Random pickups

A post of a few random but interesting pickups I’ve gotten recently. I don’t like writing super-short posts so instead we’ve got a handful of things which I want to write about but can only summon a paragraph or two of text.

We’ll start off with a 1968 Topps Venezuelan Jim Ray Hart. This takes me to having four different years of Venezuelans in the collection and while 1962’s Spanish-language backs are still my favorites, I appreciate that 1968 at least has an “Hecho en Venezuela” slug on the back. This is in great shape for a Venezuelan and, given the general condition of most of my 1960s cards, the only way you can distinguish it easily is the yellowed paper.

I’m perfectly happy type collecting these. Venezuelan versions of Topps cards exist for 1959, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1967, and 1968 which means I’m only missing examples from 1959, 1960, and 1967 now.

I don’t seek Exhibits out but I kind of love adding new ones to the collection when I come across them cheaply. Exhibit cards represent a different direction which the hobby could have gone* and place cards in a larger ecosystem of both pop culture and the history of photography. This makes them kind of perfect for my larger collecting interests.

*Something I go into a bit on my SABR post about them.

Player-wise, Bill Voiselle barely made the cutoff for this checklist as a Giant. This release of Exhibits starts in 1947 and he was traded from the Giants to the Braves in June of that year. Willard Marshall meanwhile was an All Star before WW2 before spending three years in the Marines (apparently stateside as a quartermaster before being recruited as a member of the Marines baseball team). He then picked up where he left off as both an All Star and an MVP vote getter.

Is interesting. As much as I like Exhibits I have no real interest in getting any San Francisco ones. Something about them feels like they should only feature New York players to me.

Not everything on this post is going to vintage though. I grabbed the 1983 Gaylord Perry Peanut Farm set because why not. First off, Perry is a Giants retired number and a third of the set are Giants cards (note, the whole set is in my Giants album). Plus it’s such a weird oddball. Sort of generic in that there’s no branding or even a team name listed while at the same time clearly made by Topps.

Especially once you look at the backs. Very much a Topps-style design but the only hint at branding are the card numbers in the peanut shape. Such a wonderfully weird little detail. The set covers five of the eight teams Perry played for and is a fun group of highlights with his first game, a no hitter, two Cy Young Awards, 2500 strikeouts, and 300 wins.

I got a bonus 1922 Zeenut with my 1911 Zeenut as a reward for being patient about a shipping delay. Totally unnecessary but I’m not complaining either. This is in typical Zeenut condition and features Jimmy O’Connell who would go on to play for the New York Giants in 1923 and 1924 before being banned for life after attempting to bribe Phillie Heinie Sand to throw the last couple games in 1924.

The Phillies were out of contention and the Giants were in a pennant race. O’Connell admitted to offering Sand $500 to “go easy” and implicated Frankie Frisch, George Kelly, and Ross Youngs in the scheme. They apparently denied involvement and only coach Cozy Dolan was punished along with O’Connell.

Finally, four 1910 Helmar Seals of the US and Coats of Arms of the World cards. Fuji blogged about these the other day and when I went to check the checklist I discovered that there were both California and Hawai‘i cards available. I did a quick Ebay search, no Hawai‘i but the California card was super cheap. Easy easy add to the cart. I also discovered that there are cards of various Native American nations on the checklist so I grabbed a few of those too.

The California card is great with the state seal and Giant Sequoia tunnel tree. The three Native American nations all have reservations located in Oklahoma which, in 1910 has only been a state for three years. Seeing that there are six Native American cards in this set (the other three are Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole), all of which are located in Oklahoma is interesting. It’s very nice that a lot of pre-war cards are specific about different nations rather than flattening into “Indian” but I’m really curious how those where chosen.


A trio of momentous cards, all of which are 112 years old. If I hadn’t gone to a card show with my kids these would be serious contenders for being the highlight of my year in collecting.

Starting off, my first* Obak T212 card. Obaks were released from 1909–1911 in three different series yet are cataloged as a single set. Given the overlaps in the checklists I’d think these should technically be thought of as three different sets.

*Yes “first.” I’m choosing to be optimistic here.

The 1911 cards are the nicest of the three releases because they’re the only ones with stats and a biography on the back. While getting a 1909 or 1910 version with the basic blue OBAK advertising back would satisfy my type collection purposes, I think I’ll always find myself preferring to get another 1911 because of how superior the backs are.

Ossie Vitt meanwhile is a legit MLB player with a 10-year career (most of it with the Tigers) and almost 16 WAR who was known as a a good fielder and great bunter (his 47 sacrifice hits in 1919 remains #9 on the MLB record list and he averaged over 25 sacrifices a season). He would go on to manage in Cleveland for three years and was elected to the PCL Hall of Fame in 1943.

In a bit of kismet, my first 1911 Zeenut is also an Ossie Vitt card and shows him in almost the exact same pose as well. It’s exciting to have a card from Zeenut’s first release. I’ve seen photos but there’s nothing better than having one in hand so I can feel the texture of the paper (similar to the 1913s) and find out how much larger it is than the rest of my Zeenuts (closer to 4 inches long). I like how much these look like cartes de visite as well with their studio backdrops.

This takes my Zeenut type collection to 16 years out of 28 and covers a 22 year period from 1911–1932. It’s a lot of fun to compare them all from both a photography point of view and a uniform design point of view.

Finally, I also picked up my first Giants T205. “Chief” Meyers was the Giants catcher in their three-year pennant-winning 1911–1913 run. He was the primary catcher for Christy Mathewson those years but was also a very good hitter and MVP candidate.

It certainly seems like every Native American ballplayer got the nickname “Chief.” In Meyers’s case he was Ivilyuqaletem (Cahuilla) from Riverside, California and appears to be one of two members from that nation which achieved a certain level of US pop cultural impact.* There are still multiple Cahuilla reservations in Southern California around the Riverside and Palm Springs area. UC Riverside also mentions them in their land acknowledgement.

*The other is the “real Ramona.”

I’ve been meaning to add one of these to my collection for a long time. Meyers is a great-looking card and an interesting player. Very very excited and happy with it as well as the two PCL cards. These make five 1911 baseball cards in my collection now* and I guess the next step is to move into the 1900s and get a proper T206.

*The other two are a T205 which I still haven’t written about and an S74 silk.

Seals Pickups

So I’ve been working on my Seals type collection a bit this year. Most of these are cheap Zeenuts off of Ebay. There have been a ton available and I’ve made some serious progress.

The oldest ones come from 1913. Harry Hughes is in great shape—so great that I was able to discover that these are printed on textured paper. He was a Seal for two seasons and looks to have only pitched maybe a dozen games. I really like the uniform details on his card though. The contrast placket is particularly great as an old-school look and the old English S is a very different logo than the usual San Francisco logos.

Charles Fanning is more of the typical Zeenut look and condition. He was a workhorse starting pitcher for 6 seasons as a Seal and appeared in over 50 games (winning well over 20 games) each year from 1913–1915.

I’ve mentioned Johnny Couch before on this blog but I never linked to his actual Baseball-Ref page. Couch played in the Majors in 1917 as well as 1922–25. Where my other card is from 1916 and predates his MLB debut, this one is from 1920 and comes between his two stints.

Since Couch is both a Stanford guy and a Seal, I like to jump on his cards when they surface. This was also my first exposure to the fantastic 1920 Zeenut design. Most of Zeenut’s run of cards feature either players cut out against a plain background or black and white photos. 1920 though is unique and has a wonderful artsy stadium background behind everyone.

The 1922 design is a cool pseudo-color look which distinguishes it from most other Zeenut releases (1915 is the only other one like this). Lyle Wells though doesn’t look like he played for the Seals in 1922 and instead made it onto the 1922–23 Oakland Oaks teams. His uniform does look Sealsish though and perhaps he tried out for San Francisco, didn’t make the team, and then ended up across the bay instead.

1923 is the last of the cut-out photos designs. While I enjoy the 1924–1931 run of full-bleed black and white photos taken on location, there’s something about the cut-outs which appeals to me in part due to the first Zeenuts I ever saw.

Eddie Mulligan was not a great Major League player but spent 17 seasons in the Pacific Coast League. “Noack” meanwhile isn’t a name that even shows up on any Seals roster and the only hit on Baseball Reference for that period is a Gus Noack who was playing in the Nebraska League in 1923. This got Marc interested and he was able to pull up some newspapers from 1923 which showed that Gus Noack was at least in the Seals training camp. I’m assuming this means he tried out but didn’t make the team.

I grabbed both of these for the uniform details with Mulligan in the classic Seals logotype and Noack in an interlocking SF design which appears to have been on the way out in 1923 (looks to be the same that Couch is wearing in 1920) since the 1923 cards are a mix of uniforms and the interlocking design doesn’t show up in 1924. Noack is also one of the few batting poses I have in the collection.

1923 was both a good year and a bad year for the Seals as they won the PCL with a 124–77 record but their manager died of tuberculosis.

A pair of 1925 cards which are very similar to the 1923 pair. Archie Yelle played for Detroit from 1917–19 but spent eight years of his 20-year baseball career in the PCL. “Haughy” meanwhile is another player who doesn’t show up on that year’s roster. I grabbed his card though because I love the background details of the park and how the stands are right on top of the dugout.

The 1925 Seals team is recognized as one of the best Minor League and PCL teams ever and Yelle was their starting catcher. Marc’s research meanwhile turned up an Earl Haughy who was in the Seals training camp as a pitcher in February 1925 and evidently didn’t make the team since Marc found another article mentioning him among the cuts from the 1926 Missions training camp.

Discovering that at least two of the Zeenut photos were taken during the Seals training camp in Fresno also suggests that the stadium in the background of a lot of the 1924–1931 photos may be the training facility.

A 1927 card of Orville McMurtry who only had a four-year professional career and pitched in just a handful of games for the Seals. This is another one where I find myself looking at the stadium details in the background since I can see the box seating as well as the dugout under the stands.

A pair from 1929 including a great career capper card for Walter Schmidt. Schmidt played in the Majors for a decade including nine seasons with the Pirates as the starting catcher. I really like the guy in the hat in the stands behind him. Lonny Baker meanwhile had a nine-year career in the Minors and is another of the few batting images in the collection.

In 1932 Zeenut reverted to their 1910s design of cutting the player out against a blank background. One key difference though is that they kept a circle of field in the design for the player to stand on. Jerry Donovan played in the PCL for 13 seasons and in 1932 appeared in 182 games for the Seals.

That the PCL was all Sun Belt teams meant they could play long seasons of over 200 games. Looking at the stats of some of the starters is kind of amazing. Eddie Mulligan has six seasons where he played over 180 games with one season of 199 games and another of 201. Jerry Donovan meanwhile has a 188 game season to go with his 182 game one.*

*Digging around Baseball Reference meanwhile shows guys playing in over 220 games in one season and a couple Seals seasons where four or five players play over 200 games.  

This haul of Zeenuts takes my type collection to having cards from fifteen of the 28 sets including at least one from every year 1922–1932. Which is very cool. The 1920s cards definitely seem to be the easier ones to come across (which makes sense to me considering World War 1 and the Depression) but who knows what the future will bring. I’d love to get a red-bordered 1918 or a pseudo-color 1915 and the 1911 and 1914 ones have interesting dark studio backgrounds.

It wasn’t just Zeenuts that I added though. I also found a 1949 Bromide of Steve Nagy. Nagy played in MLB in 1947 and 1950 and spent nine seasons in the PCL. He was with the Seals in 1949 when they toured Japan and this card is from that trip.  I really like the portrait and something about the text (which just says Steve Nagy and Pitcher) really brings it all together.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the Menko/Bromide distinction. It initially reflected the difference between mechanically-printed colorful artwork on cardstock and photographically-printed black and white photos on Bromide paper. For a long time it was easy to see the distinctions but from the late 1940s to late 1950s everything got muddied up. Bromides started being printed mechanically on thicker paper. Menkos started being printed color photos.

Many times it seems that the distinction is now just color vs black and white (although there’s also the form factor difference where menkos are still designed to be slammed down). In any case, even though my black and white Cliff Melton is also categorized as a bromide I’m very happy to have a proper photographic print one as well.

Finally, I grabbed a 1948 Signal Oil card of Will Hafey. Signal Oil didn’t make Seals cards but they’re one of (and possibly THE) first baseball card sets to feature color photography like was appearing on postcards. The photo is great and you can really see the details of both the Oaks uniforms and the Oaks Park (located where the Pixar campus is now).

I’m including a scan of the back of the Hafey since it mentions three Hafey relatives who all played ball. Those three all played in Major League Baseball though (Chick is even a Hall of Famer) while the PCL was the best that Will could do.

My Seals (and Oaks) page is looking really nice now. I feel like I might have to start organizing it more than having everything in one large gallery. Though it is nice to be able to just swipe through the gallery view.

T77 Pigeon Point

Late last year Anson posted about a new-to-me set of Lighthouses from 1911. I didn’t clock the set at the time but came across another sample on Twitter which intrigued me enough to look up the checklist. I was sort of expecting to find a set of all East Coast lighthouses but I was pleasantly surprised to find a handful of lighthouses on the West Coast including one that I grew up near.

When I saw that Pigeon Point Lighthouse was featured in the set I knew I had to get a copy. On the central coast between Pescadero and Santa Cruz, we’d drive past it periodically and even spent a weekend at the hostel when I was a kid. I wish I’d been a bit more aware when we were there. I remember climbing the tower* and learning about the fresnel lens. I think I remember a beached gray whale a little down the coast.

*And getting sick during the climb.

The California Central Coast though is one of my happy places and the lighthouse is one of those features of it. I’m glad I was able to go inside since it’s closed now. I wish I’d gotten my act together to see the annual lighting of the lens since that’s been discontinued as well.

The card itself is beautiful too with the rocky coast, foothills, and golden sky. Plus the fact that it’s chromolithography gives it a much more interesting texture. I wish there was a card of the other two lighthouses mentioned on the back but both of those would be more about the coastline than the lighthouses.

This goes in my binder along with my other old California ephemera such as the postcards, the Playland at the Beach matchbook cover, and the Southern Pacific card. I’m not doing anything here in terms of explicit search lists but it’s been a lot of fun to kind of pick up things as they strike my fancy.

A look at the numbers

A quick post prompted by something Greg posted last week when he updated his Dodger card count by year. One nice thing about having everything cataloged is that it can be fun to just explore the data and looking at Greg’s numbers was prey cool. So I did some quick Google Sheets calculations and came up with the resulting graph.

The graph goes all the way to 1911 because I do have one card from that year but after a couple blips in the early 1930s and 1939–1941 it really only gets going with the dawn of modern cards in 1948. The graph profile is almost exactly what I would expect with a massive peak in my childhood junk wax years that never returned to what it was before then since we never returned to the age of just one set of cards a year.

Looking more closely. The peak in 1955 is caused by the Golden Stamps set whereas the ones in 1976 and 1979 are TCMA’s fault. The absence of a big jump starting in 1981 reflects how poorly I’ve done getting the Donruss and Fleer team sets for the early 1980s.

Also, compared to Greg’s numbers my numbers in general are super small. Yes at one level getting 100 different Giants cards each year is still a lot of cards. At another though it could clearly be a whole lot worse and I’m pleased that I’ve been as disciplined as I have been.

Anyway, a big long list of the numbers follows. I’ve deleted all the zero years.

1911: 1
1933: 2
1934: 2
1935: 2
1937: 1
1939: 4
1940: 4
1941: 5
1948: 10
1949: 11
1950: 16
1951: 22
1952: 25
1953: 19
1954: 30
1955: 45
1956: 22
1957: 25
1958: 32
1959: 32
1960: 42
1961: 40
1962: 38
1963: 50
1964: 33
1965: 35
1966: 34
1967: 40
1968: 34
1969: 41
1970: 43
1971: 48
1972: 36
1973: 34
1974: 43
1975: 48
1976: 72
1977: 55
1978: 53
1979: 107
1980: 72
1981: 65
1982: 73
1983: 112
1984: 111
1985: 93
1986: 124
1987: 125
1988: 179
1989: 239
1990: 332
1991: 331
1992: 444
1993: 380
1994: 467
1995: 339
1996: 290
1997: 221
1998: 191
1999: 159
2000: 149
2001: 212
2002: 219
2003: 195
2004: 106
2005: 87
2006: 91
2007: 93
2008: 127
2009: 131
2010: 108
2011: 167
2012: 168
2013: 180
2014: 144
2015: 207
2016: 131
2017: 100
2018: 179
2019: 190
2020: 159
2021: 107
2022: 99

Pre-War Christmas Cards

A couple of late-arriving Christmas cards both showed up last Wednesday. One of those weird kismet things where both mailings worked really well together as pre-war grab bags.

The first mailing came from Anson at Pre-war Cards* and featured three cards that are perfectly tailored to my interests. The first two are a pair of aviators best known for their work with lighter-than-air flight—in part because they both lost their lives through lighter than air flight disasters.

*According to Anson it’s been en route for weeks so it must have just been waiting for just the right moment.

I’ve actually mentioned both before on this blog so this will be fast. S. A. Andrée was previously covered in my Polar Exploration post. Since this Felix Potin card dates to 1898–1908, it was printed after he and his balloon expedition had disappeared into the Arctic and entered the realm of myth and legend. Quite an amazing story to read about and a lot of fun to have a portrait of the man to go with my card of his balloon.

It is worth noting though that the Felix Potin cards appear to be photographic prints. Not cabinet cards or cartes de visite but the same mass-produced photographs that the 3D Cavanders cards are. Unlike the Cavanders though the Felix Potin has a blank back (which I’m assuming is standard rather than this being a skinned card).

Admiral Moffett is a card I actually have already. As per that previous post, I have a special attachment to him having grown up in the shadow of his eponymous naval air base. His card was printed in 1934, the year after he perished in the USS Akron crash—basically ending the United States’ lighter-than-air program and makes a fitting pair to the Andrée card as memorials of a sort.

The third card was a 1927–1932 Die Welt in Bildern card featuring a Josetti Bilder back. It’s a great image of a California Sequoia with a tunnel carved trough it. I’ve gone ahead and just included a screenshot of the Google Translate back since it seems like a straightforward translation. I’m now wondering what other cards are in this series (is it trees, USA, California?) and it kind of amazes me how there are so many sets out there with checklists that aren’t online.

The other mailing came from Marc Brubaker who stumbled into a weird cache of cards at a local store last week and proceeded to do his usual thing where when I receive one envelope from him there’s a 50% chance another is arriving very soon. He posted a photo of these in the Discord “look what I just got” channel and I immediately recognized them as being “like” the 1934 Hints on Association Football set.

Turns out they’re more than like and are in fact the same set only also released in 1934 only in China by the British American Tobacco Company. So no text and Chinese backs both otherwise basically the same aside from the decision to omit the final two cards in the British set (#49 Receiving a Penalty and #50 Goalkeeper Narrowing the Goal) and turn the Chinese set into a 48-card set.

When I looked closer though I realized that they hadn’t just removed the text, they’d modified the artwork so that all the soccer players were Chinese with rounder facial features and blacker hair. I’ve gone ahead and inserted scans of the same cards in the British set for comparison purposes. Yes here are other changes to the uniform colors and the softness of the artwork but the big change is the racial one.

No much to say about the backs except to note that there’s no obvious branding and the overall design is super simple. Just text surrounded by a border with a simple card number in one corner.

Google Translate doesn’t do well here but it does enough to suggest that the text is trying to translate from the original English. So I’ve gone ahead and included the English backs along with the screenshots. I’m mainly interested here in how Google Translate handles the top-to-bottom, right-to-left text flow by just rotating the English text so it flows the same direction as the Chinese.

Very cool stuff and I get to add another country to my Around the World post now too. Thanks Anson and Marc and have a Happy New Year of collecting.

December 7

I don’t normally do a special post for today but I actually have a few cards which are relevant. While I normally post things as soon as possible to acquisition, I decided to sit on these.

This pair I got almost a year ago. I occasionally search for “California” when I’m on COMC since grabbing random state cards is something that I enjoy doing. One time when I did this* I ran into a card of a ship named “California.” It was a nice-looking card so I clicked out to see the rest of the checklist and realized that I had to get a couple of them

*Probably over two years ago in the midst of COMC’s Covid shipping woes.

These are from the 1939 set of John Player and Sons Modern Naval Craft. I didn’t need the complete set but these two were no-brainers for me since they were both a part of the Pearl Harbor attack. The USS California was sunk during the attack while the Akagi is one of the Japanese carriers which launched the planes.

The California was subsequently raised and repaired and took part in the battles for the Philippines even though the US had switched to more carrier-based warfare. Akagi meanwhile was one of the Japanese carriers that the US sunk at the Battle of Midway.

*The checklist also has a couple US carriers which took part in Midway.

A brief look at the backs to note that the California is due for the upgrades which it would get as part of its post-attack repairs. It also intrigues me that there’s no reference to how Japan has been waging war in the Pacific since 1931—something I’ve always been a little bugged with when we we use the “pre war” designation.

I picked this card up maybe nine months ago. This is from Gum Inc.’s 1941 War set which is very similar to the 1938 Horrors of War set except that it’s all about US/Allied bravery. The artwork is similarly wonderful with all the different colors in both the sky and the water. Considering that it depicts at least 6 dead bodies it’s also completely bloodless.

As for what it depicts, the story doesn’t seem to exist. Dorie Miller’s is closest but doesn’t match the details on the back of the card. The key difference is that this card is specifically about a 5-inch gun which requires at least a dozen men to operate rather than the machine gun Miller used. A shame since Miller’s story and his subsequent Naval Cross would’ve made for a very nice card.

This set is listed as a 1942 set but also looks like it was issued in multiple series over the year.  Despite the 1941 copyright date, I can’t image that the earliest cards came out in 1941. Meanwhile the last card of the set has a 1942 copyright and refers to a two-month siege of Stalingrad in the fall of that year.

Not exactly what I’d call “fun” cards but I find them interesting since they represent how trading cards can end up intersecting with history. This really is the appeal of a lot of cards from this era. In many ways every card has a story and finding that story is one of the things I most enjoy doing.

Liebig 1935 Lhassa, Ville Sainte du Lamaïsme

Back to a pile of pre-war cards I got earlier this year. This time a Liebig set from 1935 which depicts Lhasa and describes Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. The main reason I was interested in this was because it was issued right in the middle of Tibet’s life as a defacto independent state.

I’ve only been aware of Tibet in its post-annexation and government in exile period and while I suspected the cards would have the usual issues that Western depictions of non-Western cultures have during this time period I also thought it would be fascinating to both see and read about Tibet while it was independent.

The first card depicts the Dalia Lama as the Buddha reincarnated. I’m going to be mostly summarizing/translating the backs* but the last line of text on this one describes the image as the Dalia Lama on his throne surrounded by “bizarre” decor. It’s worth noting that the picture is clearly the 13th Dalai Lama who died just prior to these cards being released. The 14th/current Dalai Lama had not been born yet and wouldn’t take he throne until 1940.

*In French since this is a release from Belgium. One more for my list!

As for the rest of the text, it introduces Lhasa as both political and spiritual capital of Tibet where the Dalai Lama  lives. While the card compares the Dalai Lama to the Pope, it makes an important distinction where, because Lamaism believes in reincarnation, the Dalai Lama is really an incarnation of the Buddha and as such is a living god. When the current Dalai Lama dies a newborn child is determined to be the next incarnation and after identified through various signs and trials the child is educated as the next Dalai Lama.

While the cards don’t mention the death of the Dalai Lama I can’t help but wonder if they were released in part because of that event.

The second card depicts Lhasa, the “Inspired Mountain,” and in particular the Potala Palace.  According to the card, Lhasa means both “divine land” and was also “defended city” due to Europeans being prohibited until the beginning of the 1900s. A the time of printing it was home to 30,000 people who lived  3.7km (~2.25 miles) high in the Himalayas on a plain surrounded by mountains. The temples, palaces, terraces, etc. are where the Dalai Lama lives as both the religious leader and the head of state—though he delegates secular affairs to ministers.

The third card depicts ritual dancing a the “Yokhang” (Jokhang) temple and uses that structure to do a quick history of Buddhism coming to Tibet.  After being founded in India by “Çakya Mouni” (Shakyamuni) in 5BC, Buddhism entered Tibet 1200 years later in the 7th century AD thanks to Tibetan king “Srong-tsan-gampo” (Songtsen Gampo). Gampo who built the Jokhang temple in 652 which, despite its small size  is the most-important spiritual center of Lamaism to which people from all over make pilgrimages, many of which include he dancing depicted on the card front.

It’s very  clear looking around the web that Jokhang looks nothing like this anymore and has been built up into a much larger and more ornate complex. It also seems that even at the time of printing Jokhang looked nothing like this so now I’m kind of wondering what building is atually depicted.

The fourth card card shows a procession of pilgrims in front of the Ganden monastery which the monk Tsongkhapa founded. This is an oportunity to write about Tsongkhapa and how in the 14th century he unified rival sects and returned the religion to one of simplicity and sincerity.

When Buddhism entered Tibet it was in decline in India (and was virtually extinct when these cards were released but it’s increased since then).  The card compares Tsongkhapa to Luther (though Tsongkhapa clearly didn’t get excommunicated) as a way of explaining his importance.

While the Dalai Lama is the incarnation of the Buddha, the Panchen Lama is the incarnation of Tsongkhapa. The Panchen Lama lives at “Tanchi Lumpo” (Tashi Lhunpo) and is as important as the Dalai Lama in religious matters. He leads the search for the new Dalai Lama when the Dalai Lama dies just as the Dalai Lama is in charge of the search for the child who will become the next Panchen Lama.

That the card devotes so much to the Panchen Lama and searching for the next Dalia Lama is one reason why I suspect these cards were in part prompted by the death of the 13th Dalai Lama. Reading it now I can’t help but realize how damaging the abduction of the 11th Panchen Lama is to the future of the religion (even while admitting that the idea of choosing a child and raising him as the next incarnation of a god is not the kind of thing hat would really fly in today’s world).

The fifth card is what I was worried about when I got the set. The first four cards are mostly educational. Number five however has opinions and comes out swinging in its first sentence where it declares that the current form of Lamaism is a half religious, half political corrupted form of Buddhism.

It continues by referring to Lamaism as an outdated religion where individual inner faith has been replaced by routine and formalism. As examples of this it uses prayer flags and prayer wheels and portrays them as superstitions where the flapping of the flag or spinning of the wheel is essentially used as a mechanical substitution for actual human prayer. This is quite different than my understanding of prayer flags as being a more generic blessing of a space—in particular a landscape—and prayer wheels as a way of focusing your thoughts on a repeating mantra.

In a really weird transition, after describing Lamaisn as an outdated religion consumed by formal rites the card proceeds to describe the Lamas as wearing Catholic-like robes and conducting rites like high mass with bells and incense that appear Catholic as well.

With how the previous the card suggests that Luther is a peer of the Pope, maybe the copy was just being written by someone who was extremely critical of the Catholic church (especially in these pre-Vatican II years) and could only make those points by indirectly making another religion also seem weird and outdated.

The sixth and last card is not much better though. It sats out innocuosly enough by talking about how Tibet is the highest country in the world and by being located between India, Mongolia, and China it’s basically dependent on China. Tibet’s 3 million inhabitants are “Mongolian” and the card depicts multiple classes with “picturesque” costumes and “bizarre” headdresses.

The card continues with lots of descriptions about local customs, almost all of which are presented as, at best, weird, and at worse, deviant.

Greeting each other by sticking out their tongues and scratching behind the ear? Weird (also, after googling around, accurate and a way of demonstrating that you’re not an incarnation of Langdarma and his supposedly black tongue).

Cutting up corpses and feeding them to pigs? Definitely presented as deviant. And no it’s not. I recognized it as being similar to sky burial and probably sharing the same motivation of both returning the nutrients of the deceased to the land and destroying the old body so the spirit can be reincarnated in a new one.

And the list goes on. Bandits apologizing to their victims when attacking. Houses covered in sheep/ox horns. Ritual cups made of skulls. A preference for old rancid butter which is also used to make sculptures for the Tibetan New Years celebration.

I don’t expect anything better for this time. Things can be massively informative while also being incredibly othering and judgmental. Not quite as racist as I feared but the last two cards were not great.

Still. Liebig prints a good product with wonderfully vibrant chromolithography in multiple ink colors and fantastic stipple patterns. The backs are getting a bit boring compared to the older cards but it’s nice to see that even in the 1930s Liebig hadn’t converted to offset lithography.

Momentous Maildays

A few recent momentous maildays to write about. I’ve not been getting many cards recently–combination of modern being blah, my vintage searchlist consisting of only the expensive cards left,* and the market just getting worse. But deals can be found and in many ways being patient and waiting for the extra-special cards is a lot of fun in its own way.

*Willie Mays, high numbered short prints, and Hall of Fame rookies.

Recently I found a couple cards that are extra-special for my collection needs. I don’t write about all of my purchases but pickups like these deserve it because of how they transform my collection.

The first is now the oldest Giants card I own. This is an S74 Silk. I’ve seen these dated anywhere from 1909 to 1911 but the 1911 dating makes the most sense to me especially given how these share the same artwork used on the 1911 T205 design.

I’ve been coveting T205s for a long time but their recent prices have been impossible for me to justify. This was a good deal less and I expect it to hold the oldest card spot in the Giants binder for a long time.

Arthur Devlin was the Giants third baseman for 8 years and even lead the league with 59 stolen bases in the Giants’ World Series winning 1905 season.* He looks to have been a reliably above average hitter but a quick Google doesn’t turn up much more about him.

*He was also a member of the self-proclaimed World Champions of 1904.

One reason this silk was so affordable is because it’s in bad shape. The tobacco advertisements have been trimmed off the top and bottom and as a result the fabric is fraying. There are also a couple threadbare spots on the bottom border as well as the top of his cap. I’m more scared of handling this than I am of handling any of my Zeenuts.

The seller had received it sandwiched between two toploaders held together with scotch tape. He wisely chose not to mess with something that was working and the whole contraption definitely got the silk to me safely. Unfortunately it was neither the most presentable choice nor one that would fit in my binder nicely.

I thought about it for a bit and decided to try a semi-rigid holder with one edge cut off. The silk isn’t that fragile and as long as I can open up the two sides easily I figured I could slide it in. I used an index card to slide it in and then flipped the whole thing over so I could slide the index card out again. Worked like a charm.

The result was a lot easier to scan and fits in the binder perfectly next to my matchbooks in a 4-pocket page.I can’t believe I have a 110+ year old card in the Giants binder now.

Another momentous mailday was this Mel Ott Exhibit Card. Unlike the handful of 1947–1966 Exhibits I have this is from the earlier 1939–1946 Salutation series. Always nice to add a new set to the collection. Even nicer to add my first playing-days Mel Ott card. My retired numbers page had three huge holes in it and this fills one of them.

One of these days I’ll get cards of Christy Mathewson and John McGraw but those are WAY far off.* Crossing Ott off the list fills the last plausible hole and it feels great to finally do it.

*I also don’t have Ott, Mathewson, or McGraw autographs but none of those are ever going to happen.

The last card here isn’t as transformative as the other two but it’s another one that’s a big deal. The 1962 Topps Standups are one of those sets that I never expected to have a card from—especially one where the yellow panel is still attached. This one is in delicate shape where it’s clearly been folded before but doesn’t feel like it’s about to fall apart.

This is a great-looking oddball which adds a lot of color to the 1962 portion of my album. It’s a good year to highlight as a Giants fan and it’s always nice to pick up an early-career McCovey card as well.

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.


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.