Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Icon's Ancestor

I suppose there is a discussion to be had as to what the one single most iconic card is in the sports card hobby. I don't have any interest in having that debate, but I think we can agree that the T206 Honus Wagner is certainly a candidate for that title.  So, for the sake of moving this post along, let's just assume this is the single most iconic card in the hobby:

I would imagine I brought a few folks in seeing a thumbnail of that on various blogrolls.  Psych!

Anyways, the T206 set was issued by the American Tobacco Company between 1909 and 1911.  At the time this set was issued, American Tobacco was in the midst of an anti-trust suit opened in 1907 and concluded in 1911 with the company being broken up into 4 new companies.  

American was a subject of this anti-trust case due to it's voracious appetite for buying and merging with various of it's competitors.  It was formed initially in 1890, by the merger of several companies including Allen & Ginter, Goodwin & Company, and the Kinney Brothers Tobacco Company. The acquisitive nature eventually led to the anti-trust action 17 years later. But, that is not of concern here.

I want to focus on the Kinney Brothers company.  It isn't clear, with cursory research when Kinney Bros. formed, but it was an active concern in the post-American Civil War era and Francis Kinney patented several machines that revolutionized the cigarette market.  The main Kinney Brothers tobacco brand, and the one that survived the longest, was Sweet Caporal (which also happens to be one of the more common T206 backs issued by American Tobacco.

Starting in 1887, Kinney started offering trading cards, already a common practice in the industry, with it's tobacco products.  Their card offerings were mostly general interest subjects, but did include three 25 card sets issued in 1889 that are of interest to me:  Famous American Running Horses, Famous English Running Horses, and Great American Trotters.  Jefferson Burdick classified these sets as N229, N230, and N231 respectively.

This is my first card from those three sets, Specifically, the Great American Trotters (St.Julien). As can be seen from the back, there was a mail in offer where, if you send in 25 of the smaller cards, they will send you an 8x10 print of a same subject.

So, while Kinney Brothers weren't the first company to issue trading cards, and never issued cards with baseball players as subjects, there is a direct ancestral line (via the Sweet Caporal brand) from this card and Mr. Wagner above. I think that is pretty cool and gives me a chance to tie my little side project back to the more common part of the hobby.

What I am listening to: Kathleen by Townes Van Zandt

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Lines of History

This is my follow-up post where I show the results of trying to trace the pedigree of my horses back to one or more of the various subjects in the 1933 Player's Derby and Grand National Winners cigarette trading card set.  Over the years we've owned 9 different horses.  Of those, only 5 were breed registered and I no longer have access to the papers for 2 of them. So, I'll only look at the remaining 3.


Jack was our first horse.  He was a registered American Quarter Horse (Flowithease). Most people think of quarter horses as bred to excel in ranch work.  But, the progenitors of the quarter horse were originally bred in colonial America, crossing English thoroughbreds to native horses, to be very fast over a quarter mile stakes race.  With the western expansion of the 19th century, these original quarter horses were eventually bred to native mustangs and developed into the ranch work savants most people are familiar with today.

We bought him on the advise of my wife's trainer shortly after she started her first job after law school.   Jack was originally bred for the racetrack and was nearly half (7/16 to be exact) thoroughbred. He never made the track and changed hands several times before he came to us.  Given his breeding, he was probably bought with the idea of being a barrel racing horse. But, he had an indifferent work ethic and probably never made it to the rodeo grounds either.

My wife does the English riding disciplines (jumping and dressage) and he was to be her show horse.   Jack was a pleasant fellow and smart as a whip, however with his lack of ambition it was a struggle for my wife to learn how to ride when she had a horse that needed to be convinced to do much of anything. Eventually we gave up on him ever being a successful show horse and he became my trail horse, a role more suited to his temperament.    We had to retire him in 2011 at the age of 25 after, first, a broken coffin bone in a front foot, followed by a particularly nasty case of EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis)  He took to retirement easily and passed away in 2016 at the ripe old age of 30. 

As quarter horses go, he had royalty on the sire side of his bloodlines with the famous racing quarter horses Easy Jet and Jet Deck, as well as the AQHA Hall of Fame stallion Three Bars (who was actually a registered thoroughbred.)  As far as his relationship to subjects of the Player's set, he goes back to Blenheim and Gainsborough on his sires side and Sunstar on his dams side.


Even as Jack remained a solid horse into his early 20s, we were aware that his eventual retirement loomed and we were aware that I would need a mount to take his place.  As it was, we had friends who farmed 1300 acres in Pauls Valley and were pasturing a small contingent of paint horses for an acquaintance that was becoming too old to care for them.  We often observed these horses when we visited our friends and considered buying one as my next horse.  I originally focused on one mare about 10-12 years old.  I went out to into the pasture to assess her disposition. She was approachable, but when I tried to pick up one of her feet, she tried to kick me.

Changing focus, I went through the same routine with a 5 year old who happened to be the daughter of the first mare. She was much more accommodating despite having  been minimally handled (and not halter broke.)  So, we ended up buying her and naming her Stormy because her APHA registered name was Gayle's Stormy Night. After we brought her home, I spent some time working with her on her ground manners to ensure she was safe to handle.  After a few weeks, we took her to a trainer in Guthrie, a town about hour north of us.  The trainer came highly recommended and he had saddled, climbed on and rode her around a round pen within an hour of us arriving.  If you are interested, you can see a video featuring the trainer here.

I was able to ride more when I worked from home, but over the last 7 years, since I started commuting in to an office for work, I've barely ridden as what time I have in the evenings was usually consumed with various farm chores and projects.  With many of the projects complete, my intent is to send Stormy off to a trainer for a tune up and to start riding more this spring and summer.

Stormy is a registered American Paint Horse (Gayle's Stormy Night), which is basically a quarter horse with the distinctive pinto coloring. While Stormy's APHA pedigree was bred for conformation classes and roping, so she was put together than Jack, as you can see below. She has a shorter back and neck, shorter legs and was generally much more stout.

I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of APHA bloodlines, but she does go back to a number of famous Quarter Horses, including the aforementioned Three Bars, as well as King P-234.  As far as relations in the Player's set, she goes back to Blenheim and Minoru on her sires side and Sunstar and Durbar II on her dam's side.


Traeh is my wife's new show horse.  As her previous show horse crossed into his 20s, he was given a well deserved retirement.  Traeh is 6 years old and is an Irish Sport Horse (A Touch of Heart).  An Irish Sport Horse is normally a cross between a registered Irish Draft Horse and another breed, generally a thoroughbred.

I have always said, somewhat facetiously, that all horses are given an equal amount of attitude to spread throughout their body. Thus, large horses, like drafts or foundation quarter horses, tend to the mellow side.  But, as you traverse the spectrum of size in horses, the attitude becomes more and more concentrated in a smaller package . Thus, ponies and miniature horses have so much sass and attitude that they are virtually untrainable (unless they deign to let you train them, in which case it isn't enitrely clear who is training who.)  

Traeh is an exception. She has a pony attitude in a full size horse body. Luckily, she is people oriented so she has never tried to throw a rider off, which ponies are wont to do.  But, she can decide at timesshe knows better than her rider and has presented some training challenges. She is also quite bold.  While most horses will move away from strange things like, say, a riding lawnmower, Traeh will come over and investigate.  Because of the combination of sass and bravery, she is being brought along slowly as she cannot be trusted to understand when she is trying to do more than she is ready for or capable of and she must listen to her rider in such situations.  But, she is going to become a fine show horse in the next couple years.

What horses in the Player's set is she related to?  Cameronian and Sansovino.

Anyways, I've prattled on enough. But, I do have more tobacco issue cards to show in the days ahead, including one that can rightfully be considered a direct ancestor of the most iconic sports card ever. I also have a few sports card things to share, so as I don't lose what few readers I have. Stay tuned!

What I am listening to:  Straight Up and Down by The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Monday, December 24, 2018

Yet Another Collecting Focus

Back in 1996, I accepted a promotion that involved a move from Columbus, OH to Oklahoma City. At the time, my wife had just finished her first year in law school at Ohio State.   Our arrangement was that she would stay behind for her 2L year, then do her last year at the University of Oklahoma.  After she finished, we would move back to Ohio.  Horseback riding lessons were part of the deal of her moving here.  That plan fell apart as, 20 years on, we are still on Oklahoma and own a 17 acre farm were we have 5 horses. Well, "fell apart" probably isn't the right term to use there. "Backfired spectacularly" is probably more appropriate. 

So, why am I telling you this?  Well, while trawling through Ebay one day, I came across a set of horse themed tobacco cards and it made me think that I should look into collecting horse themed trading cards.  In general, they seem reasonably priced relative to their sports themed cousins.  So, off  I went. My first acquisition was a lot of 22 unique cards from the 1933 John Player's "Derby and Grand National Winners" cigarette issue, for about $7 delivered.  I've since added a couple more lots, bringing my total to 40 unique cards out of the 50 card set.

All of the horses featured in this set were thoroughbreds.  One thing that may not be commonly known outside the horsey set, is that many breeds were built with some thoroughbred blood and, indeed, many breed associations still allow out-crosses to thoroughbreds and any off-spring would still be eligible for registration.  So, it occurred to me to see if I could trace the pedigree of our horses (specifically those that were breed registered to horses featured in this Player set.

I will show those results in a follow-up post.  But, let me talk briefly about the set.

The genesis of the John Player & Sons tobacco and cigarette company was a small tobacco factory started in 1820 in the West Lothian region of Scotland. John Player bought the company in 1877 and opened a factory in Nottingham. Player merged with the Imperial Tobacco Company in 1901, but retained it's own brand identity.  Various Player's brand tobacco products are still sold today.

Player's was the first UK company to offer trading cards in their cigarette packages, starting with "Castles and Abbeys" in 1893 and continuing until 1940.  It appears as if they printed approximately 250 different sets during that time.  For more details about their various offerings see

What I am listening to:  Santa Claus is Coming to Town by The Reverend Horton Heat

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Twin Brothers from Different Mothers - Rip van Winkle Edition

Gosh, I haven't had a post in this particular "series" in six and a half years. I gave this one away the other day, but I thought I'd make it a formal post anyways.

Image result for leather village people

Neal Walk and the Leather Biker Guy from The Village People

Thursday, November 22, 2018

New Collecting Focus

Happy Thanksgiving!

The blog title may oversell it a bit, but I am adding a new dimension to my collecting.  In one way, I already have enough to keep me busy.  But, my quest for autographed 1960 and 1961 Fleer  cards have never excited me the way my similar effort on 1963 did. Consequently, that project has gone stagnant and I haven't added anything new since June. It's not dead quite yet, but it is getting there.

I am still going to be collecting vintage baseball sets, but I have been struggling to find something new to collect to add a bit of serendipity to this hobby.  Don't get me wrong. I still love collecting baseball sets but, like baseball itself, it can be a little staid at times.  1972 (and to a lesser extent, 1975) Topps added a little bit of hipness to the design.  but, for the most part, vintage baseball card design is a serious, buttoned down affair.

So, what have I decided on?

Vintage basketball cards! It is no secret that I have increasingly taken to basketball over the previous few years, what with the OKC Thunder here in town.  I think this will generally mirror my baseball set collection:  Topps sets from 1979 and earlier, plus the 1961-62 Fleer set.

As you can see below, the design of the 1972-73 set is funky.  The previous years set has a similar vibe.  Even though subsequent sets aren't as impactful as those two sets, I find that the Topps basketball sets are more colorful and offbeat than baseball, Granted, the 1980-81 set is going to look familiar to baseball collectors, but I don't plan on building that set, so it doesn't count.

Baseball collectors make a big deal about Oscar Gamble's 1976 Topps Traded card, but as you can see, basketball cards were already sporting gloriously large hairdos at least 4 years earlier.

Neal here looks like he moonlights in the offseason as the leather biker in The Village People.

Now Jim looks a lot like a high school math teacher who is overly enthusiastic and probably has a kitten-hanging-from-a-branch inspirational poster on the wall in his classroom.

In all seriousness, it appears that most of the cards in the 264 card set (of which I have 66) are of the posed and matted version seen above.  But, there are also action shots

And Championship series subsets.  As you can see, this was prior to the 1976 merger of the NBA and ABA, so there is two championship subsets.  The set itself is divided between the two leagues, with cards 1 to 176 focused on the NBA and the ABA getting cards 177 to 264. Basically, the set was three 88 card sheets with the senior circuit getting two sheets and the upstart ABA (which formed in 1967) getting one.

The highlights of the set include the (Doctor J) Julius Erving rookie card, along with cards for Wilt Chamberlain, Pete Maravich, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Actually, all four of those guys have two cards each: their base card along with a card in the All-Stars subsets.

Speaking of basketball:

This is my place on the waitlist for OKC Thunder season tickets.  Based on the way I've moved up the waitlist, there is a chance I'll be qualified for season tickets next season (2019-2020), though it is probably more likely that it will be the season after that. 

That's it for now.

What I am listening to: Thunderstruck by AC/DC

What I am watching: "God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly"

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Art Cards - Yah or Nah?

Since I maintain two player collections, I am constantly looking for new cards for those players.  At this point, it is a rare occurrence to find something I don't have. I do occasionally run across art cards, which are non-licensed cards generally produced by independent artists, and I will often buy them.  But, I tend to run hot and cold on these cards.  Let's take a look at why that is.

These Edward Vela cards are very nice. The reference to being a giclĂ©e print means they were digital images printed using an inkjet printer.  That is fine because these are well done. Vibrant colors, glossy finish, and on a heavy stock of similar weight to licensed trading cards.

My only complaint about these cards, and it is a minor one, is the images. Since I am looking through all new Paul Blair listings on Ebay daily, these images are familiar to me.  Each are commonly seen on 8x10s for sale.  Further, card #2 is the same image used on the 1999 and 2001 Fleer Greats of the Game cards for Blair, in addition to the 2003 AT&T Heroes to Heroes card.  Overall though, this is minor gripe.  These cards sell for $5 to $10, so I would expect that the process is basically running a digital image through some Photoshop filters to render them like paintings.

This card, part of my Johnny Antonelli PC, was a major disappointment.  The stock is similar to what is used on greeting cards. Heavier than construction paper, but much thinner than normal trading card stock.  Additionally, as you can see, the colors aren't very bright, almost as if the printer was running out of ink.  I like custom cards with backs, but this one is uninspiring.

This is my latest art card pickup.  This is generally a really nice card. Nice stock, well designed, bright colors.  It falls into the "cards that never were" genre.  The final series of 1959 Topps baseball included cards for a number of that years All-Star game participants.  While Antonelli was on the team representing the Giants, he didn't have a card in that subset.  This art card corrects that.  My only complaint about this card?  The back is blank. Since this card was $5 delivered, I get that the artistic process needs to be limited in order to make this a profitable venture. However, I would have gladly paid $10 or more for this card with a printed back.

There is another art card seller on Ebay that also has a Johnny Antonelli card available. I haven't purchased the card because, even though the card image is quite well done, the listing description reads as follows:

Maybe I am just a different version of curmudgeon, but the combination of thin stock and negativity just turns me off.  I'll buy from someone else.

Finally, there is one other art card in my collection and has been so for 6 years. It came to me from Cardboard Junkie.  You can read about it here.

So, to my half a dozen or so readers, how do you feel about art cards? Do you add them to your collection?

What I am listening to: Rolling in the Deep by Adele.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

October Card Show Haul - Vintage

Last weekends card show was also fairly productive with regards to my main collecting focus, vintage cards.

I found three 1978 TCMA The 60s cards I needed for my set, including the smiling Ernie Banks above.  This was a minor coup, as I rarely see these cards out in the wild. In fact, these were the first cards from that set that I have seen in nearly three years. I have seen an eBay seller that has a you-pick-them Buy it Now listing, but have never pulled the trigger because I've always had bigger fish to fry. 

Speaking of which:

I found the last three cards I needed for my 1972 set, including Carew. The 1972 Topps set, that I began working in earnest on December 19, 2015, is now complete.

Eleven more cards for my 1970 set, which leaves me 124 to go for completion.  This will still be a challenge, since 76 of the cards I need are in the semi-high and high number series.  Thankfully, the only major stars I still need are Clemente (#350), Banks (#630), and Kaline (#640).  Now that I have, generally, exhausted the local supply of cards, I expect that most of my progress from here on out to completion will come from eBay. So, if history is any tell, this will probably take at least another year to finish.

Twelve more 1968 cards, leaving me 113 to complete the set.  Unfortunately, with this set, I need most of the major stars, including the outrageously expensive Nolan Ryan rookie card. In fact, the *only* major stars I have for 1968 are Mickey Mantle, and the Aaron and Rose cards above. Even though I need less cards to finish 1968 than I do for 1970, I expect that this set will take closer to two years to finish because of the lack of star cards already in my collection.

Woo-hoo!  I completed a second set at the show. Granted, it was only the 33 set 1968 Topps Game, but I got the last card I needed for it.

 Nine more cards for my 1965 set, including Mr. Koufax.  I have a total of 105 cards so far for this 598 card set. Is that number high enough to say I am officially working it?

Lastly, I encountered a new seller at the show who had some of the oddest discount boxes I have ever seen.  They were, in many ways, your usual discount boxes in that they were full of modern parallels, short prints and no-name relic/autograph cards.  But, then you would find the occasional gem that really had no place in a discount box.  I found a Don Newcombe stadium pin in a dollar box which I sent off to Night Owl.  I also found this nice condition 1938 Churchman boxing card.  I don't have much interest in putting together the whole 50 card set, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to add an 80 year old card to my collection.

So that is about it.  There won't be another local show until December and I have plenty of farm projects to keep me busy until then.  I may trawl through eBay to work on some of my sets, but I don't expect much activity in the next two months.

What I am listening to: Rock the Casbah by The Clash