Thursday, December 17, 2015

COMC Black Friday haul - Part 2

More cards from the COMC Black Friday Haul. These are the last of the 'oddball' cards. The remainders will be cards that feature athletes.  Thanks for indulging me.

While trying to fill my basket I looked for cards that visually appealed to me.  I have no desire to complete any of these series.  I just liked the looks.  Yes, they have creases and dings.  And they averaged less than 56 cents each.

I grew up near an Air Force base.  Lots of planes.  I think that's why I chose them.
1944 Leaf Card-O Aeroplanes
Series D
Douglas C-54

1954 Bowman U.S. Navy Victories
Korean Bridge Hit (card # 26)

1956 Topps Jets
SAAB 210 Draken (card # 71)

Moving away from planes to superheroes.

Dr. Evil said:
You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here!
1966 Topps Batman
A Series (Red Bat Logo)
Danger In The Depths (card # 14A)
Soon enough athletes and coaches will return to this blog.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Signatures for Soldiers

Some time ago I became aware of Signatures for Soldiers.   The goals of the group are rather simple.
  • Raise money to help disabled veterans in need
  • Increase awareness of the needs of disabled military veterans
  • Increase the participation of the general public in supporting disabled veterans
To do this they work with athletes, mostly baseball players, who sign cards for them to resell.  Sigs4Soldiers then donates the funds to Military Missions in Action.  The primary focus of MMIA is to provide home modification services to disabled veterans to allow them to live independently (services are not restricted to those injured in combat nor is it restricted to disabled veterans from the most recent combat conflicts). MMIA has assisted veterans from the current conflict back to WWII.

I wanted to help them out so I selected a few cards. 

Who doesn't like a Cub in uniform?  Well, probably a fair amount of people.  But I wanted one.
1994 Pinnacle - Jose Guzman
You can never have enough Expos.
1990 Upper Deck - Bill Sampen

I like that Sid Bream signs his cards with a scripture reference.
1991 Topps Stadium Club - Sid Bream
Here is what love is. It is not that we loved God. It is that he loved us and sent his Son to give his life to pay for our sins.I John 4:10 (NIRV)

1993 Topps - Sid Bream
When you look for me with all your heart, you will find me. - Jeremiah 29:13 (NIRV)

1989 Bowman - Sid Bream
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in. I will eat with that person, and they will eat with me. - Revelation 3:20 (NIRV)

I'm not at all familiar with Rob Ducey.  All I know is that he played in Japan for a while for the Nippon-Ham Fighters.  I had to have this card.

2013 BBM - Rob Ducey

These cards were either $2 or $3 each.  A fair price and the funds go to a good cause.  The process was rather straightforward.  I contacted Tim Virgilio, let him know which cards I was interested in, used Paypal to complete the transaction and in a few weeks (this was over Thanksgiving) the cards showed up in my mailbox.  In just over a year Tim has raised over $5,750 for MMIA.

Nick Diunte has a nice interview with Tim from earlier this year at his Baseball Happenings blog.

If you like autos, please consider picking some up from Sigs4Soldiers (facebook link - twitter feed) and helping out MMIA (facebook link).

Friday, December 4, 2015

Interview with filmmaker Jon Leonoudakis

Earlier this year I had the good fortune of becoming facebook friends with Jon Leonoudakis.  Jon is a documentary filmmaker and producer.  I sought him out for his involvement with The Wrecking Crew film.  He's made a few other documentaries that focus on baseball; The Day The World Series Stopped, Not Exactly Cooperstown, and his latest, Hano!.  He's running a promotion on the films that involves baseball cards.  I thought I might wrangle an interview and he graciously agreed.

Q: What is your first memory of baseball cards? As a kid did you collect players or a team, or did you try to complete sets?
A: The summer of 1964. I was 6 years old, and my older brothers, Tim (4 years older) and Steve (10 years older) introduced me to the wonder of baseball cards. I was immediately smitten with the Kodachrome colors bursting off the thin slats of cardboard, the heroic photography, and the cards of my hometown team, the San Francisco Giants. The Topps cards of 1964 also came with a colorful coin of a player. My brothers made up some kind of game with those coins and I recall the sound they made as they fell on the floor.

It was a beautiful summer spent in Palo Alto, California, and the smell of jasmine, the sound of the Beach Boys wafting from room to room, and baseball cards and coins made that my favorite summer of my childhood. It was also the first time I played Wiffle ball, and my romance with our national pastime was underway. 51 years later, it is still going strong!

Wiffle ball with my brother, Tim (catching), in August of 1964 - and here’s my brother and I 50 years later, to the month!

Q: Did you trade with your friends? What was your best trade? Did you ever 'flip' for cards?
A: I did trade with friends, but I cannot recall one special trade. Usually I would only trade doubles. My brother Steve taught me about flipping, but I didn’t like a game where I could lose cards! He had a Nelson Mathews card from the 1964 set that was dipped in wax so it could be used to knock down cards in flipping games. I never used my cards in bicycle spokes. Playing cards always sounded better because of their plastic coating.

Q: Do you have a favorite card, one that has special meaning now that you're an adult?
A: Yes! The 1965 Topps card of Juan Marichal. That was the first pack of cards I bought on my own when I was 7 years old. I opened the pack, and the very first card was Juan Marichal!  I recall exactly where I was at the time, on my front lawn on a rare sunny day in our part of San Francisco (we grew up in a part of the city known as “the fog belt”).

Q: Have you ever defaced a baseball card? Drawn a mustache on a player, or given him 'devil horns'?
A: Oh, yes! Mustaches, horns, hair sprouting from faces, even using scissors to cut out a guy’s eyes.
Some of Jon's handiwork

In later years I got into digital defacing. I made a set of cards, “Cinema Villains” and put them on the two most evil teams, the Dodgers and Yankees, from the 1964 set.

Cinema Villain

Cinema Villain

I also did a lot of R&D creative approaches to cards, like turning SF Giants catcher Jack Hiatt into a cat and turning Ron Perranoski of the Dodgers into the robot GORT from the famous sci-fi movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

"Cat" Hiatt and GORT
I have made cards featuring family members, and my business card is a baseball card!  I started doing that in the late 1980s and it was a very effective sales tool.  Prospective clients would always say, “Hey, you’re the guy with the baseball card!”. I did one in the style of the 1965 set and 1959 set.

Could this be Jon's rookie business card?
My brother Steve and I had our card art exhibited at a follow-up baseball card exhibit by the Baseball Reliquary, “Son of Cardboard Fetish”. Steve had grouped together themes of cards onto a sheet fat guys, guys with funny nicknames, old guys, etc.

Sons of Cardboard Fetish - Lumps

Sons of Cardboard Fetish - Vaseline
Q: Do you keep up with the hobby? Any thoughts on how the hobby has changed in the last 50 years?
A: Somewhat. I try to buy at least one Topps pack a year to be in touch with the latest. I like the Topps heritage cards and re-prints of players form the 50s and 60s. I am not pleased with the graphic design, printing and photography of baseball cards since the 1980s. mostly the graphic design, which is uninspired. My favorite Topps card designs are 1957, 1959, 1964, 1965 and 1972. The 1972 graphic design really echoes the pop art styling of the time, infused by Peter Max. I think the 80s featured some of the worst designs in the history of Topps. The 1981 year with the nondescript caps on the lower left was absolutely abysmal.

The over-production of baseball cards in the mid-late 80s was bad for business—Topps and others oversold the cards and went for the quick buck. It’s sad those cards aren’t worth much, but I still have some of them from 1984-1988.

We’ve seen more card companies enter the fray: Donruss, Fleer, Score, and Upper Deck, which contributed to the great card glut of the 80s and 90s. Because mass production, card companies now have to offer pricey incentives to get people to buy cards. Like major league baseball, cards have become somewhat gentrified, costly items for kids who may have little to no allowance. In the 60s you could buy a pack for a dime, making it very affordable.

I’ve been part of a group of collectors on youtube, and I love seeing people opening up vintage packs from the 50s and 60s that cost hundreds of dollars for just one pack. They rarely pull stars, but I saw one guy opening a pack wearing white gloves, producing a mint 1962 Warren Spahn.

Q: Do you still collect? What are you doing with your collection now?
A: I do, mostly vintage stuff from the 50s-60s-70s. They have a 25 cent box at my local card dealer and I am always finding interesting cards to add—mostly re-prints of old cards or fun oddballs, like a card set showing Nolan Ryan in his Rangers uniform throwing a football. I consider myself a “possession” collector—I don’t care what condition the card is in, I just want it! I am always interested in SF giants cards from the 50s and 60s that I may not have. I am about 6 or 7 coins away from completing the 1964 Topps coin set! A few years ago I wanted to reclaim that special part of my childhood and bought a mess of them in varying condition on eBay. I traded with the aforementioned card collectors over youtube, a wonderful group of people who connect and send each other “just because…” packs of cards they know the recipient needs or would like, which is very sweet and cool.

Drowning in Cardboard
We were a family of card collectors. Older brother Steve got the ball rolling, buying cards in the late 50s up to 1964. I picked up the baton in 1965 an became completely obsessed with baseball cards. Practically an addict! i wanted desperately to collect entire sets, but would always get frustrated, because it seemed retailers in my area stopped selling cards in September when kids went back to school and the cards weren’t moving, so they would not order the 7th series! I had my mom drive me to a couple of stores around town, getting skunked. Other kids on the block got skunked, too, so there was no trading of those last cards. I recently learned you could buy entire sets in the back of The Sporting News during the 1960s! What?!!!

When I went off to college in 1976, older brother Steve got back into it and introduced his first son, Dmitri, to the love of cards. Dmitri really got into it, and we have many cards from the 1980s through the 1990 as a result. Any cards from the 2000s are a few packs I bought here and there.

I got back into the collecting game heavy in 1987 and enjoyed those Topps “woodie” cards of that year. But I had so many doubles, I gave many of them away to kids trick or treating on Halloween.

That same year I started going to card conventions and local cards shows and event, picking up new cards and trading. I used to wear a big button at these events declaring my intentions: “I LOVE TO TRADE!”. One of my best trades was a Joe Canseco rookie card for a pristine 1965 Topps Hank Aaron. I’d won the Canseco card in a spinning wheel game, and a kid wanted to trade with me right away.

My mother knew how important these were to me, and they never got tossed.Our collection grew to an unmanageable size. Big brother Steve became caretaker of the collection until about 12 years ago, when he told me I had to take some of them for storage. I kept the star cards and donated the rest to the Baseball Reliquary here in Los Angeles. They use the cards in their exhibitions and displays and have featured them in their “Cardboard Fetish” exhibits. On two trips to visit my brother this past year, he found even more cards from the late 50s through 1989 and i took some of them back home with me.

I am using those cards as part of a holiday sales campaign for my baseball documentaries: buy a DVD and get (5) vintage Topps cards from the 1960s. People seem to like it, as we sold an extra five DVDs since the offer went out, and people are ordering my older films, Not Exactly Cooperstown and The Day the World Series Stopped, which is nice.

I have a nice collection of most of the cards from the 1964 Topps Giants set and might complete it someday. I have a complete set of the 1964 Topps, which is my pride and joy. My brothers helped acquire some of the cards, which was fun.

I also like to collect vintage players form the McFarland action figure set - I consider them dimensional baseball cards. I have Roberto Clemente, Bob Gibson, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Randy Johnson, Robinson Cano, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Yaz.

I had the pleasure of working with Topps this past year, as I sought their permission to use Topps cards and coins in tableaus and shots for my latest film about legendary sportswriter Arnold Hano. They were a pleasure to work with! They requested a breakdown of the film and scenes in which their product would appear, with a detailed log of each card, year of production, and card number in the set. They approved the use of well over 100 items, gratis!

Tableau from Hano!

Tableau from Hano!

I also met Sy Berger’s son, Glenn, this past summer, when the Baseball Reliquary inducted Sy in to their Shrine of the Eternals/Hall of Fame. He attended with his sister, and the stories told of Sy Berger were of a man who was deeply respected and became good friends and a father figure to many of the players, especially Willie Mays.

My brother Steve invented a dice baseball game using three dice, similar to Strat-O-Matic. This became something of a rage on our block in the mid 1960s and early 70s.  4 or 5 of us kids would engage in tournaments and keep stats of every game. We would select our team from our box of baseball cards, 8 position players, 5 starters, 2 relievers, and some guys on the bench. One of my friends, Mark Marrott loved the game so much, that when I saw him a few weeks ago, he said, “let’s play some dice baseball games when you come to visit”, and we did!

At the end of the day, baseball cards were my passport to our national pastime, and it led me to what I’m doing today: working as a baseball documentarian and historian. I’ve been to Cooperstown a couple of times: one to show my film “Not Exactly Cooperstown” at their annual film festival, and this past year to present my paper on “Baseball in the Digital Age” at their Symposium on Baseball and American Culture. Two of my films are in the Hall's permanent collection, which is quite thrilling. I met two of my baseball heroes, leaping off the baseball cards of my past, when I interviewed Orlando Cepeda and Felipe Alou for the Hano! film.

Baseball has been very good to me, and my love for the game continues to rise with each passing day as I research stories and read books to fortify my knowledge of the game and its history.

Want to order his films and get some bonus vintage cards?  Visit the following sites:

The Day the World Series Stopped
Not Exactly Cooperstown

My thanks to Jon for his willingness to share his memories and his creations.  I'm really interested in his dice baseball card game.  I think a another interview is in order.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

COMC Black Friday haul - Part 1

Once again it was time for shopping.  I haven't purchased cards on the net in quite a while.  Free shipping option and discounted cards.  I had a bit of jingle burning a hole in my pocket.

So, let's look at what I picked up in the minis department.  The earliest card is from 1901 and the most recent is from 1967.  The cards averaged in price less than 75 cents each.

When browsing I wasn't looking for these specific cards.  They just caught my eye.

The Lord High Chancellor reminded me of the judges on the Rumpole of the Bailey television series.

1937 Player's Cigarettes
Coronation Series Ceremonial Dress
Lord High Chancellor of England

Lupins?  They reminded me of the Monty Python "Dennis Moore" sketch.
1939 Wills's Tobacco
Garden Flowers

A biplane that goes on the water?  And there's a catapult?  Sign me up.
1939 Wills's Cigarettes
Life In The Royal Navy
Catapulting A Supermarine "Walrus" Amphibian

I just liked the painting of speed.
1967 Brook Bond Red Rose Tea
Transportation Through The Ages

Like smokers should be driving.  Oh, this is England.  Never mind.
1922 Wills's Cigarettes
Do You Know
The Meaning of Motor Signs?

1901 Ogden's Cigarettes
Leading Generals At The War
Hon. Schomberg Kerr McDonnell

Shakespeare's Birthplace?  Cool.
1917 Player's Cigarettes
Shakespearean Series
The Birthplace

A dapper Dragoon.  The price was right.
1913-14 Player's Cigarettes
Regimental Uniforms
1st (King's) Dragoon Guards

I also picked up some Orel Hershiser cards and some others that actually do fit in my collecting scheme.

Friday, November 13, 2015


Plain White Envelope. No Return Address.

 A few weeks ago I received a PWE in the mail. I had come home from work.  Picked up the mail on the way into the house.  Shuffled through it.  Bill.  Bill.  Ad.  PWE.

That caught my attention.  I opened it and these came out.

1969 Topps Mini Album Inserts
Cleveland Browns (Bill Wade) (card # 4)

1990-91 Skybox
Del Harris (card # 315)

1981 Detroit News Tigers Centennial
Earl Wilson (card #51)

1989 O-Pee-Chee
Orel Hershiser (card # 380)

1996 Topps Stadium Club - Virtual Reality Members Only
Orel Hershiser (card # 26)

They were all on my Elusive Eight want list.  After dinner I rushed out to some meeting or rehearsal, thinking that I'd scan and put them away later that evening.

I don't remember what happened.  I guess I forgot about them, or decided to do it later.  The cards were placed back in the envelope and set aside.

When I went looking for them later, they were not to be found.  I looked in drawers, near the computer, on my bedside table, with the other cards.  Nowhere.  A sickening feeling started to form in my stomach.  I renewed my search with vigor.  That stack of papers.  With my other cards.  With my other cards on the bookshelf.  With my other cards in a box.  Nothing.

I let it go for a few days.  Ah.  That special place where I put the important papers.  That's where I left them.  No.  Inside the cover of that book I want to read next.  Back to the stacks of paper.  Near the other bills.

My wife had noticed that I was actually doing some cleaning while looking for the cards.  That made her happy that I was decluttering, but made me sad that I still hadn't found the.

Time to retrace my steps.  I finally found the envelope.  It had fallen off the stack of a clump of papers, down near my dresser.  They had been found.  There was much rejoicing.

So, kids.  This is a true, but cautionary tale.  Get a system in place to process your cards.  Know where they are.  I don't care if you scan them, blog about them, file them a month or even a year later.  But know where they are.

So, a big thank you to whatever kind and benevolent reader took the time to go through my wantlists, procure and send me these cards.  I'll be a better steward next time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Reviving the ancient custom

I found reference to the Obak baseball cards in an issue of the United States Tobacco Journal from 1909.

United States Tobacco Journal - October 9, 1909
from Google Books

I found several different advertisements from 1910 that featured the Obak brand, but I haven't found one for the smokes featuring cards.

San Francisco Chronicle - June 8, 1910

Here's an example of the T212 Obak cards.

Obak T212 - Hogan
from the Library of Congress

A nickel a pop?  I'd buy them by the carton.