Saturday, January 11, 2020

Topps Wasn't The First

I've been around trading card blogs long enough to have seen a few complaints about how Topps keeps re-using images in multiple sets across a number of years.  This is something you may hear from team or player collectors,  I was struck today that this isn't an issue particular to Topps or even to modern trading card issues.

As you may know, I have a side collection of horse themed tobacco cards. I had recently acquired the 25 card 1926 British American Tobacco Prominent Racehorses set.  I was getting ready to put it in sheets and add it to my binder, but needed to move the collection to a larger binder first.  As I was moving the pages from one binder to the other, I saw something familiar.  A sheet of cards that looked identical to my new set; the 1926 Ogden's Derby Entrants  I normally check what I have before bidding on something, so I don't end up with duplicates. So, I had a sinking feeling that I messed up.  That is, until I looked closer. See for yourself.

So, I was relieved that they were different sets, but they did have identical card numbers.  So, it did raise a question in my mind as to how they were related.  Here is what I found.  Ogden's was a 19th Century British tobacco company. In 1901 it was bought by the American Tobacco Company.  Also in 1901, the Imperial Tobacco Company was formed by the merger of 13 different British tobacco companies; most notably W.D. & H.O. Wills and John Player.  The following year, American and Imperial formed a joint venture: the British-American Tobacco Company.  The joint venture was to do business globally, but not in either of the partners home territories.  

In 1911, the American Tobacco Company became one of the early victims of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and was ordered to dissolve (on the same day as the more well known Standard Oil.)  Presumably as part of the dissolution, American Tobacco sold off it's shares in B.A. T.  So, these two card sets that were issued 15 years subsequent, were both associated with the Imperial Tobacco brand.  

So, there you have it. Laziness in the production of trading cards is, at least, a century long phenomenon. 

What I am listening to:  Sing Along by Sturgill Simpson

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

I'm Weak

I've got too much going on.  I get up around 5 AM (7 days a week) and I am on the go until 7:30-8:00 in the evening when dinner is on the table. Watch a little TV or a basketball game, off to bed and start all over again the next day. Don't get me wrong. I am not complaining. I chose this life and there is nothing tugging at my time that I consider a burden and would prefer to leave behind.  But, it does require some minimal level of discipline and patience to negotiate through my life.

As collectors, we know about patience and discipline.  Or, at least we should.  I've complained here before about lacking discipline in my collecting.  I've been thinking about that more as the year winds down and decided to take inventory of what I am collecting.

Things I have completed in the last year:
  • 1961 Fleer
  • 1973 Topps
Things I have worked on in the last year and are not complete:
  • 1955, 1960, 1965, 1968, 1970 Topps Baseball
  • 1972-73 Topps Basketball
  • 1960, 1961 and 1963 Fleer Baseball Autographe
  • Allen & Ginter Fans of the Period (N7)
  • Allen & Ginter Worlds Racers (N32)
  • Kinney Brothers N229, N230, N231
  • Paul Blair and Johnny Antonelli Player Collection
  • Miscellaneous Pre-war British Tobacco Issues
Things I have not made progress on in the last year and should be considered on hiatus:
  • 1959 Fleer Ted Willaims
  • 1961 Golden Press
  • 1978 TCMA The '60s
  • 1993 Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball
  • 1994 Ted Williams
  • 2002 Fleer Greats of the Game
  • 2009 Tristar Obak
  • 2019 Topps Allen & Ginter Subsets
That is way too much. I worked on a lot and completed very little. I decided I needed to add a little discipline to my collecting as I am working on a lot and not completing much.  If this was my career, I would have been fired by know.  The obvious place to step back is the older Topps baseball sets. I am very close to completing 1968 and 1970. I should focus on those and not worry about 1955, 1960, and 1965 until they are done. Especially 1955, with those Clemente and Koufax rookie cards.  I've occasionally considered not building that set at all because of those two cards.

Should be easy right? Fat chance, when there is a source like Burl's Sports out there. Burl does vintage set breaks.  I know breaks are basically gambling. I get that all too well in that I rarely hit something interesting. So, I wouldn't call myself an aficionado of group breaks, but I will occasionally enter one if it is something I wouldn't normally collect, like pre-war sports cards or a vintage set that I have just started and am long way from completion. For example, I might be inclined to enter a 1960 Topps break because that is a set where I sit at about 30% completion.  But, I'd never pay to enter a 1965 break because I am over 70% complete because the chances of hitting a card I need is significantly lower.

But, recently Burl had a 1955 break featuring both the Clemente and Koufax cards. So, on a whim and thanks to a small windfall, I bought a four $25 slots.  I shouldn't have. I know that, but I am weak. 

For the most part, I struck out; drawing three cards I already had in my 1955 set (where I am at 75% completion.)   But, then I hit this:

Oh my.  The second most expensive card in the set behind Clemente.  Way behind Clemente, to be sure. Beckett lists the high book value of Koufax at $1,500. Clemente comes in at $5,000.  So, am I officially prioritizing this set?  No.  I may occasionally pick up a card or two. But, that Clemente sits out there and I cannot imagine ever paying the kind of money I would need to get even a poor quality version.  Never say never, but I just can't see it.

So, with that, I hope you all have a happy holiday season and enter the new year refreshed.  I am out of the office until January 6 and have some projects around the farm to complete.  I hope to publish my 2020 goals soon, if for no other reason to have a source of shame that will hopefully keep me on track through the year.

What am I listening to: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Rob Halford.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Dallas Show - Part 3

I have noticed that my collecting is somewhat episodic.  Certainly, I will go through long spells where I am not much engaged in collecting and then there will be other times where I have a fair amount of activity.  But, even within that, there are ebbs and flows with regard to what I collect. I went through a phase earlier this year when I mostly ignored my Topps vintage baseball set building and was focused on pre-war British tobacco sets. Now, after a long stretch of down time, I'm back on my baseball sets.  The Dallas show allowed me to make up for lost time on that part of my collection.

However, that non-sports part is still there in the background. I was interested in buying a Carrerra's Famous Airmen & Airwomen Amelia Earhart card though, in the end, I chose not to as the seller was asking $25 and it isn't unusual to find the entire set for less than that on eBay.  But, I did scratch the non-sport itch a bit when another seller had a lot of 22 1959 Fleer 3 Stooges cards for $1.50 each. I've seen these cards previously and have been interested in putting the set together.  But, the prices have been more than I was willing to pay. So, I jumped at the chance to get these cards.

This is a 96 card set and appears to be a popular set to collect.  

On that note, slight intermission: My new dog, Merle, is starting to settle in and learn the household rules.  He still has a way to go, but the other dogs have accepted him and the cats are starting to come out of hiding, As a working dog, he still wants to chase the cats and has an innate need to herd me.....somewhere. But, he is learning and will soon overcome his programming.

Anyways, back to the Stooges.

Interestingly, the set includes 3 checklist cards (16, 63, and 64) which are exceedingly rare. If this article at PSA can be believed, there are only 200 copies of these checklist cards known to exist.  That sounds like a recipe for some seriously expensive cards.  So, I probably won't collect this set. If cards come my way cheap, sure, I'll pick them up.  But, as fun as it is, I'd rather save my big investments for valuable cards I need for my sports sets. So, don't expect to see more of these.

What am I listening to: Steppin' Out by Joe Jackson

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Dallas Show - Part 2

When I first started back collecting, I made it my policy to only build one set at a time.  It was easy to keep to that policy while building the mid to late 1970s sets, which were issued in one series.  As soon as I tried building a pre-1974 Topps issue, the futility of that policy became evident. To state what is well-known anyways, Topps sets from1973 and back were issued in series.  And the later series were issued in smaller numbers because they were coming out at the same time as football cards. Consequently, higher number series are difficult to find and more costly than there early season brethren.

So, in order to stay active, I started building a couple sets at a time. Of course, things got out of control and now I am actively working on 5 different sets.  They are 1955, 1960, 1965, 1968, and 1970.  Of course, as I mentioned in the previous post, I am nearly done with the last two.  I have less than a third of 1960, but am a good way along with 1955 and 1965.

So, I picked up about 40 more cards, mostly commons, for 1965 at the Dallas show.  This puts me at about 70% completion, with 177 cards to go. I did manage to pick up a few star cards, though of the dozen or so most expensive cards in the set, I have exactly 1: #350 Sandy Koufax.

I managed to find 14 cards from 1955 Topps that I needed, including my first two star cards, shown above.  I am about 2/3 done with this set, but still have most of the star cards to go, including the Sandy Koufax and Roberto Clemente rookie cards. This will be a long term set build, even with the relatively short checklist. I'll probably keep adding a few commons at a time and bottom feed for star cards, but probably won't get serious until 2021 or 2022 when the National show is in Chicago and Cleveland, respectively.

That is it for the sports cards from Dallas. I have one more post planned with about a fun little non-sports card set.  Hopefully, I'll be able to make it a bit more informative than my last few posts, which are in the look-at-what-I-got category.

What I am listening to: Midnight Rider by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Monday, December 2, 2019

Dallas Show - Intermission

I mentioned in a previous post that we had to put our old dog to sleep recently and I'dprobably be looking to bring the pack back up to it's normal level soon.

Well, that didn't take long.  The City of Norman has a wonderful animal shelter.  Unlike most municipal shelters it is a no-kill shelter.  And they do a great job of making information available online regarding animals they have on stray hold and also up for adoption,  There have been two dogs on stray hold I had my eye on, an Australian Shepherd and a Great Pyrenees. I swung by on Saturday to see when they were coming off hold and going into the adoption program. It would be close to a week more for both.

The Aussie was described as high energy and, in the end, I decided to not wait on the Pyrenees since I really didn't need another 120 pound dog in my small farmhouse. So, what did I do?

I came home with an Australian Cattle Dog.  

This is Merle.  He is 3 years old and, boy howdy, is he a character.  Good natured to a fault, but wants to be right next to me constantly and complains loudly when he can't be.  He is smart as a whip and, even after just two days, is learning the household rules.  Our Great Pyrenees, the eminence grise of the household, it not impressed but tolerant.  Our Golden Retriever-German Shepherd mix seems to sense that Merle will be a playmate and they are slowly working out how to interact with each other.

Anyways, I'll post more about the Dallas show later in the week.  I've got a work presentation this week and I need to get my notes together.

What I am listening to: Down Under by Men at Work

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Dallas Show - Part 1

So, how did I do at the Dallas show?  Quite well, thank you very much.

There it is. The final card I needed to finish my 1961 Fleer set. I have been sitting one card from completion for probably close to 3 years.  I've been goofing around acquiring autographed versions of cards from this set and had mostly forgotten I needed this card.  It was nice to finally finish it.  Actually, it felt good to finish any set.  The last set I completed was 1972 Topps and that was almost exactly a year ago.  

I walked into the show needing 34 cards to finish my 1970 set and I managed to find 27.  Of the 7 need for completion, 6 are commons though only one is a non-high number. The only star card I need for completion is #660 - Johnny Bench.  I am going to try and finish this set before the end of the year.  The major impediment to that is what I call the Gary V Effect. Prices on vintage star card have increased beyond where I am comfortable paying due to many new "investor-collectors" entering the hobby. 

Walking in, I needed 16 more cards to finish 1968 Topps. I found 10, including the Bench rookie card above. Alas, only one of the 6 remaining cards I need is a common.  I still need Lou Brock, Ernie Banks,the previously mentioned Aaron All-Star card, the Mays/Mantle/Killebrew Stars card (#490), and of course the outrageously expensive Nolan Ryan rookie card.  My best guess at this point is that I will get 5 more by spring, leaving only the Ryan RC for completion. 

Even under more normal market conditions, the Ryan RC would be a major purchase, consuming multiple months of my hobby budget. So, I'll probably wait until the Johnny-come-latelys have left the sports card market before I make any serious attempt to get that card.  I think what we are seeing right now is a classic bubble. A large influx of enthusiastic, but generally unknowledgeable, folks are buying up sports cards as an investment and will eventually move on to the next big can't miss investment (tulip bulbs or beanie babies, I think.)  When the bubble pops, I'll get more serious about finishing this set.

What I am listening to: O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Lauren Daigle

Friday, November 29, 2019

November Dallas Show

It has been almost a month since my last post.  Much has happened since then. I led that post off with the story of my sweet senior dog, Missy.  Unfortunately, we lost Missy two weeks later. It was mercifully quick.  On a Thursday night, she was her normal self.  Friday morning, it was clear she was in some distress.  She fought hard, but it was quickly clear it was time to let her go.  I miss her terribly, but she lived a long life (16 to 18 years), was happy until the end, and didn't leave anything on the table. You can't ask for more than that, can you?  I posted a tribute to her on Twitter (borrowing heavily from Robert Burns):

She'll be impossible to replace, but God help me, I'm already watching the adoption page at the Norman Animal Shelter and expect it is only a brief matter of time before the pack is back up to its full staffing level.

I finally managed to get down to Dallas for one of the shows down there after threatening to do so since the beginning of the year. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive, but it was very easy, with all but the first 10 miles, and the last 200 yards, of the drive on I-35.  It was worth the drive with the show being at least 3 to 4 times the size of the every-other-month OKC show.  Overall, it was a good experience.  I found several vintage sellers who were pricing in the same range as I have come to expect locally. For later reference, I normally expect to pay between 30% and 50% of Beckett high book for cards in the range of EX+ to EX/NM condition.  My checklists always have book value so that I can track my expected cost and keep me in line with my show budget.

I had only one bad experience.  My main goal was to make progress on my 1968 and 1970 sets, which were within striking distance of completion.  At one seller, I found 3 cards I needed:two 1968 commons and a 1968 Hank Aaron All-Star card. They had a total book value of $38, so my expected price was in the range of $12 to $15.  Oh, was I mistaken.  There were a couple of warning signs I should have heeded:

  1. The seller had 4 prices shown on each top loader. When I asked, he said that they were the book value of cards in 7/8/9/10 graded condition.  
  2. When I handed him the cards and asked how much he wanted for them, he spent around 5 minute examining the cards before telling me what he wanted. 
He asked for $75, nearly twice high book and over five times what I would normally expect to pay for those cards. I was shocked nearly speechless. I told him "I think I'll pass" and walked away.  There is no way I was about to pay graded prices on raw cards, particularly since they were, at best, EX condition and not even NM-MT.  I probably should have told him why I was walking away, but there was a huge room to explore and I suspect that a guy who's that out of touch with the market wouldn't really appreciate the feedback.

Luckily, other sellers were more reasonable and I ended up buying at five different tables, including Roger Neufeldt, who is based right here in Norman, but hasn't done local shows since a new promoter would only give him a less-than-acceptable table locations off the actual show floor.  So, I travelled over 100 miles to buy from a guy that is just down the road.

Anyways, I ended up bring home just over 100 cards. Here is a sneak peak:

It was a productive show where I managed to finish one set and get myself into the home stretch on two more.  Stay tuned.

What I am listening to: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Darius Rucker

PS: Be aware, my Twitter account posted above has little to no hobby content.  It is mainly contemporary politics, so I'd advise to only follow at your own risk.