Camilo Doval card since for whatever reason Topps isn’t featuring him. I’m not keen on this design but a least it’s very Donruss™ without being derivative.

Oh and the Diamond Kings card looks like a Diamond Kings card. I’m assuming it’s this year but I can never tell.

For a while I was considering only buying Donruss cards this year since boycotting MLB-licensed stuff is about the only way I can make a statement as a fan. But then I don’t buy anything anyway so it doesn’t really matter.

A couple Match Attax Barça cards. No idea where these are sold or if anyone plays the game but they’re a fun add to the non-baseball sports album. Ansu Fati in particular is on the cusp of becoming something great and I hop he realizes his potential. That #10 shirt is really heavy and, while I think they gave it to him too soon, the fact he wears it now says a ton about how he’s perceived in the team.

And lastly a Safe Hit Texas Vegetables crate label. Marc got a big batch of these and has been selling/distributing them. Not the kind of thing I actively collect but with Marc being in Texas I totally understand why he jumped on this.* It’s a cool image with a local angle and even the concept of “Texas Vegetables” evokes a weird combination of the Texas Leaguer with a Can of Corn.

*I’d be much more tempted if I came across a Best Strike Apple label since Watsonville is borderline Bay Area. But even then I try really hard to to get sucked into too many different collecting interests. 

I also had the weirdest reaction to this piece as a physical object in that my gut felt that it was fake but there’s jut enough going on that I can’t trust that gut reaction plus I don’t know a thing about how labels like these were typically printed. The thing is that my gut wants the text to be nice and crisp and it’s not. No crisp edges anywhere. The blacks and reds are screen mixes. All of these things are frequently tells that something has been photographed and reprinted.

But if the entire label including the text was painted as a single piece, this is exactly how it would look. Especially if printed slightly out out register the way this one is. Plus the small vertical “INC” in the bottom right corner is printed as linework which suggests it was added in after the original artwork was photographed for press. And there’s no sign of being rescreened anywhere on here.

Also, the paper, while slicker than I expected, is only slick on one side. Definitely doesn’t feel like paper you’d get today and is probably way cheaper than what you’d get from Vintagraph.*

*Worth noting that this version of the label has been restored and I suspect has had all the type re-set as linework so it prints crisply. 

Very cool stuff Marc. I was half expecting a Shawn Chacon custom for Trenton but it’s great to fill out more Candlestick pages.