A couple pre-war pickups

I guess I’m going to just be blogging every week about pre-war card pickups. No set this time just a couple I’ve grabbed that I had my eye on for a while.

The first pickup is a 1909–11 Murad T51 Stanford card. Aside from being relevant to my collecting interests, I’ve especially liked that it features forestry as its sport and depicts on its artwork what looks like a giant redwood forest.

This is like 65 years before the Stanford Tree masco. The fact that it depicts what would become the school mascot takes it from being cool just because it’s old (only 25 years after the university’s founding) to sort of predicting the future.

Also the artwork itself is pretty nice with its gold border ink and sense of scale in the giant redwoods and tiny horsemen. We don’t see any of forest canopy we’re just among the tree trunks. Which really is how it feels to be in those forests in California.

The second pickup is from Anson over at Prewarcards. He was clearing out some excess and one of the cards in his clear out was this Origin of Football card from the 1923 Sarony Origin of Games set. I’ve loved this card ever since Anson showed it off on twitter not just because I’m a soccer fan but because it appears to show a form of Calcio Storico.

While the backs don’t mention anything about the Italian version of calcio, the fact that a version of the sport which looks very much like this card is still being played in Florence is something I just can’t ignore.

Anyway because Anson is a great member of the community and has also been super generous with me in the past,* I jumped on his sale and was very happy to receive his extra version of this card.

*Including the card of cards from the Sarony set.

Anson included a second card in the envelope too. This is from the 1925 Turf Cigarettes Sports Records set and depicts sprinting and its record times. That the card is a British issue means it shows the 100 yard time instead of 100 meters so I can’t compare it to a historical record progression.

It is however an interesting comparison to the 1939 Churchman’s card of Jesse Owens which lists a speed of 9.4 seconds for the 100 yards—.4 seconds faster than the record of 9.8 seconds depicted on the 1925 card (Owens’s 220 yard speed is .9 seconds faster).

1934 Player’s Cigarettes Hints On Association Football

Digging into my backlog of pre-war sets to write about. Might as well start off with some soccer to fill the some of the hole that’s resulted from cancelling sports worldwide.

These are from the 1934 Player’s Cigarettes Hints on Association Football set. They have very similar artwork to my 1928 cards but depict generic footballers instead of specific people. As a result this set is super cheap since it’s not about the players but is instead a more thematic checklist.

Since thematic checklists are something that I love about pre-war cards* I was not deterred by the absence of any real players. Plus as a soccer fan I love just seeing the artwork and reading the backs as a way of learning how the game looked and how it was played 85 years ago.

*The Romance of the Heavens set is a perfect example of this kind of thing.

Many of the cards feature routine actions that soccer players are expected to be able to make. Kicking, tackling, saving. etc. In many cases, such as not kicking with your toes, the advice is as valid today as it was back then. In other cases such as not knowing how a ball swerves, it’s clear how far the modern game has come.

Most of the cards are vertical but there are a handful of horizontal ones. I especially like the horizontal artwork since it offers both a wonderful depth of focus in the composition and the player’s-eye perspective of the field is fantastic.

The “‘W’ Formation” card is particularly awesome because it captures the specific moment in soccer strategy where the W-M formation was taking over England.

Flipping those cards over shows that three of them describe still-relevant tactics. The card describing the outside forward cutting in feels like it could still be describing the modern inverted winger. As someone who came of age with inverted wingers being described as a modern development to the game, I love seeing the idea described in the 1930s as just regular tactics.

The “‘W’ Formation” card meanwhile continues to be super-interesting since it describes the development of the “M” component of the formation in the centre half dropping back into the middle of a three-man defensive line. I grew up with 4-4-2 as the default formation everywhere and while I’ve learned about the evolution of tactics and formations, I also haven’t ever seen a primary source like this which describes an earlier standard.

Some more cards I just love. The goalkeeper’s cap is awesome. “When not to shoot” makes me laugh since it’s probably the most-relevant card for any youth coach. The kickoff card though is a great follow-up to the W formation one since it shows the five-man forward line before the two inner forwards drop back behind the center forwards and the wingers.

Also, with the modern game* allowing you to pass the ball backwards immediately from the kickoff, seeing three men in the circle instead of only one (or the two I grew up with) is also a huge change in how the game actually looks.

*As of 2016!

On the backs of these cards, I love that letting the ball run is presented as a specifically-Scottish strategy but it’s the goal kick description that really jumps out a me. Most of the cards describe what usually happens in a game and, by extension, what players should learn to do. The goal kick card though suggests strategy despite it not occurring regularly in games.

Rather than kicking it long the card suggests that keeping possession and passing it shorter to a teammate might be a better course of action than the standard procedure. As a Barcelona fan who believes that teams should keep possession and try and play out the back, this makes me very happy .

Some more tactics cards which show that the game is still very much the same as it was then. All of these are about passing or seeing the potential of space where a play might develop. There’s something especially wonderful about the empty green field that these cards suggest which reminds me of the abstraction in Richard Swarbrick’s Gareth Bale animation a decade ago.

There’s a lot more field out beyond the edges. These cards suggest the promise of that empty space and the potential to just run into it. It’s that space and the collective gasp by the crowd when a perfect ball is played into it which is what captures a soccer fan’s imagination.

I’m intrigued that the passback card doesn’t mention the goalie picking up the ball. In many ways this description, while a bit more conservative than the modern game, suggests that the pass backs were originally much closer to the way we use them now than they were in those dire years when you could just kill time passing back and forth to the goalie.

I also need to point out how the triangular movement card mentions the change to the offsides law. In 1925 the law was changed to reduce the number of defenders between an attacker and the goal line from three to two. I’m not sure why this would make certain plays harder unless perhaps this card represents a tactic that’s re-developing after defenses had adjusted to playing a newer offside trap.

The rest of the cards are similarly cool with great artwork and colors. It’s a great set and a lot of fun page through and read.

Not fun anymore

Football has moved on, but we haven’t. And on social media, on Barça Twitter, we bicker and squabble, more worried about being right than what any of it means for the team. It’s wanting Valverde to lose so that he could be fired so that a new, more correct coach could be hired. It’s harassing players on social media, and turning every post by the official club account or any club official into a shit trench of bile. Everything is wrong. What we aren’t stopping to acknowledge, maybe, just maybe, is that it won’t be right again until we understand what is possible now, what the game demands from its champions in the here and now.

Kevin Williams

I haven’t blogged about Barcelona and soccer in a long time. A long long time. I’ve still been following the team but it’s not a priority like it used to be. I used to follow streams and conversations during matches. Twitter was awesome. I wore jerseys all the time. It wasn’t my life but I was as die hard a fan as you could be in the United States.

Then five years ago I just sort of stopped. Some of this was baseball taking over but it was really a combination of things. Kevin’s post covers a lot of it but at the most basic level it wasn’t fun anymore. It got harder to find clips. Discourse about the team went into the toilet. Everything became about trying to reclaim an impossible ideal rather than acknowledging what was possible with the team at hand.

This wasn’t even about winning or not. It was about a team going through the motions with one foot in the past and the other unsure about the future. It was about a fandom that was vicious and cruel about tearing down anyone and anything that wasn’t “good enough.” It was about a club operating as a business fully content to milk a cash cow as long as possible.

I didn’t want a piece of any of that. Not something I want to associated with nor something I wanted to have to weed through in order to get my soccer fix. Which is a shame because I miss soccer an awful lot. It’s one of my favorite sports to watch and I love how it connects me to a global community.

Compared to my conscious decision to drop football I just passively stopped following soccer. For whatever reason Kevin’s post was a bit of a wakeup call. I’m not stuck in the past but I also haven’t made a decision about anything. Listing so much of what’s made the sport not fun also means I can consciously try avoiding just those things rather than aimlessly casting about like I have been doing.

So I’m trying to get back on top of the schedule and standings and be more aware again of when there’s a game and who’s playing who. It’s not turned fun yet—the team is indeed sleepwalking—but I’ll give it some time.

New Years Zapping

Last week Kenny gave me a heads-up that he’d sent me a package. I was expecting a small bubble mailer or something and kept an eye out…especially after we realized that the package had been sent to my old address. Then on Friday though my old neighbor gave me a call and said that a box had arrived for me.

A box? That was unexpected. So last weekend I popped on by (we only moved down the street), said hello, and picked up a medium priority mailing box filled with a lot more than just Yankees prospect cards.

Assorted vintage and junk wax. I love the 1975 Len Randle and am looking into other Len Randle cards now since his 1978 is one of the best of the set. The more I see of 1981 the more I like about it even though I really dislike the floppy caps still. But the bright, solid border is great and the photography has character.

A pre-A’s Dave Stewart is always fun and I’m very happy to have the giant glove Mickey Hatcher. I don’t have all the classic fun Fleer cards* but every one I do add makes me smile.

*Still missing the 1984 Hubbard and Johnstone cards among others. 

I’m also never going to be upset to add another Topps Gold card and while Collectors Choice was a set I barely collected due to 1994 reasons I like it more and more each time I see it.

Some more-modern cards starting off with a great photo on the Mark Bellhorn and then moving into more-expected territory with Yankees and Mets cards. Nice image on the El Duque card and it still weirds me out to see Derek Lowe as a Yankee.

A bunch of 2016 Archives in the 1979 design. Nice to get a couple Giants. Brandon Drury is also appropriate since I saw him rehab at Trenton. These cards all have pretty nice paper too, they just have some slightly weird photo processing especially the Billy Williams and Maz cards which feel like the backgrounds have been messed with a little.

It’s especially instructive to compare the Archives cards with the big batch of over 60 real 1979s in the mailer. Archives does a decent job at mimicking things but can’t quite get the photography right. This is partly because there’s been a standard Topps portrait setup used for all of Archives and Heritage recently and, while it’s fine for what it is, it’s not trying to capture the 1979 look either.

Some of this is the poses (the hands over head pitching posed windup is a thing of the past now). There’s also the slightly lower angle which, results in lots of sky-dominated, if not sky-exclusive, backgrounds. But it’s really cards with candid shots like the Garry Templeton which just no longer exist now. They’re not super-common in the 1979 set either but they’re there and tend to be my favorite shots of the set.

I still don’t like the 1979 design but it’s growing on me. Very photocentric and the splash of color is great. The fact that it’s the base card for Basquiat’s anti-product baseball cards is an added bonus.

Some more 79s. Larry Cox is a great catcher card. Clint Hurdle has a wonderful cheekful of chaw. I will never understand why the Cubs team cards were the way they were in the 1970s with all those floating heads. Mike Lum is a key addition to the not-yet-official Hawaii-born players project I keep telling myself I should start. And Nino Espinosa is an addition to the Candlestick binder.

Almost done with the 1979s and I have to admit that the Ken Landreaux stopped me cold when I was flipping through the stack. I joked on Twitter by calling it Vermeer lighting but in all seriousness I’ve never seen a baseball card lit like this before.

Indirect windowish light is not a situation that occurs that often in baseball as it is. The fields are exposed. Dugouts are usually open. Photographers are usually shooting into dugouts or out into the field. So getting a side shot of a player looking back from an open window? Even if it’s just a grab shot it’s one of those moments and lighting situations that makes the photographer side of me look closely.

Last handful of 79s includes another Candlestick card with the Jamie Easterly. I’m slowly putting together a page from each set showing just cards taken at the Stick. No specific searchlist, just pulling cards as I come across them This batch took me to five 1979s of Candlestick and also pushed my non-set-building accumulation over 200 in general.

Kenny included a few Giants and Giants-related cards. The Panini Joey Bart is especially nice. It doesn’t look like I’m going to get to see him in Trenton since he’s projected to end up at Sacramento but I’m hoping he’ll start the season in Richmond and only move up after they visit Trenton.

Chrome Suarez is cool and I know that Yastrzemski is an Orioles card but it just looks like a Giants card to me. The bunch of Pence cards is also fun. It’s weird to see him looking so clean cut as an Astro and I’m glad he regained some form with the Rangers.

Moving to Stanford guys. I don’t actively collect relics but this is one where I can see why people do. Not just a half-inch square of material, this is instead a big swatch which shows off how well-done Stanford’s ink/fabric color matching is. The photo is small but legible. The autograph is on-card. I don’t like the red uniforms but the color really pops here.

I’m not super-collecting Quantrill but he’s the one guy who debuted this year who got a bunch of cards from Topps. As a result I’ve picked up a lot of them and this is arguably the nicest of them all.

Three more Stanford guys in the mix. Bleich is also a former Trenton player and I’m not sure Kenny realized Ramos and Osuna were Stanford. that Osuna card is fantastic though.

Girardi on the other hand is a Spanish-language card and so fits with another of my mini collections. I’ve written about this set before and while I only have a handful of these total it’s always great to add a new one.

Speaking of non-English cards, Kenny sent me a couple Japanese cards as well. From what I can tell on his blog, Kenny visits his family in Japan and comes back with all kinds merchandise, much of which he’s generous enough to send out to other people.

God help us all if he starts bringing back mid-70s Calbee cards since these Kanebo and Card Gens are cool enough as it is. The Kanebo Bonds card is a massive improvement over the regular 2003 Topps design* because it’s deleted the Topps logo. The logo is often intrusive as it is but in 2003 it’s doubly annoying because it’s bright red instead of being reversed, black or, as is the case today, foil stamped.

*Also it uses the Opening Day photo.

Sega Card Gen is something that really intrigues me because it’s part of a video game that really has to be seen to be believed.  The card itself is pretty neat too: stiffer than a regular card and rounded corners. I actually have one on my Stanford Wantlist because San Fuld’s only 2012 card is a one of these but never expected to actually get one. Very very cool to have a sample in my collection.

Looking at the back of the Kanebo card is pretty wild. I appreciate that they translated his height and weight into metric. I also recognize that the team name is listed as “Jaiantsu” instead of “Kyojin” and am noticing the connection in voiced and unvoiced katakana syllabic pairs (in this case the BA in “Barry” and PI in “Pirates”).

Sticking with Japanese issues, There was a huge stack of close to 80 Japanese Panini Soccer cards. Even better, many of them were from 2010 to 2012 and so cover the years in which I was most interested in the game.*

*I’m still a fan but ever since Suárez came to Barcelona I’ve found myself less interested. Plus the inequality in the game itself has gotten worse and it’s become increasingly difficult to actually follow what’s going on as even highlights are going behind paywalls.

The biggest highlight in this batch is a Messi card from 2005–2006. Not technically a rookie card but pretty damn close. Messi debuted in 2004 and so probably only shows up on commemorative Campions Lliga type sets from that seasn. 2005–2006 would be the first time he’d be included from the beginning and what a season that was. A good time to be a Barça fan.

Two early-career Cristiano Ronaldo cards are also very nice. I also like seeing Keisuke Honda and Guiseppe Rossi. And even the Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid guys bring back good memories of that period of time.

More Soccer. Another Rossi. Diego Forlan. Bojan Krkic. Gianluigi Buffon, Shinji Kagawa. So many players who I watched play in Europe and int he World Cup. They won’t all make it into my album but it’s going to be difficult to cut things down to a couple pages.

Last bit of soccer takes us into current-year cards and stickers. These don’t resonate as much although Mathieu and Vidal are both players who’ve played at Barça. Rodrigo Taddei is also a former AS Siena player. I used to follow Siena when they were in Serie A but after going out of business and restarting in Serie D it’s been much harder for me to follow them. I do know they’re in Serie C now and doing well while not competing for promotion.

Also it‘s worth nothing that these cards are all mini-card sized and feel like the B5 equivalent to regular cards A4/letter size. I haven’t compared them to the classic Calbee size yet but it’s close and feels similarly satisfying to handle. Like the Card Gen cards these are part of a game and have backs that detail each player’s strength number within the game.

Okay now we’re getting into Kenny’s wheelhouse. Mostly Yankees. Mostly minor leaguers. These are from nationally-released minor league sets and as such I don’t really recognize many of the names. Jim Walewander may be the only one actually since the Melky Cabrera and Mike Stanton are part of the Major League side of Bowman.

A few more-modern Minor League issues with some Major Leaguers mixed in. Not much to say here except to note that while I like these Bowman designs they’re also some of the designs that I have the hardest time telling apart.

I also need to comment on whatever Topps did in that 2013 Heritage 1962 design. Design looks good but the photo processing looks like the black plate just didn’t print. At first I thought some of these were blackless variations but they all have the same look. It really weirds me out.

Sticking with minor league releases, Kenny included a dozen cards of guys I might see in Trenton at some point.* Most of these guys were in Tampa last year and can reasonably be expected to be in Trenton this year. The big name is Florial who I’m hoping won’t jump Trenton after a couple years in Tampa.

*Assuming there’s even minor league baseball in 2021 and beyond.

Another dozen or so cards related to Trenton. A handful shows guys who pre-date my time as a fan including three more which show the weird photo processing. Always fun to expand the Thunder collection though.

The rest show guys who I saw last season. Kyle Holder might be back though I expect him to move up to AAA.* It would’ve been nice to have had that Bowman card last year though. Same with the Jeff Hendrix although the fact that Hendrix was released early last season means I didn’t miss out much. Jhalan Jackson is another guy who didn’t make it through the season. And Casey Mize isn’t a Thunder player but was part of Erie’s excellent pitching staff which was impressive whenever I saw them play.

*Unlike Trevor Stephan who struggled with injuries last year and so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at least start the season at Trenton.

It wouldn’t be a proper zapping from Kenny if there weren’t a bunch of Yankees minor league team set cards. I never properly appreciated how long he’s been Yankees prospecting but the first cards here are from 1992. I don’t like these cards individually but there’s something about seeing the progression of designs and the increased production quality which I find fascinating.

The 1992s are full bleed but the typesetting is an afterthought and the paper is super thin. By the time we get into the 2000s the cards feel and look like proper cards. I don’t know if the designs are used across all the different minor league teams the way that TCMA designs were consistent across all the teams in the 1980s but they increasingly look like national releases.

These show the 2000s and 2010s designs which are much less loving-hands customs and much more professional looking. They still don’t pass as Major League cards in part due to the print quality but they’re not bad. The stock and finish is much much better now though.

The last items in the box were three mini-binders. I’ve been intrigued by these for my Mothers Cookies sets since the four-pocket pages are perfect for 28-card sets. Unfortunately Ultra Pro seemed to have discontinued these right when I started looking. This is also probably part of why Kenny decided to dump these. I know he’s trying to condense his collection but these are a nice way to have some things on display without taking up too much space.

These came with pages inside too so that makes them perfect for me to give to the boys. They have plenty of big binders but I can see the small ones being great for the cards they want to show off the most.

It’s a good thing I opened the binders too since there were a dozen autographs in there. Bobby Brown is the big one and now forces me to make a decision about my Stanford Project. To-date I’ve not included him because he was only at Stanford for a year before enlisting in the Navy and finishing his education at UCLA and Tulane. Part of this is me preferring guys who ended finished off their collegiate careers with Stanford* and part of this is me not wanting to pay the Yankees tax on Brown’s cards.

*Or, in the case with Bill Wakefield, Stanford graduates who didn’t play college ball.

At the same time he’s in the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame so it’s clear that he kind of should be part of the project at some level and I’ve added this to the binder to reflect that.

The rest of the autographs are all guys from the 2004 Battle Creek Yankees. I’m going to assume these were TTMs and, since none of these guys made it to the majors, Kenny’s willing to include them in his clean-out. Battle Creek was a low-A level team in the Midwest League and so demonstrates how hard it is to predict who’ll make it to the majors at that level. Only seven guys on the entire team made it al the way with Melky Cabrera the only real success story.*

*For my interests Stanford-wise, Jason van Meetren was also on this team but I’m not intentionally going into Minor League team issues for this project unless it’s the only way to get a card of a guy who eventually played in the majors.

Wow. That was a lot of stuff to get through and a lot of fun to look at. Thanks Kenny! I’m going to have to touch base after Spring Training as I prep for the Trenton season.

My 2010s

I’ve only been blogging for nine years but ending the decade feels like a good time to look back on where this blog has been and how it’s changed from being about photography, museums, and sports to a lot more card collecting.

I still like photography and museums, I’ve just been in a bit of a rut ever since I moved to New Jersey. I need to get out more but I also need to be back in time to pick up the kids from school and I honestly just haven’t been inspired by my surroundings despite being here for six years.

Anyhoo, highlights from the past nine years of blogging. I made it to WordPress’s Discover (previously known as Freshly Pressed) twice. The first time was for a 2013 post about looking at photography which is really about dealing with the proliferation of any media. The second time was for a post about Atlee Hammaker and how, as a kid, I didn’t realize that he shared the same multicultural background I did.

I also had a moment of semi-virality in 2013 when I dashed off a quick (it’s always the quick posts that get you in trouble) post about “white guy photography” which took on a life of its own. I had to follow that up with some clarifications. That was an interesting ride and I’m not sure how people deal with that level of scrutiny and seething anger on a daily basis. I also shudder to think about what would’ve happened if that post had gone viral in the last half of this decade.

Another popular post was in 2014 and forshadowed my return to the hobby when I recognized that my childhood autograph collecting and current photography practices had a bit in common in terms of that push/pull between the process and the result. That reminder to enjoy the process rather than fixating on the result is possibly the single most important thread in my blogging. I don’t seek viewers or an audience, this is for my enjoyment and I just like the writing. That I only average, at most, one view an hour is still a lot more viewers than I ever expect to get.

For a blog where I wrote about sports a lot, I don’t have many sports posts listed on here and that’s because while I started out writing a bit about sports and fandom, the general theme on this blog has involved me drifting away from The Olympicsfootball, and Barcelona. Yes there are some posts in there which I liked but it’s been weird to chronicle and revist my abandonment of a lot of things I used to be a fan of.

The flip side of this is that I’ve also been able to write about my sons’ discover of baseball, especially minor league baseball. Over the past couple years I’ve been able to enjoy going to games with them and collecting cards and autographs with them and it’s been wonderful. I’ve rediscovered how baseball cards are one of the formative items in my childhood photography and design education and not only started blogging for SABR, I’m now the co-chair of the Baseball Card Committee.

This has meant that some of my favorite posts over the past couple years are actually on the SABR blog where I still write about photography and museums with posts about people like Mike Mandel, Cady Noland, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. I’ve also particularly liked writing about the mental exercise of thinking about what it means to restore a baseball card as well taking a deep dive into R G Knowles and discovering the state of baseball in turn of the 20th century England.

Where will this blog go in the next ten years? Who knows. It’s been a fun ride so far and I owe everyone who’s read any of my posts a big thank you.

A surprise from @prewarcards

While my GiantsNOW has been my main customs card project, this past year has seen it morph into a GiantsTOTAL sort of thing* while my customs-making has expanded into new areas. It’s a fun exercise and I figured it would be especially fun to make cards for various Twitter friends. I don’t have a lot of trade bait so I figured that in addition to blogging, sending out a couple customs of favorite players would be a fun way to say thank you.

Anson over a @prewarcards is one such friend. He got sucked into two collecting black holes this past year. One is Dwight Gooden cards, the other are Ogden’s Cigarettes cards. I figured it would be fun to mash the two together so I created an Ogden’s Dwight Gooden card and sent it off in a plain white envelope.

*Just 70 cards of the guys who appeared for the team plus coaches.

I was not expecting my Cardsaver to be returned to me. I was especially not expecting it to be stuffed with a bunch of pre-war cards including a dozen real Ogdens. But it was and holy moly I can see how Anson got sucked into these. It’s not just that these are not my oldest cards—dating to 1901–1902 and passing up my Liebig set—there’s just something amazing about the variety. In this batch we’ve got sports, artists, actors, comedians, world leaders, and damaged warships.

Starting with the sports cards, we have a card of E.E.B. May who was a champion weight (shot) putter in England in 1901. Googling around pulls up some references to him competing in the hammer throw in  the US in 1902 and losing to a Harvard thrower. This card is especially interesting since it’s an action photo of a 1901 event.

Next we have a card of swimmer James Finney posing with all his medals. It’s noteworthy here that Finney’s accomplishments aren’t speed-based accomplishments but rather have to do with being able to swim the furthest underwater.

And finally we have an equestrian card of the winners of the Queens Prize at Kempton Park. Kempton Park is still a working racecourse but the website doesn’t mention the Queens Prize handicap. As for the jockey, it appears that his name is listed incorrectly on the front of the card.

The last card is of Vesta Tilley who has a wonderful Wikipedia writeup about her highly successful career as a male impersonator on stage. By the time this card was printed in 1901 she appears to have been a bona fide star for at least a decade. This may have been a pack hit back in the day.

Continuing on the performers theme, Sir Henry Irving was the first actor to be knighted and is noteworthy for being the inspiration for Count Dracula. This card came out right around the end of his management of the Lyceum Theatre and only a couple years before his death.

The card of Lily Brayton on the other hand captures her at the beginning of her career yet she’s already playing important roles like Viola in Twelfth Night.

R.G. Knowles doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry but appears to be a music hall comedian who billed himself as “The Peculiar American.” More intriguingly, googling around for “Richard George Knowles” turns up an 1896 book about American Baseball. At first I wasn’t sure if it was authored by the same guy but there’s a photo of him on page 65 and it looks awfully close to man in the Ogden’s card.

Rather than being just a musician card we’ve got a baseball writer. I’ve skimmed the book and enjoy a lot of it. The familiarity of explaining the appeal of the game (no draws, for thinking men) is great. I love the detailed instructions about how to lay out a baseball field through specifically knotted lengths of heavy cord. It’s fun to read rules written for an audience familiar with cricket.

The section on how to keep score is especially interesting since it’s not a method I’ve seen used before (also shortstop is position #5 and third base is #6) and there’s something about seeing different methods of keeping score that I particularly love.

Much of the rest of book is dedicated to describing the nature of baseball in England at the end of the 19th century. I did not skim this part except to note that the five teams appear to be vocational guilds and that one of the competitions was called the Music Hall Review Cup as well as an RG Knowles Trophy which went to the London champion.

Compared to Knowles, Gus Elen is merely a music hall performer. But he had a long career and made it into the age of sound in movies. As a result we can see him singing some his cockney songs on YouTube and really appreciate the way he performed.

Moving to politics. Mutsuhito now known as Emperor Meiji is probably the coolest card Anson sent me. The back text is a huge understatement for what happened to Japan during his era, although since this card predates the war with Russia the West wasn’t fully aware of what Japan had become yet either.

It’s cards like this that are why I collect. We know of him as Meiji and his era transformed almost everything about Japan.Having a card that dates from his era (even if it’s not a Japanese card) is a way of touching that history.

Baron Curzon eventually became the First Marquess Curzon of Kedleston. While he was Vicerory there was a massive famine in India. His “beautiful American” wife was Mary Leiter, daughter of one of the founders of Marshall Field’s who’s probably more relevant today as being part of the inspiration for Lady Grantham in Downton Abbey. Curzon’s hand meanwhile can still be seen on modern maps because the Curzon line he drew in 1919 to mark the border between Poland and the USSR is basically what Poland’s border with Belarus and Ukraine is today.

The HMS Salmon and HMS Dragon are two torpedo destroyers. Neither appears to have been destroyed by the results of what happened in the cards here and both made it to World War 1, during which they reached the end of their utility. It’s an interesting idea to have a set of cards depicting damaged vessels. It does make for more interesting stories but I also wonder if it’s also a bit of the tabloid “if it bleeds it leads” thing too.

All together this Ogdens batch is absolutely wonderful. I’ve seen cheap singles available but they’re kind of overwhelming. I love the variety and way each card is a potential rabbit hole into learning about the past.

General interest sets like this no longer exist. I don’t think it’s really even possible for them to exist now. We like our sets to be much more focused (something I completely understand) but seeing the potential for other directions the hobby could have gone 120 years ago is still enough to make me think about who would be in such a set today.

The dozen Ogdens would’ve been more than enough for a blogpost but they weren‘t the only cards in the envelope. Anson also included two 1932 Sanellas. These German cards are pretty big and printed on paper so thin it’s had to call them cards at all. But the size is otherwise correct and the artwork is all kinds of wonderful.

The shotputter is dynamically posed in the frame with a crisp and clear depiction of the Olympics badge on his uniform. The design of the badge also suggests USA to me. The crew image meanwhile is a nice tight crop and composition with the boat moving through the frame at an interesting angle and the oars balancing out the negative space perfectly.

The backs detail that both of these are from the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. The shotputter is indeed American and is in fact gold-medal-winner Leo Sexton who won with a throw of 16 meters. The crew are the Gold-Medal-winning German Coxed Fours team. Every Sanella checklist lists them as Der Bierer des Berliner but the five men are Hans Eller, Horst Hoeck, Walter Meyer, Joachim Spremberg, and coxswain Carlheinz Neumann.

As I noted in a previous post, one of my favorite things about these cards is the Fraktur Blackletter writing and the way that these cards remind me of the Antiqua–Fraktur dispute.

I also found two soccer cards. George Mutch is from the 1935 Wills Association Footballers set. I already wrote a little about him so the only thing I’ll add here is that as much as I like these old soccer sets it’s always especially nice when they feature a team like Manchester United which is still in the top flight.

The Willie Hall is from the 1939 Wills Association Footballers set and shows a lot more uniform detail. The popped collar is a great way of doing the portrait and it’s pretty neat to see the much fatter cockerel in the Spurs badge. That bird loses weight the longer it balances on the ball.

This card makes a nice pair with the Stanley Matthews card Anson sent me last year as well. Hall’s bio is also kind of interesting  and he seems to very much still be somewhat of a local hero as the teams in Newark, his home town, still compete for the Willie Hall Memorial Trophy.

Moving to the last two cards. The first is from the 1923 Sarony Origin of Games set and is a card that is literally of cards. Am I a sucker for stupid things like this? Yes I am.

Beyond that though this card is the only one of the batch which isn’t printed via halftones. The colors are super vibrant and the artwork takes advantage of this perfectly. Anson has shown a few other samples from this set. The Rounders card is pretty neat for all of us Baseball guys but I love the Football card since it looks like it’s showing some sort of Calcio Storico.

The last card in the envelope was a Don Bradman from the 1935 Gallaher Champions set. I have the 1934 set and it’s beautiful. I’ve been considering getting the 1935 one but aside from Bradman (and Stanford graduate Pete Desjardins) the set just didn’t look as nice to me.

Bradman though is a great card to have and this card shows him doing what he does best. His excellence at batting is so far better than any other cricketers’ that it looks like a mistake. He also makes a nice partner to the Larwood and Jardine cards who inspired me to pick up the 1934 set to begin with.

Anyway, wow. This was a hell of a surprise and a ton of fun to go through. Thanks Anson!

Housewarming from Marc

My wife’s starting to get suspicious at how fast envelopes have been showing up at the new house. Late last week a mailer from Marc Brubaker arrived. Inside was the usual mix of cards for all my different projects.

We’ll start off with a few Stanford cards. The Castro celebration card and Lowrie parallel are the kind of things that never even make it on to my searchlist radar. Base cards and oddballs are my main goal. Inserts and parallels are things I ignore even though I love adding them to the binder.

I’ve just watched too many other collectors descend into madness trying to stay on top of all those things. Plus it feels like the kind of thing that risks turning the hobby into a chore. Having an insert or a couple parallels here or there adds a bit of variety. Feeling like I need ALL of them though is a place I never want to be.

The 1993 Osuna is a new one to me as well. The photo looks like it was taken at Candlestick and I’m staring at his uniform and realizing that I never noticed that the Astros wore the same uniforms at home and on the road in the late 80s. Also that out of focus baseball makes that card go from basic to interesting.

As is his wont, Marc included something that’s above and beyond the usual trade package stuff. This time it’s a Mark Appel autograph that Marc got through the mail a few years ago. This would have been a big deal six years ago and serves as a warning for all the crazy-overpriced prospecting that’s currently going on in Bowman. What was a big deal then is now probably only of interest to a weirdo like me who collects Stanford guys.

Also I have to point out that Appel notes Romans 12:2* on this card where his other card in my collection indicates Matthew 5:16** and yup, now I’m wondering if he’s ever been tempted to cite the something from Mark.

*And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

**Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

The next stack of cards confused me for a moment because the Chris Carter card was on top. Chris Carter is a Stanford guy only he’s white and never played for the Astros. This Chris Carter is completely different and I needed his card for my 2014 set build.* I’ve not gone big on this yet but every little bit helps and it’s nice to strike another 6 off the searchlist.

*Current status of which is on the set needs page.

Moving on to the Giants portion of the mailing. A fair amount of Bowman including some gold parallels I’ve not seen and a black border Kyle Crick which I didn’t realize was (possibly) special until I put it in the binder. Bowman is such a trainwreck that I still don’t know whether the black border is a parallel or just a different set.

And a few 2019 cards including a foil Jeff Samardzija from Series 2 and a couple shiny Prizm cards. Since I couldn’t get into any Series 2 breaks it’s nice to get some of the extra cards in mailing like this. Prizm meanwhile is, like the rest of Panini’s products, one of those sets that I never see. These look pretty cool and deal nicely with Panini’s unlicensed status.

The last bit of the package consisted of a half-dozen 1994 Upper Deck World Cup cards. I only had one of these before now but have been considering getting many more. The 1994 World Cup is still the last international soccer games I’ve attended and Marc tried to get me cards of guys I watched play (plus Jorge Campos who’s just cool).

Four out of the five are indeed guys I watched play. And the fifth is John Doyle who, while he didn’t play in the 1994 World Cup, is a Bay Area legend who played with both the NASL Earthquakes and MLS Earthquakes as well as continuing on to be the Quakes manager so I have no complaints there.

Of the players I watched, the clear highlight is Bebeto who I saw score a couple goals—one against Cameroon and the winner against the US—in addition to having an all-time classic goal celebration. While I became a Barcelona fan through watching Romario in this World Cup, I very much enjoyed watching Bebeto play as well.

Thanks Marc! Maildays like this help me feel really moved in.

Reminiscence Bump

One of Night Owl’s recent posts involved memory and baseball cards as he grappled with his mother showing the first signs dementia (or worse)* and how things like music and baseball cards can trigger memories from decades ago.

*A story which reminded me of my grandmother who succumbed to dementia in the late 1990s (well she died in the early 2000s but by then there was no one home). As she regressed further into her past we’d still make small talk when we visited just to try and keep her brain working. One fall day we mentioned the upcoming World Series and jokingly asked her if she’d followed who was in the Series that year. She screwed up her face and guessed, “Yankees?” Which was both correct for the season as well as an accurate representation of where her reminiscence bump would fall.

It’s a wonderfully thoughtful and vulnerable post since it’s always awful to see someone going through the experience of slowly losing a loved one. It’s also a post which suggested that we could all think about our cards and our memory and how specific cards bring us back to specific moments in our youth.

This is the virtual card version of that scene in High Fidelity when John Cusack reorganizes his record collection autobiographically. One card per year of my collecting lifetime. With my memories of that year and the card attached.

1985

I wasn’t into cards yet. Heck I wasn’t even in Little League. My parents didn’t want anything to do with the overly-involved Little League parents and wanted me to be running around instead. So soccer it was and besides kind of wanting to be in Little League with my friends baseball wasn’t even on my radar.

I remember a friend of mine giving me this card right before soccer practice some time in 1986. No idea why he gave it to me. I’m not even sure why I kept it but I stuck it in my sock and my shinguard kept it “flat” against my shin.

It then got buried in my desk until July 1987 when I went looking for it after Eric Show hit Andre Dawson in the face. I had remembered it was a Padres pitcher. I was surprised to find that it was the Padres pitcher who the Giants had just traded for instead. I had no idea it was the pitcher who’d feature in one of the most amazing games I’d ever attend.

1987

I’ve mentioned it before but for whatever reason this card reminds me of my first year of ripping packs and really getting into the hobby. I remember browsing the rack packs at Toys R Us but I want to say my first pack was a surprise from my mom after she picked me up from school.

I usually took the bus after school so being picked up meant I had some programmed after-school activity instead. My memories are of opening my pack while sitting in the front seat on the ride home. I think I got a Dave Winfield Glossy All Star but the Magadan stood out to me most with all the promise that a “Future Star” holds.

1988

It’s hard to understate how amazing 1988 Score was as a set. Its thunder got stolen by Upper Deck the following year but in terms of paradigm shifts in the hobby, I’d argue that 1988 Score was even bigger.

I had been in the hobby over a year now and had matured greatly as a collector. I no longer browsed the rack packs at Toys R Us for my new cards. Instead I had discovered a local card shop (LCS) located kitty corner from where I had piano lessons. I suspect I begged to go there every weekend and I know my mom indulged me and took me there a lot more than I’d want to take my kids to any such shop now.

My LCS helped me settle into accepting the Topps/Donruss/Fleer hegemony as it stocked wax boxes of all three brands all the way back to 1980. It was my goal to be able to buy and open a pack of each of those.* Then one weekend afternoon I discovered a new brand on the counter.

*I never did buy 1983 Fleer or 1984 Donruss but I did manage to rip a pack of everything else.

The packs weren’t too expensive so of course I bought one.

Mind. Blown.

So much color and those photos. They were like nothing I’d seen before. Batters mid-swing where you could see the baseball as an oblong blur were pretty amazing but the catcher cards were where the set really shone and the Tony Pena was in a class of its own. I didn’t know cards could look like this and that’s before getting to the encyclopedic backs.

1989

Donell Nixon 1989 Score

What a year. It started off with Gregg Jeffries mania. Quickly became Billy Ripken mania. And by the fall all was forgotten in favor of Ken Griffey Jr mania. For me it was pretty magical. My collecting world changed completely with a trip to Philadelphia and this Donell Nixon autograph which I’ve blogged about before. I also ramped up my collecting by getting team sets of Giants from all the major releases this year.

1990

I looked forward to a lot of the 1990 sets because, despite the loss, I knew the Giants were going to feature in all the World Series cards. I wasn’t disappointed but this Score card caught me by surprise by being willing to recognize the seriousness of the event and how there are things bigger than the game.

In some ways 1990 topped 1989 for me baseballwise. I was that kid who was at the earthquake game. I went to the College World Series. I joined the Baseball Card Club in my Junior High. I was able to afford more cards and actually stay on top of the hobby to my satisfaction. The perfect balance between having money to spend and literally no other interests or obligations to spend it on.

Yeah my Junior High had a baseball card club. We knew better than to bring our cards out during class but during lunch we could buy/trade/rip and enjoy the hobby. I saw some cool pulls but the two big highlights were winning a set of 1990 Upper Deck Extended (I figured out the pattern first) and getting fingerprinted by the police when someone robbed a local card shop and they thought it might be someone in the club.

1991

By 1991 I was deep into the autograph thing. The Stanford Alumni Game was my main event each year and the rapid increase in #1 draft pick cards across the hobby meant that I got excited to see guys I’d been watching at Sunken Diamond the previous spring show up on cards.

I could’ve chosen a number of cards here (I mentioned Steve Chitren in a previous post) but Mussina really captures everything about this year. He’s a guy I watched play in college. He’s a rookie I “invested” in because that’s what we thought we were supposed to do with cards then. And he’s one of my big autograph gets from when I started hitting the Alumni game in earnest.

I had gotten a few of his autographs the previous season* but finding this card in my set of 1991 Score that I got for Christmas** was super exciting and I know I looked forward to bringing it to the Alumni game the next month.***

*I remember him signing my all-session NCAA Regionals ticket and commenting on my being a true fan.

**I had saved up Bazooka comics and redeemed them for a Topps set earlier that year.

***Yup. One of the best things about growing up on the West Coast is that baseball started in January.

1992

It wasn’t just the alumni games. I loved the Team USA cards in Topps Traded and used to set aside all the cards of guys who’d be playing at Stanford* the following spring. Some of this was going a bit crazy with the rookie speculation but it was also still a novelty to have real Topps cards of those guys.

*Either Stanford players, Pac 10 players, or standard opponents like Cal State Fullerton.

Willie Adams is six years older than me. That means nothing now but when I was only barely a teenager? That’s huge. And at 6’7″ he was huge too. I was pushing six feet by then but I remember Willie’s dad asking him to “sign for the little guy” when I approached him with my card.

1993

This was another magical year. The Giants had a fantastic season (shame about the ending). I went to Spring Training for the first time. Lots of autographs and good baseball experiences. But in some ways what I remember most was tormenting my soccer coach with those Hostess Baseballs.

As a soccer player I was supposed to hate baseball. A lot of this was backlash to the way soccer was often portrayed as being “foreign” compared to baseball’s status as an “American” thing but I think it went deeper than that too. Anyway my coach was an inveterate baseball hater AND a health food nut so those Hostess Baseballs had him recoiling in abject horror. I’m surprised I didn’t have to run laps all practice.

I didn’t actually like the cupcakes that much. I preferred chocolate and the baseballs were boring vanilla and just sweet. But they came with cards in the package so I had to buy some.

1994

I found all my 1994 cards in a shoebox last summer. Once the strike hit I dropped everything and none of those have any specific memories attached to them aside from “oh yeah I told this hobby to shove it.”

The only 1994 cards I didn’t shoebox were the Nabisco All Star Legends. Those were still cool and a super-affordable way of getting Hall of Famer autographs. I remember being excited to see who was on the checklist and who I wanted to order. Gibson was a no-brainer when I saw the list this year.

1996

Not a card since I was no longer collecting but I went to Spring Training in 1996* and while I was no longer pursuing autographs in a big way I was still hanging over the rail just in case. Garagiola wasn’t worth a ball for me but I had a bunch of blank cards handy. As a result this was one of a handful of signatures I collected after I gave up the hobby.

*I’d gone in 1993 and 1994 but skipped 1995 for replacement players and anger at the whole thing reasons.

1997

I wasn’t collecting cards but I still enjoyed the Mothers Cookies Stadium Giveaway and trading cards with other fans. Plus that Giants-Dodgers pennant race was fantastic. After a couple of years in the wilderness, the 1997 season kind of brought me back to liking the sport again.

I played hooky from my summer job to go to that late-summer Giants-Dodgers game which Brian Johnson won in extra innings. As exciting as the game-winning home run was, Rod Beck getting out of a bases-loaded jam also brought the crowd to its feet. I miss closers whose out pitches also functioned as double play inducers.

1998

My last year of collecting in any form for almost two decade. I was still going to baseball card day but I was no longer trading cards there. Which is why I found myself with eight Alex Diaz cards when I went through my collection at my parents’ house.

While I still enjoyed going to games, things had started to intrude on my life as I hit the back stretch of college and my summers started to have to be more “productive” as I began to look forward to all the possibilities.

2016

Fast forward 28 years in which I’ve not even really thought about cards and now I’m a stay-at-home dad living in New Jersey with two sons who are just getting into sports. Soccer mostly at this point which is why I don’t have a baseball card here.

Heck, it’s not even a card I own. But that Fall my mom sent my sons each a surprise pack of soccer cards. She’d noticed their burgeoning interest in sports as well and, I suspect, wanted to give me a taste of my own medicine. She mentioned in her letter that she’d gone to the same card shop I used to frequent starting way back in 1988. It was no longer kitty corner to my piano lessons nor was it owned by the same guy, but it was the same shop and according to her felt very familiar.

This caused me to want to visit the store again but also seeing my kids enjoy ripping packs just planted the collecting seed in my head. That my eldest pulled a Messi card—my being a Barcelona fan meant that he actually knew and was excited by the pull—was kind of icing on the cake. It reminded me again how much fun cards were and how much I liked them and totally primed me to be pulled in when the SABR Baseball Cards blog launched later that winter.

Rabbit hole

This thing where pre-war cards get surprisingly affordable when you move away from the heavy hitters of baseball and boxing is dangerous territory. I saw someone post a card on Twitter and did a quick ebay search to see how expensive it was. I was not prepared to find out how low the price was and couldn’t resist plumping for it (as well as some others because of combined shipping reasons).

Oh, and the low price? It was for the complete sets not the individual cards. This confirms that the price I paid for the Kings and Queens of England cards was indeed too high (I still got my money’s worth so I’m not complaining) but more excitingly (and dangerously) opens up world of cards to me that I hadn’t ever considered before.

Am I going off the pre-war deep end? No. But certain sporting figures do hold my interest and of course I’ll get my head turned by them if the price is right.

The card which spurred my interest was the Jesse Owens card from the 1939 Churchman’s Kings of Speed set. Jesse Owens of course is Jesse Owens but the set itself is pretty cool too. It’s a snapshot of all of our speed records at the time—from airplanes to boats to cars to bikes to running to rowing to cycling. Since speed correlates to both our perception of the world and our understanding of human ability it’s really neat to see everything collected together.

This wide-ranging checklist also means that there’s a card of a young Howard Hughes also in this set. It’s great to have an Owens card but it’s also a lot of fun to have a Hughes.

Productionwise there is some interesting stuff going on. The cards look to be simple black and white photos but there’s some extra processing where the backgrounds are screened back a little so as to give the subjects a bit of pop. Also some of the cards, such as the Owens, look to be action photos—semi-advanced stuff for this period in time.

The backs of the set make for good reading with lots of biographical information. I appreciate that Hughes’s card includes his vast inheritance and Hollywood productions. It’s nice to see Birabongse Bhanudej/Prince Bira of Siam have a card which predates his becoming the first Asian driver in Formula One in the 1950s. I wasn’t aware of motor-paced-racing until I read about Léon Vanderstuyft and now that I know I’m just glad he’s wearing a bike helmet. I’m old enough to remember when cyclists didn’t wear helmets (and died in crashes) so seeing a helmet in a photo from the 1930s definitely caught my eye.

Jesse Owens’s back meanwhile is interesting because of how it distinguishes between his amateur racing where he holds numerous world records and his professional career where he races against animals and appears in Hollywood films. I’ve come to side-eye the idea that sports were better when only amateurs could compete but it’s also bizarre for me to see what being a professional athlete used to involve too.

Another set I got was the 1934 Gallaher Champions set. This one has wonderful colorful art in all kinds of action poses. The thin keyline around the players makes everything graphically pop and many of the cards just look fantastic.

The set covers a wide range of sports including dog and horse racing but I got it for the cricket cards—in particular the Jardine and Larwood cards. Those two cards are especially nice but I’m actually more intrigued by Bodyline and the controversy of a technically legal but clearly dangerous tactic that caused the rules to be changed and apparently for many people counts as one of the most important events in the sport.

It’s interesting to me that Jardine’s card refers to “bodyline” while Larwood’s says “fast leg” since this set appears to be celebrating the Ashes victory (there are a number of other cricketers in the checklist).

I also enjoy having a proper Arsenal card which shows off those classic white-sleeved kits on the front and mentions Alex James’s signing bonus on the back. Joyce Cooper meanwhile is one of two women in the checklist and appears to have been England’s best swimmer for her time but suffered some bad luck in the Olympics.

The last set I got was a set of 1958 Kane International Footballers. This set predates the 1958 World Cup* but includes a number of stars from the 1954 World Cup such as Puskás and Fritz Walter. I know Puskás is a Real Madrid legend but I’ve always had a soft spot for him and Hungary and wish the Magical Magyars had won one World Cup to reflect their excellence in the sport and the way they helped drag it into the modern age with some of the first glimmers of Total Football.

*Probably a good thing since I’d expect Pelé and Garrincha cards to command higher prices.

Most of the photos in this set are cropped super tightly. It’s a bit of an odd choice but works pretty well. It also intrigues me that sports cards in England kept the tobacco size format for decades where cards in the US were all kinds of different sizes until 1957 when Topps standardized the form.

The backs of these cards kind of crack me up with their limited bios and emphasis on how the player has done against England. I do enjoy having a second Stanley Matthews card to sort of bookend his career. Paco Gento is another Real Madrid legend who’s won more European Cup championships that anyone else but is also one of Spain’s all-time great players. And Jackie Blanchflower’s card shows that this set also predates the Munich Air Disaster which not only ended his career but nearly killed him.

Now I need to get more pages to file these all away. They’re currently in the British-style 10-pocket pages but I do not have the albums for those nor do I like how they‘re nowhere near as dense as American 20-pocket pages. I’m looking forward to getting them all together where I can appreciate them 20 cards at a time. They deserve to be looked at and read and I’ve been really enjoying getting to know them so far.

Pre-war cards from @prewarcards

One of my favorite Baseball Card Twitter people is Anson Whaley (@prewarcards). He specializes in pre-war* sports cards so his blog and twitter feed contains almost no overlap with mine; aside from my two Zeenuts, I have no pre-war cards. Yet I feel their call sirening away at me. At some level I suspect every collector of baseball cards does. It’s not just an age thing where old cards are always interesting, there’s something to getting in touch with the roots of the hobby which is deeply appealing.

*Generally defined as anything predating US involvement in World War 2.

I think every card collector is an amateur history geek. Cards connect you to over a century of collecting and the evolution of the hobby is something that you just eventually learn about. My sons, who have only just caught the collecting bug, already know about T206 and Honus Wagner. It’s just something that comes up when you get into the hobby.

Anyway, while I’m spending my time as a cheapskate collector who prefers getting cards via trade or for under a quarter on Sportlots, I’m also educating myself on pre-war issues and getting a sense of what kind of things I might one, day consider spending some money on. And I’m also educating myself on how I could do that responsibly as well as learning about what kinds of things to look for to make sure I don’t get fooled by any fakery.*

*Being a cheapskate collector does mean that my unwillingness to spend even medium money on any cards protects me from getting ripped off.

Anson’s website is one of my go-to locations for this kind of information. Plus he’s very friendly and helpful on twitter as well with regard to posting things, answering questions about them, and even discussing the best ways of storing them.

In the beginning of this month he tweeted out some photos of his set of 1928–29 John Player and Sons Footballers. It’s a beautiful set of cards. As a soccer fan there’s something about the early days of the game where everything is recognizable yet so so different. Despite the game having evolved tremendously from those days, the imagery from those decades is immensely powerful. Any team which can trace its history to those years makes damn sure sustain that visual connection to the past.

There’s also something extra special about seeing the early British uniforms since they’re the model that the rest of the world followed.* So in addition to the weight of history there’s a sense of seeing the source of the game in these old cigarette cards.

*Most famously perhaps with the connection Juventus has to Notts County.

I sent a very enthusiastic reply to Anson’s tweet observing how great the cards were and after we had had a conversation about pre-war soccer cards in general and how to find other examples.* No I’m not planning on getting into soccer cards. But you’re damn right I was curious.

*As a Barcelona fan, I was especially curious about whether there were old cards from Spain or Catalunya. Short answer, there most certainly are but they’re often chocolate cards not cigarette cards. 

Anyway during this conversation Anson asked me if I was interested in a few of his duplicates. I guess he could tell that I liked them for what they are and not as any sort of investment. I was very surprised. There’s a wonderful part of Card Twitter where people just offer to send you a plain white envelope with a few cards.* I never respond to people tweeting their cards with the idea that someone will send me things** so I’m always shocked and somewhat embarrassed*** when it happens to me.

*This is what happened with the 1954 Bowman earlier as well.

**There’s a much-less-wonderful portion of Card Twitter which presumes that anything you tweet is something you’re willing to trade or sell.

***I just respond to things which I like since Twitter is most-enjoyable when you respond positively to other people instead of succumbing to the temptation to tear everything down. I’m not in it for freebies—those are just icing on the cake—and I certainly try not to come across as a prize hound.

A couple weeks ago the plain white envelope arrived. And it was beautiful. Colors were bright and crisp. I love the brushy artwork for the backgrounds and the way the ball is always halfway out of the frame. That one of the cards is a Notts County player in that black and white kit is fantastic. Do I know anything about Paddy Mills? Nothing more than what the back of the card and his Wikipedia page tell me. But the story about those shirts and how they had become Juventus’s kit in the beginning of the century is more than enough to make this card interesting to me.

Given how two of the cards feature black and white kits, I’m glad that the Jimmy Oakes comes from a period of Port Vale’s history when they did not wear black and white. As a card this is probably my favorite of the batch since the colors and the pose with the ball coming directly out of the frame are especially striking.

John Priestley’s card is fun too. I love that all three of these feature dynamic poses which capture a certain sense of the movement of soccer’s gameplay which still feels appropriate to the modern game. I’m also enjoying that all three cards feature teams that are now in League Two since the reminder of how a team’s fortunes can change over the decades coupled with the reassurance that the teams are still in existence and playing soccer is everything that’s great about the game.

But Anson did not stop there with those three Players Cigarettes card as he included some duplicate 1938 Churchman’s Cigarettes Association Footballers cards in the envelope as well. These aren’t as graphically exciting as the colorful Players cards but they do feature early action photography. This is pretty cool and the cards are printed at a fine-enough line screen that you can see that the photos are better than newsprint quality.

As a baseball card guy I’m not used to cards featuring players running or jumping. Maybe a follow-through. Maybe. But action photos on cards were pretty rare except when used as background images, special in-action cards, or World Series highlights.

The standout card here is Sir Stanley Matthews, inaugural member of the National Football Hall of Fame and the first active player to be knighted. There’s no obvious reason why should I recognize his name as being important except that he’s just one of those guys who you end up hearing about as you follow the game. Reading about him now when writing this post and it’s clear he was one of the all-time greats of the game who retired right when the modern era really got going.

Harry Goslin is an interesting card which captures certain poignancy in focusing on pre-war cards. In 1943 he was killed in action in Italy so these pre-war issues end up representing what could’ve been had there been no war. Reading the Wikipedia article gives me the impression that many of his Bolton teammates were in the same regiment as him too and while Goslin is the only one to die in the war, it’s kind of a scary thought for me as a fan that you could have your whole team wiped out in one bad battle.

George Mutch meanwhile is notable for 1938 reasons by being the game-winning goal scorer in the first FA Cup to be televised. Yes a bit of obscure trivia. But also a fun factoid to attach to this card.

That’s not all though. That plain white envelope also included a Sanella soccer “card” from the 1932 Sanella Margarine multi-sport set. It’s not exactly a card since it’s printed on thin paper but that doesn’t make it any less cool. As a type geek I appreciate seeing the blackletter fonts since I find the whole Antiqua-Fraktur debate about fonts and national identity to be incredibly fascinating. The idea that I could have printed ephemera from less than a century ago which is printed in my native language yet uses standard letterforms I can’t easily recognize is an amazing thought.

Along with letterform change that occurs in World War 2, this card also has other interesting pre/post war implications. It features Hanne Sobek whose English-language Wikipedia page is a stub but whose German page is fascinating. He ended up in East Germany after the war. In 1950 when the team he was coaching was barred from competing in West Germany, it defected to West Berlin and founded a new club.

Thanks for a wonderful, generous, beautiful mailing!