Sunday, August 21, 2016

Civil War News Additions (and a subtraction)

I'm slowly adding to my '62 Topps Civil War News set. I've found that there is no middle ground with these either price or condition-wise. I've exhausted the supply of needed and affordable (under $2) examples on COMC. Now I'm doing a daily check on eBay. It's hard to find anything under $5 there.

These two come from an earlier eBay purchase and are in better shape than most of my other ones. That one up top is one of the nightmare-inducing examples that stuck in my memory from my elementary school days. A painting of soldiers impaled on abatis stakes tends to stay with a kid.

Here is the back. I bet I was disappointed that there wan't a description of the gruesome scene depicted on the front. Instead it discusses the reaction of CSA General John Bell Hood to the lost battle of Nashville in December of 1965. But. as has been documented, that story was made up by the Topps writers who did the 'News' on these cards. More on that in a bit.

#52 Friendly Enemies depicts wounded from both sides sharing a canteen after presumably fighting each other moments before.

The card's back references the post battle atmosphere of Chattanooga in September of 1863.

I was able to find a couple of nice examples of the faux Confederate currency that was inserted into the packs. They in 10 different denominations. Some serial number variations bring the total to 17 different. Once I'm done with collecting the cards I may try to nab a few more of these bills. This $100 note is the better of the two I have.

The title of the blog mentions a 'subtraction'. Here's why:

In my haste to scoop up all the cheap ones available on COMC I added this #58 Angel Of  Mercy to my cart. When the package arrived it stuck out from the rest of my purchased lot. The obvious difference was the size of the card. It was smaller than the rest and flipping it over the the pink/red is brighter as is the cardboard itself.
And then there was this:

I had no idea that these cards had been reprinted by Topps' 'kissing cousin' AB&C in England in 1965. I think of them as a football (soccer) card maker but they did loads of non-sports issues as well. Scroll down on this webpage for a list of AB&C card issues. 

I'd obviously misread (or not read) the card description and ended up with the British version of this creepy Clara Barton card. It isn't the first time I've 'mis-bought' something online. Won't be the last either. And it IS pretty creepy. Her bloddy and bandaged patient looks like something from those Friday The 13th films. Here are comparison views of the AB&C card and one of my Topps cards.

Reading the card backs and poking around the internet doing just the barest of research turned up the fact that the card backs are far from an accurate chronicle of the Civil War. I recently came across a 1998 interview done with Len Brown who was one of the Topps employees involved with making this set. It's very long and the page uses very small type but it's still worth looking at if you are interested in this set. It's a good read even if you just want some insight into how these old non-sports sets were done.

Late in the interview Brown is asked about the backs and how they were developed and here is that exchange:

{Paul} ....... By the way, who did the stories on the backs of the cards?
{Len} Uh-oh, I was afraid you were going to ask that. I slaved over the backs.... but what I am not proud of was that I misled lots of children to think that these were true events that took place during the war. Most of them were just fictional. We planned the pictures.... composed the scenes out of our imaginations..... after the paintings were done, I wrote a little story about the front of the cards---then I would look up a town or date that seemed appropriate and would try to publish a newspaper back as if it were a real event. I remember getting a letter from a schoolteacher years ago, thanking us for helping the children in her class to learn about the Civil War. Yet, sad to say, facts never got in the way of telling an interesting story.
{Paul} That's okay, Len. The stories were great. I enjoyed reading each of them -- true or not. Were there any stories that were factual? I remember a particular card; "The Silent Drum" was about a drummer boy who was killed. Or were they all made up?
{Len} There might have been a few accurate stories that were written up. I suspect "The Silent Drum" was fictional. We were just trying to tell an interesting story about the picture on the front. If I had to guess, I would say 80 to 85% of the stories were complete fiction pieces. The battles were based on fact, but the incidental details were really fiction.
{Paul} Well, the stories were good, factual or not.
The origin of the Confederate currency inserts is also discussed:

{Paul} So is it an authentic copy, or just an artists conception of what the money looked like?
{Len} I don't believe they were 100% authentic. We purchased some antique confederate bills and reworked the designs a little bit. It was a combination of several elements. I think they came off looking pretty real because we stayed close to the original. In those days we were afraid of just "counterfeiting" the Confederate money, even though they were no longer considered real currency.

I'm lacking about 30 to complete the Civil War News set.  expect it to take me quite awhile to finish it off but having a project always makes this hobby fun.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Shlabotnik Cards (and Picasa is dead) (and my scanner hates me)

Recently I received a nice group of cards from 'Joe Shlabotnik' and I quickly scanned them for posting. I was in a hurry because my window of opportunity to upload them to Google's Picasa online photo service was closing. I loved Picasa. But it's gone now. I have alternate plans, none of which I like. Meanwhile I'm just loading all my scans on a flash drive and toting them around.

But back to the cards I got from Joe. They were almost all Orioles cards and that's good because the only way I seem to get the O's from contemporary sets is by having them sent my way by fellow bloggers. I get some decent stuff from the few packs I buy but I have terrible luck when it comes to snagging Orioles.

Couple of Brooksies to kick things off. Up top we have the '16 Archives and below it's a Topps World Series Heroes from the 2014 set. I really need to count up my different cards of Brooks. I read posts all the time that state how many of a certain player are in the blogger's collection. I need to do that with Brooks, Mike Cuellar and a few others.

Next, Manny Machado 2014 Opening Day. I've had the concept of the Opening Day set explained to me but I still wonder why it exists. Same cards with an extra logo? Is that it? But either way this card took it's place in my fantasy binder because 2014 was the year I had Manny on my team.

I like cards with borders. I wish Topps would do borders on every set except Stadium Club. But you will note the 'trimmed' look of the Machado card. Very bright white borders give my scanner fits. And I'm too lazy to re-scan with a dark sheet of paper over the card and then crop the card. So Manny lives on in this post sans border.

Zack Britton lost his border and most of his position. I read an article the other day suggesting that the reliever has a case as the AL Cy Young Award. And yes, he's that good.

Joe's envelope turned into a JJ Hardy hot pack. here is his Heritage from 2016.

His (non-bordered...grrr) Archives from last year.

And his 2015 Heritage.

Joe warned me that there was back damage to this one. Looks like Topps had tried a new faux-damage variation. White Out staining joins 'gum' and 'wax' stains as chase cards.

Caleb joseph from last season's set show the Orioles back-up at a not too flattering angle. It's an unusual action shot but I'm not sure what the action actually is.

An Honest Abe for my presidential binder. Shows him with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Bruce McGill played Stanton to Daniel Day Lewis' Lincoln. He was a dead ringer for him, too. Bruce McGill is awesome.

Joe sent along two SSPCs. I have the Orioles from the set and a few scattered others but bot of these were new to me.

It's me! Well, no it isn't but it's close. Same first and last name and we were born 6 days apart. I have one of his regular Topps cards but I wasn't aware he was in this set. That's Shea Stadium and those hideous behind-the-box seats barricades they installed. And the patch on Andrews' sleeve is for Don Wilson the Astros' fireballer who has passed away in January of 1975.

And then there is Terry Crowley. He's with the Reds here but he spent 12 seasons with the Orioles as a player and many more as a hitting instructor. I'm not sure what he's up to now but as recently as 2014 he was still semi-involved in coaching as he was working with Chris Davis that year. 

'Cro' won rings with the O's ('70) and Reds ('75) and very nearly another one in 1983 but he was released by the Orioles before the season. He also was in several more post season series with Baltimore and Cincy. 

Thanks again Joe, and thanks for all the great posts you do on TSR. I enjoy each and every one.

Monday, August 15, 2016

'96 Leaf Signature El Presidente

Ok, I know that just the sight of a Dennis Martinez card makes Night Owl break out in hives but some things can't be helped. Besides I think down deep Mr. Owl likes El Presidente, maybe not as much as I do, (I really really like him) but time heals all wounds.

Anyway I've seen these 1996 Leaf Signature cards pop up on other blogs from time to time. But only recently did I decide to investigate them. I found that many can be had for reasonable prices. I'm not really a signed card collector but if I can pick up one of my favorite players cheap I'll go ahead and grab it.

I saw some with silver foil 'medallions' on them and others with bronze and I believe there were also gold foil ones. I have no idea what the significance is. I suspect the bronze were more plentiful/cheaper. Any help from 90s collectors? Frankly they'd be better looking cards without that glob of foil smack in the middle of the photo but it was the 90s and cards had to be fancied up to get attention I suppose.

Finally here is a nice interview with Dennis that I found on Fangraphs. Worth a read.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Card Show Vintage Football

Well, football season is encroaching of baseball's summer spotlight and I know that bugs a lot of you. I'm OK with it though. I don't pay a lot of attention to the preseason football other than to gripe about having two meaningless games included with my Texans tickets...and paying the full regular season price for them.

But soon it'll be September and the baseball pennant races will be cranked up to 11, the NHL camps will be open and exhibitions underway and I'll be knee deep in the Texans season to say nothing of my Houston Cougars. It's my favorite time of the year.

In my more nostalgic moments I think about long ago Saturdays in the fall when I'd be supervising intramural football games. Then we'd all head for the Athletics office to watch pennant race baseball on TV when the shadows seemed always to be covering the mound in the late afternoon. Finally it was off to work the UH game versus Arkansas or Texas in the Astrodome. Wish I could be that carefree now.

These are some of the vintage football cards I snapped up at the last monthly card show I attended. They came out of the dollar bin but with my 'regular customer' discount I paid less than that per card. Back up at the top is a 1960 Topps Y.A. Tittle. I remember him as the quarterback of the Giants back when I'd listen to their games with my father.

Then there is Howard 'Hopalong' Cassady on his card from the same set. Cassady won the Heisman at Ohio State and played eight years in the NFL. Although he never had the impact in the pros that he did in college he was able to help the Lions win the league title in 1957. He had about a half dozen cards during his pro career but this is the only one that uses his nickname on the front.  BTW...the original Hopalong Cassidy was a fictional cowboy romanticized in pulp novels, movie shorts and on TV.

The last card is a Philly Gum Giants team card from the 1967 set. The '67 Giants added QB Fran Tarkington and in the process were able to rebound from a 12 loss season to a couple years of .500 football. And they were pretty entertaining with Scramblin' Fran at the helm.

For all the greatness of the Philly Gum sets of the mid-60s you can tell by reading the blurb on the back that they would have benefited by employing a better proofreader.

I have other stuff from the bargain bins at the show to post, including a few cards from a TV show I loved as a kid but haven't thought about in years.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Back to Baseball

After a few non-sports posts I thought it was time to throw something together about baseball. I was at the local hotel show this past Saturday and did something I rarely if ever do at a packs of current cards. I also picked up some vintage sports and non-sports stuff (the trip wouldn't be worthwhile if I didn't) but a good bit of that is already out the door in PWEs.

As you can tell by the top card I bought a couple of packs of Stadium Club. I got my first and only Oriole from that set. Stealth pie-thrower Adam Jones came with gold lettering on his card. One of my few beefs with this set is that the front lettering is too hard to read. At least I find it so. I wish Topps would have used black as the font color and let silver be a special insert color like gold is. Now get off my damn lawn. 

A secondary reason for the baseball post is that I went to Minute Maid Wednesday night to see the Astros play the Blue Jays. I went with my wife, my sons and their significant others. Watching baseball is fun with a group and despite the outcome (a 3-1 loss) we had a great time. 

I was hoping the 'Stros could help out my Birds but their pathetic line-up came up dry. Currently the Astros either get production from Jose Altuve or they get nothing at all. Speaking of Altuve..... 

That appears to be a playoff win celebration from last year. Their bats better rebound or a repeat is unlikely. But that's a pretty cool card, no?

The Jays got three dingers, two by this guy...

Joey Bats hit one as well. The Astros were down two in the eighth, put runners on second and third with one out and had Altuve and Correa coming up. Everyone was excited. But Altuve lined out and Correa struck out looking.

On the plus side (for some) was the fact that it was Pokemon Go night.

Luckily (or not) we missed the pregame silliness that had grown up game players chasing Pikachus and whatnot on the field. As I looked around the crowd during the game it seems that more than half the folks near us had their faces planted in their phones most of the night. I'd like to think they were checking scores or stats but I'll bet not.

I got this card of Kole Calhoun and noticed something that is probably very old news to everyone but me. The Angels are just called the 'Angels'. Not 'Anaheim', 'Los Angeles', 'LA Angels of Anaheim' or anything else. How long has this been going on? I feel dumb for not having a clue about this.

I got this Mike Trout insert out of Archives and checked just to confirm that it's done across the whole Topps line. Yup.

I dug thru COMC and went back to 2004 before I found this:

I didn't check every set between then and now but it seems like it's at least a decade long policy. OK, now I know. I don't understand it, but at least I'm aware of it.

My final Stadium Club to be scanned is this black lettered one.

Again, much easier to read than the standard SC. And it's another nice one. I've bought one blaster and a few packs of SC this year. I'm not going to try to chase it. I tried last year and I'm still lacking a bunch and not too inspired to go after them. Not that it's not a great set, it certainly is, but I have too many other things higher on my list.

Oh, my one other gripe is collation. With just the few packs I have of 2016 SC I've some packs that seem to mirror others. Four or five dupes from one pack to the next. That's discouraging. But it's still my favorite contemporary set.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Civil War News (barely)

The Topps 1962 Civil War News set was terrifically popular in the schoolyard at St. Mary's in Nutley NJ back when they were fresh out of packs. Popular with my friends and I anyway. The nuns who taught us? Not so much. In fact if you were caught with any of these at school they went into the trash in pieces, never to return to your cigar box.

Now baseball and football cards were a different story. You could get those babies back from the not-very-aptly named Sisters of Charity if you asked nicely enough. At least with most of them. Now Sister Anastasia was altogether a different breed of nun. Lose any cards to Sister Anastasia and you lost them forever and likely got a call made to your home and possibly got a yardstick welt on your upper arm.

As I've noted recently I've been on a nostalgia kick. That's different than a vintage kick I think. I've been chasing sets I owned as a kid. The '62 Mars Attacks set will have to wait since I am involved in the latest Topps incarnation of it but I had a good time chasing Batman and now I'm tracking down these amazing Civil Wars cards.

These featured some pretty graphic artwork depicting scenes of imagined Civil War mayhem and death. They made a huge impression on us sheltered parochial school dweebs in 1962. Soldiers were shown being burned, shot, drowned, blasted apart, and my personal favorite, impaled on stakes. 88 cards were  in the set including the elusive checklist. Late Edit: Jon of A Penny Sleeve for your Thoughts snatched up a checklist on COMC for $4 in credit. I'll not be that lucky.

Much of the work on this set was done by noted comic/card artist Norman Saunders. Some background on the artwork is found here. Dean's Cards site has more background and a set checklist.

I don't remember specifically if I had the whole set as a kid. I doubt I was able to keep them out of Sister Anastasia's clutches long enough to put the whole set together. And I really had no intention of collecting them all now but as I dug around eBay and COMC I found that there were plenty to be had if you were willing to either pay through the nose for choice ones or just find battered ones on the cheap. I'm going the later route.

I found a seller in Canada who had a lot of 20 something of these and I sent him an offer. He accepted and I would up paying under a buck a card. The transaction ended up taking about two weeks and 12 emails to complete outside of eBay but that's another story.

The dealer was honest in his assessment of what was included in the group. Most were decent, probably grading at 'Fair' or maybe even Good'. But some were what he termed as 'brutal'. Here is one of the 'brutal' ones:

But most were perfectly acceptable for what I want to do, fill up the ten binder pages and flip through them. This one had been wet at one point but other than being a bit 'wavy' it's fine:

Her is one of the less gruesome battle scenes:

These next couple need an upgrade:

That may be the understatement of the year.

The Wall of Corpses is one of the cards that made an impression on me as a kid.

These next two are barely even filler. And upgrades are now on the way. This one of RE Lee is trimmed,

And this one is barely even a card.

A few more of the better ones in the lot:

The backs contained 'newspaper style' write ups which I wouldn't quote if I were looking for sources for a thesis on the Civil War. Just for grins I looked at a few backs and compared them to a couple of Civil War timeline sites. On some, like the Jefferson Davis card, the dates are correct. He was named as President of the Confederacy on February 18 of 1861. Others are harder to pin down as battles took place over multiple days, etc.

This next card back 'covers' a horrific train wreck that supposedly occurred in mid-September of 1863. I can't find anything online that would indicate it ever happened but there was a wreck in northern Mississippi in February of that year that sounds similar. 40 CSA troops died in that bridge crossing derailment. Make of all this what you will.

But I'm not collecting these to learn history. I'm collecting these for the fun of it and to hold on to a small piece of my childhood.

There is one card in the set that I remember having that really made an impression on me. I don't have a copy yet because I'm trying to get a fairly nice one. It's titled Painful Death. Here it is on another website:

My memories of the set don't include many of the individual cards. But I sure do remember this one. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on one.

At the moment thanks to a COMC purchase of another 20 of these I'm at 54 of the 88 cards with about 8 of those 55 badly in need of replacements. I guess I'm about half way there.

ANOTHER EDIT: I just noticed that I cut short that last paragraph. I was intending to mention that these cards came in packs with folded replica CSA  currency. There were 17 different bills including all the variations. I plan to pick up just one as a companion piece to the cards. And while this set is commonly referred to as 'Civil War News' set the 'official name was just called them Civil War bubble gum cards.