Thursday, September 2, 2021

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Parts 39 to 56

I've talked about getting back into the hobby waters in some small way. I still have a job search ahead of me, and it still isn't clear exactly when.   The powers-that-be have finally bowed to the reality most everyone else has accepted and moved the planning date for the merger out from mid-September to late October to mid-November.  That would put my layoff date somewhere around May 1, plus or minus a couple weeks,  I would have liked to make it to June 1, since I started with this company on May 21, 2012 and I would have hit 10 full years of service. It would have netted me some additional severance, but also just because 10 is a nice round number.  A minor star kinda number.  If it happens, it happens.  If it doesn't, that is fine also.  Moving on means not looking back.

My preparations for that coming job search are progressing nicely and I still expect to have a comfortable cushion of savings for that time.  So, while I have been dabbling a bit, my hobby spending has been way down.  So, I recently took the plunge and bid on a lot of 47 signed 1961 Fleer cards in a recent auction.  And, guess what? 

I won.  And here it is.

I have to be honest, this box contains my largest single hobby purchase in the 11 years I've been back in the hobby.  By a long shot.  My previous largest purchase was around $300 and this came to $1,100 after shipping.  Ouch, right?  Yeah, ouch.

It probably won't end up being bad in the long run.  Before bidding I looked up comps on all the cards and it totaled up to a bit shy of $2,000, with the cards I actually needed totaling about $900.  So, depending on how you look at it, I either over or under paid.  

Of the 47 cards in the lot, I needed 18; the 18 you see spread out above. The stack in the back are the 29 cards that I already had.  Those will be shipped off to another auction house later this month.   My hope is to recoup a decent portion of my outlay.

I am hoping to restart the series of looking at the subjects of these cards.  Though as I look back, the last one I did in the series was part 33.  That means sometime in the last 6 months I added 5 others.  I guess I am going to have to go back and figure out which ones.  

Anyway, this gets me up to having 56 signed cards from the 1961 Fleer set.  The set has 154 cards, but by my calculations only 96 subjects were alive at the time the set was issued, so I am sitting at 58% complete. Alas, it gets harder from here since I have pretty much gathered all the affordable autographs and just have the heavy weights to go.

What I am listening to: Easy by The Commodores

Monday, August 16, 2021

A Toe in the Water

As I said in my previous post, I've decided to not leave the hobby behind as I get ready for my upcoming job search. That's the theory anyway.

My observation is that collecting baseball cards is a hobby driven by emotion.  Seriously, can you see a Vulcan engaging in this hobby? Of course not.   But, I have found that emotions run both ways.  Even knowing that I have over 9 months to go and that being out of work doesn't represent an existential financial threat, it has been exceedingly difficult to even open the purse strings.  As an example, I was planning on heading down to the 600 table Dallas card show a few weekends ago to look for some vintage commons and trade bait to use in my autographed Fleer project.  But, my wife's card needed a $1,500 repair and that gave me the reason I was probably unconsciously looking for to not go to the show.

But, here is a recent arrival:

A magazine type supplement to the 1978 Yankees yearbook that I picked up off of eBay for a whopping $16.  While I have the 1978 picture album, I don't have the actual yearbook yet.  It does appear that they can be had for around $20. So, that may be my next big splurge. Anyways, that is the front cover above and this is the back cover below.


1977 was a exciting year for Yankees fans.  A World Series victory on the back of Reggie Jackson's
3 home run Game 6.  Sparky Lyle's Cy Young win, the first for a relief pitcher. And the emergence of Ron Guidry, who's 16-7, 2.82 rookie season was a foreshadowing of his stellar 1978 season


There is a month by month review of the season.

And there is the payoff.  An sheet of 27 trading cards of the key players from that season.  Out of curiosity, I looked to see how many different players appeared for the Yankees in 1977, The answer was 36, so the 26 players shown in these cards represents nearly 3/4 of the total.  For laughs, I looked to see how many players appeared for the Yankees this season, which is only 2/3 over.  The answer is 56, 28 of which were pitchers.

I find myself struggling to follow baseball the last few years, while I concurrently stay up to date on the NBA even in the offseason. I think there may be a clue as to why in the previous paragraph.  The modern baseball team seems to have become a revolving door of players and if you aren't making following the team a major part of your day then you are reduced to rooting for a uniform and not a core group of players that comprise the team year after year.

Anyway, that is my theory. It is also possible I am just a bad fan.  

What I am listening to: Down on the Street by The Stooges

Friday, August 13, 2021

Field of Dreams

 I am 55 years old and I am, in equal parts, nostalgic and cynical.  I watched the Field of Dreams game last night hoping that it would resonate with the former, only to find that it mostly hit the latter.

Don't get me wrong, as hokey as it is, I love the movie. I view it as a spiritual journey allegory,  The main character goes through a series of intellectual crises that lead to him making leaps of faith, with the end result of him reconciling with his father (or, perhaps his Father.)  I am trained as an engineer and, constitutionally, am inclined to analyze any decision as rationally as possible.  So, the character represents something I wish I could be and, to the extent we are dealing with idealization, I want the experience to be through the gauzy focus of nostalgia.  The movie achieves that.  

The game did not.  At least not for me.

The root of my objections are twofold. First, MLB leaned too hard into sentimentality and it came off as contrived and antiseptic. Second, the field itself was over engineered. They basically dropped a brand new A ball stadium into a corn field.  So, what specifically annoyed me?

  1. It wasn't even the real field!

  2. I would have preferred there was no outfield barrier, just corn marking the confines of the playing field, although...

  3. I did the think the rough wood fencing was a reasonable compromise...until I realized that it wasn't even wood but a fabric covering a chain link fence

  4. Advertisements on screens behind home plate

  5. The White Sox at least made an attempt to have their uniforms reference the movie. The Yankees just wore their normal road uniform.

  6. The opening with Kevin Costner walking across the field with soundtrack music seemed to be specifically set up to elicit an emotional response.
Overall, it was just too corporate. I mean, I get it.  Baseball is a business, but they didn't need to make it that obvious.  

Anyways, that is my take.  If you enjoyed the game, I won't judge.  It just wasn't for me.

What I am listening to: One Million Miles by Heart

Friday, August 6, 2021

There It Is, There It Goes

 There it is:

A lot of 61 signed 1963 Fleer cards is being auctioned off right now at Heritage Auctions and it includes a signed Roberto Clemente.  For anyone reading this who isn't familiar with what I collect, I have been working on a signed 1963 Fleer set for over 9 years and have autographed versions of 65 out of 66 cards.  What is the one missing?  Roberto Clemente.

So, to answer the question that is likely on your mind; no, I will not be bidding on this,  The current high bid is nearly $3,500 (with the buyers premium) and the auction has three weeks until it closes.  My guess is that this will go for between $6,000 and $7,000.  That is so far beyond my means that I wouldn't bid even if I wasn't facing a job search in the future.  However, the person who helped me get the 64th and 65th cards for my set also needed Clemente. So, I sent him the link to the auction in case he hadn't seen it. He had and has already bid. So, because he helped me out when he didn't have to, I am hoping he wins.

Speaking of the job search, I don't have any firm date on when I will be leaving this job.  It is supposed to be 6 months after the acquisition closes, but no one knows when that will be. It could be as soon as mid-September, but is more likely to be in the fourth quarter.  So, with a steady paycheck into the April/May timeframe and the ability to get through an extended job search, I've decided I can loosen up and dip a toe or two into the hobby waters.  So far, that decisions hasn't turned into much action.  Though I have one recent acquisition to post about in the next few days.

What I am listening to: Highway to Hell by Tom Morello, Eddie Vedder, and Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, April 15, 2021

When the Urge Strikes

Yes, I am on a hobby hiatus.  Sort of.  Mostly anyways.

My job situation has cleared up and changes are in my future.  It is too difficult to explain concisely, and that isn't why you are here anyways.  So, suffice it to say, I've decided my tenure in the job will be coming to an end sometime before the end of the year.  I'm at the point in my life that I don't feel compelled to hang on to a job at all costs.  I have enough solid experience that I can find another job and have the ability to weather an extended search. And, surprisingly, making that decision has introduced a significant feeling of peace into my life.

I am still mostly on a hiatus, but I have been selling off stuff that doesn't really fit in my collection with the intent to use the proceeds to go a show or two and try to work on some of the sets I am close to finishing.

So, last weekend with about $350 in my pocket, I wandered up to the OKC show with the more specific goal of knocking off some of the star cards I needed for my 1960 and 1965 sets. How did I do?  Well, see for yourself...

I bought about a dozen 1972-1973 Topps basketball commons for that set, but this 1955 Willie Mays was my only other purchase.  There was exactly one vintage seller at the show and he only had two of the '60 and '65 star cards I needed and they were at a price I wasn't willing to pay,. But, this Mays was. It took pretty much all the money in my pocket, but it was mine.  And less than an hour after arriving at the show, I was on my way back home.  

To be perfectly honest, I am somewhat ambivalent about finishing the 1955 set. I am only 14 cards from completion, but that Clemente rookie is still out there and I just don't see it ever getting into my price range. And, to be fair, the Jackie Robinson card in the set is selling well above my comfort level also. I will undoubtedly still pick up needs here and there, but I may just have to find a reprint or a modern shiny to fill the Clemente spot in the binder.

What I am Listening to: The Color of a Cloudy Day by Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires

Friday, March 19, 2021

In Memoriam - February 2021

 February 2 - Grant Jackson

February 3 - Wayne Terwilliger

February 4 - Hy Cohen

February 10 - Billy Conigliaro

February 11 - Wynn Hawkins (1960 Topps 536)

February 16 - Angel Mangual (1972 - 62)

February 16 - Lew Krausse (1973 - 566)

February 18 - Juan Pizarro (1965 - 125)

February 20 - Stan Williams ( 1970 - 353)

Saturday, March 6, 2021

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Parts 31 to 33

 I've had a lot come at me this last few weeks.  It was announced  that my employer is being acquired by a larger company and I am staring into the teeth of a major transition.  Then my 84 year old mother had to have emergency surgery a bit over a week ago. I was up there last week, though I mainly was dog sitting, since I wasn't allowed in the hospital.  She did come home about a day before I left.  So, I will be going up again next week to help her recover.  With the job uncertainty and the extra travel expenses, I am going to take a hobby hiatus. So, this post will likely be my last hurrah for a little while.  It isn't like I was all that prolific to begin with, so no one probably would have noticed anyways.

Before all this came up, I was watching a number of signed 1961 Fleer cards on an auction site.  There were seven I was watching, but five sold for way more than I was willing to pay.  But, I did win two!

Bill Terry played his entire MLB career with the New York Giants (1923 to 1936), mostly as a first baseman. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1954 and is still the last player to hit over .400 in the National League.  He did that in his stellar 1930 season where he hit for a .401/.452/.619 slash line and tolled up 254 hits, which is still tied for 3rd in the single season records for all of MLB, tied with Lefty O'Doul and behind only George Sisler and Ichiro Suzuki.  From his age 33 season (1932) through the end of his playing career, he was also the Giants manager and he continued in that role for 5 more years after his days in the field ended.  In his second year as player manager (1933) he guided the Giants to a World Series championship.

As you might expect, there is a wonderful SABR biography.

Joe Dugan is an unlikely player to show up in a baseball greats set, like 1961 Fleer.  If such statistics are to be believed, he was effectively a replacement level player, racking up 9.4 total WAR over a 14 year career spent mostly with the NY Yankees and Philadelphia Athletics. Therein lies a clue though.  Dugan was the Yankees starting third baseman from 1922 through the middle of 1928. In that role, he appeared in five World Series, three of which the Yankees won.  He hit a 3 run inside the park home run in Game 5 of the 1923 series.  Thankfully, for your reading pleasure there is a SABR biography.

And now, one of the crown jewels of my signed 1961 Fleer project. Coming in second only to Ted Williams, is this Joe "Ducky" Medwick.  At that Dallas show I went to a month or so back, there was a dealer in autographs.  And not just high end autographs. He had half a dozen 5000 count boxes filled with signed cards (mostly modern, but also vintage) that could be had for less than $10 each. Last year, I had become acquainted with a person who builds signed vintage sets and had signed Fleer cards I needed for my project.  Unfortunately, I never had much luck finding anything he needed other than a couple of my duplicate 1963 Fleer commons.  

It was the end of the day in Dallas and my back was starting to seize up (you young 'uns will understand when you cross over to the wrong side of 50,) so I only got through half of the 5000 count boxes. But I found about 8 cards he needed. I also took a look at the star cards he had in a display box and found another card my friend needed.  And with those cards, we started to work out a trade. At first, I thought I might go for a volume, and trade for a number of the lower value needs. But, those cards are lower value because the subject players were prolific signers.  Why trade for something I could pick up off of eBay for less than $30?  So, I ended up trading for this Medwick.  Medwick died in 1975, so there isn't many of these out there. In fact, I think I have only seen one other.

I've blah blah blahed enough.  SABR Biography

What I am listening to: Commercial Rain by Inspiral Carpets

Sunday, February 14, 2021

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Parts 28 to 30

 I think I may have an attention problem. My collecting goes in phases. I'll go whole hog on one part of my collection and then, later, drop it and move on to something else.  At the end of 2020 and in January, I was working on my 1960 and 1965 sets. I even went to a really large show down in Dallas with the intent of moving them much closer to completion. In a sense, I did. I picked up a fair number of commons, along with a few minor stars for those sets.  But, I still lack a fair number of major cards for both sets and the prices that were being asked for those cards were well beyond what I consider reasonable. 

Now, I get that the market has moved over the last year and perhaps my criteria needs to be updated. But, even though I have been saying this for quite a while, I do think we are in a bubble, albeit one with some staying power.  I am 32 cards from finishing 1960 and 44 from finishing 1965. Of those, 8 and 12  are major star cards, respectively. So, those two sets may soon join 1968 on the "not quite complete, but waiting for the bubble to pop" shelf. 

In the mean time, after I snagged one of the last signed 1963 Fleer cards I needed at Clean Sweep Auctions, I noticed that there was a huge lot of signed 1961 Fleer cards up for auction.  I am talking about a 46 card lot, with 20 cards I still needed. So, I figured out what those 20 needs would have set me back at eBay market rates and decided to bid up to that level.  It would have been my largest single hobby purchase.  Except, I misread the auction closing rules and couldn't bid.  It would take a while to explain the bidding rules, but suffice it to say this is the only auction where I have ever seen those rules. 

Anyways, the lot finished right at where my maximum bid was. Which means I probably would have lost anyways.  But, it did get me to start looking beyond eBay.  As luck would have it, a 5 card lot of signed 1961 Fleers was up for auction at Heritage. I only needed 3 of the 5, so I determined what the market rate was for only the three I needed and set that as my maximum bid.  This time I made sure to understand the auction rules and placed my bid. And I won. Here are the three I needed for my signed 1961 Fleer project.

Babe Herman, a native of Buffalo NY, had a 13 year major league career, most with the Brooklyn Robins.  The bulk of his MLB career was between 1926 and 1937, with a short stint back in Brooklyn in 1945. The interregnum was spent playing with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League, then considered something of a West Coast quasi-major league. As always, SABR has a biography of Babe that does justice to the man. Read it. He is a fascinating character. I learned from it that he was actually the scout that originally signed my favorite player, Paul Blair, to a professional contract.  

Bibb Falk played a 12 year career, 9 with the Chicago White Sox and 3 with Cleveland. He was a prime beneficiary of the Black Sox Scandal, as the ensuing suspensions opened up the opportunity for him to start his major league career in 1921 as Joe Jackson's replacement in left field. He was a solid, if not powerful contact hitter, with a .314 career average and no single season lower than .285.  In a typical 162 game season, he would strike out only 33 times.  Once again, there is a great SABR biography.

Finally, the only Hall of Famer in the group.   After a 5 game cup of coffee with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1912, he kicked of a 13 year run in the majors in 1916.  He was a spitballer that was able to continue throwing the pitch after it was outlawed in 1920.  In what may have been his finest year, his 1918 season comes in at 9.9 Wins Above Replacement, only slightly behind the great Walter Johnson (10.4). No position player exceeded 6.8 in the season (George Sisler.)  He was voted into Cooperstown by the Veteran's Committee in 1969.  And, saving you from my tortured prose, you can find his biography at SABR.

What I am listening to: The Rumble by Chick Corea and Steve Vai

Saturday, February 6, 2021

In Memoriam - January 2021

 Monday, January 4, 2021 Tom Acker

Tuesday, January 5, 2021 Don Leppert

Thursday, January 7, 2021 Tommy Lasorda HOF

Sunday, January 10, 2021 Pedro Gonzalez

Thursday, January 14, 2021 Ron Samford

Tuesday, January 19, 2021 Don Sutton HOF

Wednesday, January 20, 2021 Mike Sadek

Friday, January 22, 2021 Hank Aaron HOF

Saturday, January 23, 2021 Paul Foytack

Monday, January 25, 2021 Dick Smith

Tuesday, January 26, 2021 Ron Johnson

Friday, January 22, 2021

1963 Fleer Autograph Project, The Finale

My last post was about the 64th unique signed 1963 Fleer card in my collection.  I told the story about how I came to possess it, But, that was not the whole story.  I couldn't share the rest of the story at the time. Now, I can.

The seller of that signed Dick Farrell card is a big autograph collector.  Though I didn't know it at the time, he and I have a mutual trading acquaintance.  When he contacted me, he also pointed me to a card for sale at Clean Sweep Auctions: a signed 1963 Fleer Ken Boyer which I still needed. Because it was a raw card, I sent the listing to PSA for a quick opinion on it's authenticity.  And and it came back as "Likely Genuine."  So, as soon as I got the ruling, I went and bought it.

It shipped on the same day as the Farrell. But, unlike the Farrell which arrived 4 days later, Boyer went missing. From January 4, for two and a half weeks, he was no where to be found. I know the problems that the Postal Service has been having, so I remained patient.  Well, mostly patient. I still checked the tracking a few times a day to see Ken popped up again.  Yesterday, he finally did; showing up at the Oklahoma City Distribution Center.  And today, he arrived in my mailbox.

The 65th and final signed 1963 Fleer card in my collection.  Oh, I'll still keep an eye on the market.  I don't expect to see, no less buy, a signed Clemente.  But, it is fun to dream and I may be able to cheaply upgrade some of my rougher pieces. 

What I am listening to:  Vin Scully calling Hank Aaron's 715th home run.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

1963 Fleer Autograph Project, Part 64

 As long time readers (all 3 of you), I started collecting signed 1963 Fleer cards back in September of 2012  It was a project started without much thought for what I really expected to accomplish.  At the time, there were some cards that seemed out of reach.  If I had really stopped to think logically, I never would have started.  But, I did and as the circumstances of my life evolved, I found myself occasionally being able to acquire cards that I previously though out of reach.

I worked steadily on the set over time, but my efforts came to a halt nearly three years ago, in the spring of  2018 when I received back the Vada Pinson card from authentication.  I've done my best to keep my eye out for any of the remaining three (two really, since Clemente will be out of reach.)

Roll the clock forward to a couple of months ago, when a lot of 47 signed '63 Fleers came up for sale on eBay. One of the cards was of Dick "Turk" Farrell, who I still needed.  Farrell is a tough get since he passed away in 1977, at the age of 43 and only 8 years after his baseball career ended.  I dropped the seller a note expressing my interest in that card. Not surprisingly, he wanted to keep the group complete since the Farrell is one of the key cards in the set.  I told him that I understood and if he ever changed his mind to let me know.

Fast forward to New Years weekend when I get an message from him, saying he is ready to break the lot apart.  We quickly agreed on the price and here it is:

The 64th signed 1963 Fleer card in my collection.  The only one's remaining:  Ken Boyer and Roberto Clemente.  Both  are similar to Farrell in that they all died young. Clemente's story is well known, of course.  Boyer passed away in 1982 at the age of 51.   I have seen at least one copy of the Boyer card, and a couple of forgeries.  I have actually seen one Clemente also but, if memory serves, the asking price was over $5,000.  Even if I could afford that, I couldn't ever justify that kind of expense.  So, in the end, 65 out of 66 will be complete for me.

What I am listening to: I'll See You in My Dreams by Bruce Springsteen

Monday, January 4, 2021

New and Old PC Additions

 A few hobby things brewing here.  One I am really excited about, but probably won;t be able to share anything until this coming weekend, depending on the Post Office.  But in the mean time, I've added a couple cards to my Paul Blair player collection.

Wait. Don't I already have that card?  Yes, I do. I had three at one time, but traded one for the chicken bucket lid and a handful of team-issued postcards. So, this one brings me back up to three.  I've talked about this card before.  To recap, it was a limited edition Nabisco All-Star Legends card that was issued at regional in-person events and not through the mail like the more pervasive cards from this small set.  In 10 years, I have seen only 5 appear on eBay.  When the listing mentions the actual set name, the cards always sell for crazy dollars (the lowest I've seen is $68.)  

But, twice now it was buried in a larger lot of cards and the auction description made no mention of Nabisco.  Both times, I was able to pounce on the lot and win this card for a song.  This card above came in a lot with autographed cards of Brad Ausmus, Steve Avery, Harold Baines, Jesse Barfield, Jay Bell, Tom Brookens, and Earnest Byner.  The whole lot was mine for about $30.  I don't need any of the others, so claim 'em if you want 'em.

The second card is a custom card that draws it's inspiration from 1988 Donruss.

Other than the bare-bones back (I alliterate intensely) it is actually well done. I'm still not overly convinced about ACEO cards, but I am not deadset against them either.

Anyways, I've got a full day tomorrow and need to get my beauty sleep. So, I am going to end here and only mention vaguely that I am within striking distance of finishing one of my favorite projects that I've undertaken since I got back into the hobby.

What I am listening to:  Appalachian Nightmare by Justin Townes Earle