Archive for vintage baseball cards

Condition Sensitive: Centered with lower grade, or off-center and higher grade?

Posted in Misc., Rookie Card Upgrade with tags , , , , , on January 5, 2017 by Cardboard Icons


I love vintage cards, and loving old cards often means you have to decide how bad of a condition you are willing to accept in order to add one of the prized pieces to your collection. Because let’s face it, good condition vintage usually means spending good money.

When dealing with mid to lower grade cards — those that usually fit into most collectors budgets — there are lots of factors to consider. What types of “damage” to a card are you willing to tolerate: Creases? Writing? Bent corners? Torn corners? Layered corners? Minor paper loss? Glue or gum Stains? And so forth.

Each collector has different things they’ll tolerate. For a long time my one and one standing rule was: I must be able to see the players face.  I broke this rule once when I obtained my first 1948 Bowman Stan Musial rookie. The card had surface damage on Musial’s face, making it pretty hard to display without giving it the stink eye.  I eventually moved that Musial and upgraded to a much more presentable copy.

This game of upgrading or changing a card for a different version of the same card is one that some collectors partake in quite a bit. I do it infrequently, but I’m always looking to better the collection, whether it be by adding a missing piece, or growing aesthetically. I’m an opportunist, if you will.

Such was the case recently when I logged into eBay and found a gorgeous looking 1955 Topps Sandy Koufax rookie card. The card was professionally graded by Beckett Vintage Grading and was actually graded lower than the BVG 4 I had sitting in my display case.  I was very much content with the Koufax already in my collection, a card I acquired a decade ago when I shifted gears in terms of my hobby focus. The one draw back for me on the 4 was always the centering. It wasn’t horrible, but it was off.  This is a classic problem with the 1955 sets. The cards are horizontal and the bottom border typically seems to be shorter than the top.


I like sharp corners. I like smooth surfaces. But above all, I really enjoy a centered baseball card. And so when the lesser-grade Koufax popped up on eBay with a Buy It Now that seemed more than reasonable, I decided I had to snag it and at least compare the cards in person. It made really ponder which of the two Koufax rookies would stay and which would hit the market. I don’t need both.


And so I pondered: Do I keep the centered copy with slightly lesser desirable corners, or the one with better corners and worse centering? Obviously the one with better corners and higher grade would probably sell for more on the open market.


I posed the question to Twitter followers without specifying which card. A total of 84 people made a selection in the poll and the results weren’t completely skewed, but the majority did say they prefer centered vintage with softer corners over off-center cards with better corners.

The poll results definitely leaned in the direction I feel, and after comparing the two cards in person — even in their respective BVG cases — I do feel that the lesser grade with better centering is best for me at this point. I mean, when I walk past my wall-mounted display case, a centered Koufax pops out at me more than one that is slightly off-center.

What are your thoughts on condition when it comes to vintage cards? What defects are you willing to tolerate? What damages take precedent when you go about purchasing a vintage card for your collection?

 

 

 

Bored? Try a 30-year-old rack pack

Posted in Box / Pack Break with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by Cardboard Icons

I’m bored.

The 2012 baseball season has not even begun, but I am already bored with the current selection of baseball cards.  Well, that’s probably because as I write this the only one on the market is 2012 Topps Baseball.

Actually, I take that back.  2011 Panini Contenders baseball is also out, but the boxes are sitting sealed on my hobby shop’s shelf because they are refusing to “pack it out” and are selling them as whole boxes.  The price is more than $150 a box, which I can’t afford, so that’s not an option to me.

It’s a good thing this particular card shop is well-diversified in its wax.

There were hundreds of other options, but what really caught my eye was a fresh stack of 1982 Topps Rack Packs that were sitting in the show case with an $8 price tag.

Eight Bucks?!  For a rack pack?  The equivalent of three packs?

I’ll take one of those!

The packs were in the showcase and I was not going to be a jerk and ask the sales person to pull them all out so that I can choose what packs had the best cards showing.  But from the three rack packs that were showing on top of the stacks, my decision really came down to a pack with a Nolan Ryan/Astros team leader card, or one with Bruce Sutter and his masterful beard.

You know I chose the beard, baby!

Look at that Sutter card.  How could you possibly pass that up!

And then I turned the rack pack over and saw even more goodness.

Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and solid Major Leaguer Bob Horner are showing.  I knew this was going to be a good pack.

Clearly the chase in these packs of the Cal Ripken Jr. rookie.  In case you forgot what they look like, here is mine:

Sadly, there was no Hall of Fame rookie card in my pack. The sole Future Star card featured Jay Howell and Ty Waller.

BUT … I did uncover eight hall of fame players in my packs:

and …

Kind of amusing that I pulled this Nolan Ryan card because I almost chose the other pack that had this card showing.

Those were the highlights, but I wanted to juxtapose two sets of cards from this pack for different reasons.

Here is a battle of the beards:  Bruce Sutter vs. Bob Owchinko

And an interesting statistical comparison between pitching veterans Gaylord Perry and Jim Kaat.  (Click the image to get a larger view)

Some interesting notes through 1981:

– Jim Kaat led Gaylord Perry in seasons pitched by three.

-Gaylord Perry edged Jim Kaat in games started 628 to 623

– Gaylord Perry led Jim Kaat in wins 297 to 278

-Gaylord Perry led Jim Kaat in strikeouts 3,336 to 2,407

-Gaylord Perry led Jim Kaat in 20-win season: 4 to 3

-Gaylord Perry led Jim Kaat in ERA 2.99 TO 3.44

-Gaylord Perry led Jim Kaat in shutouts 52 to 31

-Gaylord Perry led Jim Kaat in Complete Games 294 to 180

-Gaylord Perry had six seasons in which he had more than 20 complete games

-Jim Kaat led Gaylord Perry in saves 15 to 11

A “Swell” vintage haul from my LCS

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , on February 11, 2011 by Cardboard Icons

My affinity to old, smelly cardboard is hard to describe.  The aroma is intoxicating (perhaps literally?) and their sight is captivating.  If it’s old, features a player I like and the price is right, then the card is one I shall own.

I made a trip to one of my local card shops this week to dig through the dozen or so boxes of price-friendly vintage baseball they’ve got sitting around.  It had been about eight weeks since the last time I’d dabbled in these boxes, so there was bound to be something new.  When all was said and done, I spent about 90 minutes and $40 (after a 20 percent discount) on seven oldies but goodies that are now part of my collection.  Enjoy:

1969 Topps Deckle Juan Marichal -- Sticker Price: $1

1969 Topps Deckle Willie McCovey -- Sticker Price: $1.50

1969 Topps Deckle Pete Rose -- Sticker Price: $4

1969 Topps Deckle Roberto Clemente -- Sticker Price: $7

1970 Topps Johnny Bench -- Sticker Price: $5

1969 Topps Hank Aaron -- Sticker Price: $12

1969 Topps Willie Mays -- Sticker Price: $15

1948 Swell Sports Thrills Bob Feller -- Sticker Price: $8

Vintage Topps Team Cards Crack Me Up

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , on August 24, 2010 by Cardboard Icons

It’s no secret, I love vintage baseball cards. But what cracks me up more than anything is the almighty team card.  I love and hate these things. I love them because in some cases, it’s a way for collectors to cheaply obtain a vintage card that features some of the game’s best players. Hell, on a card like this 1959 Topps Yankees Team Card, you’re essentially getting images of the entire 1958 World Series Championship roster, a squad that included Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Don Larsen, Whitey Ford, Moose Skowron, and many other names of which I’m sure you’ve heard. But here in lies the problem: Can you find them on this card?

It’s like the Topps version of “Where’s Waldo?” In some cases you can spot a player from a mile away based on their size or skin color — like I am pretty sure Yogi Berra is the last guy in the second row from the top, and Elston Howard is right behind him. But where’s Mantle? I think he’s the fourth guy from the left on the top row, and next to him could be Don Larsen.  But that could be someone else for all I know.

But it is always helpful when Topps used to label the front of the cards as if it were a real team picture. Like this 1958 Topps Yankees Team Card. Got to love that the Bat Boys got some love.

Newspaper columnist boils tobacco cards. Ethical? I don’t mind.

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , on August 13, 2010 by Cardboard Icons

Just saw an interesting video shot by a columnist for The Trentonian in New jersey. In short, the writer found 70 1909-1911 tobacco cards featuring flags of the world (Think Allen & Ginter) and they were glued to a piece of cardboard. In the writer’s quest to separate the cards, he tried to freeze them as well as hold them over steam, to no avail. In the end he threw the cards into boiling water and the things separated cleanly. He then dried the cards for three days by placing them between heavy books.

The column he writes is an interesting one as it evokes the question: Was this ethical?

Given that I collect a decent amount of vintage — most of which is in bad shape — I figured I’d tackle this issue from my prospective.

Honestly, this practice doesn’t bother me one bit.

We’re talking about a century-old card that was nearly destroyed by its previous owner who glued it to another piece of cardboard, presumably to showcase these flags. If someone can find a way to remove the card and salvage it from being one step closer to being recycled, then more power to them.

I understand that some consider this altering the card, but to me it definitely is on the lower end of the spectrum if you want to call it that. For me, he has not trimmed the edges, nor has he resurfaced/recolored the picture, background or border, so to me it doesn’t matter much at all.

Would a grading company be able to detect such a tactic? Depends … not many cards can be placed in water and come out looking untouched.

Having said that, if the card were for MY collection, I’d love to pay a slightly discounted price for a card that looks great. Sure as hell beats a card that’s attached to some other nonsense. And if no one ever informed me of how the card came to be, I wouldn’t mind either, so long as the card is authentic and not a reprint.

You can watch the video here

More Vintage Bargain Bin Finds: Rookies and a GREAT comic

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by Cardboard Icons

You know you’ve found a good card shop when you’ve been shopping there for years and can still find something you didn’t know they carried.

Such was the case recently when I make a trip to one of my shops, the one that I traditionally go to when I’ve got a case of vintage card fever. I asked the shop keeper if he had added anything new to the bargain bins and he said he hadn’t, but was preparing to within the next week or so. BUT as I nosed my way around the shop I spotted on the back wall a dozen or so boxes marked “Vintage, 75 % off high book.” Needless to say I was intrigued.

This shop is a set collectors dream. They have EVERY common in the store sorted by year and set number. Literally, there are probably 500 5,000 boxes full of cards on shelves. But up until recently, I didn’t know this included vintage! And as it turns out, this shop has a ton more vintage than I thought. For set builders, they have 50 or 60 boxes of pre 1970 stuff all sorted by year, set and number … as well as condition. The low-end is 75 percent off high book, mid-grade is 50 percent off high book and the better condition commons are 10 percent off high book.

It’s in my nature to gravitate toward the lower end stuff so I poured over three 5,000 boxes and made the best use of $20 that I could. Enjoy the finds:

The Ray Murray card above is one of two cards that I had been seeking for a few months. You see, one day I was offered this Murray card on the Topps Million Card Giveaway site and before declining the offer — they wanted my 1953 Bill Hunter rookie — I read the back and became infatuated with the comic. Now it is mine to enjoy forever.

The 1954 Topps set is one that I really like. I’ve toyed with the idea of building it seeing as how I’ve got most of the big names from the set including Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams, and rookies of Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks. After nabbing the Murray, I grabbed the Beckett Annual book and started looking for rookie cards from the set. I knew that the good rookies would be in the showcase, but I am working on an Ultimate Rookie Card Collection that entails getting the RCs of every player who had a card produced from 1933 to present. This would be the theme for the day as I was working a small budget.

You won’t believe the reaction when I saw this card. Can you figure out why I nearly busted out laughing? Hint: “I don’t like you, Mav, because you’re dangerous.” The Kazanski name is the same as the character “Iceman” from Top Gun. And for a split second, I had convinced myself that Val Kilmer’s character was named “Ted” and not “Tom,” and that the writers were inspired by this Phillies shortstop. No such luck. But Kazanski, who ultimately spent half a decade in the majors with five teams, does have the honor of being the first shortstop since 1920 to drive in four runs in his major league debut, something Cubs’ rookie Starlin Castro accomplished — and eclipsed — earlier this year. If ya didn’t know, now ya know. And now I’ve got his 1954 Topps rookie card. Score!

Meet Pedro Ramos, a Cuban-born pitcher whose career was spent with eight teams over 15 years. Ramos’ career is fascinating … he led the league in losses four seasons, but was apparently a huge hit as a Yankee reliever in 1964. And eight years before being a dominant Yankee, he gave up a ginormous home run to Yankee Legend Mickey Mantle, one that supposedly just missed leaving Yankee Stadium by inches — the ball struck a facade in the upper deck of right field.

From one Yankee player to another, here’s a 1958 Topps rookie of Jerry Lumpe, who broke into the Bigs as the New York second baseman. Lumpe played 12 seasons and collected 1,314 hits in 1,371 games. Sounds impressive but his career batting average was .260. He did, however, finish 25th in the AL MVP race as a Kansas City Athletic in 1962.

A Hall of fame rookie ca … nope, not so fast. This is Earl Averill, Jr. I knew the name sounded really familiar, and I was stoked to find this 1959 Topps rookie card for a buck. But I admittedly was thrown off when in the showcase below there was a 1934 Batter Up of Earl Averill (Sr.) Meh. I guess if I had read the comic on the back I would have known what was going on. Side note, gotta love that Topps didn’t color over the Cleveland ball cap Averill is wearing on his Cubs rookie card.

So, Red Sox manager Terry Francona is often called Tito because that is the name by which his father went by while playing in the Major Leagues. And Tito’s real name is John, which sounds nothing like Tito. For than matter, neither does Terry. Go figure. But hey, Terry and Tito, err John, surely look alike … although it might be a bit tough to tell given the condition of this 1957 Topps rookie of the elder Francona.

I gotta say, one of the first times I went digging through the vintage bargain boxes at this shop it was in direct response to something that happened on Twitter. Earlier this year, Beckett Baseball Editor Chris Olds and I were briefly stumped by an image Topps had posted — that of a retired Reds pitcher signing a Topps Heritage dual autograph card. If you’re so inclined, you can read my initial post on that topic here. Well, in April I was unaware that the shop had these boxes. As it turns out, they had SEVEN Wieand rookies; I grabbed two — one for me and one for TTM.

1960 is a fun year for rookies, I love the horizontal design for the Rookie Stars. And while there were a dozen or so rookies I could have bought during this trip — I’ll have to get them later — I opted to buy this Dick Ellsworth who is another player whom I had learned about through the Topps Million site. I’ll write about his later, but a few days ago I picked up THE Ellsworth card to own. You might know what it is, but if you don’t, check out last month’s Beckett Baseball. It is discussed there.

As noted above, there are hundreds of rookies I do not own, and I purposely left a lot of them behind because I wanted to work within a small budget. It keeps me grounded and keeps me hunting and returning to this shop for business. But there are still five other cards I bought on this trip, all of which depict hall of famers. On a side note, I am working on another project that entails owning original cards (or reasonably priced vintage) of every person in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

There’s been a trend in recent years to make cards of old, deceased or retired players to invoke some historical significance in today’s cards. For some reason, I can’t seem to embrace the idea of seeing a Mel Ott card decked out in refractor technology, gloss and gold foil. So instead of chasing such cards, I turn to the vintage sets that honor the old time players, like this 1961 Fleer card. Eventually I’ll have to pony up the cash to get Ott’s 1933 Goudey rookie, this will do for now.

While I was chatting with the shop keeper, he mentioned that he had just acquired an SGC 5 T205 card of Chief Bender. And for 10 seconds I held the card in my hands, examining the beauty of the century old cardboard. His price? $250. I liked it, but not THAT much. I settled for this 1961 Fleer Bender for $1. I consider it a place holder.

What does a 2,400 hits and a career .324 batting average get you? A place in the Hall of Fame … on his eighth term of eligibility.  This is the first Medwick card I’ve ever owned, and it will have to be the best until I find a decently priced copy of his 1933 Goudey Heads Up rookie. It will be mine. Oh yes, one day, it will be mine.

Technically, I ‘d already owned a Charles Comiskey card — but it is one of those Borden Cracker Jack reprints (like this Shoeless Joe Jackson seen here) and it is about the size of a quarter, literally. It seemed like a no brainer for me to add this Comiskey to my collection as it, too, will be a placeholder for one of his 1887 Allen & Ginter cards.

And finally, we have a card of one Cornelius McGillicuddy, better known as Connie Mack. Oddly enough I was looking the other day for his 1941 PlayBall rookie card and missed out on it for like $40.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 14 cards for $20.

The appeal of the 1953 Topps set is too much to resist

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , on August 8, 2010 by Cardboard Icons

Ask anyone what their favorite vintage Topps set is and they’ll more than likely tell you the 1952 Topps set. Why? Because it was the “first” standard Topps card set, and because the set houses many high-dollar cards including probably the second-most iconic card in our hobby, the Mickey Mantle. But if you ask me, the 1953 set is by far he most compelling of the early Topps baseball sets.

I applaud Cardboard Junkie for his efforts in completing this masterful set — it’s a task that one day I’d like to chase.

The cards are beautifully designed, both front and back. The front’s feature bright-colored artistry, that for he most part features damn-good portraits of the players. Oddly enough, however, the Willie Mays in this set might be the ugliest vintage Mays to exist. Sadly, I can’t say that I own one.

But I do own a few Red Sox commons, as well as the first card from the set, none other than Jackie Robinson, and as of Friday, I now own the Eddie Mathews.

The Mathews card, the image of which will always be stuck in my head, party because of Dayf’s site header image, is probably as close as I’ll ever get to actually owning Mathews’ rookie, which is the very last card in the 1952 Topps set and carries a hefty price tag — Beckett lists it at $10,000, they sell on eBay for no less than $1,000 — or the price of an actual 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle.

The Mathews rookie is a high-number shortprint. Coincidentally, this 1953 Topps card of the hall of famer is double printed. Go figure.