Thursday, November 29, 2018

Project '61 Continues

I'm making steady progress in my quest to complete the 1961 Topps set. That'll slow to a crawl when I get to a certain point. That point being when I am down to the high numbers and especially those high number All-Star cards.

Meanwhile, I have knocked off some stars and semi-stars. I really wasn't planning to do updates here on my set build. That's why my Willie Mays card and Spahn All-Star are sitting in the binder unscanned.

But I snapped up a nice handful of cards off COMC a few weeks ago and when they showed up I was very impressed with the condition. These are beauties and my stupid scanner doesn't do them justice.  mostly it makes them look off-center by 'trimming' the borders. Oh, well, you will have to trust me on these.

Not much to say about them other than they are among the better cards in my binder now. The 61s I have are far nicer than my 71s. Oh, did I mention I'm working on that one? No want list just yet. I'll have a post coming soon though.

Good old underappreciated Richie Ashburn. 4-time NL hit leader, 4-time walk leader, 4-time OBP leader, and 5 times an All-Star. I'm guessing he'd have been a 'more time' All-Star if the NL hadn't been thigh deep in outfield superstars back then.

Whitey Ford. I posted his 1960 card over on that blog recently.

Two Braves, Mathews and Spahnnie. I'm trying to figure out what stadium that is on both cards. Wrigley?

I've said it a dozen times on this blog. Spahn cards are always fun. A series of oddly slanted elements, none at the same angle as any other. 

Clete Boyer. I have no recollection of him playing anywhere else besides third base.  But it looks like he played about a season's worth of shortstop early in his career.

Luis Aparicio. I absolutely love that Sox cap with the red bordered S-O-X logo. I have a couple. is the Cadillac of the '61 Topps cards. The highest dollar card I'll buy for the set. When I bust it out of the plastic prison I'll be extra careful not to ding it like I did my '62,Willie Mays. That was a hobby moment that nearly brought me to tears.

I figure that by the summer I'll be looking at tackling the last series of this thing. I've got quite a few other projects going in the meantime.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

One Bat, Two Bat, Red Bat, Blue Bat!

So who sez I don't post-baseball stuff? Check this out:

Yup, Robin has a nasty high, hard inside fastball. That's card #27A of the 1966 Topps Batman Puzzle-back series, aka, the 'red bat' set. I posted about my black bat set some time ago. Topps was all over the Batman mania that prevailed in the mid-1960s, in 1966 specifically. They released five Batman sets that year, six if you count the two different styles of 'blue bat' set card backs. More on that in a bit.

Batman collectors tend to migrate to the black bat set as the best of the cartoon-style bunch. I can't disagree. It has the sharpest artwork and the backs are really nice. But Topps piled on with these two similar sets. I recently completed them both. 

Before moving on I must address the condition of these. Like all the vintage non-sports sets I have, I am perfectly happy to pick them up in less than pristine condition. It would be neat to have gem mint Batman sets but that's not a priority with me. What I have come to learn as being 'collector grade' is just fine. Cards in one piece, creases not too obvious, decent corners, minimal extraneous marks....I'm good to go. 

Both the red and blue sets are made up of 44 cards. They also both come with backs that form puzzles of various characters involved in Batman's world. Both sets are also primarily made up of horizontal cards with a mix of vertical ones.  

Here's the back of the card up top:

If you can read the small print on that card back you can see that the puzzle was formed with six cards. The villains were all six-piece puzzles while out heroes got bigger, 10 piece puzzles.

Here are a few more of my favorite cards from the set. Hard to beat mixing in the Statue of Liberty!

I guess Gotham City has a 'Broadway', too.

Why would a ghost wear glasses, other than to better visualize him in a cartoon?

And a shapely damsel in distress.

And here is a look at the Joker puzzle when it's put together:

The blue bat set was the third of these cartoon art sets of 1966. It's also the weakest in terms of artwork. But no Batman art is bad Batman art. It was numbered as 1B thru 44B. 

Again with the puzzle backs.

Robin gets to work his arm again in this set.

Here is the variation mentioned above. This blue bat series was also issued with these backs:

They are called the blue cowl backs and I much prefer them to the puzzles. I picked up a couple of these cowl backs on COMC just as 'type cards' and I'm fighting the urge to chase the whole thing.

The two different back from the #9B card, side-by-side:

I mentioned that Topps had six Batman issues in 1966. Here are cards (not mine) from the other two. These used photos from the TV show and the movie. The Batman Laffs set had TV pics...

The Batman/Riddler set was based on the movie.

The three cartoon-style sets, black, red and blue, were re-issued in 1989 as a 'deluxe' set of 143 cards. I was unaware of that until recently and mine is now in route. I really haven't given much consideration to the two 'photo front' sets. I was a Batman comic guy and the show, while entertaining, wasn't something I really went out of my way to watch after the novelty wore off.

That doesn't mean those two sets don't appeal to my 'completist' side.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Eaton's Gordie Howe Postcard

This is one of my favorite pickups in recent months. It's a postcard-sized promotional piece of hockey legend Gordie Howe from the mid-60s. It was issued on behalf of Eaton Department Stores which I've come to find out was a big retail chain in Canada back then.

Gordie, who was a spokesman for Truline Sports Equipment, is pictured in his All-Star uniform. Just a great photo. I consider myself fortunate to have seen Mr. Hockey play many times. I witnessed a handful of his games with the Red Wings in New York against my Rangers. When he came to Houston to play for four seasons with the Aeros and his sons my friends and I (and frequently my father) were there as often as possible. For the first two years of Gordie's time here the Aeros played at the dearly departed  Sam Houston Coliseum. I'm not sure I've ever enjoyed sports more than I did then.

Doing my quick research for Eaton's I found that a book was written about the chain.

Note the photo of Gordie on the cover in his Eaton's red blazer. He must have been to Eaton's what Ted Williams was to Sears down here. I also found many magazine ads that he was showcased in and some other interesting items.

Truline hockey gloves endorsed by the GOAT.

There is at least one other Gordie/Eaton's postcard. I may have to go find one for myself.

 And Truline made baseball gloves that carried Gordie's seal of approval!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

MacGregor Staff Johnny Unitas Photo

Thanksgiving weekend means football. And while I rarely spend much time watching football on TV I will admit to vegging out on the couch after our meal on Thursday and catching some NFL action. I do enjoy the in-stadium atmosphere and I'm looking forward to being at NRG Stadium Monday night for the Texans-Titans game. 

I was much more of a TV sports guy back in the day. I always hoped my Baltimore Colts were on the tube which meant watching John Constantine Unitas. What could be better than that?

I've seen this MacGregor Advisory Staff pic on eBay for years. Always too costly. I finally found this one reasonably priced a few months ago. 

I'm sure JU never played a down of pro ball without a facemask. But when posing for these endorsement shots most guys went helmetless or without the facemask. There are only a few football MacGregor photos. I've seen Mike Ditka, Bart Starr, Joe Namath, and Sonny Jurgensen. I'd bet there are others but there are many more over on the baseball side. 

Unitas shows up in this helmet again in this wonderful MacGregor ad found in a 1961 NFL game program.  

BTW...the Advisory Staff photo has full borders, my scanner ate most of the one on the right side.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Impossible Dream?

Settle down over there, Mark Hoyle...this post is NOT going to be about Dan Osinski and Joe Foy. No, I'm asking (myself, probably) a question I have thought about more than once in recent years. And it's one that was asked recently by someone on Twitter.

The question is "Would you chase a set that you have no hope of completing?" I'm thinking mostly about vintage sets here but it actually could apply to modern ones as well.  Many collectors have picked up base sets of current issues and don't bother with the inserts, hits, parallels, etc. Or they pick and choose what is important to them. But that really comes under the header of  'what is a complete set?' which I defined for myself when posting about the 1962 Topps baseball set.

Here I'm thinking more along the lines of sets like the '52 Topps, the iconic T206 set and others like them. The 1952 Mantle, unless you will accept a copy the looks like it was run over by a bulldozer and put in the washing machine, could set you back more than your car did. The same holds true for the T206 Wagner, some other Mantle, Ruth and Mays cards and many, many others.

My most recent cause to debate this with myself was a nice lot of 1948 Leaf Boxing cards that were being auctioned.  I grew up around a grandfather who had two interests, I mean outside of working long and dangerous days as a pipefitter at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and spoiling me rotten .....Friday night TV boxing and Mitch Miller's music.

From watching the fights on Friday nights with him I developed an affinity for the sport that has waxed and waned through the years since. There are two boxing sets that I really dig, the 1951 Ringside and that 1948 Leaf.

I've considered trying to complete the Ringside set from time to time. I have a handful and even with the few SPs and a tough card or two, the set is easily within reach of a dedicated collector. The 1948 Leaf? That's a different story. There are 50 cards, skip-numbered to #102. 49 of them, the 'originally issued' 49 are relatively easy. Not cheap, some of them, but not tough to find in decent shape. It's really an outstanding set, what with the colorful fronts that parallel the Leaf baseball cards of that era and the checklist full of stars. But, oh, that 50th card!

The Rocky Graziano is simply impossible for the average (and above average!) collector. It commands astronomical prices and is almost never seen in the wild. According to the article I linked to at PSA there have been less than 10 copies that have surfaced.

This one is not mine. LOL

Again, as that PSA article states there is no definitive story as to why the Graziano card is so hard to find. Obviously, it was not issued along with the rest of the set. Test issue? Unauthorized?  Nobody is sure. But to me, it is part of the set until I find out differently, with evidence. Which means that a set without it is a nice 'collection' of 1948 Leaf Boxing, but not a 'complete set'. The backs are awesome as well. Love the write-ups and stats.

Hey, I'm the first guy to say 'collect what you want, a set is what you want it to be'. I have the Baltimore players from the T206 set and some others. That's not chasing a set. It's just picking up cards I like/want. I now own about four cards from the set including that Bob Montgomery above. But for me, looking at the 49 attainable 1948 Leafs in a binder and having the empty spot where the Graziano would be is just not something that interests me. Now if I saw proof that the Graziano was just a 'test' issue or maybe produced for a family member I'd reconsider and call the set 'complete' at 49. Then you'd better believe the chase would be on. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

I took the plunge

I've been neglecting this little space for a bit but that doesn't mean I've been inactive hobby-wise. Quite the contrary.

At the September monthly card show, I saw a binder of 1961 commons my friend Darryl had behind his table that I hadn't noticed before. I poked through it and saw that there were about 240ish cards, a nice starter set. Darryl being Darryl said he'd give me a really good deal on it and soon I was headed home with my latest vintage chase project. One I had considered but hadn't really committed to until that morning.

Soon after that, I found a chunk of 61s on eBay for a 'can't pass this up' price and I grabbed them knowing that I'd end up with some dupes. On the flip side, the eBay cards looked (and indeed turned out to be) in really nice condition and many of the dupes were just fine as upgrades over those in the binder.

I hadn't really touched it until we returned from vacation late in October and then I dug in. It took me a couple of days to pull the cards from the sheets, sort and collate them and make a want list. I also pulled the '61s I had in my PCs. Unlike a lot of collectors, I don't duplicate cards across various collections except for a few special collections like Billy Pierce, Brooks Robinson, and a few others. It took me another day to track down the '61 Orioles cards I already had. That's a long story with interesting results that I'll save for a separate post.

Last Saturday I took my want list and killed off another 100 or so from my list plus some stars from a collection Darryl had recently picked up. I'm really happy with how this thing is coming along. I have some great memories of these cards. There are some sweet ones among the cards I have in the binder so far. Like the great Wally Moon card that I put up top. Here are a few more:

Roger Maris carries a pwemium, especially a '61 Maris. I have to balance cost and quality. This was a reasonable one that had flaws, but flaws I can live with. The scan makes the creases look worse than they do in the binder page. A low number common might be an upgrade candidate if it carried these scars, but not a Maris.

I dug Chuck Estrada back in his days as an Oriole and loved this card. That trophy!!

League Leader cards with mantle...ouch. Mantle and Maris BOTH? Yikes. I hate paying the price but whatcha gonna do? What I do is buy one with a crease through Rocco C.'s ear.

These next three come from PCs. I had already put the MVP subset together long ago. That took care of a bunch of stars. And I had a seperate Jensen so that one transferred over to this binder.

I had three of this Wes Covington card. This baby elevates the '61 set all by itself. One of the best cards Topps has done.

My Johnny Callison collection was somewhere south of complete so using this '61 in the set binder isn't a big deal. It's another great card though. Maybe not 'Covington great', but great. Nice look at Connie Mack Stadium here.

Roy Face in LA's Memorial Coliseum.

 Here's an oversized look at the back of Callison's card. Full stats (or what passed for full stats back then), three cartoons, a blurb on cards of players with not a lot of stats and, of course, the player's 'vitals'. Couldn't ask for more.

 The manager's cards more or less borrowed the color scheme from the 1960 rookie cards.

Another PC card on permanent loan. Mudcat!!

Another top hat trophy rookie. I had three copies of this Tommy Davis. I can't say why. He seems to show up in cheap vintage boxes and I always bite. At least now one will be put to good use. TD's off-centeredness is very typical of 1961s. Doesn't bother me in the slightest. The only time I even consider it is if I am choosing between two cards for a binder slot. If the corners are equal then I'll use the one with better centering.

Last time I checked I was over 80% complete with the set. If you happen to have any 61s in a box under your bed that you can spare check out my want list at this link or over on the right-hand sidebar.

This chase is going to slow waaaay down as I get into the high numbers. Those can be silly expensive. I'll need patience and lots of luck to finish this one out without killing off my entire hobby budget.