Category Archives: trades

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!

Getting Zapped in time for the Thunder Open House

As I, and my son, have gotten more and more into Trenton Thunder games I’ve started paying more and more attention to Kenny’s Twitter feed and blog. In addition to being a prolific trader whose Zippy Zappings are somewhat legendary, he’s a big-time Yankees prospector and autograph seeker. While the prospecting life isn’t for me, knowing who to expect to see in Trenton and who the likely big deals are is good information. At some point I suspect my kids will take over this knowledge base but for now Kenny’s my go-to.

Since Kenny is located in New York City he has access to the Staten Island Yankees (also the Brooklyn Cyclones but we don’t talk about the Mets) and sees Yankees prospects fresh out of the draft. When he realized that the Trenton Thunder were having their open house last Tuesday he put together a package of Staten Island extras and sent them to me and my boys so we could start prospecting on our own.

I suspect he’s also trying to convert them into being Yankees fans. Many of the local kids around here have turned their backs on their parents’ teams and have instead begun to support the Yankees. It would be infuriating if it weren’t so pure. Trenton is a good experience and the past couple years with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres all making the jump from Trenton to New York City means that the kids are really just following the players’ careers and being excited about them making The Show.

This would be super concerning to me if the Andrew McCutchen trade hadn’t gone down the way it did last year. But seeing Abiatal Avelino in Trenton and then seeing him play in San Francisco later that same season? Super cool. We also got to see Billy McKinney, Brandon Drury, and Justus Sheffield last season and none of those guys are with the Yankees anymore either. My kids have already learned that the Yankees like to trade for players during the season and that minor leaguers at the Trenton level are frequently exactly who gets sent the other way.

Anyway I got my first Zippy Zapping on Monday. Just in time. Inside were three piles of cards—one each for me and the boys.* Plus a bunch of other ephemera from Staten Island. Like I said, I think he’s trying to convert us.

*Yes plural. The youngest is old enough to go to games now and has been jonesing to go for a while. He’s super pumped for the season and is more than ready to join his big brother.

One thing the Trenton is great at is giving away the program at every game. It’s fantastic and welcoming. I thought perhaps this was just a Trenton thing but since Staten Island appears to also do it maybe it’s a Yankee thing. I’d be impressed if it were.

I think this is a complete run of monthly programs from 2016. The first one has an embarrassingly low-resolution cover image but it’s really interesting to see how much roster turnover there is form the first program to the last one.

Also two ticket stubs from last season. I may as well link to Kenny’s post about these games. I’m kind of shocked at the prices. Trenton isn’t cheap but is cheaper than this (San José meanwhile papers the house so everyone feels like they can afford to buy BBQ and churros). I hope the food at Staten Island is affordable since this seems like it would be tough to take families to.

On to the loose cards. Two of the Chromes are for me. The Abreu is for getting signed at Trenton. And the other three Minor League cards are to be divided among the three of us.

Kyle Crick is the guy the Giants sent to Pittsburgh (with cash) for Andrew McCutchen; who then turned into Abiatal Avelino and Juan De Paula. De Paula meanwhile just got shipped to Toronto with Alen Hanson and Derek Law for Kevin Pillar. So in a sense the Giants got rid of Crick, Hanson, and Law and received Avelino and Pillar in exchange.

Kyle Holder is currently with Trenton with Albert Abreu. David Sosebee is with the Yankees’ AAA club in Scranton. And Josh Roeder is now in the Marlins organization. Travis Phelps meanwhile played a couple years in the Majors for Tampa Bay.

Like the Abreu, the rest of the cards were intended for autograph hunting. I didn’t have time to scan anything before the Open House so instead I’m scanning what got signed  and moving into a rundown of the event.

DSC_0150
DSC_0153
DSC_0157I took the boys directly from school. The event started at 3:00. We got there around 3:45 and just wandered around the stadium before grabbing our $1 hot dogs once batting practice started. They loved just watching the players hit.

One of my favorite things as a kid was to get to the park early and watch the teams practice too. There’s something very calming about it and it warms my heart that the boys share my mindset. I’m glad we can all watch together.

Around 5:00 we went up to the autograph line. They were excited—a little too excited—so I gave them each a Thunder baseball and told them we’d try the cards another day. Juggling everything was going to be tough. Which meant I was the only one getting cards signed. I gave the notebook method a shot this time and it’s pretty nifty. Definitely a timesaver if you have a lot of cards you’re managing.

The autographs were managed so well that everyone finished signing like 20 minutes early. Finished in this case means that all the fans in attendance had gotten everyone’s signature. This is just as well since it was pretty chilly and as much as I like minor league ball, the way the players get treated (and not paid) is making me feel really guilty about enjoying it.

Anyway, to the autographs. Two non-team-set cards are of Jorge Saez and Trevor Stephan. Saez has been stuck in AA for too long. He’s better than this and is a perfect example of many of the things wrong with the way Major League Baseball treats minor leaguers. He enjoyed the blast from the past with this card featuring him with the Blue Jays though.

Stephan was the only top prospect to show up (Albert Abreu was on the list but ended up not being in town) and sort of carries himself like he knows it. Still nice enough but definitely someone who’s already been asked to sign a ton of autographs.

Kenny sent us three 2015 Staten Island Yankees team sets. A lot of the players in this set are with Trenton. I don’t normally go for minor league sets but I figured, what the hey, if I have the cards I may as well try and get them signed. Jeff Hendrix, Jhalan Jackson, and James Reeves are ones I recognize from last season. Kyle Holder and Brandon Wagner are new to me but joined Trenton after I’d stopped going to games in June.

Of note here is how different Holder’s signature looks from the certified one Kenny sent.

He also sent us three 2016 Staten Island Yankees sets. Only a couple of these guys are with Trenton. For now. Ben Ruta was on the team last year and Angel Aguilar was a late late promotion. Kenny suggests that a lot more of the guys in this set will make their way to Trenton before the year is up.

I like the way they signed in the white space on these cards. A marked difference compared to the the signed cards that Kenny sent me.

I’ll sit on my copies of the team sets for additional autograph purposes. The boys are already making noise about putting theirs in the binder. Yes they also want to get them signed. I’m going to have to talk to them about how it’s one or the other for now.

That finishes up my Zippy Zapping. Thanks Kenny for getting the new season off on the right foot!

I’m not sone with this post though because I also brought a few of my own cards as well. Jason Phillips is the Trenton bullpen coach but played catcher for the Mets for a few years. And I’d grabbed some 2018 Topps Heritage Minors cards from Tampa since that’s the lazy method of prospecting that appeals to my lower attention span. Unfortunately only Stephan showed up at this event.

The main autograph thing I was planning on working on was a team ball. I had one and I gave each of the boys one as well. I’m not planning on a compleat comprehensive ball but it’s nice to get one with 25 signatures on it. They’re good reminders of the event and the boys are both in love with theirs.

My ball is is an Official Eastern League ball. Supposedly they’re switching to the generic Official Minor League balls this year but I like having things being as specific as possible.

Image 2 is manager Patrick Osborn #13 who signed last but all the players left him the sweet spot.

Image 3: Brody Koerner #24, Trevor Stephan, Raul Dominguez #23, Jhalan Jackson #30, Mandy Alvarez #3, and Chris Gittens #34.

Image 4: Angel Aguilar #7, Kaleb Ort #29, Jeff Hendrix, Kyle Holder #6 and Bullpen Coach Jason Phillips.

Image 5: Pitching Coach Tim Norton #40, Jorge Saez #18, Francisco Diaz #8, Will Carter #11, Daniel Alvarez #31, and Trey Amburgey #15.

Image 6: Brandon Wagner #10, James Reeves #26, Ben Ruta, Wendell Rijo #12,
Nick Green #45, Trevor Lane #9, and Bat Boy Tommy Smith #48.

I like having the signed cards. I also like having the single ball as a memento. Small enough to store and display easily but also represents a memory, and set of memories much more than a card can.

I’m not going to run down the boy’s baseballs the same way since we all have the same signatures. I gave them the cheaper fake-leather balls since they have the Thunder branding and I was (correctly) expecting these to get beat up a little. Kids love their treasures but also tend to love them to death.

It’s a lot of fun to watch but also a serious marker into observing when they‘ll be ready for nicer things. They can graduate to real leather balls once they can buy them themselves and handle them better.

At least they’re happy having these in cubes and displayed in a place of honor on their desks. Could be worse. They could’ve been chucked into the big box of athletic equipment with all the other balls.

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All in all a very successful afternoon. Worst part of the day was getting them to calm down after we got home. They’re both amped and ready to go to their first game and are even asking to go early so we can watch BP. April 14 can’t come soon enough for them. Good thing they’re part of Boomer’s Kids Club. It’s going to be a fun spring.

1986 Topps

I was not a huge set collector when I was a kid. This wasn’t by choice but rather economics. Buying complete sets was beyond my means. As was ripping boxes. In general I only got a couple packs of each release. Still I was able to accumulate a substantial number of cards of a few sets from my youth. 1990 Fleer and 1991 Donruss are two where I was gifted a box for my birthday. 1986 Topps though is one I accumulated the old fashioned way by opening a pack at a time over years.

I’ve been working on building all three of those sets since I had made substantial progress on them decades ago. As junk wax they make nice trade package filler and many people still have piles of them just sitting around. Heck I have piles of them just sitting around too. The past year has taken me to 90%, if not higher, complete on all of them and I’ve speculated in previous posts on here that it’s going to be interesting to see what set completes itself first.

A couple weeks ago my set need list got picked up by a few people on Twitter and all of a sudden it looks like 1986 is complete. This warms my heart since 1986 is literally the first set I started building even though I didn’t know I was doing so at the time.

1987 Topps holds a special place in my heart since that set represents the set I acquired during my first full season as a baseball fan. I look at that set and am transported to the beginning of my fandom. Watching my sons go through that exact age has definitely helped me remember how formative and wonderful that year is.

1986 though is the set which hinted at the world of baseball cards. The cards were just around. They were still in rack packs at Toys R Us. There were repacks of all kinds which consisted of like 50% 1986 Topps. I couldn’t avoid picking up a couple hundred of them and while 1987 Topps takes me back to that first season of baseball, 1986 reminds me of getting into the hobby itself.

 

Three people on Card Twitter in particular finished out my set for me. The main bulk came from Mark Del Franco (@delspacefranco)* and Jenny Miller who combined to kill almost my entire ~90 card needlist. Mark sent me over 60 cards** including a bunch of the Pete Rose specials. I’d never seen those as a kid and only now am I noticing the red-yellow gradient that would become a go-to look for all card companies in a couple years.

*Who I thought I was following but somehow and embarrassingly, wasn’t.

**Jenny’s package hasn’t arrived yet but looks to be even bigger. They started pulling cards at exactly the same time and I never know how to manage that (especially because trades sometimes fall through) so there will be a decent amount of overlap.

I don’t exactly like the 1986 design but there’s something solid about it. An incredibly distinct font definitely helps but the black bar is a good look too in making everything standard while allowing the team colors to provide enough interest card-to-card.* The photography is also an interesting mix of action, candids, and posed photos here.

*Something we’ve lost in the past two decades of “everything must be foil” madness is big bold colorful lettering. 

Mark’s asked me to pay this forward to other collectors—which is how I tend to approach trading as well. Send out what you can to who you can and don’t worry too much about what comes back. Odds are you’ll get more back than you ever sent out. But if I ever come across a good amount of 1969 Topps duplicates or 1950s Bowman duplicates (an unlikely scenario in both cases) I’ll know who to call.

The one card Mark and Jenny weren’t able to cover was number thirty Eddie Murray. After I’d gone through my lists and figured out what hadn’t been spoken for yet Mark put out a “get this guy a 1986 Eddie Murray” tweet and sort of immediately @CollectorVt responded.

A few days later Eddie showed up in my mailbox. Once Jenny’s package arrives my 1986 Topps set will be fully complete rather than expected complete. Very cool. I’ve never put together a set from scratch and even though accumulating cards via trades is still targeted set completion it’s nice to have done 75% of this from packs.

Thanks guys!

Surprise from Jason

So a couple weeks ago I found a surprise package from Jason in my mailbox. This package functioned as a bit of a thank you for introducing his to Card Twitter and the SABR Baseball Cards guys. Since he first popped up on Twitter last fall he’s become a big part of the community in general as well as a new SABR member who’s been blogging up a storm.

We’ll start with the requisite Giants cards. Do I have these? Yes…though I’ll have to double check with my current collection for condition since quite a few of my early-80s cards are printed badly.

But extras are always welcome here since I’m setting aside duplicates for my kids. They’ll each have very fun Giants albums soon and while I’m mainly setting aside two sets of identical cards so there’s no fighting we’ll probably have to have a draft of some sort for the rest.

The majority of the package though was, appropriately, all referencing various blog posts I’ve made for SABR over the years. I’ll go through these in the order I posted about them.

The first was this great Babe Ruth action photo. Not a Conlon card but rather part of the identically-designed 1992 Megacards Babe Ruth set. I’m a little sad to learn that this design turns out to have been used for a bunch of different sets but it’s still a nice look for all these old black and white photos.

I love multi-exposure action cards but was completely unaware of this one. A shame since the 1942 photos would’s been the oldest set of photos on that post.

There were a bunch of 1973 Topps cards which I’ll get to later but the Horacio Pina featured the Latino double last name on the back. I was wondering whether Topps would keep this detail in 2019 Heritage since it’s also part of the 1970 design but alas they did not.

Jason is a Dwight Gooden collector so he’d acquired a 1985 and 1986 Mets fan club card sheet just for the Doc cards. He then proceeded to tear them apart like an animal. Seriously, check out those edges. He kept the Doc but the rest found their way my direction. I like these because they’re oddballs but also because the typesetting on the back is very cool.

Jason did a better job tearing apart the 1986 cards. The Mets didn’t change the designs much these years but this is one of the stronger team-issue sets. Photography is mostly good and the design on the fronts is simple but effective. It would be fun to see sheets of these done for each team and, in an age of white-bordered cards, seeing team-color borders is especially fun.

The 1973 Topps Traded cards rounds out the references to my SABR posts. This kind of kid-generated modification is one of my favorite things. I love seeing evidence of kids using cards and really following the game.

Also, for a set with notoriously bad photography the selection here is mostly good. Just the Tommy Agee at the top of this post shows the all-too-common “who is this card of” photo selection. The Jim Hart card is also a bit awkward in that his face is completely in shadow. My only other comment is that it’s really really weird to see Dick Dietz as a Dodger.

Last card in the pile is a trimmed 1954 Jim Greengrass which is a bit of a reference to a SABR post I did not write. 1954 is a design I love despite its weirdnesses (the way the fronts and back only bleed on one, albeit different, edge means that half the backs are upside down). Seeing a card with full bleeds like this kind of freaks me out even after I get past the trimming thing. It’s just a completely different look.

Thinking about full-bleed brightly-colored cards brings us to the last item in the package. Jason included a pack of 1988 Score for me to rip. I wasn’t used to color full-bleed cards when I started collecting. Even colorful sets had borders or, in the case of 1975 Topps, multiple colors so you could get lots of different colors per press sheet.

I’ve touched on this before but Score was different. 6 different color designs were unlike anything I’d seen. Plus the photography was frequently better than anything I’d see on a card. No truly awesome photos in this pack—though the Steinbach is pretty good— but just selecting a card or two of each color shows how this set still jumps off the page. Yes it’s a very of-its-time design but it really showed what cards could be.

Thanks Jason! Glad to have you on-board with SABR and as part of the hobby community.

It pays to be nice

A post from the department of how I try to contribute to the trading card community even though my trade bait is basically non-existent. A couple months ago Cards From the Attic was running one of his sales but when I clicked through to his link his site was gone. So I sent him a message on Twitter and a couple of us took turns doing some troubleshooting. Different browsers. Different computers. Private mode or not. All those basic tests that you have to run because the support representative will ask them.

Anyway I helped out because it was the right thing to do. Computer issues stink and seeing them pop up when trying to run a sale is especially poor timing. Attic said he’d send everyone who helped out  a prize pack sometime. I ❤️’d the tweet but didn’t give it a second thought.

I try and help people out the ways I can. I can’t always do it with cards and that’s just fine. I’ve been the recipient of a ton of generosity from people on Card Twitter; whatever I can contribute back into the community I can. Rather than treating trades as individual exchanges I keep my general trade balance in mind. And with that in mind I’m running a serious deficit.

I don’t often partake in Attic’s sales. I’m too much a cheapskate so I like to wait until there are enough cheap cards to reach the $20 free shipping level. But I always watch just in case and keep my fingers crossed that some of the cards I might want don’t get snatched up so that I can make an offer on a batch.

One such card was a 1952 Topps Hank Thompson with extremely-rounded corners. I’d been tempted to claim it a number of times but held off since I couldn’t reach the free shipping level. When Attic teased last Wednesday’s sale as featuring bunch of 1952 and 1953 Topps, I mentioned that if that Thompson was in the batch I might finally pull the trigger.

I meant what I said but instead Attic said he’d grab it and a couple other beat-up 1952 Giants and send it to me as the thank-you prize pack that he’d promised earlier. Said prize pack arrived late last week and the Thompson is plenty nice despite the 67 years of wear and tear.

I’ve developed a soft spot for Thompson because he’s sort of the forgotten Giants pioneer. He’s overshadowed by both Monte Irvin and Willie Mays but deserves to be remembered on his own as both an underrated ballplayer and the only guy to integrate two teams.

Another card in the batch was this Larry Jansen. I’ve become accustomed to seeing this card in the card sales as well. There’s a copy with a back that’s pretty much destroyed due to the card having been pasted into an album at some point 60 years ago. I never claimed it because paper loss is somewhat of a dealbreaker for me.*

*For whatever reason the Thompson and Jansen never showed up in the same sales too.

While I thought I was getting the destroyed back Janson, much to my pleasure this one is in decent shape and completely readable. Yes the front is pretty rough with destroyed corners but you can see the goofy grin and 7-finger pose.*

*Googling suggests he’s holding up one finger for each of his kids. He’d eventually have 10.

Jansen is an interesting guy too. A gritty and cool ace of a pitcher who won the Shot Heard Round the World game, his rapid decline after 1951 meant that his name wasn’t one that I ever really learned as a young Giants fan.

The last card of the batch was Jansen’s catcher Wes Westrum. Generally better shape than the other cards but yeah there’s a bit of a bite taken out of the corner. Still a decent representative of the 1952 set though

Despite his importance to the pennant-winning Giants teams, I was only familiar with him as a coach and manager. He managed the Giants in the 1970s and the Mets in the 1960s and for whatever reason those kind of things stuck in my brain more.

It’s possible that in many ways my Giants history only really got started with 1958 when they moved to San Francisco. Yes I know about the legends of some of the New York star players but the other guys? No real clue. Which is kind of too bad.

One of the unexpected benefits of moving my collecting into focusing on New York Giants cards this year is that I get an excuse to read about the guys like Jansen and Westrum and learn about Giants history which I didn’t learn as a kid. It’s been a lot of fun so far and the fact that I can only pick up a couple cards at a time makes it easy to just pull up a bio.

What I did expect was to be thrilled just getting cards of the New York Giants. I never even dreamed of getting any of these in-hand when I was a kid so I get a bit giddy just handling them. Getting three in a prize pack? Mind blown.

Every Last Homie

When Robby T recently sent me a bunch of Giants cards, Steve (@cardboardjones) got the corresponding batch of Mariners cards. I joked on Twitter that I was missing only five OPCs and that he probably had three of them because they looked like Mariners cards.

It turned out that I was right. However, Steve, while he definitely blogs about Mariners cards, was not looking to complete that team set so he generously offered to PWE me the three “Now with Giants” cards.

Late last week the three cards showed up in my mailbox. They look out of place with the rest of the Giants cards but I like it this way since it suggests the logical extension of my current team set collecting project.

I’ve currently been collecting Giants team sets and paging them alphabetically by last name. It’s a perfectly fine way of capturing the roster but I’m planning on changing things up so each year depicts the Giants lineup. One page of the typical starters (plus manager or team card), another of the pitchers, and then the rest are substitutes.

When I start doing this I know I’m going to end up wanting to acquire the cards of guys who are missing (starters at least) even though they’re not depicted with the Giants that season. That’s going to result with a few random non-Giants cards on the pages—very much like these OPC pages look now.

Thanks Steve! Only two cards left now.

Change of Address

Holy moly. When it rains it pours. Four mailday posts in a row now reflecting four different days of mail over a week.
Something about that fourth mailday kicks things up a notch. Maybe we’re all feeling that beginning-of-the season excitement. Games are finally occurring. Packs of Series 1 are in the store. Time to start firing up the trades and getting unneeded cards off of our desks.

Mailday number four came from Peter who distributes most of his first packs to various team collectors. In this case, since he has recently moved, this small mailday also served as a way of updating my address book so I can send him the extra 1995 Fleer Darryl Strawberry that Robby just sent me.*

*I kid. I’ve already sent Peter a 1995 Strawberry and at least that one was tempered by being part of a batch of a bunch of 1995 Strawberrys from multiple brands.

Peter’s packs yielded two Giants who are polar opposites. Crawford is the resident All Star who fans love. Strickland… Oof. Pretty sure fans were happy to see him go. He was fine but always felt like a liability Did I need these two cards? Not really. For the price of a retail hanger pack I decided my money was better spent entering a half-case break which netted three team sets—enough for me and both boys to enjoy.

But having such a small mailing means I can actually write a bit more about the 2019 design here. I’m not a big fan. Backs are great with full stats making a triumphant return. Fronts have a bit too much going on for my taste with transparency effects and half-borders and drop shadows photoshopped onto the players so that the backgrounds look more like backdrops that have been dropped in after the fact.

I appreciate that the photography appears to be zoomed out a bit compared to previous years but things are still being cropped so that players’ feet disappear. This isn’t a huge problem on these cards but in 2018 Topps had a ton of Shortstop and Second Baseman cards featuring plays at second where the interesting part of the play was being covered by the design elements. Seeing the base and the ground is hugely important to a lot of these photos and Topps doesn’t seem to be allowing for that.

Another thing that jumped out to a weirdo like me is that this is the first set in at least a decade to be printed using a traditional line screen.* The big bold grey last name is a single black screen** and I didn’t even need a loupe to see the halftone. This suggests that Topps changed its production this year and I’m now curious if other sets will follow suit.***

*I only went back to 2009 and aside from the weirdness where 2010 Update is printed traditionally and 2010 Flagship is printed with a stochastic screen I didn’t find anything printed traditionally.

**Note, the darker greys on the backs are 4-color mixes but the light grey is single black.

***I’m going to hit that grey border in the 1970 design with my loupe as soon as I get my hands on some Heritage.

Anyway, I haven’t mentioned that Marichal insert yet. Peter will be pleased that I didn’t have it. I’m not big on insert sets but they’re definitely great ways to pad mailings. I’m very happy to put Giants inserts in my binder and I’m just as happy to get non-Giants inserts out my door to someone who will appreciate them.

Thanks Peter! It’s not Spring yet but it sure feels like it’s coming.