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.

Matchbooks

While I’ve been unable to find cards anywhere locally, Ebay is doing this thing where good deals on weird shit keep popping up. Previously it was Zeenuts and Venezuelans. This time it’s Diamond Matchbooks.

Diamond Matchbooks came out in the mid-1930s and are pretty cool. They feature a player* on one side and text about him on the other and, when printed well, can look pretty nice.  I’ve featured a pair of them earlier but this time I’m getting them with intent.

*Not just players, I’ve seen non-sport versions featuring cities, etc. too.

Aside from being neat little items, the matchbooks are affordable ways to collect vintage* cards of a player. Ernie Caddel has only one “real” football card and, as a beautiful National Chicle with that dreaded Rookie status attached to it, it runs in the hundreds of dollars. This 1938 matchbook, while not as nice, runs a couple orders of magnitude less and serves as a great addition to the Stanford album. It’s also nice that the text mentions Stanford plus the silver printing is pretty cool.

*I frequently use “vintage” to mean “playing-days.”

Caddel is an especially nice addition to the album because he actually went to Stanford on a baseball scholarship as a pitcher and only started playing football once he was on campus. I can find articles about him in the Stanfrod Daily archives but unfortunately can’t find any statistics for his time as a player.

I also don’t have a lot of Stanford pre-war so it’s always great to add another. I think I’m up to six cards now.

I also found a great small lot of baseball matchbooks. I wouldn’t have gotten this just except that Carl Hubbell was one of the included cards.

The whole group is fun though and it’s very nice to have an assortment of colors. The Hubbell and English cards are from  the 1935–36 “set” which makes this my oldest Hubbell card.* I love the back write-up which discusses both his 1933 and 1935 seasons as well as the fact that this essentially dates the card to releasing when Hubbell was at the height of his powers and in the midst of wining the National League MVP award.

*By a year over the Dixie lid.

English meanwhile only references 1935 on the back so it’s possibly from an earlier-printed group of these. It’s hard to call these a set of cards since they weren’t really cards. There was clearly a matchbook collecting ecosystem going on at the time though but I have no idea if there was a “collect them all” mentality or if it was just a living set of ephemera being printed on an otherwise disposable object.

I do like the amount of uniform detailing visible in English’s photo with the piped placket and wishbone C around the bear cub. The Jordan book also has a decent amount of uniform information in the photo albeit of a Braves uniform and not the Bees.* Kind of fun to have a card dating from the the five years they were the Bees but a shame that the photo still depicts the Braves.

*The fact that this lists the team name on both sides means it’s a 1937 release using a pre-1936 photo.

And that’s the latest Diamond Matchbooks news. I have six of them now including three Giants and one Stanford. They’re currently in Cardsavers and 4-pocket sheets but I can totally see switching to 6-pocket sheets if I come across more.

Around the World

So I just got my first Venezuelan cards. I’ve avoided them for years because they tend to be way too expensive, poorly-printed, and really beat up. Plus most of them don’t offer anything substantially new (let alone  better) to the standard US Topps cards.

Only the 1962s with their Spanish-language backs (also 1967 though those have the non-licensed feel to them as well) have called my name as an extension to my barajitas series of posts on SABR.

But a couple weeks ago a deal on eBay that was too good to pass up came by and so I picked up my first three Venezuelans. Was waiting for a while for them to come in but they arrived over Easter weekend.

I figured that while getting team sets of Venezuelans was neither cost nor time effective, starting a type collection made a certain amount of sense. So I have one each from 1962, 1964, and 1966. There are also sets from 1959, 1960, 1967, and 1968 but I’m in no rush.

Holding these in hand is sort of the opposite feeling I had when I encountered O Pee Chee cards in the 1980s. Where the 1980s OPCs were bright white card stock instead of the brown Topps stock the Venezuelans are duller and greyer than the bright white Topps stock.

“Sort of” because while this sounds underwhelming it’s actually not. The paper just doesn’t match what I’m expecting any printed material form the 1960s to look like. It feels either decades older or like it should be fragile newsprint and adds something evocative to the photos because it feels like they’re in danger of slipping away. As much as the Cepeda is the highlight of the three I think the Jim Ray Hart card is my favorite looking with the way the photograph still glows.

Back to the Cepeda. While it’s mighty beat up* the back is completely readable. One of the reasons I’ve avoided Venezuelans is that since my interest is the Spanish-language backs and so many Venezuelans have paper loss three. Cepeda has glue marks and is a bit off-register but I can totally read the Spanish.

*Recalling my suggestion years ago that card conditions should be like the Mohs hardness scale. If Zeenuts exemplify 1. Venezuelans would be 2s.

Despite all the extra empty space, the text is basically the same only (and surprisingly for Spanish) much less wordy. Stats are still using the English abbreviations but a careful reader will pick up the translations for rookie (novato), home run (jonrón), and RBIs (carreras impulsadas). Interestingly, outfield is left untranslated instead of becoming jardinero.

1964 and 1966 are essentially unchanged from the US releases. The only difference is the inks used. To my eyes it almost looks like they made the decision to print them using process inks—1964 going from spot orange to process black and 1966 from a spot pink to process magenta.

As with the Cepeda, no paper loss is very nice here and I can totally put up with the glue spots. Venezuelans are supposed to look used and well-loved and these certainly fit the bill.

All in all very cool. Plus this addition takes the number of countries I have cards from to nine (and the number of continents to six). In addition to Venezuela I have cards from the USA, Canada, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Germany, France, and the UK.  I figured it would be fun to end this post with a call back to the oldest card I have from each of those countries.

USA

My oldest US card (and card in general) is this 1887 Allen and Ginter card of Hawaii.

Germany

A set of 1899 Stollwerck cards would be my oldest German cards.

UK

I’ve a ton of pre-war UK releases but my oldest are these 1901 Ogdens.

France

Not sure if Liebigs were released in France or just published in French but for a 1906 set I’m treating it as being a French set.

South Africa

A gorgeous set United Tobacco made in 1936.

Canada

Only showing the back since the front is identical to Topps. But it’s never a bad thing to show off 1971 O Pee Chee’s backs. I have a decent amount of OPC from 1977 to 1992 as it functions a bit as a Traded set for my Giants team sets but not much more.

I might pick up more 1978s as part of my 1978 build. And I’m now considering doing a type collection for other years for the Giants album since I’ve opened that door with the Venezuelans.

Japan

While I have a 1960s playing card of Sadaharu Oh, my oldest proper trading card are some 1975 Calbees. I do however have a 1949 menko headed my way so that’ll be fun.

Australia

Modern, well 1996, cards for the Australian League.

Sort of surprising to me that I have no cards from Spain since finding Barcelona soccer cards is something I totally would do. I’ve definitely had my eye on a few Xocolata Amatller cards before. I’m sure there are Panini stickers from Italy that would catch my eye as well. Plus some of the Dutch Gum cards. I’d also love to find cards from Mexico or elsewhere in Latinamerica but as always, I’d have to be caught by the cards not just the country of origin.

Addendum/edit April 26

Italy

So SanJoseFuji commented and reminded me about Panini Stickers. Unlike the other cards on here, these are intended for worldwide release and have back text in English, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and Turkish. They are however manufactured in Italy so I’ll count them here. I don’t have many of these but I do have a couple Spain ones from 2010 when they won their first World Cup.

And this takes me to a nice round 10 countries worth of cards. Two North America (USA and Canada), one South America (Venezuela), four Europe (UK, France, Germany, Italy), one Africa (South Africa), one Asia (Japan), and Australia.

Addendum/Edit May 16

A pair of updates for my oldest cards.

I realized last weekend that my oldest Canadian card is actually this 1962 Jim Davenport Post Canadian card. Post already does a great job at packing everything you want on a card on just one side. That they manage to do this in two languages is even more impressive.

And I’ll add an image of the 1949 Menko to update the Japan selection since I mentioned it was in transit in my original post.

Zeenut haul

I’ve been slow-rolling my San Francisco Seals type collection but it received a decent shot in the arm last week. Marc Brubaker is a bit of an enabler and sent me a link to an ebay seller with a bunch of Zeenuts available for super cheap. I bid on a few auctions and won without any competition. The seller them accepted my offer on the remaining Seals cards which went unsold.*

*I didn’t want to risk getting into multiple bidding wars so bid on only the ones I wanted most.

A good deal all around for a half-dozen Zeenuts. Then things shipped out and arrived even faster than I expected. The resulting haul added two years, 1924 and 1926, to the collection as well as a few other samples which show off uniform details and whatnot.

Starting off with four 1924 Zeenuts. The Guy Williams is the one I wanted most since it’s both in great shape for a Zeenut and is a fantastic image with his expression, pose, and the view of the stadium behind him.

The other three are nice to add since they feature the other Seals jersey design. As far as players go, Knobby Paynter and Charles Schorr are like Guy Williams in terms of being flagged on Baseball Reference with a question mark. Joe Kelly though actually played five seasons in Major League baseball.

Fun to look at the 1924 Seals roster and see Paul Waner listed. That team went 108–93 and finished 3rd in the PCL.

The 1926 was the other one I really wanted. It’s the most Zeenut condition of the batch but still looks great. I guess that’s an outfield fence behind Marty Griffin but it’s a much different background than the rest of the cards here. Griffin meanwhile also played in MLB albeit only one season.

The 1926 Seals team has a bunch of names I recognize on it—Earl Averill, Dolph Camilli, Lloyd Waner, among others—but finished way short of their  1925 season (which is documented as one of the best minor league seasons of all time) as they finished up with a 84–116 record and went through three different managers.

The 1928 Zeenut is an upgrade to the one I got from Anson and features the fantastically-named Buckshot May. May is sort of the ultimate cup of coffee guy whose Major League career consists of one solitary inning finishing up the May 9, 1924 Pittsburg-Boston game.

1928 though was a great year for the Seals with an absolutely stacked lineup. The Seals won their 7th PCL title with a 120–71 record that year.

These six cards take my vintage Seals collection to twelve cards, eleven of which are Zeenuts. Those eleven Zeenuts cover seven (1916, 1917, 1924, 1926, 1928, 1930, and 1931) of Zeenut’s 28 years of sets from 1911 to 1938. In other words I have 25% of the Zeenut type collection now. Which is very fun and I really like seeing them all together.

I’ll end this with a gallery of all my Zeenuts. Yes they all kind of look the same but they’re pretty unique compared to the other card releases out there. As a West Coast baseball fan they are especially fun to have in the album and are way more affordable than Obaks and 1949 Bowmans.

1938 Wills Cigarettes Speed

One of the first pre-war sets I got was the 1938 Churchman’s Kings of Speed. It’s a fun set which captures a moment in time as it relates to how fast humans can travel. While much of the Churchman’s set involves athletes, there are also a decent number of drivers and pilots as well. Meanwhile there’s a great companion set, also from 1938, which has the exact same theme but features the planes, trains, and automobiles instead of the men who drove them.

This set is from Will’s cigarettes and is just named “Speed.” It’s got a lot of great artwork and is catnip for anyone who likes the look of 1930s industrial design as applied to transportation.* I like the way the vehicles are depicted in their environments and especially like the wide-angle view that shows up in the Mormon Meteor and Super Chief cards.

*Sadly no 20th Century Limited or Coast Daylight card though.

With a lot of the cards there’s not just the sense that the subject is moving fast, it’s also incredibly powerful to the point that it threatens to burst out of the card frame. There are a bunch of great-looking images (though I’m partial to the trains) but I only chose eight which show the breadth of the set coverage.

As an American the Santa Fe card is particularly great because it’s also one of the entry-level Bachmann Trains sets. A lot of the vehicles in the set look pretty dated but the Santa Fe engine is one I’ve been familiar with my entire life.

The backs tend to be very technical in how they include both under-the-hood information as well as streamlining details. I don’t have much to comment on besides to note that the Amtrak still operates the Chief and Zephyr lines. The Chief is much the same (though is 40+ hours instead of ~39) while the Zephyr now extends past Denver to California.

Definitely a fun set to have in the binder right after the Carreras Famous Airmen and Airwomen and I’m glad I picked it up at the end of last year.

Stollwerck Chocolates

I’ve been seeing Stollwerck Chocolates cards around Twitter for a while now. They’re kind of like Liebig in that they consist of all kinds of 6-card sets. Unlike Liebig though the Stollwerck sets are predominantly 1897–1916 and tend to be wonderfully Jugendstil designed with beautiful artwork and fantastic letterforms.*

*They’re also smaller sized than Liebig. At 48×93mm they’re almost business card sized. A little too long to fit in 9-pocket pages but they fit fine in 8-pockets and would fit perfectly in 10-pockets. Unfortunately, by being 6-card sets they look best with all six cards on one sheet.

They’re hard to date but thankfully they list which album they’re part of and I was able to use the Stollwerck albums page to get an approximate date. The sports cards are often nice but with subject mater from all over I decided to bide my time and jump on a bunch of cheap sets which just struck my fancy.

I ended up with four sets and they’re all so beautiful that I scanned everything. This post will list them in chronological order by album.

Album 3, 1899

The first set is dedicated to the arts and features cards for baukunst (architecture), sculpture, malerei (painting), music, schauspielkunst (acting), and poetry. The scans don’t do them justice since these are actually printed in gold ink and still shine 123 years later.

I love everything about these. The lettering (which retain a hint of neoclassical sensibilities). The flowers. The fine details in the artwork in the circle and how the art being depicted is almost an afterthough to the composition yet remains an important part of the image.

The printing is super nice too. Besides the solid gold ink, these aren’t halftones but are instead a regular stipple pattern.

Flipping the over shows the tag a the bottom which indicates which album they go in. The way each card has different letterforms for the Stollwerck branding is amazing. Where there’s a certain painterly sensibility to the fronts, the backs are super-precise.

I started to translate these but they’re actually poems about each ancient art. Since the rhythm and rhymes are more interesting than the content, translating such a thing is way beyond my abilities.

It’s also worth noting here that all the text on all of these is  solidly on the Roman/Antiqua side of the Antiqua-Fraktur dispute. I’m not sure what exactly to make of this especially given the extremely-German content of  two of the sets in this post.

Album 4, 1900

I have two sets from 1900’s album number four. The first is one of the very German sets in that it consists of Grimm’s Fairytales. These, like the Fraktur black lettering, were often part of a movement to create a national German identity. Cards of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Seven Swabians, Hansel & Gretel, and Snow White would presumably be instantly recognizable to German consumers.

While I bought these because I also know the fairytales, I was also just taken by the artwork (which also often features gold detailing which flattened during scanning). The drawings are great but the lettering and framing—especially on the first three cards—is what’s amazing. Sleeping Beauty with the thorns/plants literally covering the image and using flowers for the header is superb but the Cinderella card with the trees framing the image and the gold text on top of the foliage is even better. The way the text creates ST, OL, LW, and CK ligatures is just tremendous. It shows up better in the Frog Prince scan but in-hand the gold just shines.

I have to confess that I was unfamiliar with the Seven Swabians story. It’s kind of weird but anything that results in an image of seven men facing down a guardian beast with its nasty, big, pointy teeth* can’t be all bad. Also, including a Hansel & Gretel card as part of a candy promotion is nearly metacard-worthy.

*You’re darn right I’m considering this part of the Python PC

These backs aren’t as exciting as the 1899 backs and they continue with poems so I’m still not translating. It is however interesting to note story details which are different from the (heavily-Disney-influenced) versions I grew up with as well as just which moment from each story is depicted and described.

In Sleeping Beauty there’s a reference to flinging the magic spindle (zauberspindel) far away. The card is also only about her being rescued from the hedge of thorns (dornenhecken) and waking up, not about everything that led up to her curse.

Cinderella’s card is similarly about just the end of the story when she’s rescued by the prince and becomes a queen. The poem in this case is about the moral of the story and unpredictable nature of destiny with zero mention of the actual events in the tale.

The Frog Prince card pretty much tells the whole story with the frog retrieving the golden ball from the well, being thrown against the wall by the princess, and then turning into a prince. No kisses on this card, just violence.

The Seven Swabians card tells about their encounter with the “dragon,” how they were all scared, and only at the end does it reveal that it was in fact a rabbit. Having read the rest of that story I think the rabbit episode is clearly the best one to choose.

Hansel & Gretel tells about encountering the delicious gingerbread house while starving and then being turned upon by the witch. It’s explicit in saying that Hansel is terrified and Gretel is the one who turns on the witch and shoves her into the coals. Is interesting here that the card depicts encountering the house and none of the struggle inside since every other card depicts the scene that’s described on the back.

Snow White’s card is about how the dwarves (or in this case perhaps gnomes since the German is gnomenmännchen) are taking care of her in the glass coffin until the prince finally appears. The last stanza though is about the mirror on the wall (spieglein an der wand) and wishing that the evil queen’s heart will burst.

The other set from this album consists of 66% of the Muses. So we’ve got Polyhymnia (sacred poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Euterpe (flutes and music), Clio (history), Terpsichore (dance), and Thalia (comedy and pastoral poetry). And we’re missing Calliope (epic poetry), Erato (love poetry and lyric poetry), and Urania (astronomy). Sort of a shame since Urania would likely have made a great card.

These are very similar design-wise to the arts cards from 1899 although the letterforms have gotten much more fanciful as they nest vowels into adjacent consonants. The artwork also manages to suggest a lot with a bare minimum of space. You can barely see Euterpe’s flute but it’s there. And Terpsichore is clearly dancing even though all you can see is her head.

More poetry on the backs and a little more interesting design in the Stollwerck branding. I don’t have anything to comment on the poems though so instead I’ll use this space to talk about the information that Stollwerck says about itself. Like how it has factories in Cologne, Berlin, Bratislava (then Pressburg), and New York. And how it has branches in Berlin, Leipzig, Wrocław (then Breslau), Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Bremen, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, London, New York, and Chicago.

Another card has what I’m guessing is a list of prices for bar chocolate. The prices start at ℳ1.20 and increase to ℳ5 for a half kilo. Another two cards have cocoa powder listed at ℳ2.40 for a half kilo, ℳ1.25 for a quarter kilo, and ℳ0.65 for an eighth kilo. Yes I know that typically the ℳ comes after the number but I’m mimicking how it’s used on the cards.

To put these prices in perspective wasn’t easy. Since these are listed in German Gold Marks it’s hard to do any direct currency/inflation conversions because all the online calculators stop in 1948 when Deustche Marks were introduced. However, since Marks were on the gold standard* we can do a rough metal-based conversion to US Dollars. Five Marks are ~2.0g of gold at .900 fineness. Five dollars (using the 1900 Half Eagle coin for reference) are ~8.4g of gold, also at .900 fineness. Which means that I feel comfortable saying that ℳ1=$0.24. Dumping this into the US inflation calculator which says that $1 in 1900 equates to $33.68 in 2021 gives us rough conversion of ℳ1 in 1900 equalling $8.08 in 2021.

*Side comment. It’s also interesting to me that despite German unification being carried out via the Prussian army conquering everyone, after the the German Empire was established in 1871 they switched from using the silver-backed Prussian Thaler to creating a new gold-backed currency, the German Mark.

Looping back, this gives approximate modern prices of Stollwerck’s chocolate bars as starting at $9.70 and increasing to $40.40 for a half kilo while cocoa powder is $5.25 for an eighth kilo and $19.40 for a half kilo. Or for Americans who can’t handle metric, $36.70 per pound for bar chocolate and $17.60 per pound for powder.*

*I’m perfectly willing to hear why I did all this wrong but wanted to try doing something to put the prices in perspective.

Finally, one card mentions “Eichel-Cacao” which Google kicks out as acorn chocolate and, after digging through some book hits appears to be a chocolate powder made by removing fatty content and mixing in foasted acorns and some sugar. The Dr Michaelis branding along with the google books hit being a medical journal suggests that this was for medicinal purposes only.

Album 10, 1908

The last set I got is from 1908. A first I though it was a Nibelungenlied set but it turns out that this isn’t quite right. The first four cards all feature characters from that epic though with Siegfried (and Fafnir), Hegan (killing Siegfried), Brunhild (sleeping behind flames), and Kriemhild (mourning Siegfried). I say “not quite right” because Brunhild’s card depicts something that’s part of the Völsunga saga but not the Nibelungenlied.

The last two cards though are completely different sagas. One of Kudrun* and the other, Frithiof. I was unfamiliar with either of those stories before I got this set.

*Listed as Gudrun which really confused me at first because Kriemhild is also frequently called Gudrun.

I really like the paintings in this even though by this time it’s clear that Stollwerck had been templating their designs a bit to all use the same wordmark-next-to-image look. These cards are also printed using traditional halftones and the paper stock is both brighter and better-coated. Still very cool but not nearly as spectacular as the other sets.

The backs give a nice summary of the stories. Siegfried tells about him as a youth, being sent to battle a dragon (it does not name the dragon),  and how after his battle he noticed that its blood created a “callus” on his finger which prompted him to bathe in the blood, leaving him invulnerable except for where a linden leaf had fallen on his back and giving him the nickname “Der Hürnene” (the horn-skinned).

Hagen’s card is not only about how Hagen treacherously spears Siegfried in his vulnerable spot while Siegfried’s back was turned and he was having a drink, but also includes that he did it on behalf of Brunhild and why she was so upset. It doesn’t go too much into the story of Siegfried deceiving and subduing Brunhild on behalf of Gunther but it mentions enough to explain why she’s both angry and ashamed.

Brunhild’s card, instead of being more about her deception, explicitly tells her story according to “the Norse version of the Nibelungenlied” (ie. the Völsunga saga). It explains how she was one of the valkyries who was charged with transporting fallen heroes from the battlefield to Valhalla until she crossed Odin. Odin took her divinity, sunk her into a deep sleep, and surrounded her with a ring of fire that could only be breached by a true hero. That hero was Siegfried who crossed the fire, woke Brunhild, and led her out.

It’s also worth noting on Brunhild’s card that Stollwerck is now offering mocha at prices of 10, 25, and 50 pfennig (100 pfennig per Mark). No idea what the sizes are here to even guess at how much mocha you get for that price but those prices are all much much cheaper than the prices from eight years earlier (using the previous calculations, 50 pfennig in 1908 is ~$3.75 in today’s money).

Kriemhild’s card tells about how she had premonitions about Siegfried’s death and asked “the treacherous” Hagen to watch over him—going so far as to mark the spot on his back where Siegfried was vulnerable. It continues by describing the scene when she discovered Siegfried’s body after it had been retrieved from the forrest and how she mourned over it for three days and three nights.

Kudrun is a fun one. Always nice to learn about something new and as the Wikipedia article says, it’s an interesting story to compare with the Nibelungenlied with the way the women have more agency and choose reconciliation over retribution. This card in particular contains the outline of Kudrun’s story, her becoming engaged to Herwic, her abduction by Hartmout, her 13 years as a captive because she refused to marry Hartmout and instead was forced to wash clothes by the sea as a maid. The image on the front depicts an episode on the beach where a beautifully colored bird brings her news that Herwic is near and that she would soon be freed.

Frithiof is another new one to me. Compared to Kudrun and the Nibelungenlied it’s much much shorter plotwise—to the point where most of the plot actually fits on the back of the card. How Frithiof, a bond’s son, and Princess Ingeborg grew up together but were forcibly separated after the king’s death. Frithiof sent away while Ingeborg was married to Old King Ring. Frithiof returned and fought with Ingeborg’s brothers, burned Baldr’s temple, became a famous viking, and returned to marry Ingeborg after Ring’s death. The image on the card front depicts the young Frithiof and Ingeborg as he returns from a hunt and she crowns him with flowers.

And that’s that. Only took ~2000 words to get through two dozen cards. But that’s what’s fun about pre war stuff. In many ways every card can be a blogpost.

Stollwerck still exists today* but unfortunately no longer has the same Jugendstil esthetic. A shame since this kind of visual legacy would be awesome to be able to lean on nowadays. It doesn’t appear that they make cards anymore either which is kind of a shame.

*They also have some history in New Jersey with a factory in Camden that supplied chocolate to Tastykake and Whitmans.

As beautiful and affordable as these cards are though I’m not really looking for more. Very very happy to have these four sets and I love them in the binder. But I’ve said similar things in the past and gone back on my word. With sets like this where the subject matter can be literally anything I have no clue what’s out there and what might strike my fancy.

I also couldn’t help myself and whipped up these customs to fill the last two slots in one of my 8-pocket pages. Once I saw the Nibelungenlied/Volsungs cards I had no choice but to kill the wabbit. Yes I know that the Seven Swabians card is literally about hunting wabbits but the simplicity of the 1908 design lends itself perfectly to customs.

First Hubbell!

Anson at Pre-war Cards runs a regular sale where he offloads duplicates and things from his collection. I don’t participate much—things are either way out of my price range or they get claimed almost immediately.* His most recent sale was no exception here but a couple items that were highly relevant to my interests were neither snapped up in the first minute nor obscenely expensive.

*Previous purchases include a couple soccer cards as well as a couple Zee-nuts.

Highlight of the batch was this 1937 Dixie Lid of Carl Hubbell. It’s obviously creased and there’s also a backing cardboard attached which was either intended to stabilize the crease or is just a remnant of how it was displayed decades ago. A little sad to not be able to see the Dixie branding and know what kind of ice cream this was from but as someone who’s been wanting a vintage Hubbell for a long time to add to my retired numbers project, all of those issues meant I could actually afford this.

I’m being optimistic and calling this my first Hubbell card. I’m also being optimistic about this being my first Dixie Lid. The 1930s ones are very cool alternatives to the trading cards of that decade and the 1950s ones have left/right pairs that turn into stereo views.

This 1935 Eckstein-Halpaus cigarette card featuring Herbert Hoover and his two sons is part of a set called “The Post-war Period”—making this an explicitly post-war pre-war card. Not quite a “playing-days” card of Hoover but probably as close as I would expect to get for my collection.

The text is not the usual fare you expect to see on any trading card and is best rendered as a dump from Google Translate.

December 1928: Hoover becomes President of the USA

While the first surging signs of the unhealthy global economic situation have already become visible in Germany, the United States is still experiencing an artificially-induced economic boost. On 11/7/28, Hoover is elected the new President; under him, on 10/28/29, the great collapse of the American economy began.

That this is from a 1935 set puts a lot of things into context. The Weimar Republic collapsed in 1933 after a massive depression precipitated in part by the US stock market crash. Hitler took over as Chancellor and became dictator in 1934. Googling around suggests that this set explicitly covers (I suspect it actually celebrates) the rise of the Third Reich and contains some cards that will make my existing worst cards seem benign.

Anson, as is his wont, included a couple bonus cards in the envelope. This one, from the 1926 Player’s Cigarettes Gilbert and Sullivan set, threatens to outshine the two cards I bought. It’s not just a Gilbert and Sullivan card, it’s the very model of a modern Major General card.

One of the things I love about pre-war cards is how varied the topics are. I’m not sure you could find a set for every item listed in his song but looking through all the available sets it certainly feels as if it should be possible.  Having a card of him is kind of the perfect encapsulation of what makes pre-war collecting so much fun.

This is an oversize version of sets that appear to be much more common in regular tobacco card sizes. I kind of love many of the cards in those sets but oof are the Mikado cards rough to look at.

A card of the Luft Hansa Heinkel HE 70 from the 1936 Player’s Cigarettes International Air Liners set is a fun addition as well. I’m more of a trains guy but the early aviation stuff tends to make for very nice cards too. I’m glad that this one’s livery features what looks like a Dutch flag rather than a Nazi one. Though I’m not sure why that flag is painted on the tail since it’s doesn’t match the Luft Hansa livery from that time.

Last of the bonus cards actually ties in with my first pre-war purchase a handful of years ago where I lamented how none of the Kings from Richard II to Henry VII were available. Edward IV is probably the least notable Shakespearean monarch but his coronation does end the Henry VI cycle.

Thanks Anson. Very cool stuff which I’m very happy to slide into the album.

A surprise from Pre War Cards

Last fall I finally started watching Cowboy Bebop. As much as I like anime and animation Bebop had never really appealed to me. Space ships and guns weren’t my thing and it seemed like one of those shows which was designed to appeal to the worst kind of anime fanboys. But with the live action remake providing a handy excuse, enough people whose taste I respect were able to convince me to give the show a shot.

I’m very glad I did. For whatever reason no one had properly explained the brilliance of the music and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed savoring my way through the series. No I’m not done yet. I can only watch late at night after the kids have gone to bed and as a result I’m not able to get through episodes very quickly.

Anyway, as is my wont, once I have a good template set up I’m incapable of letting it sit around unused. So I went to my Carreras Famous Airmen template and created three more cards to go with the four Miyazaki cards I had previously created.

At first these were just for fun and I had no real desire to print them. Then Pre War Cards started tweeting about ripping boxes of Cowboy Bebop collectible card game packs. So I piggybacked the cards on to my most recent Magcloud order* and cut them out.

*Not currently impressed with Magcloud’s support since they screwed up two of my items and it’s approaching two weeks now without getting to the correct support desk. 

They look like a lot of fun in my album but I went ahead and sent Anson copies for his albums too. A week or so later he sent me a nice thank you package.

First off. 6 duplicates from his Bebop collectible card game. We’ve got cards featuring the five members of the Bebop crew plus one which depicts the first episode of the show. Looking at the cards I have no idea how the game is intended to be played. And truth be told, the idea of making a game based on Bebop seems incredibly stupid unless the point is that at the end of each game you haven’t accomplished any of your planned objectives.

It’s cool to have a sample though, especially since these don’t seem to circulate too much. Every time Anson tweets about them it seems that other Bebop fans jump in with “WTF are those!” excitement.

That of course wasn’t the only stuff in the envelope. There were also these two playing cards. The 8♣️ depicts Memorial Church at Stanford while the 4♠️ shows San Francisco Chinatown. Obviously Memorial Church will slide into my Stanford album while the Chinatown one will go with my pre-war postcards and things.

One thing to note about the printing here is that the colored ovals are a solid ink color. Yes there’s a black halftone on top from the photos since in neither of them is the sky pure white, but all the color is a solid spot color. I’m sort of curious how many different colors here are and if they correspond to each suit.

These cards come from a deck which looks to have been distributed on the Southern Pacific Coast Daylight route. Based on the design of the locomotive it looks like either a GS-2 or GS-3 which dates the deck to 1940 plus or minus a couple years.

Having ridden the route as part of Amtrak’s Coast Starlight service. I can easily see why it was considered America’s most beautiful train when it was running in the height of the streamliner age. Whether enjoying the coastal views from the train or just seeing that streamlined red and orange livery pass by the train is an obvious looker.

I’m assuming the deck consists of landmarks that are roughly served by the route. So a lot of Bay Area and LA scenes and probably some stuff from Santa Barbara as well. The back of the deck definitely looks like it’s included one of Mission Santa Barbara’s bell towers along with the Santa Ynez Mountains in a made-up scene for the train to speed through.

Very cool stuff. Thanks Anson!

Metacards and the Tobacco Set of Tobacco

About a year ago I wrote about a silly idea which I called Metacards. In short the idea is cards which describe themselves. There’s not much I have to add to that original post except to note that I’ve sort of gone off and started a metacard mini collection.

It’s still very much a mini PC. I’ve got a Bowman Bowman, Post Post, Phillie Philley, and mini Minnie. There’s a Rookie rookie in my 2017 Update set but I haven’t gotten an extra. Nor have I grabbed the Padres Podres or any other cards mentioned in that post.

I did however recently pick up a set of 1926 Player’s Cigarettes “From Plantation to Smoker” cards which, as the tobacco card set of tobacco cards fits perfectly with this theme.

It’s a small set of 25 cards which details the entire process from growing tobacco all the way to making cigarettes. In many ways it’s also a great fit with the Liebig printing cards in that it’s not just a joke of a meta card, it’s an actual meta card that’s commenting on itself—in this case not the card production but the product which it’s packaged with.

The artwork is pretty interesting with detailed images of the tobacco farm and fields. This is a 1926 set but you very much get a sense that tobacco production still relies on a lot of Black labor for the benefit of white planters. The farm house is clearly an estate while all the farmworkers except the supervisor are non-white.

The backs of the cards make it clear that this set is about the product and how carefully cultivated it is. Which makes sense for something being actually packaged with cigarettes. How delicate the plants are. How they need to be protected. How they’re picked by hand repeatedly so that every leaf has been selected for maximum ripeness.

Not exactly an advertising campaign yet clearly operating in the same world that spawned “It’s Toasted.” This is Player’s making sure its customers know that they’re getting a quality product as well as framing certain production methods as the “best” way.

The set goes on to depict the rest of the supply chain as tobacco is delivered to market, sold, processed, shipped overseas, and turned into cigarettes. I like how huge the warehouses and factories look with vanishing points that make them seem almost endless. There’s also a a sense of increased activity in many of these when compared to the farming images.

A more interesting mix of backs here. The description of the seas voyage in particular continues the emphasis on quality in how it describes how safe they have to keep the leaves on the journey.

It is however worth comparing the Hand Stemming Room with Cigarette Machine Room. The Hand Stemming back talks about “experienced white foremen” who oversee the colored labor gets a bit of side-eye from me when it describes the happy singing workforce. Meanwhile the cigarette machines are run by “highly skilled” girls. Despite how the majority of the labor depicted in this set is performed by Black hands, the finishing final touches are by English girls and yeah that feels as intentional as all the emphasis on the care and selection of the leaves.

All in all a very interesting set which also made me stop and think about how I never thought about where all the tobacco came from. As I think back about my education, tobacco farming never came up after the Civil War. It clearly continued in North Carolina and Virginia since it’s still grown in both states today but for whatever reason I wasn’t expecting to see Virginia tobacco be such an important selling point in the UK.

And now for something completely different

A couple years ago Shlabotnik Report had a blog post about acquiring cards for stupid pop culture reasons which turned my attention toward the 1966 Brooke Bond Tea “Trees In Britain” card #1, The Larch. I immediately had to buy a copy for myself too. If you know you know and are already giggling.

No need to scan my copy of the same card but it got me thinking about other possibilities. Since I already made a joke on here about my Charles I card not including vital information on the back* I realized that I should search for the obvious card to pair with it.

*The most interesting thing about King Charles the First is that he was 5 foot 6 inches tall at the start of his reign but only 4 foot 8 inches tall at the end of it.

Lo and behold it was there waiting for me on COMC.

Ogden’s Cigarettes to the rescue. Very very cool. And look the back even starts off with the right lyric.

I don’t have much more to say about this except that I love that the Ogden’s set exists and that so many of them are so affordable despite being 120 years old. No need to build anything it’s just a wonderful grab bag of stuff.

Here’s the pair together as they’ll be displayed in my binder. Very nice and sure to get a certain group of people earworming Chopin when they encounter them.

What other cards can I add to this theme? I do have my eyes out for an Albatross card.* WG Grace as the head of God is cool but his cards are never cheap. It’s a shame there’s no set of cheeses. I’ll have to think some more.

*Would love the 1888 Ginter but anything that old is a crapshoot.