A big pile of photos

A couple of years ago* Marc Brubaker came across a huge pile of 8×10 photos. For a while he was using some for TTMs and posting scans of a few others but aside from a couple randoms that showed up in trade packages they kind of disappeared from his feed.

*Yeah I know at some point “a couple” turned into five and I don’t know how 2020 feels a decade ago while 2017 feels much more recent.

Then a few weeks ago* it seems like he realized that he should offering lots to team collectors, etc. and clear out the storage space that the photos were taking up. I don’t normally pursue photos but for the right lot and the right price (in this case basically just covering shipping) I’ll happily slip them into the binder. Early last week the package arrived and I got to see them in person.

We’ll start with the New York photos. The one that caught my eye is the aerial photo of the Polo Grounds. Turns out that it’s a photo of a halftoned image but you can only tell if you look closely. I like the image because it puts the Polo Grounds in location among buildings that are still there today.

The other four photos—Bobby Thomson, Eddie Stanky, Al Dark, and Hoyt Wilhelm—are all very nice photo prints from, I’m guessing, the Photofile/TCMA archives since I recognize a lot of the images from the various all-time greats cards I grew up with in the 80s and 90s. Nice to see them big and nice to have some good prints showing the details of both the home and road New York Giants uniforms.

There were also eight San Francisco photos. The first four are photo prints of a much more mixed bag of quality. Matty Alou and Mike Aldrete are great-looking portraits of players who you don’t expect to see prints of.* Vida Blue and Juan Marichal meanwhile are the kind of stars you expect to see but the prints are of much lesser quality with Marichal fading badly and Blue looking like it was enlarged too much from a copy negative.

*I was seriously surprised by the Aldrete and have slipped that into my Stanford album.

One of the reasons why I don’t normally grab photos like this is because I have no idea how to account for the fact that they’re modern prints of old photos. They’re a great option for autographing when you can’t get a card* but never feel like they’re part of anything bigger.

*Something I did when I was a kid with Jim Davenport since I couldn’t find a card of him. No not even his 1985 Topps Traded.

I’ve decided to sort these all by about when the photo would’ve been taken and mix them in with the res of the cards. But I can also see yanking them all out and keeping undated photos like this in a separate album too.

The four 8×10 “set” though is not photo prints and as such I actually like more. I have a set of these from 1989* and 1990** so I’m guessing these are from 1991. These came as photo packs from team souvenir stores and while they aren’t cards™ they function in a way that feels much more similar to that world than the individually-ordered 8x10s do.

*Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, Robby Thompson, and Rick Reuschel.

**Robby Thompson, Jose Uribe, Matt Williams, and Will Clark & Kevin Mitchell

They give me a sense of who the fan favorite players at the time were and I immediately relate to them better as objects. I also have zero problems mixing these with cards and they offer a fun alternate timeline in how they connect to Ticketmasters and Jays Publishing photos from the past.

Marc being Marc slipped a bunch of other cards into the envelope even though he’d just sent me a package. The first batch were a small stack of well-loved 1985 Fleers and a large stack of well-loved 1989 Donruss. 1985 Fleer is a set I’ve decided to build. Why? Because that’s what my first baseball card ever was. Do I have a searchlist yet? Not at all because I have maybe three dozen cards total so far.

1989 Donruss I’m closing in on. Under 100 cards left. I haven’t updated the need list yet since I need to do a good look through for condition/photo upgrades. 1989 Donruss has probably the single most variance in printing of any set I’ve seen. I can have four copies of a card, one will be great, one will look sunburned, one will look 4 stops underexposed, and one will be miscut. It’s wild. Anyway I’m happy to have the slots full but suspect I’ll be working on this one for a while despite being close.

A handful of Giants cards. I actually already have a 1979 OPC Halicki already but it’s an even worse miscut than this so I appreciate the upgrade. Marc also continued his streak of sending my my first copy of a card from every non-flagship set. In this case these are both my first 2022 Bowman and my first 2022 GQ.

The Bowman is a Bowman card and looks like every other Bowman card I’ve seen in the past decade. I swear Topps has an AI designing these because they’ve got too much going on to be this boringly generic.

GQ* meanwhile sure is something. The HDR tonemapping look has bothered me for a long time** but I appreciate that it went full steampunk this year. Not convinced about the 3D effect for the team punch card but having designs go over the top weird is much better than playing it safe all the time. A version of these with black borders, foil-stamped photo corners, and a sepia duotoned image would be something amazing.

*I’m honestly shocked that no one’s given Topps shit about using a racist slur in this product name.

**A shame since the photos are often better than Flagship’s.

Some random craziness. I love the Xavi card since at times he’s my favorite player of all time. It’s always nice to add a Stanford card as well. But the real story here are the customs. Marc made a great set of Houston Manager cards based on the 1960 Topps manager design. I’m jealous of his local print shop and the paper he’s able to use since these feel wonderful in hand especially when compared to the flimsy stuff I get from Magcloud.

The Shawn Chacon got to me just in time for the Thunder game last week and I’m very happy to have been able to contribute to his Astrograph project. Dave Trembley meanwhile is a coach with State College so these cards would’ve had to have gotten to me almost a month ago when they were in town. Hopefully he signs TTM there.

And finally. Marc sent me a couple 1990 Donruss factory set variations. I didn’t scan all of them but I did scan the two Stanford guys and combine them into gifs with their pack-pulled cards. The speckle changes are a little too subtle for me to really care about* but it’s nice to have a couple pairs and see how different the entire lockup can be.

*My line appears to be between this and the 1991 Donruss variants which are similarly subtle but feel more intentional than just being a background speckle pattern. 

One of the interesting things about 1990 Donruss is that the script names are not fonts and each card has different letterforms and a different angle to the text. Donruss clearly left things loose as can be seen on the Buechele text jumping all over the place.

This is a reminder about how this kind of thing was all done by hand back in the day and as much as the lack of consistency sort of drives me nuts I also enjoy seeing the printer’s hand in the final product.

Cool stuff Marc. Your Chacon should be arriving any day now.

Unexpected connections

A couple days ago I published a bit of a rant on SABR about 2022 Topps Heritage and how lazy its greenscreen photography was. While I try not to go too negative in any of my blog posts sometimes I can’t help myself. Anyway that post was in many ways a lot of words padding an animated GIF that could have been posted by itself and made the exact same point.

After I made my SABR post I realized that 2020 Topps Heritage used the exact same background on a dozen cards as 2022 Heritage did and have expanded the GIF to include all 24 cards. It’s worth noting that the 2020 cards have much more variance in the zoom and cropping of the backdrop (even removing the light standard in one of them) which goes a long way in making the backdrop not nearly as obvious.

Anyway, one of the best things about Twitter is  the way that it encourages people to respond to tweets with things that my observation reminded them of. In this case, Ross/@design_on_deck pointed me toward a fantastic video about post cards which all use the same sky.

While I don’t at all think that Topps did any of this with the level of intent that Dexter Press did, the video reminded me about why I got interested in cards and how they interact with my more-professional interests in photography and print production.

Photography and the way it has been distributed as mass media and informed our visual literacy is indistinguishable from trading card and post card history. Looking through those items and seeing them together in sets or collections is a way of seeing how we used to see and learn about the world. This is the reason why I collect the pre-war cards that I do and I absolutely love digging through piles of postcards and arcade cards at antique shops.

That the Bechers were brought up in the video is perfect. I’ve long admired their work but hadn’t made the connection to their typology grids and the way that I organize trading cards in binder pages. In many ways, the very act of collecting cards and other printed ephemera is an exercise in typologies—especially the further I get away from organizing by number, team, or player.

While I usually bias toward having pages of variety, there’s something wonderful in a clean grid of images all featuring the same sky or red shirt photography. My Candlestick Pages are one such typography which I collect. As are my multi-image action images. I’ve seen other people collect cards which feature catchers, bubble gum, double plays, broken bats, cameras, kids, etc. In many ways all of us trading card collectors are making our own typologies and seeing the different ones is one of the best things about Card Twitter and the way people share their collections.

That’s not the only connection that happened though. After two different artificial cloud discussions I remembered Eadweard Muybridge and his particular skill at artificially adding clouds to his landscapes before he became the animal in motion guy.* Because early photographic emulsions were primarily sensitive to blue light, skies ended up being completely white in the prints.** It was commonplace to add them back in when printing and Muybridge excelled at this.

*Bringing us right back the grids of small prints.

**Blue sensitivity means that there’s no difference between something being white because it has lots of blue or being white because it’s actually white. As a result, clouds disappear.

There’s a fantastic article by Byron Wolfe about both Muybridge’s clouds and how his different prints were often different composites. Wolfe is a frequent collaborator with Mark Klett in rephotographing and putting old photographs into a larger context so seeing his approach to Muybridge’s work is great.

It’s also a reminder that compositing is as old as photography itself. As long as we’ve been using cameras we’ve been messing with the images to improve upon the scenes or create things that aren’t actually there.

1934 Wills Cigarettes Animalloys

Picking up with my pre-war card posts with another set I got last year, the 1934 Wills Cigarettes Animalloys. This was one I got because it was just too much fun. The premise is that there are 16 animals with three cards per animal. You can put them together in complete animals or mix and match to create all kinds of interesting animals.

Besides being a fun concept, this set satisfied a bunch of my other interests. The printing is fantastic with pre-halftone stippling that results in ink screens which were designed to add texture to the image. The type is kind of a trainwreck when you put the cards together but there’s something about it which I love. Not a font but feels like one until you realize that each card is lettered individually.

And something about the animals themselves just reminds me another age. The art style reminds me of classic circus posters and the idea that many of these animals were exotic specimens from abroad. Yes it’s a bit weird for me to see a raccoon included but I can totally see how they would be exotic animals in Europe.

The opossum cards though deserve special mention. When I put the set together these three had me confused. Thankfully I had the set so I knew hat the other 15 animals made sense otherwise I would’ve thought that these didn’t in fact go together. Googling around brought me to the Australian Brushtail Possum so I’m guessing that Wills production staff was unaware that opossum was a different exotic animal from possum.

All in all a fun set to page through which looks quite a bit different than anything else in my binders. I’d love to see Topps do something like this with Allen & Ginter nowadays maybe even going with images that span five cards so they page even more nicely.

1928 Cavander’s Peeps Into Many Lands

Another Monday, another pre-war set. This time I’m looking at my 1928 Cavander’s Peeps Into Many Lands. This is the second series of at least three that Cavender’s released. It’s yet another set like the Wonders of the Past which serves as a way of seeing the world back in an age when international travel was something most people couldn’t conceive of.

I grabbed these a couple months ago but haven’t gotten around to making a post since this is more than just a set of tobacco cards. For one, they’re actual photographic prints instead of lithographs. Second, this is a set of 36 stereo photos across 72 cards. Yup. These were intended to be viewed in a small stereoviewer.

While I wasn’t going to scan everything like I did with my Viewmaster,* I wanted to do a few in 3D. I limited myself to only four stereo images for this post to give a sense of the effect. The 3D is cool. But the photos themselves work pretty well by themselves.

*Unlike the Viewmaster these are prints I can see without needing a special tool so there’s less reason for me to convert them into a more-viewable format.

There are roughly three kinds of images in the set. The first are scenic views of places. This set is for British customers and it’s clear in this case that “Many Lands” is short for “non-Europe.” So we’ve got small scenic images from around the world. Some depict nature but most are architecture of some sort.

These are very nice and give a window into different architectural styles around the world. I can’t help but laugh at the way they put the United States’ neoclassical buildings and elevated subways in the same conversation as various pagodas and temples. The USA cards look incredibly mundane to me now but their inclusion shows how different the American buildings looked to Europe at this time.

There are also a handful of animal images. While they purport to be images of wild animals it’s clear that these are all photos of animals in captivity. As with the scenic images though these take us back to an era when the world was bigger and something super-common like a Sea Lion is exotic because it doesn’t live in the Atlantic Ocean.

About half of the set though is photos of people in a very National Geographic Human Zoo sort of way. We’ve got lots of people, most of them with dark skin, most of them in some sort of non-Western clothing. It’s very telling that where the United States is represented with city scenes, the only people depicted from here are American Indians.

We’ve got busy street scenes from around Asia. Many of these are cool because of the street details and how you can get a larger sense of place from them. That quite a few show people around the subject who happen to be in Western clothing is also interesting and says a lot about what these photos focus on and how they emphasize differences.

We’ve also got a lot of scenes around Oceania which replace the street with more natural settings. Palm trees and other tropical foliage. Beaches and boats with unfamiliar riggings.

Between the Asian and Oceania images there are a decent number of photos that veer into the pretty girl territory. Some could even be pin-ups. I didn’t scan them but they’re there and combine with the rest of the tropes to remind me about how damaging photography’s gaze can be.

Do I like this set? I do. Very much. But it’s selling a very colonial gaze that I have to acknowledge. That it’s from 1928 helps here since I can view these as historical documents of how the world was sold to the English back when they used to run it. Photography is still young at this point and the world was still large.

Ninety years later I can look at these as examples of what we should have matured away from. That so often in modern photography we see the same kinds of images and experience the same kind of use which exoticizes the subjects and forces it into a western-framed concept of “authenticity” is the problem.

In which Marc tells me that my breath smells too nice

Another day, another package. The day after I got Tim’s box I received one from Marc Brubaker. He’d tipped me off that something was coming but I was surprised to see that it was not just a bubble mailer.

Instead it was a box and when I opened it up I started laughing. A couple weeks ago Marc had asked me for snack recommendations since he was going to an Asian supermarket. Since he knew of the obvious stuff I mentioned things that I’ve had problems finding even at most Asian markets. One such item was Boy Bawang which is like Corn Nuts only both easier to chew and super garlicky.

Marc was lucky enough to find a selection at his store and only realized too late that these are not only “eat the whole damn bag” good but are “well shit I’ve got another bag right here” good as well. I’m looking forward to popping this open.

The rest of the package was mostly cards, mostly of the grab bag variety. I’ll start off with the Stanford guys since I sort of screwed up my sorting and paged them all before realizing that I hadn’t documented anything for this post. So I went thought my binder and pulled out what I remember was new. Marc sent more than this but I don’t remember the duplicates.

Adding a bunch of new Ballards is great. I especially like the 1990 Mini Leader. The cards of Adams and Castro in their Stanford uniforms are also a lot of fun. A bunch of new Buecheles are also fun. I have a lot of the 80s guys pretty well covered so it’s always an expected treat to find cards of them which I don’t have.

The Lowrie Heritage is a weird photo. The two McDowells are lucky fits. I had the base 1993 but not the Gold and I had the gold and Spanish 1994s but not the base. The Two Mussinas are cool. It’s always fin to add an oddball and 1994 Triple Play must have come out after I stopped collecting. That’s a weird design with what looks like 3D lettering but which knocks out to the photo behind.

Five new Piscottys too. The two Chome 2019s are kind of wild. I really can’t see refractors so I’m glad this is labeled as such. The other is even wilder and while it works with the 2019 design is definitely in the category of card I’m happy to have only one sample of.

The Archives in the 1975 design meanwhile is one which I’m tempted to nitpick on how they didn’t correctly copy the original design but since it says “Athletics” instead of “A’s” I consider this an improvement over the original. It is interesting to me however how the facsimile signatures feel super fat now. I’m not sure if this is to look more Sharpie-like or if it’s just how Topps is capturing players’ signatures now.

A bunch of action cards for the mini-PC. Sportflics are always appreciated. As are the multi-image Upper Deck cards. Any duplicates of these will go to the kids and they’ll be just as impressed with them now as I was 30 years ago. I like that Marc even included a Fire insert which shows Kluber’s pitching motion.

The highlight here however is a Brett Butler Flip Tip. Comparing a drag bunt to a sacrifice is super subtle but these are a cute little product. I’ve no idea how I’ll store this (the main reason why I haven’t sought one out) and I’m a bit worried that I’ll love it to death. The GIFs though are pretty cool and look almost faked.

Three 1991 Donruss set needs take me one step closer to finishing this set. I could of course kill it now on Sportlots but I refuse to spend money on this build.

A handful of PC guys. I don’t actively collect non-Giant Hammaker cards but they’re nice to have. Erickson meanwhile is one where every card is welcome.

Three cards for the yet-to-be-started Hawaii collection. The Sakata Senior League card is all kinds of awesome. I refused to touch these when I was a kid but I can see why people love them now.

Three Conlon Collection cards featuring extinct teams. It’s nice that each of these features a good image of the uniforms too.

Moving toward the bottom of the grab bag. Two action shots of guys I like as Giants. Manwaring has one of the best runs of photography for any player at any time period in the game. His career was fine but if I didn’t already have a collection of Giants he’d be a guy I’d PC just because his cards are almost all awesome. Robb Nen as a Marlin running the basepaths though is just a fun card.

Frank White as a Bee is great. I always forget that they used to be a Royals affiliate. Not sure where I’ll put this to be honest. I may have to start an album for local Minor League teams that aren’t affiliated with the Giants and keep Seals, San José and Trenton cards in there.

And finally a bunch of cards commemorating the first turn back the clock day  at Chicago in 1990. I love seeing these uniforms show up on cards and it‘s a great reminder of when this kind of thing was special and unique. Now with “throwback” variations in the card sets they just feel like cardboard gimmickry.

And to the last random bunch of cards where Marc’s going to have to jump in the comments to explain things. I’ve no idea on Salazar. Langston is a San José State guy plus the UK minis are always fun.

Not sure about Kikuchi but this gives me a chance to point out how Heritage High Numbers seem to feature a lot of players in sunset (actually sunrise but it reads as sunset to all of us who don’t get up at the crack of dawn) while regular Heritage is mostly blue skies. This is more common on some teams like the Giants where the blue vs golden sky is something my kids caught. The Mariners high numbers meanwhile have a super-dark sky that looks like what Topps was trying to do in the 1985 and 1986 sets with so many of their portraits.

Greg Harris is an ambidextrous pitcher. He only pitched once with his left hand but each card here depicts him from each side of the mound.

On to the Giants portion of the mailday. This is a lot of junk wax so I won’t have too much to say on many of the photos. I have not see the Fleer stickers before. And the Score inserts? Those are mostly new to me too.

The starting lineup is a lot of fun though especially because Marc included the figurine.

It looks nothing like Will Clark but I very much liked these as a kid. My first one was a Candy Maldonado I got as a stadium giveaway. I Sharpied Candy’s bat black since Candy didn’t swing a natural-colored bat. I also had this Clark so now each boy has their own Will Clark Starting Lineup figure.

Most of this junk is going to the kiddos. Though it’s not often you see a Grandslammer in the wild so that’s kind of special. Much to my surprise they like 1990 Topps and all those colors so I’m glad there’s a bit of it for them.

More duplicates. All these 1991 Topps though will be especially good for my youngest since his older brother already has the set. Also the decent number of Will Clark duplicates here has gotten them very excited since I was able to put together a couple stacks of cards for their albums that each included a number of Clarks.

Mostly more duplicates here. The Bowmans I never snagged as a kid so it’s nice to add those. I was so distracted by Fleer’s yellowness in 1991 that I never noticed that it had switched to all-action that year. 1991 Fleer deserves all the crap it gets since that yellow is pretty bad unless your team features yellow. This is unfortunate though since as a design it’s not actually that bad. It would look fine in foil on black ink. It would look fine in white on a spot color like 1992 Fleer’s metallic green. It would even look fine  (albeit maybe a bit too close to 1990 Fleer) in team colors on a white border.

Still more duplicates. 1991 Score‘s design isn’t my favorite but I love the checklist. 1991 Upper Deck though is one of my favorites. There’s something to the mix of action, long-lens candid, and posed portraits that sets these cards apart and in many ways serves as the photo mix I still want to see in cards today.

More 1991s and a handful of minor league cards. It’s always fun to see a few names like Jim McNamara which I remember in the bigs.

Continuing the rich vein of junk for the kids. 1992 Topps is another favorite set of mine. I also like 1992 Fleer despite the green since the spot color happens to work well with all the different team colors in the player name. Yes it’s lots of green but the bold name breaks things up nicely.

On to 1992 Upper Deck. I’m not a fan of the drop shadow but I’m still liking the photography. 1993 Donruss on the other hand does not move me with the “hey look we have computers and can make beveled edges” design that proceeded to dominate a bunch of sets for the next couple of years..

Moving into 1994 means I starting to get into some of my needs again. Mostly just the minor leaguers though in this batch. Since I already had a duplicate of this Mays I was able to give one to each boy. This always makes them very happy even while they‘re asking me for a “real” Mays card the same way I asked my parents for such a card 30 years ago.

And finishing up the junk wax pile with some Collectors Choice for the kids and a few Bazooka cards for me. Collectors Choice always has great photos.

Lastly, a bunch of more-recent needs. Have never seen the new Pinnacle. It both feels right and like a pale imitation of the original. Three Heritage High numbers which show the Giants version of the sunset. Yes that’s actually a sunrise. Pretty sure Pillar is composited in since he has the same background as Pomeranz and was nowhere near Scottsdale when photo day occurred.

Three Archives (plus some duplicates). The 1993s are weirdly over glossy and that bugs me more than Topps getting the font wrong. I do really dig the 1988 effect on the 1958 design however. It allows the photo to be cropped more interestingly. Two Fire cards. I like this year’s design although it’s interesting that my kids prefer last year’s. And some duplicate stickers since Lowrie was on the other side of the last Posey sticker Marc sent.

And last but not least, my first 2019 Bumgarner card. Nice to have one card of him in what we’re all assuming is his last season as a Giant. Sigh. I’m glad the fans got a chance to thank him properly in the game.

Thanks Marc! The boys are already enjoying some of this batch as well.