Mailday from Bru

Found a nice PWE from Marc in my mailbox last week. School is over and summer has officially begun so it’s nice to start it off with some cards in the mail.

This isn’t the usual fare but as we’ve all stopped ripping new cards and sort of filled in the obvious collection items, I think we’re all casting about for other stuff to send each other. In this case, Marc has come into a good-sized lot of 1979 Topps cards and remembered that I had’t put together my Candlestick page for that set.

Being an Astros collector means that Marc has a decent number of cards feature The Stick in the background. These seven 1979s definitely complete my page and the 1980 Andujar doubles the 1980 Candlestick cards I own. Og these I like how the Lemongello shows off the black hole in center and how Cabell captures the left field bleachers and scoreboard.

All seven didn’t make my 1979 page but four of them definitely did. Once I get more than nine cards I try and spread things out to get different views and I definitely like how that page looks now.

The early-1980s needs work but I’ve not yet gone looking for cards here. It’s nice to have a complete page though even if it spans 1980–1985.

Marc also included two 1979 cards form the Jean-Michel Basquiat checklist. I enjoy the connection to the “real” art world and it’s a fun mini-PC to put together. Rather than digging through the comments of my SABR post I’ll list the checklist here.

  • Joe: Steve Henderson
  • Jerk: Bob Randall
  • Hot Dog: Steve Kemp
  • Wally: John Matlack
  • Bus Pass: Ed Glynn

These are the first two I own from that theme (I had a Steve Henderson but sent it out TTM a couple years ago and it never returned)

And yes even though we’re not ripping product Marc apparently is still. A handful of Donruss cards is very much appreciated, especially the Camilo Doval card since for whatever reason Topps isn’t featuring him. I’m not keen on this design but a least it’s very Donruss™ without being derivative.

Oh and the Diamond Kings card looks like a Diamond Kings card. I’m assuming it’s this year but I can never tell.

For a while I was considering only buying Donruss cards this year since boycotting MLB-licensed stuff is about the only way I can make a statement as a fan. But then I don’t buy anything anyway so it doesn’t really matter.

A couple Match Attax Barça cards. No idea where these are sold or if anyone plays the game but they’re a fun add to the non-baseball sports album. Ansu Fati in particular is on the cusp of becoming something great and I hop he realizes his potential. That #10 shirt is really heavy and, while I think they gave it to him too soon, the fact he wears it now says a ton about how he’s perceived in the team.

And lastly a Safe Hit Texas Vegetables crate label. Marc got a big batch of these and has been selling/distributing them. Not the kind of thing I actively collect but with Marc being in Texas I totally understand why he jumped on this.* It’s a cool image with a local angle and even the concept of “Texas Vegetables” evokes a weird combination of the Texas Leaguer with a Can of Corn.

*I’d be much more tempted if I came across a Best Strike Apple label since Watsonville is borderline Bay Area. But even then I try really hard to to get sucked into too many different collecting interests. 

I also had the weirdest reaction to this piece as a physical object in that my gut felt that it was fake but there’s jut enough going on that I can’t trust that gut reaction plus I don’t know a thing about how labels like these were typically printed. The thing is that my gut wants the text to be nice and crisp and it’s not. No crisp edges anywhere. The blacks and reds are screen mixes. All of these things are frequently tells that something has been photographed and reprinted.

But if the entire label including the text was painted as a single piece, this is exactly how it would look. Especially if printed slightly out out register the way this one is. Plus the small vertical “INC” in the bottom right corner is printed as linework which suggests it was added in after the original artwork was photographed for press. And there’s no sign of being rescreened anywhere on here.

Also, the paper, while slicker than I expected, is only slick on one side. Definitely doesn’t feel like paper you’d get today and is probably way cheaper than what you’d get from Vintagraph.*

*Worth noting that this version of the label has been restored and I suspect has had all the type re-set as linework so it prints crisply. 

Very cool stuff Marc. I was half expecting a Shawn Chacon custom for Trenton but it’s great to fill out more Candlestick pages.

Big time mission creep

What I didn’t cover in my 2021 wrap-up is all the mission creep that has happened to my Stanford project. There’s been A LOT of it. While the bulk of the project is baseball, I’ve found that I really enjoy using the alumni thing to pursue vintage cards from all sports. I’m not trying for the same comprehensive one-per-year-per-player thing I am with baseball. But it’s been a lot of fun to get samples for the sets from all the sports.

It’s especially fun to go into pre-war and get the few Stanford guys who show up there. I already have a Pete Desjardins 1934 Gallaher and this 1935 Godfrey Phillips Lawson Little is a great addition as well.  I’m only scanning the back of this one card since it’s the only pre-war I’ve added here.

Football

The bulk of my additions were football. Mostly vintage stuff but I did get a few autographs. It’s weird to see Stanford get called a “football school” in old movies, like Double Indemnity but there’s clearly something there since there are Stanford players in football sets going back to the 1930s (the 1935 National Chicle Ernie Caddel is one of those cards I’d love to add but LOL at the price, maybe I should try for a Diamond Matchbook).

Nothing surprising in the autographs. Gerhart and Gaffney are actually baseball players who never played pro baseball. I really like the Plunkett though with the photo that could be either New England or Stanford.

I didn’t scan all the cards, just enough to show the variety that every player and set offers to the binder. While scanning, I did find that I have a soft spot for the pre-merger cards, especially the ones from the 1950s when football feels like a completely different sport to me.

It doesn’t hurt that the cards from that era are kind of awesome. I love the old Bowman designs in particular but 1960s Philadelphia and Topps designs aren’t bad either. Heck many of the Topps designs through 1987 are wonderfully distinct too.

After 1988 the “vintage/junk wax” line sort of kicks in as more companies get involved. I’m using this project a a way of acquainting myself with the older designs and when we get multiple companies using the same designs in all sports I’m not nearly as interested.

Basketball

Stanford’s tradition in basketball is not nearly as strong. There are a few guys from the 50s and 60s* who have cards but most of those are kind of spendy mainly because early basketball releases seem to be pretty uncommon.

*Howie Dallmar, Jim Pollard, and George Yardley

I did get a bunch of autographs since they were super cheap. Was especially nice to get many of the guys who I watched when I was a student and who remind me of that improbable era when we went to a Final Four. Stanford is not a basketball school but for a decade there it kind of was.

As with football, I’m mainly using this as a way of getting samples of the vintage designs. This means I didn’t scan the cards of the guys who I watched as a student. It also means that Stanford’s lack of influence on the ABA/NBA in the 1970s and 1980s is on full display by the fact that I only have 8 cards here. Thank god for Rich Kelley giving me a reason to get cards from 1977–1981. And yes that is a 1952 Wheaties card of Jim Pollard. I’d love a 1948 Bowman but LOL.

I took a different tack with the women since women’s basketball cards have been an inconsistent thing as the WNBA has taken a long time to really take off in any shape or form. Really interesting how cards only show up in certain brief gaps of history and then disappear again. Is nice that many of them happen to cover the years that players I watched when I was a student ended up in the pros.

Other

Kind of the holding area for all the other Stanford cards. I’ve written about some already but everything non-football, non-basketball is in here right now.

Two autographs. Both good ones. Mendoza is arguably a baseball card since it came out of Topps Archives.

Everything else is kind of a wonderful pile of randomness. I didn’t even scan all of them here either but they all make the binder that much more interesting. I’m going to have to really investigate the Olympicards set though since that Sanders photo is killer.

And yeah. No real defined searchlists although I do have everyone in the binder who’s not a baseball player listed on the page. I’ll continue to poke and prod at this as the mood strikes me but it’s mainly a chance to just have some fun browsing for cards.

My first NWSL card

The increasing presence of soccer (and women’s basketball) cards has kind of ramped up the gravity which is pulling my Stanford project into mission creep. I’m increasingly interested in old, vintage cards of Stanford athletes,* but I was doing fine staying away from modern cards until everyone started opening packs of NWSL cards last summer.

*Not in a comprehensive must-get-every-card way, just as a way of picking up some examples of classic Topps/Bowman/Fleer Football and basketball cards.

It turns out that I kind of love looking through checklists from sets like this to find Stanford players. It also turns out that guys who buy the packs for a cheap fun rip also find themselves with a pile of cards which they don’t want to keep all of. One such guy was Shlabotnik Report who sent me a quick note to let him know who the Stanford alumnae* were in the set.

*#8 Tegan McGrady, #124 Kelly O’Hara,  #141 Tierna Davidson, #143 Jordan DiBiasi, #158 Lo’eau LaBonta, #160 Averie Collins, #191 Ali Riley, #192 Jane Campbell, and Cityscape insert #13 Sophia Smith.

He went through his cards and found that he had the Averie Collins. A couple days later I found it packed with a bunch of other cards in a PWE in my mailbox.  Very cool.

Collins was part of the team that won Stanford’s second NCAA championship in 2017. She also did the very Stanford thing of graduating with a year of eligibility left and then playing a last season as a grad student at another college (which resulted in her missing a second NCAA championship as Sanford won again in 2019).

These Parkside cards have the feel of  some of the Minor League team sets and I’m trying to figure out why that is. Could be the printing quality but it could also be something about the design.

Moving to the other cards in the envelope. Sticking with soccer, this foil Coutinho Attax card was included to add to me Barcelona page. It’s only a page for now but people do seem to like sending me Barça cards since while I don’t seek them out I’m happy to keep them.

Coutinho is a good player who hasn’t the greatest fit for the team; one of many such signings the team has made over the past 5 years or so as I’ve kind of drifted away.* It’s tough to watch a team of players who haven’t been assembled with any clear philosophy besides “hope Messi does something.” I’m hopeful this year, as bad as it’s gone so far, represents a fresh start of sorts.

*The difficulty ins even finding match highlights has not helped either.

Took me longer than it should’ve to recognize hat these two 1979s were actually O Pee Chees. You’d think between the logo, white card stock, French backs, and horrible trimming that I’d’ve figured it out sooner but nope. Like the Barça cards these are things that I love adding to the binder but which I never seek out.

Three Topps mini leaders. With their glossy finish, white card stock,  and colored backs, these were some of my favorite cards when I was a kid. Something about the small size made them feel special too. Little cards made to a higher standard featuring the better players.

And finally a handful of 2004 Total (not a cereal tie-in). I love the Total concept of having a lower-quality produced set featuring all the players. Not sure if it works for set collectors but it’s great for team collectors. I’m not quite ready to create a searchlist for these but I probably should.

And that’s it. Lots of fun stuff and definitely my favorite kind of Christmas cards.

Oldest Sports Card

A fun blog bataround idea which I first saw from NPB Card Guy. “What’s your oldest sports card” is a simple-enough prompt but, as always, once pre-war cards are involved the answers aren’t always so simple. So I’ll go through a handful of cards/sets here which can all work as answers to the question.

Since I’ve blogged about all these before I won’t go too much in depth here. In other words, definitely click on the links and read more about whatever seems interesting.

1893

We’ll start with my oldest trading card. The Arbuckle Coffee History of Sports and Pastimes of all Nations is definitely a sports card but it’s also so generic in what it depicts that it also doesn’t feel quite like a real sports card. Still, it deserves to be mentioned because it features both baseball and cycling.

1901–02

The Ogden’s Tabs set is huge and features all kinds of subject matter. The sporting subjects are definitely sports cards so the first three samples here—especially the shot put and horse racing cards—are probably the best answer to the prompt. But I also have to give a shout out to RG Knowles who, while not depicted as a baseball player, kind of is.

1909–11

I’m including this Murad College Sports card because it’s the oldest card I have from a set dedicated to sports. Of course, my sample doesn’t actually depict anything which would count as a sport nowadays.

1910–11

Moving on to oldest cards depicting specific sports, this card in the second Players’ Cigaretes Polar Exploration set counts as my oldest soccer card though it doesn’t come from a set at all dedicated to sport.

1916

My oldest baseball card which functions the way that modern cards function in how each card is dedicated to an individual, named player is this Zeenut featuring Johnny Couch. One of these days I’ll work my way into T205s or T206s and move this date back another handful of years.

1928–29

And finally, my oldest soccer cards which depict distinct players are these John Player and Sons Footballer cards. I could do other sports but the 1934 Gallaher Champions set takes care of most of them and the ones it doesn’t (namely basketball and gridiron football) don’t have very exciting examples.

Fascist cards

One of the things that’s difficult about collecting pre-war cards is that I can’t ignore the content and context behind a lot of the cards. I mentioned that my South African cards, as beautiful as they are depict a state that was in the process of implementing apartheid. Things like the Garbaty cards meanwhile were printed right after Hitler took control of Germany and almost every single actress I look up has a section in her bio which details what happened to her during World War 2.

Of the Garbatys I got in my last batch, many, maybe even the majority, feature an actress who refused to collaborate with the regime. Some detail actresses who had to grapple with their continuing to work for the Nazis. A few though feature women did more than just continue to work.

We’ll start with the worst card in my collection. Yes I own Curt Shilling and Aubrey Huff cards but neither of them are literally the First Lady of the Third Reich. Hanna Reitsch is a close number two on this list since she remained a confirmed Nazi after World War 2 and totally overshadowed all her aviation accomplishments in the process.

Part of me feels guilty for even scanning these cards and wants to burn them immediately. It’s not like I would feel comfortable selling these to anyone and as much as the Ted Cruz chain letter was funny these are a step beyond that. But another part of me wants to keep them as part of the context of the set itself and the way that everyone it depicts had to make a choice and live with the consequences of that choice regarding what they did about fascism.

I would never seek these cards out specifically but the fact they came as part of a random lot of 100 cards is part of their context in my collection as well.

Leni Riefenstahl is probably the most-complicated card I have. Like my Hindenburg card, she simultaneously represents the Nazi state but also sort of transcends it. She was also extremely skilled as a filmmaker and Olympia is worth watching today as a sports movie.

I also recently grabbed this 1936 Muratti card of the 1934 World Cup Champions, Italy from one of Anson’s Twitter sales. This is a card which is both from a fascist state and depicts a fascist state. It also features a damn good soccer team with players like Guiseppe Meazza and Giovanni Ferrari who would go on to win an Olympics gold in 1936 as well as a second World Cup in 1938.

Since I explicitly purchased this card it’s obvious I’m much more lenient on cards like it. The political background of the World Cups is part of their history and as a soccer fan I’m especially interested in cards depicting the early years of the international game.

I don’t know the histories of the individual leagues well enough and the nature of card production is vastly different in each country. But the international stuff which can center on the World Cup is something I can handle.

Player’s Cigarettes Polar Exploration

One of the best things about pre-war cards is how they reflect earlier ages of human knowledge and interest. Sets like the Peeps into Many Lands and  Wonders of the Past serve as a way of discovering cultures abroad in a time when the world was still big but getting smaller and more interconnected.  Others such as Romance of the Heavens capture the extent of our knowledge about the space in the 1920s.

My favorite trading cards though are the ones that reflect their age of knowledge/interest while simultaneously commemorating current events. Whether it’s a set built around how fast people can go or one summarizing the cutting edge celebrity state of airflight the idea that cards reflect what just happened is something that we still expect from the hobby.

In 1911 and 1916, Player’s Cigarettes released two sets of cards about polar exploration* which are kind of the best example I’ve seen so far for capturing he appeal of pre-war cards. The Age of Polar Exploration at the turn of the century is possibly the last age of heroes going off into the unknown** until we started sending people into space and as a result, is something that I’m not alone in still finding somewhat fascinating.

*Don’t worry I’ll get into the significance of these dates as I get to the cards.

**I’m willing to consider Mt. Everest here but part of that is really just due to the George Mallory disappearance.

The first series is split between North Pole and South Pole but treats each pole very differently. In many ways each pole feels like a distinct set. We’ll start off with the North Pole which consists of 16 out of the 25 cards in the set including a handful of cards which just describe the area.

These cards give a sense of the set. Polar regions, by being mostly ice and snow, are a challenge to illustrate—it’s not easy to keep the ice white while also giving it depth. The pictures as a result aren’t the lush saturated colors that I’m used to with other chromolithography but I find myself appreciating the control in the art and how well it uses the ink it’s allowed to use.

The backs feature some nice design details around the border and provide the usual paragraph of interesting facts. It’s interesting to me how the Aurora Borealis card references European cultures as well since they’re not just visible to the Canadian Arctic.

Aside from the colonizer term, the Inuit cards are surprisingly not too cringe. In fact, given the subject matter of the South Pole cards in the 1916 second series, the content of the Inuit cards is tragically prescient.

Most of the North Pole cards though consist of individual cards which detail the results of various polar explorers. There is a lot of tragedy in this group with Andrée’s balloon and lost Franklin expedition being two of the most prominent.

As the back of the Andrée card shows, at the time of printing no one had any idea what had happened to the three explorers aside from the fact that they had never been seen again. It was only in 1930 when their bodies, logs, and all of Nils Strindberg’s photographs were discovered that the world learned what had happened. While the balloon only flew for three days, the three men survived for three months on the ice—kind of an amazing feat all things considered.

The Franklin expedition is a similar sort of mystery. While the card suggests that the story of his fate was completed in 1850, we only found the graves of many of the explorers in the 1980s and in fact discovered the ships only in the past decade. The coolest part of the ships discovery is how Inuit oral records helped in the search and that while the expedition was considered “lost” but the West there were clearly records of it kept in Inuit culture.

The other North Pole cards consist of  Fridtjof Nansen, William Parry & Henry Hoppner, Parry & John Ross, James Ross, Robert Peary, Henry Hudson, John Cabot, and Eric the Red. That Frederick Cook is absent from this checklist suggests that even by 1911 his claim to have reached the North Pole first was sufficiently discredited.

I’ve included some of the more-striking cards for this section. Unfortunately Peary’s card is not particularly interesting. Eric the Red and John Cabot are kind of wonderful artwork and the Hudson card is probably the most tragic looking of the entire set.

I also had to include the Robert Scott card even though it’s part of the South Pole checklist. Since the second series is all about his tragic Terra Nova Expedition I felt it import to highlight his card here.

Not much to add about the backs of the North Pole explorers except to note how far back in time they go and how polar exploration and the Northwest Passage are linked. Where the South Pole is a distinct achievement in its own, the North Pole was clearly related to other goals.

The back of the Scott card confirms how this set is either a late 1910 or 1911 release since it’s written in present tense. Given what how we know that those tractors were mostly a disaster, using them to represent the entire exhibition was indeed an omen.

Aside from the one Scott card the other eight South Pole cards in the set were dedicated to Ernest Shackleton, in particular the Nimrod Exhibition. These at first appear to be similar to the generic North Pole cards but instead depict specific locations and events from the exhibition.

I enjoy the backs of these and how they both tell the story of the expedition and suggest that the images are related to the scientific mission of the expedition. Googling around suggests that these may be adaptations of George Marston’s paintings—the Aurora Australis one in particular looks very close to both his painting and the cover of his book.

There are also three non-landscape Shackleton cards. One striking portrait and a group picture at the South Magnetic Pole which is taken directly from the photograph. The diary card though is possibly my favorite of the set since it’s distinct among all the pre-war cards I’ve seen.

The back of Shackleton’s portrait contains a nice summary of his exhibition which contrasts wonderfully with the specificity of his diary entry. I also enjoy the idea that his expedition formally added Antarctica to the British Empire because they planted the flag there first.

Anyway that’s the first series. Post-Peary with Shackleton an emerging hero. Scott’s exhibition is underway and with him as the last card of the set it’s clear that Player’s was planning a triumphant second series.

That triumphant second series of course never materialized. It however feels wholly appropriate for the period to release a set which basically commemorates the heroic sacrifices that Scott and his men made. While Scott became a national hero in 1913, this set was released in the middle of World War I and yeah, I can’t imagine a more-appropriate framing for this futile sacrifice on behalf of King and Country.

The back text is clear about the framing of this set with its glowing epitaphs to four of the men who perished. This isn’t just about what they did, it’s about making them into brave, noble heroes who other military men should try and emulate.

The images of the exhibition are more tragic to me since, as with the tractor card in the first series, they show all the stuff which didn’t work. Ponies which couldn’t handle the snow. Dogs which the men got too attached to. Man-hauling sledges. It’s kind of amazing that everything that the cards show was sort of a disaster.

The artwork in the second set is a bit higher contrast than in the first set with an emphasis on the men instead of the landscape they’re in. There’s also a kind of wonderful thing going on with the borders getting a light color which allows the white portions of the image to really pop. There’s also a great sketchy quality to the portraits.

The text on these cards though doesn’t suggest anything went amiss aside from the humor in the dogs eating penguins. Even the crevasse card which shows a man falling in handwaves away the danger of the situation. This seems especially wrong to read now since we’re pretty sure Edgar Evans died as a result of a head injury sustained during such a fall.

Eighteen of the twenty five cards in this set are devoted to the Scott expedition. Compared to the Shackleton cards in the first series though the Scott cards feel like imagined scenes. As much as cards like the the soccer game are fun, they don’t look like the images that document the trip. This is a bit of a shame since Herbert Pontings’s photographs can be spectacular and would’ve made for great cards. Edward Wilson’s watercolors* are also quite nice** and would’ve similarly been nice to see on cards.

*While the idea of photographing in sub-zero polar weather seems insane to me, the idea of making watercolor paintings seems even crazier.

**It’s a shame that there doesn’t seem to be any good records, online or in print, of the exhibition of their work.

Similarly, it would’ve been nice to see some reference to the fossils that were found with Scott’s body and what evidence of Glossopteris living in Antarctica meant in terms of Antarctica’s former climate. (While we recognize those fossils now as evidence of Continental Drift, that theory had not yet been accepted when these cards were printed.)

The seven non-Scott cards consist of three cards depicting penguins and seals and four cards dedicated to the successful Amundsen expedition. Looking at the Amundsen cards reminds me of the North Pole cards in series one which describe the Inuit, their dog sleds, and use of animal hides for keeping warm. It may be that the cardmakers wanted to contrast the native technology with the tractors and other British technology but seeing how things turned out it’s clear that the Inuit methods that Amundsen’s group followed were superior.

We’ll wrap things up with two more portraits. The first is Teddy Evans who’s credited on some sites with being in charge of the artwork and writing on these cards. His portrait is the only one in the set which doesn’t have the sketch quality.

And of course I have to include a portrait of Roald Amundsen whose successful navigation of the Northwest Passage is worthy of inclusion in the first set. It seems a little wrong to dedicate more than four times as many cards to Scott than to Amundsen but there is something evocative even now about the Scott tragedy.

All in all a very fun pair of sets despite the amount of death and loss that they describe. These take me back to a different age of humanity more than any other pre war sets that I have and I love the way that looking at them and reading the backs allows me to travel back in time.

A couple small mailings

Catching up on a few small mailings that came in over the past couple weeks. Trade volume has been low recently but I was busy last month.

First envelope was a manilla one from Chuck Van Horne (@CHUCKVANHORNE) who’s one of those collectors who seems to steamroll through vintage sets and is always posting amazing deals. He’s a great trader in the vintage realm but I unfortunately have neither the volume nor the quality of cards to trade here.*

*It is what it is. I buy on the cheap, am content with beaters, and try to avoid spending on bycatch.

He did however come across a big lot of junk including a couple cards that had my name on them because I’m apparently one of the only guys who’s interested in them.

The 1994 Upper Deck Would Cup set is one I’m passively keeping an eye out for. It’s not something I’m building* as much as it’s one I just like accumulating cards from. Why? Because it’s the World Cup I attended and a lot of the players in the set remind me of that summer.

*Though I do have the 50-card Heroes and Stars set.

None of these nine players remind me of that summer* but just seeing the uniforms is enough to bring me back. The Adidas Equipment stripes were the same design my high school wore and even the silhouette of baggy shirts and short shorts is the look of soccer that I grew up with.

*Though Brian Quinn would go on to play for the Clash.

I also enjoy tat the backs of these cards are bilingual English-Spanish since I watched as many games as I could on Univision. In many ways, that summer of watching soccer helped my high school Spanish just as much as any teacher did.

It’s clear that the lot had one pack’s worth of cards inside. Nine base cards and an insert. The insert was Brian Laudrup, a very good player who unfortunately didn’t get to play in the 1994 World Cup because Denmark didn’t qualify.

Yeah.

Upper Deck apparently went to press before the teams were set. I can understand not getting all the players right but it’s weird for me to see teams get included that didn’t compete.

Anyway Laudrup was great in the 1998 World Cup and that game against Brazil was something special to watch.

Another mailing came from Paul (@phungo2008) whose blog goes off on all kinds of weird tangents* but also blogs with me over at SABR. Paul’s based out of Philly so one of these days once it’s safe to travel again I may finally meet him.

*Including in the art direction making Paul and me some of the only baseball card bloggers out there tackling this interesection.

He’s been rolling his own custom cards for over a decade now and appears to have been inspired by my TTM returns over the past months to send me his versions of some of the players I’ve received.

Mussina and Amaro are of course Stanford guys who I received returns from a couple months ago. And Murakami is one I got last month. That I got all three on my own customs may explain why Paul decided to send some of his. Custom cards work best when you make them for yourself with your own particular reasons for the checklist creation. As a result it’s always fun when your checklist overlaps with other people’s.

The Cain and Lincecum is unfortunately not a signature I have. I suspect however that it’s one of the few Giants cards in Paul’s sets. Turk Wendell though is probably a direct response to last month’s returns and how I got the card of him brushing his teeth signed. This Collector’s Choice shows him doing his customary leap over the foul line and has me tempted to send to him again. I miss having characters like this in the game.

Thanks guys!

Messi

It feels like I wrote my previous Barcelona post over a year ago but it was only February. Right when I was trying to get back in, Covid hit and then the resulting restart of the season reared up with all the same problems and reminded me why I’d drifted away. A team and club going through the motions, content to lean on their superstar and milk the resulting cash cow.

Then their superstar dropped the bombshell.

Normally I’d feel upset about my team’s best player wanting out. Not at the player himself but at the fact that he’s leaving. In this case, in addition to believing that Messi can ask for whatever he wants, I’m finding myself feeling relieved that he feels as disgusted with the club as I do.

I want him to go. Even though it will damage the team. Even though he’s brought an immeasurable amount of joy to my soccer fandom over the past fifteen years.

This isn’t like Xavi or Iniesta where it was time for them to go and their leaving hurt because it recognized that they were no longer the players they used to be. That’s an expected part of being a fan. Players get old and the game moves on. It sucks and it hurts but it’s inevitable.

Messi though is different. He’s got a couple more years in the tank and the only reason he’s leaving is because the club itself has mismanaged things so badly. I’ve drifted away enough already that I’m hoping for a monumental house cleaning to reignite my fandom. I can only hope that he wants the same.

Of course there’s a possibility he’ll be there next season. Barcelona is digging in its heels and looks prepared to make this even worse than it’s been so far. That though would be the worst possible scenario. Messi would be miserable but more than that, it would signify that the team is still stagnating and refusing to deal with the future.

And that’s really that this is about. Messi walking away forces the club to confront the future—something it should’ve been doing for at least the past five years. I’m looking forward to seeing a new club. A young club. An interesting club playing interesting soccer again.

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 mascot. 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.