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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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, 2022


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, 2022

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.

Addendum/Edit October 17, 2022

An eleventh country as my 1935 Liebig set depicting Lhassa is from Belgium.

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.