Thursday, March 31, 2011

1971 Topps Harmon Killebrew

Today I'll show another vintage card in my collection, but will move away from it featuring a Baltimore Oriole. When I got back into collecting, I decided I wanted to build the 71' Topps set. I have a weakness for the well designed black bordered cards in the set. I started out by purchasing cheap lots on eBay and picking up singles at card shows. As of this post I have about one third of the set, but these cards are mostly low series commons. I am lacking all the high dollar stars and of course the short printed high numbers.

At the last show I attended I was able to find some semi stars and high numbers in the vintage quarter box, including this Harmon Killebrew. Likely taken during the Twins Spring Training, Harmon was coming off his 41 home run and 113 RBI campaign in 1970. The back of the card states he has hit 40 or more home runs eight times in his career and at the time the card was issued, he ranked eleventh on the all-time home run list.

The 1971 issue was the first regular set to incorporate photos on the backs of it's cards. It has been recently noted by Chris Stufflestreet at the Vintage Sportscards Blog (if you have not checked out his blog, it is well worth the time) that the use of photos on the backs of cards was first used by Topps in a small supplemental set that was issued in 1964 called Topps Giants. I don't have any of these cards in my collection but the backs featured black and white photos with biographical information presented in a newspaper format.

This card is obviously not in mint condition, but besides the severe corner wear and some chipping on the edges, is not in too bad a shape. And since it only cost a quarter, I can afford to upgrade if I find a copy in better condition. For now this card fills a space in my set and I can happily scratch at least one high number off my want list.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Future Cleanup Hitter For The Orioles?

Catcher Jake Fox #9 of the Baltimore Orioles poses for a photo during photo day at Ed Smith Stadium on February 26, 2011 in Sarasota, Florida.
I don't have a Jake Fox card in my collection, let alone one picturing him in a O's uniform, so this picture will have to substitute for today.

Jake Fox hit his major league leading tenth home run of the Spring yesterday in the O's win over Detroit. His recent power surge has ensured him a role with the team when they open the season this Friday in Tampa Bay against the Rays. He will likely be the back up catcher behind Matt Wieters again this year, but because of his versatility and increased production he may see extended time at first base if Derek Lee's wrist issues linger. If this kind of power continues I'm sure Buck will try and find a way to get Jake into the lineup on a regular basis.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Card Show Pick Up-1956 Topps Freddie Marsh

This well loved 1956 Topps Freddie Marsh, I picked up at a card show last weekend for a quarter. The show was surprisingly dominated by vintage dealers, and I was well prepared with my 71' and 73' Topps want lists. I will be showing more cards I picked up at this show in upcoming posts.

According to Baseball Reference, Freddie Marsh was traded to the Orioles in December 1954 from the Chicago White Sox. He played two seasons with the Orioles as a utility infielder, playing third, shortstop and second base. In 1955, his first season with the O's he played in 89 games, saw 344 plate appearances, but batted a dismal .215 with two home runs and 19 RBI. His last game came the next year on May 29 1956.

The back of the 1956 issue is dominated by the cartoons. The right side of the cartoon states Fred worked on his cattle ranch during the off season. In the 1950's, most players could not afford to train or play winter ball in in Puerto Rico or Latin America like some of today's players, but had to take jobs to support their families.

The cartoons are the highlight of most Topps issues from the 1950's and 60's. I really like the cartoons on the back of the 1962 issue, they took up less of the card than the 1956 issue, but were done in a more serious, artistic style. This is why I like this years Topps Heritage release so much, Topps did a great job recreating the original cartoons.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Trade with Tomahawk Chopping

Early last week a large stack of cards arrived from Derek at, Tomahawk Chopping. He is currently working on the 2010 Topps Chrome Orange Refractor set, so I sent him the orange refractors I had left in my collection. I also sent him a nice stack of Chipper Jones and Braves cards from the mid to late nineties, this was time period was the pinnacle of my collecting as a teenager and I seemed to have been able to acquire a lot of Braves cards.

Derek's generous package included some Kimball Champions, which helps to shorten my want list.

He also sent a lot of Orioles I didn't have. The 2006 Topps set is not one I'm particularly fond of, it is another example of too much foil. I do like the Topps David Newhan card because he was a likeable player during his days with the O's. At 5'10'' and 180 lbs he was a blue collar player who made the most of his chance to play baseball. In 2005 he hit .311 with 116 hits and 54 RBI in  95 games. His most famous hit was an inside the park home run off Boston's Pedro Martinez on July 21st 2005 at Fenway Park.

Another former Oriole was Adam Loewen, a top pitching prospect for the O's until he suffered chronic stress fractures in his pitching elbow. He eventually gave up pitching, transitioning to the field and is a currently a right fielder for Toronto's Double A team.

Topps Total was discontinued when I returned to the Hobby, but I enjoy getting these cards in trades and can see why many bloggers would like the set to return. A low price point, no foil and a simple design make these cards a solid product. The Tony Batista card must be a silver parallel to the regular set, it also has no UV coating and is printed on cardboard stock.

When I receive any cards of Cal they are always my favorite cards in a trade. Here are a few he sent.

My personal collection of Cal is nearing one hundred cards. Though a milestone, this number is minuscule when talking about the gluttony of sets that were produced during the 90's and 2000's. A small article in the October 2010 issue of Beckett Baseball Monthly, states Cal has over 12,400 different cards. This number is astounding and is daunting for any player collector, and given the fact that Topps likes to produce new cards of past players this number is certain to grow.

One thing that a collector cannot complain about is the lack of choices and variety in collecting, so many different cards have been produced the last twenty years, that it keeps it fresh and exciting when you discover or find a new or rare issue of your favorite player.

Thanks for the great cards Derek!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thoughts on 2011 Heritage

Topps Heritage went live on Wednesday, so I swung by Target on my way home from work to see if they had any on the shelves. I did not expect much, this particular Target takes a long time to receive new releases, they didn't have any 2011 Topps until two weeks after the release date. So I was pleasantly surprised to see a fresh gravity feeder of loose packs, rack packs and blasters. I decided on one blaster, I'm going to a card show this weekend in Harrisburg, Pa so I wanted to limit my spending.

The 1962 Topps issue is a classic among collectors. When you look at the set from a design perspective in relation to its time period and compare it to the other sets of the 1950's and 1960 and the 61' release, the issue was a huge departure in design from what had been previously done. The dark wood borders (these cards are commonly referred to as "woodies" in OBC circles) make the cards stand out and my favourite element is the rolled corner of the photo on the bottom right corner that reveals the players name and team.

I have been excited about the newest installment of Heritage since Topps teased the product information and was not disappointed when I opened my blaster. The contents of my blaster were pretty basic, no hits, but plenty of well executed base cards in the image of the 62' design and one New Age Performers and Flashbacks insert. I also pulled three Orioles, including the best card from the box.

This might be one of the best looking Markakis cards I have in my collection, the combination of the pose and design perfectly capture the essence of the 1962 issue.

The Babe Ruth cards are a nod to the original set.

Most of the cards from this break, including two sp's, will be up for trade once I post them to my trade list.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Quick Trade Post

I proposed a trade with No ones going to read this blog. Jeremy has posted his 2011 Topps want list and I was able to send him a large stack of cards he needed. I have bought a fair share of Topps this year and since I'm not building the set I still have alot of 2011 Topps to trade if anyone is trying to finsish off the first series.

In return I recieved a bunch of new Orioles for my collection. I have scanned my favorite cards from the stack.

I haven't bought any Obak, so the Grich is my first card, but I do like it enough that I want to complete the Orioles team set. The A@G minis are the highlight here and I like the horizontal design on the Roberts card. Brian has only played in a few games this Spring, due to his re acurring back issues. Hopefully he gets better or can manage the problem before the start of the season, last years O's fans witnessed first hand how valuable he is to the team.

He also sent some Turkey Red inserts from the 2009 Topps set. How many times has Topps made Turkey Red cards as a stand alone set or insert set the last few years?
The Frank and Brooks Robinson "Bird Belters" reprint is from this years set while the Brooks Robinson is a card your mom threw out from last years release. I also recieved another Donruss Highlights card of Cal Ripken I didn't have. Thanks for the cards Jeremey. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Recommended Reading

This card, issued by Tristar in the 2010 Obak issue, pays homage to one of the most important figures in early card
collecting in the U.S. His large collection now resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City
with a very small percentage on exhibit that is rotated every few years.

When I'm not adding new cards to my collection, I like to read about the hobby. One of my favorite subjects is the early history of collecting cards. From tobacco issues, to caramel and gum, children of these eras collected and traded small picture cards of actresses, boxers, track stars, Indians and of course baseball players to name a few subjects. By the early 1930's many of the children had returned to collecting the cards from their childhood (This may sound familiar, how many collectors today have returned to the hobby for nostalgic reasons and the rediscovery of their childhood collections). These adults, lead by the work of Jefferson Burdick, formed the building blocks of the organized hobby we know today.

I became interested in finding new information on Jefferson Burdick and one day stumbled upon a web site that has great articles on Jefferson Burdick and other collectors I was not aware of such as, Lionel Carter, Buck Barker and Charles Bray. The site OBC, is a community of collectors that collect and trade vintage sports cards, and has a library page full of historical hobby articles written by George Vrechek. George is a OBC member who also writes for Sports Collectors Digest. His articles are excellent and thoroughly cover the early days of the hobby. During the inception of an organized card collecting hobby most T206 cards sold for a few cents, the famed Honus Wagner booked for $25.00 in the hobby's first price guide, The American Card Catalog.

Other Articles George has written explore letters from collectors discussing trades and hobby news.(Blogging has become the modern equilvalent to the letters Burdick and his contemperaries wrote when working out a trade or to discuss a new Bowman issue). He is also a wealth of information on rare issues such as the Al Demaree Die cuts. This is a site worth checking out and new articles are added every so often.

Another site is a blog that covers rare issues produced by the Topps Co. The Topps Archive is an inexhaustive source of information on rare Topps issues, sports cards and non sports cards. The site juggles various topics, including the early history of the Topps Co. itself. The author examines Topp's first products, such as Topps Play Coins of the World and Topps Magic Photos as well as rare basbeball test issues from the 60's and 70's. This site has introduced me to new issues I was unaware existed. Every post is well written and takes an almost academic approach to how the  subject matter is researched, many times bringing new or unknown information to light. This site is a great resource for collectors of non sports cards, and rare baseball issues produced by Topps.

If you haven't done so, and are interested in the history of the hobby, I recommend checking out these two sites.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Diminished Attraction of Refraction

1993 Topps Finest Refractor #73
I was looking through an old Beckett Baseball Card Monthly I still have from my younger collecting days and noticed an article titled, "The Attraction of Refraction", by Tol Broome. The article discussed the popularity of Refractors in the mid to late 90's, starting with the groundbreaking initial release. With the glut of Refractors in the hobby today and the additional emphasis placed on memorabilia cards and autographs, it is easy for collectors to forget how rare and popular these cards once were.

I remember the hype surrounding the 1993 Finest Refractors and even for other later issues (At the time of this article the 1996 Finest Refractors were extremely popular with their bronze, silver and gold tiered format, so were the Micky Mantle reprint Refractors). I wanted one of these cards and it did not matter who the player was, but even the common players were expensive. As a teenager in high school, I had a limited budget that prohibited me from trying to pick one up. I had never heard of the set in 1993 and by the time I knew of it's existence, people had realized how scarce these cards were, placing them altogether out of my price range .

My chance to own a 1993 Finest Refractor came at a card show in 1996. A dealer had opened a box and was selling packs for ten dollars. This was the first time I had ever seen packs of the product and I decided to buy two. Ultimately, I did not pull a Refractor. I was never able to own a 1993 Finest Refractor and still today do not have one in my collection, but I do have about a dozen Finest base cards that I now (more than in 96') appreciate for their high quality and unique design and can understand why collectors in the Fall of 1993 went crazy for the issue.

Through the years I have always liked Refractors and as far as parallels go, they have always been my favorite. Even today a well designed card with the Refractor technology can really make a card pop and stand out. Since that card show I managed to acquire a few other Refractors issued in the late 1990's( I did pull a 96' Finest Refractor of Chuck Knoblauch, that I still have) and will end with one of my favorite examples from my collection. This card came from a Topps hobby pack in 1997.

1997 Topps Mickey Mantle Refractor Reprint #23
Still one of my favorite cards, even the appeal of this image seems somewhat diminished due to the over saturation of Micky Mantle cards since 1996. In the coming years maybe the concept of, "less is more" would benefit both the Mick and Refractors.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Card of the Week

The 1980 Topps issue is not a eye catching set for me. It is not that it's a bad design. On it's own it is a solid release, contains a major rookie in Ricky Henderson and stylistically is a large improvement over the 1979 issue. My major critisim is it's a rehash of the 1974 design, and one that took place to soon. If Topps had waited longer than six years to recycle the design, I might like the cards more, lets say 2002 but without the gold borders and gold foil stamping.

1980 Topps #356
However, what this paricular card lacks in design, it more than makes up for in content pictured. I redeemed this card a few weeks ago from the Topps Diamond site and have to say it is one of my favorite cards from the promotion so far. How often do you see a baseball team posing in front of elephants at the zoo? Even though this card is a common it will have a place in my Topps binder later this year.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Trade with Plaschke Thy Sweater is Argyle

Greg of Plaschke Thy Sweater is Argyle proposed a trade for some 2011 Topps he saw on my trade list. I checked out his want lists and also sent him some Mike Piazza and Roger Clemens cards and two 1989 Topps cards to finish his set. From reading his blog, Greg looks to be an active trader and I wasn't disappointed. He also sent a sent a bunch of 1989 Topps for my set.

The highlight of this group has to be the Dwight Gooden Turn Back the Clock 661 and Charlie Hough 345.

I'm intrigued by pitchers who become starters later into their careers. Charlie saved 22 games in 1977 for the Dodgers. He pitched in 70 games, which means he wasn't only a closer and sported a 3.33 era. By 1982 his game appearances dropped and his innings pitched rose to 228. He posted 16 wins and 13 losses for the Rangers with a respectable 3.95 era. Charlie was pretty consistent as a starter, making an All Star appearance in 1986 for the Rangers, until his numbers started to decline by 1990.

1987 Donruss Highlights Cal Ripken Jr 38

The Cal Ripken is a card I did not have. I do like the 1987 Donruss design with the black borders, more than the blue of the Highlights set. This was the last year Donruss issued Highlights as a stand alone set. After I held the card I was surprised to find the card has a glossy coating on the front. The card "highlights" the end of Cal's consecutive innings streak on September 14, 1987 when he was pulled from the game by his father, Cal Ripken Sr, then manager of the Orioles.

Greg also sent some early nineties Orioles I needed and a Cal Ripken figurine which I couldn't post here, but has a place on my shelf with Oriole bobble heads and souvenirs. Thanks for the cards Greg!