Category Archives: trades

PWE from Jason

I know I know I said I was going on hiatus for a bit. But late last week when I was writing that quick post I received a small envelope from Jason. Inside were two very different, very cool items. Since I haven’t cut off my internet yet or packed up my scanner I’m still in business for blogging so let’s jump in.

The first was this Ross Anderberg art card of Willie Mays. The scan doesn’t do it justice as the card is matte finished but the printing has a bit of sheen to it which causes the scanner to over-contrast things. Nor can you get a sense for this as an object—it’s on super-stiff black cardboard that I want to slap onto the table like a hanafuda card Not thick, just super stiff and satisfying to hold.

I can see why people get into these kind of art cards and why Jason was so excited to receive them. In the same way that I’ve enjoyed making customs, these  cards are a way to take photos of players and turn them into something that we don’t see in the standard card universe.

Plus small production runs where you know someone did everything themselves in the creation of the piece are always fun to have and handle. This is a very cool addition to the collection and, as my first such card, I’m not sure where I’m going to store it.

The other item is, I’m assuming, Jason’s ticket stub from his recent visit to the Hall of Fame. I’m still quite pleased about Moose entering the hall so I very much enjoy seeing that he’s on the museum tickets and I love being able to add the stub to my Stanford album. I especially like that he’s depicted as an Oriole here.

Very cool Jason and thanks for giving me two items that have made me rethink my existing storage decisions. As the kid who used to love any excuse to use pages that weren’t 9-pockets I still savor the challenge of fitting odd-sized items into the binders.

Luis Torrens Fan Club

Last weekend I found an envelope from the Luis Torrens Fan Club in my mailbox. That could only mean one thing. More Yankees prospects.

Indeed there were two cards of guys who are currently at Trenton. Jorge Saez is still splitting time at catcher. The last few games I’ve been to he’s been on bullpen duty with a guy who’s hitting under .100 getting all the starts. I know Saez hasn’t been hitting all that great either but it seems like they’re going with the younger guy for now.

Hoy Jun Park though has been hitting pretty well. I’m a bit annoyed at myself for not realizing that he had 2016 Bowman and Heritage Minors cards so I’m glad I have this one. It’s a fancy shmancy refractor or something but it should look okay signed.

The rest of the envelope was assorted Giants mishmash, starting with this Topps Attax promo card. I don’t quite understand the game and I really don’t understand how a mascot card factors in to this but I kind of love discovering that such cards existed.

A few random Giants cards. Two Chromes which I’m increasingly intrigued by each time I scan them and do a better job at dealing with the different reflectivity of the white opaque ink and the silver foilboard. I kind of like that the 2011 Chrome in particular features white borders. That’s turning out to be especially interesting to loupe since it shows the transition from CMYK to opaque white super cleanly.

The 2011 60 Years of Topps Johnny Mize is a bit of a trainwreck in how it colorizes a photo and uses a design that evokes TV but also 3D effects and all of this looks especially weird when applied to a player who predates all of that.

And two 2019 Heritage cards rounded out the envelope. I like this set but I’m increasingly getting the greenscreen sense when I look at these photos. Still the BElt card in particular is pretty nice. Not the informal 1970 gestalt* but a decent posed photo with interesting background information.

*Needs more random dudes in the background and a cloudless cyan-only sky.

Thanks very much Kenny! I’ll try and get the Park signed ASAP and everything else has a place in the binders.

Mailday from Marc!

So last weekend a bubble mailer from Marc Brubaker arrived. It’s been over a couple months since his previous mailing so I guess I was due.

We’ll start off with three Stanford cards, all of which are new to me. Yes even that Steve Chitren. Did I buy a decent amount of 1992 Bowman? Absolutely. But since I only bought packs and never bought singles, I don’t yet have all of the ones which are relevant to my interests. Since Chitren is in thee 1992 Topps set I never felt the need to explicitly acquire his 1992 Bowman card. Though I’m glad to have it since it’s a pose and picture which is very different from all his other cards.

The Hammonds Finest card is a nice example of a series of cards I never seek out. Finest interests me in terms of how they’re made and what the represent in terms of the 1990s product marketing. I can’t imaging having a binder full of them so I’m plenty happy just having an example or two. I think this is the first one of these in my Stanford albums.

And that Mark Appel Bowman Chrome is sure something. I don’t understand what the point of this is. I guess it’s to show that he’s so hot a prospect that he melted his card. And I guess Topps went with melt because these are plastic Chrome cards. I don’t know, it’s weird and unreadable and the back is even worse because instead of warping the text to look like the melted effect it’s just typeset on curvy lines. Do I want more of these? God no. Am I glad to have one as a sample of something awful. Sadly yes.

Moving on to the Giants. As usual I’ll go through these roughly chronologically. We’ll start off with three San José Giants cards from Star’s massive Minor League set in 1989. These are fun because they show the original San José Giants caps that they only had for their first couple of seasons (1989 would be their second season). The less said about the photography though the better. I’m pretty sure Dewey and Santana both have their eyes closed.

Time to flash forward a couple decades. The Honus Bonus cards are from 2017 and were intended to be part of a Fantasy Baseball product. I’m not fully certain what the rules were but it seems to have melded collecting cards with redeeming the scratch-off codes on the back to create your roster. I gather that there were supposed to be prizes and things but it seems like the whole enterprise blew up midway through 2017.

Neither of these two cards are redeemed so I don’t know if that means that the pack got opened after the game died or if neither Casilla nor Gillaspie were deemed roster-worthy. Anyway, it’s an interesting concept. The cards themselves are kind of wild with those greyscale players on colored backgrounds. I’m not a fan of the look—whether it’s selective color or selective desaturation—and combined with the brightly colored borders I have a hard time seeing these as Giants cards. Casilla looks like he should be a Dodger and Gillaspie an A.

The three Heritage cards I have but the boys should enjoy them. It’s been interesting to watch their tastes develop and they seem to prefer the Heritage designs as well. I should really ask them why but I do suspect that they like seeing the portraits in the photos.

And the Opening Day card is a new one to me. I don’t buy the product but like many of the things I don’t buy, it’s fun to have a sample. I remain convinced that the photo is opf Tony Watson and not Will Smith. Even though Smith actually signed this.

To sets I don’t buy, starting off with a handful of 2019 Bowman. It’s very Bowmanny. I’m not a fan of the borders but seeing how it’s a semi-transparent layer makes me more okay with them. It means the border colors fit with the card photo and also makes me see it as more of an overlay such as I’d expect to see on TV or in a video game.

The Duggar photo is surprisingly nice with low-contrast light that keeps the black shirt and cream pants from blowing out the exposure curve while keeping his face exposed without any shadows. Also good timing on the swing with the step and bat-loading.* Chris Shaw isn’t so lucky with his pants losing all their highlight detail and his jersey getting HDR’d to the max.

*Compare to the Flagship photo where you can see Topps is struggling to balance the light well

Marc was very nice in sending me a Joey Bart card. I had given up on getting any of these since he’s at his price peak right now as one of the big names in the set who all the speculators are trying to hold. And for the flip side of the coin, Logan Webb is solidly in the bust cycle for now due to picking up a suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. Will he come back? Maybe. But for now he’s kind of the opposite of a prospect.

We’ll finish off this post with a batch of Donruss cards. My first 2019 Diamond King is Christy Mathewson. I had to check the back to confirm that this wasn’t part of last year’s cards. This is still a nice looking set and it remains one of the nicest cards just to hold and shuffle through your hands.

That shiny Buster Posey actually also features Joey Bart on the back. It’s a fun insert and I hope Bart is indeed a worthy replacement for Buster. Will that justify the hype he’s getting now? Probably not. But it’ll be good for the team.

And those five 2019 Donruss cards are my first samples from this set. The 1985esque designs on the Crawford Diamond King and Shaw rookie are nice but don’t compare to the wonderful red on black original. Something about the white bars just cals attention to the fact that the logos are missing. This might not be an issue for other teams but with the Giants, removing all the logos means getting rid of all the orange on their uniforms. So when the rest of the card also looks like the color has been removed the entire card feels like something is wrong. Crawford has enough other color so it’s not obvious but the Shaw looks super generic.

On the base design though the orange usage works really well at balancing the photos. Things still look a little off but these look pretty nice. Panini’s done a good job at framing the images in the space* and the result is a nice looking set of cards. It’s not one I’ll collect since it’s too large to be a fun little set build and too small to be a nice comprehensive set** but it’s nice to see Panini branching out from just aping the old Donruss designs.

*Although I wish they’d treated Hunter Pence’s bat a little differently.

**Looking at checklists over the past couple of years has helped me realize that I enjoy small sets with one or two players per team and large sets with at least a page-worth—and preferably an entire lineup—of players per team. And that any sets with checklists that fall between these values causes me to lose interest.

Very nice to start filling a Donruss page in the binder. I still need to get a Madison Bumgarner card since he’s not in any Topps products again this year.

Thanks Marc! It looks like you had some good rips with new product and I’m lucky to be able to enjoy in your unneeded cards.

Salie Utz

Late last week I found a plain white envelope in my mailbox from Mark Hoyle. What kind of weird and wonderful item would I find this time?

Nothing too crazy but Mark sent me my first (and probably only*) Topps Utz card. Much to the pleasure of many of us, Topps decided to release a set of cards as a food issue. It’s not a special design like the food issues I grew up with in the late-80s, early-90s. It’s more like the Burger King and Coca Cola cards of the late-70s, early-80s which slapped a logo on the base design.

*Though Posey, Crawford, and (sort of bizarrely given how he’s been out for the season since he had Tommy John surgery almost a year ago) Cueto are also on the checklist.

And since it’s all computer-assisted design now I’m pretty sure the photo is exactly the same as the Topps flagship photo. No re-stripping or re-cropping as part of the reprinting process. Just a larger patch of white blur to allow for Salie Utz to be placed above the player name.

Still, it’s fun to be able to buy food and find cards inside. Utz exists in my neck of the woods but I haven’t noticed any that come with cards. If I came across a package that did I’d probably have to get it. Food issues are one of the things I miss most about the hobby from my youth and I’ve really enjoyed the various posts I’ve seen from other bloggers reminiscing about their childhood diets as told by food issues.

I don’t have the energy to scan all the different oddballs I collected as a kid. But looking through them all I can see that I ate a lot of Cracker Jack, Jumbo California Sunflower Seeds, Mothers Cookies, Nabisco products, and King B Beef Jerky. Chewed a lot of Bazooka. Drank a lot of Coca Cola. And went to Dennys and McDonalds a decent amount. I also managed to convince my mom to buy some Hostess, Kelloggs, and Post products and even a loaf of Wonder Bread.

As a parent I’m sad that this sense of cards being everywhere is not something my kids are growing up with. But I’m also happy that I don’t have to field requests to buy all kinds of garbage just because there are cards inside.

Anyway, very cool Mark. Thanks!

A pair of Giants

It’s funny. When I was going through my childhood collection I discovered that I’d gotten complete team sets for 1989 Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Score, and Upper Deck. Except that I totally missed Upper Deck’s Final/Extended high number series.* Oops. I’ve since accumulated a couple of the ones I was missing but Trevor Wilson and Charlie Hayes were the last two I needed.

*To be honest I don’t remember this series in 1989 at all.

A couple days ago this pair of 1989 Upper Deck Giants arrived courtesy of Steve Cornell. Thanks Steve! Random PWE mailings are the best. Even though both of these cards are kind of derpy it’s great to be able to scratch a set off my Giants Searchlist 30 years after the fact.

I should’ve paid more attention to my collecting interests as a kid. Giants team sets excited me. Oddballs—especially food issues—were my jam. But I never fully embraced that and so there’s lot of bycatch and filler that I need to go through.

I much prefer my modern collecting where I have much more clearly-defined projects and getting a pair of commons like these two excites me because they complete a team set that takes me back to that 1989 season and all the things I did as a Giants fan that year.

The Trevor Wilson also reminds me of the early 1990s when he was still one of those end-of-the-roster guys who got dragged out on community service duty.

What would you think if I sang out of tune?

A short post of a couple plain white envelope arrivals. There’s nothing Card Twitter likes more than filling those last couple holes in a checklist. It happened with my 1986 Topps set build and it’s happening again with my 1978 Topps set build.

The first one came from Pete Scribner (@ScribSports), a Cardinals fan who blogs over at polyturf.blogspot.com and who just finished his 1978 Topps set a couple weeks ago with a nice Mike Schmidt. We’ve been watching each other build this set* and when I got to only 10 left Pete offered to send me the Gary Carter I was missing.

*A few cheap Ebay lots got me halfway there before I received help from Matt Prigge, Mark Hoyle, Tim Jenkins, Shane Katz, Tim/MaxxPower68, and Mark Armour while I picked off star players here and there when they came up cheap.

It’s funny. When I started building this set it wasn’t one I was particularly enamored with. I felt the design was a bit boring and generic and a a result it just didn’t move me. The Giants cards with that Greg Minton didn’t help much either. As I’ve been building it though my opinion has completely shifted. I love the photo-centric design and custom lettering for the team name. The manager cards are one of the best things Topps has ever made. And many of the photos themselves are kind of wonderful.

Better-cropped action than the earlier 1970s sets. A lot of nice casual images such as the one on this Carter. There’s even a low-contrast feel which keeps a lot of detail in the shadows. The only thing I don’t like is that position indicator.*

*The All Star shield on the other hand is wonderful.

A couple days later another 1978 showed up in my mailbox. This time it was from Tim. There are three Reggies in this set. I was missing two. Now I’m only missing the best one. Though this World Series highlight is pretty cool as it suggests that Reggie’s too big to be contained in the frame.

And with that I’m down to missing only eight cards in my set build:

36 Eddie Murray
100 George Brett
200 Reggie Jackson
222 Jerry Martin
360 Mike Schmidt
704 Garth Iorg / Dave Oliver / Sam Perlozzo / Lou Whitaker
707 Mickey Klutts / Paul Molitor / Alan Trammell / U.L. Washington
708 Bo Diaz / Dale Murphy / Lance Parrish / Ernie Whitt

Seven of these are exactly what I’d expect to be missing at the end. The best rookie in the set. Three of the biggest stars in the game including one which is on the shortlist for best card of the 1970s.* Two rookie cards of guys many people think should be in the Hall of Fame.** And one rookie card featuring two Hall of Famers. The eighth card is Jerry Martin who wins the “last common remaining” award.

*The Reggie Jackson is a fantastic photo.

**Yeah I know the Dale Murphy isn’t really a rookie card since he’s also on a multiplayer rookie in the 1977 set.

Anyway I fully expect Eddie Murray to be the last card I acquire for this set just like he was for 1986 Topps. I also do not at all expect to get that as a PWE mailing.

Thanks Pete and Tim! It’s fun to get so 20% closer to the finish line.

Yo dawg I heard you like printing

Being sort of the resident print expert over at SABR Baseball Cards has resulted in me getting tagged into other print-related discussions online. It also meant that people like Jason have started to alert me about non-baseball-related sets that I should be interested in from a printing point of view.

The most-interesting of those sets was manufactured in 1906 by Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company. Liebig was a massive producer of trade cards around the turn of the 19th century. Most of these appear to have been printed through chromolithography. There were enough sets produced by Liebig and its ilk that in some parts of the world it appears that trading cards are still known as chromos.*

*Where trading cards are known as “barajitas” in Latin America, they’re known as “cromos” in Spain.

Liebig sets are wonderfully printed and fantastically varied in subject much in the same way that American and British Tobacco cards depict subject matter that runs the gamut from sports to geography to history to anthropology to science and nature. The key difference is that the Liebig cards are huge—much larger than the traditional baseball card size and close to four times the size of a tobacco card. As a result the artwork can be much more detailed and informative.

Jason had specifically informed me about a set which details the production of the cards themselves both through illustration and print progressives which demonstrate how the image looks as each ink is added. This set immediately became something I’d occasionally search for on ebay. It’s there but not cheap. While some pre-war cards are affordable, this did not look to be such a case. Jason however suggested he had a source where it was way cheaper and offered a trade where I’d help out with some fast graphic design expertise in exchange for him sending me the set. So I did. And he did.

The cards arrived last weekend and they’re wonderful. I received the French issue* which, while I can’t read French, I have enough experience doing tech support and QA on non-English computers that I can sort of muddle my way through a lot of romance and germanic languages now.

*There are Italian and German versions as well.

They’re in remarkably good shape for being the oldest cards in my collection* and the depth of the printing is indeed fantastic. Chromolithography looks so much different than modern offset printing. No halftone line screens although there are dot patterns in the different inks. Also there are 14 different inks used on these cards and the resulting images have much different tones than anything you’ll get with modern four-color offset printing.

*Though not the oldest cards in the household. That honor is held by a 1901 T-175 Heroes of the Spanish American War card of Albert Beveridge which is in my wife’s collection.

Anyway, because these cards themselves describe how they’re made I’ll take each card one by one.

Card number one is titled, “The artist composes the subject.” The back, rather than going into the detail of this step chooses to offer a brief description of lithography itself. It was invented in 1796 by Alois Senefelder. It’s useful in reproducing signs, designs, colors, etc. from an original artwork. Liebig works with many artists to create all kinds of chromos.

The front shows an artist whose work gives a hint at the diverse nature of Liebig’s subjects. The progressive though is what’s most interesting to me since it shows the first three inks (two colors and gold) that get printed.

I’m intrigued that the gold goes down first. Metallic inks are opaque so the order they get printed can make a big difference in how things look. In modern printing they usually go down first because they’re denser but sometimes they get thrown on last because they cover up everything else.*

*I always had to check with the pressman on how he wanted things to be trapped.

With this century-old printing, the ink order appears to generally be reversed. Where on modern multi-ink printing presses the dark colors go down first for density reasons, back when colors were printed one at a time you printed the lightest colors first so you could register them while you could still see them on the press sheet. Starting with the yellows and light tans produces a faint image but one where you can still distinguish the inks from each other.

Card two, “Extraction of the lithographic stones.” Lithography requires a specific kind of fine-grained limestone.* As this card specifies, the stones are from a Jurassic deposit found in Solnhofen, Bavaria** but can also be found in France in Le Vigan, Gard. They can also be found in America and England albeit of a lesser quality than the Solnhofen stone. The stones are cut to be 5 to 10 centimeters thick and ground flat. They’re colored yellow-grey and on occasion blue-grey—which indicates a stone that’s especially suited for printing fine details.

*Hence the “lith” portion of the name of the medium. This is literally writing with stones.

**Non-printing nerds may know of this deposit and quarry as the location where Archaeopteryx was discovered and as the single source of all Archaeopteryx fossils. And yes this is why one Archaeopteryx species’s scientific name is Archaeopteryx lithographica.

The image on the front presumably shows a picture of the Solnhofen quarry and shows how the limestone in the quarry guides the thickness of the slabs that get cut. To print these cards you’d need fourteen different slabs.

The progressive has added light cyan and a darker tan. Already Mr Liebig’s face is starting to look real with the blue providing a decent amount of shadow detail. The gold is no longer showing up on the list but we’re at five inks used now.

Card three, “Lithographic reproduction,” contains a bunch of details about how lithography actually works. A reversed image has to be drawn using special oils on a polished stone. With colored subjects, the design has to be drawn on multiple stones, one stone for each color although when inks overlap even more colors can be produced. Nothing I can make sense of as for how the different color components are determined though.

This description finally starts to get into the actual process of how lithography actually works. At it’s heart it’s just the oil and water principle. The design gets drawn on the stone in oil or grease. The stone is wetted. Water doesn’t stick to the design. The stone is then inked. Ink is oil based, sticks to the design, but doesn’t stick to the water. Then the paper is pressed against the stone and takes the ink.

The image shows a room with multiple artisans each drawing on a lithographic stone. Note that everyone’s working on a large-scale lithograph rather than something card sized.

The progressive meanwhile has added a brown and a light magenta ink, taking our total to 7 inks used and giving Mr. Liebig a little flush in his cheeks.

Card 4, “Printing proofs.” After the stones have the grease drawing on them they’re cleaned with Nitric Acid.* This cleaning allows the non-oily parts of the stone to accept and hold water so only the oily parts attract the ink. Before the final printing, progressive color proofs (which will look very much like the progressive portraits of Mr. Liebig) are run beginning witt the lightest colors and ending with the darkest.

*Diluted since limestone aka Calcium Carbonate and concentrated acid will react.

It’s nice to see my observation about the progressive proofs being explicitly mentioned. We’ve now got a pair of darker cyan and magenta inks added to the mix as well.

And the image shows a number of printers all working single sheet hand presses that squeeze the paper against the stone in order to produce the print. This is a pretty labor-intensive process where the wetting, inking and paper pressing is all done by hand.

Card 5, “Final printing.” When the proofs are sufficiently close to the original artwork, the rotary pressman can follow them. The original artwork is transferred multiple times to a new, larger stone which undergoes the same polishing, drawing, and acid wash as before only this time it’s wetted, inked, and printed via automated cylinders.

I wish this described how the images are transferred from the small stones to be printed multiple times on the large ones. It’s very interesting however to see a depiction of the automatic press. I’ve only seen lithography done as art prints now so hand-presses are the only surviving production method.

The automatic press shows why offset printing is a commercially more viable process. Instead of a stone which has to be inked by rollers moving across the entire surface, modern offset lithography uses metal plates that have the same oil/water surface but can also be wrapped around a cylinder. The water can get applied via rollers. Same with the ink. A rubber blanket cylinder transfers* the ink from the plate to the paper (also on a cylinder) and, since it’s softer than stone allows for a more-even print while also protecting the stone image from being degraded by paper.

*Hence the term “offset” being used since there’s no longer a direct contact between the plate and the paper.

The printing industry just needed photography to catch up to its needs. We used photography to convert images to halftone screens. We used it to expose plates. And we used to create multiples of a single piece of artwork.

Also I can’t help but point out that a woman makes her first appearance on the cards as the press operator.

Meanwhile Mr Liebig now features dark brown and dark cyan inks and is looking nearly human in his 10 inks plus gold frame.

Card 6, “Cutting and packing.” The sheets are cut mechanically. They’re then counted and packaged for shipping. The rest of the text describes the progressive proofs in twelve colors plus gold and calls out the new colors that result in the completed image.

The bindery is a basic hand bindery with a mechanical paper cutter and lots of desk space for people to count and sort and package everything. This is still a pretty common thing. While super-advanced automated systems do exist, for small jobs doing it all by hand is the way to go. Cutters are safer and counting is usually done by weighing the finished product but otherwise yeah, lots of hand work at this point.

Also, while the progressives specific 12 colors plus gold, the last two inks added on the list are dark magenta and medium grey. Black never gets mentioned despite being clearly in the image not only as his name plate but also the final detail work in Mr. Liebig’s irises.

This isn’t an oversight but instead reflects how Black doesn’t show up much in the images. Black objects usually get there because of mixing the other inks. You only need to generate the black component to save ink or prevent too much getting put on the paper. Black typically only shows up on it’s own Key* plate and is used for text and border colors and so.

*Why it’s assigned K in the CMYK model.

So yeah. Where modern printing would print this in five inks (CMYK plus metallic gold) in 1906 this used fourteen. Lots more work. Lots more effort. All for something that was being given away. Still, super duper cool and I love having these in my collection both as a explanation of how chromolithography works and as a demonstration of what they actually look like. Thanks Jason!