Types, types, types.

In building our first auction, one of the things that I’m discovering is how quickly the auction is defining itself, in terms of what kind of items we’ll have to offer.

The tagline “A curated selection of sophisticated sports artifacts” couldn’t be more true.  One of the places you’ll see it right off the bat is in the assortment of tough and interesting card types we’ll be featuring in the inaugural auction this October.

Example: 1888 Scrapps Tobacco.  A beautiful representation of 19th Century artwork, carefully and artfully presented in its SGC holder (in our opinion, the way SGC handles Scrapps cards is one of the coolest things they do).

Another interesting thing that we’ve got is this 1909 Colgan’s Chips square proof card.  While these aren’t actually “proofs,” (nobody really knows what they are, actually), because they feature the same images as the E254 Colgan’s Chips cards, collectors at some point began calling them “proofs.”  In reality, they’re probably just another card type that features similar artwork (many of the candy and caramel issues of that era utilized the same player art). While we may never know how or where these cards were issued, it’s still a pretty cool card type that you don’t see every day.

We’re also happy to offer this 1932 Zeenut card of Henry Oana.  While Zeenuts are highly collectible to begin with, Oana, as a Hawaiian-born player, is somewhat of a celebrity among Zeenuts collectors.  “The Hawaiian Prince,” an outstanding hitter and sometime pitcher, played pro ball for 23 years, mostly in the Pacific Coast League, winning fans in the early 30s as a member of the Portland Beavers and San Francisco Seals.  Yet another highly collectible card from a unique and beautiful card type.

It’s not just tough prewar card types we’re featuring, though.  One of the most difficult and desirable postwar issues is the 1968 Topps 3D set.  A limited-edition “test” issue that was distributed to some Brooklyn stores in the summer of ’68, the 3D cards have found favor among collectors of tough card types over the years.  We’ve got this one:

Another difficult Topps card type were the Venezuelan issues of the 60s.  Hardly ever found in pristine condition, the Venezuelans are often faded, chipped, creased and well-handled, in addition to being extremely scarce.  We’re fortunate to be able to offer a key Hall of Famer from the 1966 Venezuelan Topps set, center fielder Willie Mays.

The unique card types we’re offering don’t even end in the 1960s.  Another test issue from the 1970s was the 1973 Topps Pin Ups set.  Featuring the same checklist as the 1973 Topps Comics, we’re happy to offer you the pin up of Billy Williams – a scarce and desirable Hall of Famer from a tough, tough set.

This is just a small selection of the unique kinds of sports cards we’ll be offering in our October auction.  It’s a type collector’s paradise, with a wide range of special cards spanning more than a century.  As a longtime card guy, curating this auction has been a pretty special experience.

Lance Alworth and the AFL

Our friend Todd, who runs the blog Tales from the American Football League, blogs about Lance Alworth today.  He’s got a pretty cool replica of Alworth’s Hall of Fame bust.

Last week we received our own Alworth item, this mint condition copy of his 1964 Topps football card.  It was part of a nice consignment of high-grade football Hall of Famers and rookie cards from the mid 60s that will be featured in our October auction.

Enjoy the Alworth eye candy on both our site and Todd’s today!

Donuts.

Once in a while, a new hobby discovery turns the collecting world on its ear.  With decades of people collecting and cataloging cards, how is it that there can be an undiscovered card issue?  And yet it’s happened in recent memory, with the 1921 Herpolsheimers, 1916 Tango Eggs, and 1920 Peggy Popcorn sets, among others.  Other times, a discovery sheds light on the origins of an obscure set.

In late 2007, a donut box – yes, a donut box – was discovered,  featuring 18 cards of various Americans printed directly onto the box.  Collectors could finally see the origin of the Doughnut Corporation of America’s “Thrilling Moments” cards.  The box sold for a staggering $17,500 at auction.

The individual cards, part of a 72-card set, were meant to be cut out of the box and affixed into an album called “Thrilling Moments in the Lives of Famous Americans.”  The album contained biographical information on each of the 72 subjects, some of which included Abraham Lincoln, Charles Lindburgh, George Washington, Sitting Bull, Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Teddy Roosevelt, and more.

Presented here is the Knute Rockne card from that scarce and fascinating set.  Rockne, the famed Notre Dame football coach credited with popularizing the forward pass, is an example of how American sports intertwine so closely with historical and political figures throughout the nation’s history.  The card, clearly hand-cut from its original home, pictures Rockne with the words “The Football World Will Never Forget Him” superimposed over the card.  Graded Authentic by SGC, we’re proud to have this interesting and scarce card in our inaugural auction this fall.

Mickey, Part II

So far, we’ve focused this blog on cards.  Baseball and football.

We’ve got other things in the inaugural auction.  But we’re going to ease you in slowly with this fantastic autographed 1962 Topps special card of the subject of yesterday’s blog entry, Mickey Mantle.

Card #318 from that set illustrates the powerful left-handed swing of the switch-hitting Mantle; he hit 369 of his 536 home runs from the left side of the plate.  Mantle’s 1962 season was stellar; he hit a whopping .321 with a .486 on base percentage.  He walloped 30 home runs in 502 at bats and drove in 89 runs, winning the American League MVP and a Gold Glove to boot, leading the Yankees to a World Series victory over the San Francisco Giants (though Mantle hit just .120 in the Series, with no RBI).

Mantle carefully signed this card in bold, black marker across the three panels but underneath his image, with his famous signature remaining inside the borders of the card.  The card itself is in decent shape as well, with four square corners and reasonable centering.  1962 Topps are known for chipping along the borders and this example is no different; but it’s not really the condition of the card we’re looking at here, is it?

Certified authentic by PSA/DNA, this signed 1962 Mantle will be featured in our October auction.

Is it a sports auction without Mickey?

No.

So we have Mickey.

We’re proud to offer his true “rookie card,” among others – this collector-grade 1951 Bowman.  Still a card worth thousands, this particular example has a clean surface but two soft corners and weaker centering that bring it below EX condition.  Still, it would be difficult to find a nicer 4 than this.

The 1952 Topps Mantle is an iconic card; the most valuable Mantle, called his “rookie” card so frequently that SGC actually notates the card as such on their grading labels.  The classic ’52 Topps design, largely credited with ushering the modern card collecting hobby into the mainstream, is a big reason for the card’s popularity.  The scarcity of the “high number” series in the ’52 set, along with the legend of cases of unsold second series cards being unceremoniously dumped into the ocean is another.  Postwar collectors frequently bemoan the idea of cases of ’52 Mantles, disintegrating in saltwater at the bottom of an ocean somewhere.  If they could only go back in time!

And yet an examination of grading company population reports might change one’s mind about the relative scarcity of the two cards.  PSA and SGC have graded 1,677 copies of the 1951 Bowman Mantle.  The “scarce” 1952?  They’ve graded 1,372.  Not much of a difference, relatively speaking, and certainly neither card could be considered “scarce” by the standards of some of the other items we’ve posted on this blog over the last few weeks.

The ’52 Mantle in VG-EX condition is likely to bring $10,000 or more at auction; the perception of scarcity coupled with the iconic nature of the card has made it one of the key cards in the hobby.

The ’51 Mantle, however, is Mantle’s true “rookie card,” issued a year earlier than its Topps counterpart.  Like the ’52 version, the ’51 is part of the tougher-to-find second series.  And the image is, even today, one of the most attractive Mantle images on a baseball card (much like the rest of the ’51 Bowman set, which remains one of the most beautiful postwar baseball card issues).

Many collectors give Mickey credit for the popularity of the hobby, with the Baby Boom generation actively seeking out nostalgic reminders of their childhoods.  It would be hard to argue.  Mantle cards continue to increase in value, with his early cards continuing to fetch thousands of dollars even in lower grades.

Without Mickey Mantle, it’s not really a sports auction.   And so we’re proud to have a few, beginning with his very first mainstream card – this beautiful 1951 Bowman.

More Diz.

We love Dizzy Dean.

He was positively superhuman in 1934.  Consider this:

He pitched in fifty games in 1934.  Fifty.  In a 154-game season, that means Diz pitched in a third of his team’s games.  And he won thirty.  And in the 1934 World Series, he pitched in three games, 26 innings in total.  Twenty-six innings in three games.

But really, it wasn’t just 1934 that made Dean great.  From 1932 through 1936, Dizzy Dean averaged almost 50 games a season, and about 300 innings pitched.  He pitched 126 complete games.  He led the league in strikeouts four seasons in a row, and averaged more than 20 wins a season.

Dizzy Dean was a dominant from 1932 through 1936 as Sandy Koufax ever was, as dominant as Pedro Martinez ever was, as dominant as Rube Waddell ever was.  And he was one of the most colorful, interesting characters to ever put on a baseball uniform (or broadcast games after his career was over).

Dizzy Dean was overworked.  If he was on the Yankees today, he’d be limited to 150 innings a season, and maybe he would have lasted longer than the six seasons he was a regular starter in his 12-year career.

After Dean’s dominant 1934 season, a St. Louis shirt manufacturer called Rice Stix produced a two-card set consisting only of the popular Dizzy Dean and his brother Paul (who the press nicknamed “Daffy,” because the press need to do that sort of thing).  The cards were inserted into each box of shirts in 1935.  The cards are scarce today, with only 20 examples of the Dizzy Dean graded by PSA as of this writing, and even mid grade examples commanding four figures.

 

Roger the Dodger

I grew up watching Roger Staubach play.

Actually, I grew up watching Danny White play, in Staubach’s shadow.  As a Cowboys fan in the early 1980s, White was forever compared to Staubach – and the “can’t win the big one” tag pretty much followed White year after year.  I really only watched Staubach in his final season, 1979, after his heroics were basically over.  Staubach led the Cowboys to one final first-place finish, losing to the 9-7 Rams to send Roger (and my hero, Tony Dorsett) home early for the season.  The Rams lost to Terry Bradshaw’s Steelers in the Super Bowl, a final indignity to Roger’s legacy in my young mind, because I just knew Staubach could have beaten Bradshaw.

For years after that, Danny White took the Cowboys to the brink, losing the conference championship to the Eagles in 1980, the 49’ers in 1981, losing to the Rams in the 1982 Wild Card game and getting shut out by the same Rams in 1984.  With each passing season, Staubach’s legacy grew larger, his shadow grew more and more dominant, and White’s career finally drew to a close, “can’t win the big one” being his unfortunate legacy.

It would take more than two decades for another Dallas quarterback to take that particular crown away from White.

Meanwhile, Staubach became more and more of a legend, both among football fans and football hobbyists.  His 1972 rookie card grew in value year after year, with near mint-mint copies reaching well into the hundreds of dollars, despite being in plentiful supply.  True mint copies reached far higher, and were far more scarce.  The 1972 Staubach is the most-graded card in the set by PSA, the graded population of which outnumbers all but the Namath by multiples.  And yet only 27 copies have been graded MINT 9 by PSA, just 1.6% of all the PSA-graded copies in the market.  Only two have graded higher.

We’re proud to offer this particular MINT copy of the Roger Staubach rookie card in our inaugural auction this October.  Suffering only from the left-to-right centering flaws that plague so many 1970s Topps cards (yet suffering much less than most examples of this card), this Staubach boasts a crisp image, sharp corners and near-flawless edges.  This is an outstanding example of one of the hobby’s most important post-1970 cards; a cornerstone card in any collection of postwar Hall of Famers.

Ever seen a CJ like this?

I haven’t.

T206 collectors have a field day with this kind of stuff – off-registered cards, miscuts, print freaks, and other anomalies are well-documented, and very, very cool examples of poor turn-of-the-century quality control that help T206 scholars better understand print techniques, sheet placement, and other questions that have been lost to history.

Cracker Jacks, though, aren’t really known for this sort of thing.  The vivid reds and clean borders have long made these beautiful cards a favorite among prewar collectors, as do their tie with the American institution that is the Cracker Jack company.  They’re simply gorgeous cards.

But the main issue collectors have with them, condition-wise, deals with the staining that comes from the popcorn and caramel inside the Cracker Jack box, along with centering issues common to the era.  While a great deal of unstained CJs are available, we don’t often see print defects.

Here, we have not one, but two 1915 Cracker Jacks that suffer from not one, but two print defects.  Both cards – of Joe Boehling and Jim Delehanty – are miscut along the right edge, and are also severely out of registration.

After reviewing these cards with several prewar collectors at the National, it was pretty clear – these cards are weird, and certainly uncommon for the issue.  Indeed, while population reports are by no means an accurate gauge of things like this, PSA has graded more than 10,000 1915 Cracker Jacks, and only about 3% were graded with a qualifier of any kind – and as we know, qualifiers could be for centering, marks, general print defects, or miscut cards.

In this case, both cards are graded with the MC qualifier, signifying the miscut right edges.  However, it is the print registration that is most striking, with the dark red ink appearing off-register by a full sixteenth of an inch.  What’s interesting – at least to me – is the appearance of what seems to be a second pass of red ink, much lighter than the dominant, dark red, that appears properly registered.  This would indicate that perhaps the cards were printed with two passes of red ink, possibly accounting for the vivid hue of the cards.

What’s also interesting about these cards is that technically, they are not miscut.  The type is properly centered on each card, as are the player images – it’s simply the misapplied ink that causes the cards to appear miscut.

Aside from the print defects, these cards are otherwise exceptional examples – unstained, with EX-MT to NMT corners and sharp edges.  The backs are clean.

Did these cards make it into circulation?  Were they scrapped by the quality control of Rueckheim Bros. & Eckstein after production, and subsequently taken out the back door by an employee?  Perhaps we’ll never know – but these two cards are very cool examples of Cracker Jack print anomalies that will be featured in our October, 2012 auction.

1949 Eureka Sportstamps

We’re proud to offer a starter lot of 25 high-grade examples of the 1949 Eureka Sportstamp issue.

In the aftermath of World War II, sports card manufacturers were just beginning to kick back into production, with 1948 sets produced by Bowman and Leaf, along with some smaller issues like Topps Magic Photo, Swell Sports Thrills, and the like.  Many of these sets featured black and white photography, and many did not approach the level of quality that card-producing companies would reach just a few years later.

Amidst the approaching postwar boom, Eureka Sportstamps were one of the most attractive baseball issues.  The stamps themselves were issued on team sheets measuring 7 1/2 x 10″, which could then be broken into individual stamps to be affixed in a stamp album that contained additional biographical info on each player.  Featuring only National League players (along with the NL president and the commissioner of baseball), the Eureka set contained sixteen Hall of Famers among the 200 subjects featured.

Initially a thinly-traded issue due to its scarcity (and possibly due to a lack of AL players), the set is beginning to grow in popularity as collectors discover its beauty and difficulty.  Intended to be affixed in an album, today they are frequently found torn, with back damage or missing glue.  The challenge of assembling a set – or even individual cards – in high grade has helped increase the value of complete sets or large lots of these cards.  Indeed, a complete high-grade set recently sold at auction for nearly $4,000 – considerably higher than the Standard Catalog‘s price estimate of $900.

Our October auction will feature a single lot of 25 high-grade PSA examples from the set, an excellent starter lot for someone willing to take on the challenge.  Featuring a number of low-population stamps, the lot includes one PSA 10, eight PSA 9s, and sixteen PSA 8s – a perfect way to get a collector started on the quest to assemble a complete set of this obscure but beautiful regional postwar issue.

Please note that the stamp album depicted in this entry is not included in the lot – it’s simply here to show interested parties how the stamps were intended to be used.