If you are reading this anywhere near the time I have published this article, you may have a number of fears and concerns. The Coronavirus has certainly changed the world we live in – at least temporarily. As a baseball fan, one concern that afflicts you but maybe not anyone else around you is the delay of the season.
As baseball fans, we endure the long, hard road from November until Spring Training. When it gets here, it is like a breath of fresh air. This is not something that has been afforded to us yet, so we wait with bated breath (while locked down in our homes) for life to resume, and with it, baseball.
While I yearn for the 2020 season to get started, I can easily counter it with the fact that I am madly in love with a time period in which baseball didn’t have any video footage. Pre-1900 baseball doesn’t have much in the way of video to speak of at all.
Speaking of a time period where there was no video footage, how about a period where there wasn’t even photography?
I had a buddy reach out with this:
Have any ideas who might have signed this?
Don’t think 1800s. Think 1700s. Think 1st President of the United States. Yes, friends …
He sent it to me to create something, so after wiping the drool off the case, I smashed it to bits.
and created this!
This will soon be slabbed again, only in its new custom card outfit! It is important to note that the signature was not harmed in any way, and Joey can always take apart the card and resubmit the signature by itself if he just wants the signature in a slab alone again.
Now, back to old cards … maybe not 18th century, but old nonetheless! 🙂
In 2019, I invested heavily into vintage baseball cards. There are many cards below that you probably recognize, but many you probably don’t. (Now, almost all of them are gone.)
I was ecstatic to be able to pick up some cards that have graced the covers of magazines since I was a child.
After a while, I quickly noticed I was picking up cards not because I loved them, but because I found a reason for their significance. At the beginning of 2020, I decided to sell off half of them, because I don’t want to own things just because they have created significance in my mind. I want to own them because I love them. Everything, including most all of my woodcuts sold within a few months. I want my collection to tell a story of all of baseball history, but I also want to have the flexibility to be fluid with it because I’m not a millionaire, or anywhere close!
In the past few months, I’ve been interviewed several times. One of the last interviews was for a podcast, and they asked “What would your family do with your cards if you died?” I told them it is quite possible all my cards could be gone the very next week, so you never know!
Well, as it turned out, on a whim, I sold everything else aside from four cards to a reseller mere days after this interview! It was a total “on a whim” thing, too. I wasn’t actively searching – I just found a guy who buys, offered my cards up, and we did a deal. I did decide to keep a few, though. Here were the 5 cards that I kept…aside from my Canseco collection of course, which is safe and sound. (Note none of them are in the above pic, because I didn’t yet have them.) I adore all of these!
1886-87 Old Judge Billy Sunday – This is EVERYTHING I love about Old Judge. A beautiful, clear picture, a ball suspended in the air by a string, the incredible backdrop and no fielder’s glove. The best part about it is it is Billy Sunday – one of my favorite 19th century players due to him being an evangelist.
1915 Cracker Jack Ty Cobb – This is one card I never thought I’d get my hands on. It is absolutely gorgeous, and iconic! The Cracker Jack set is among the most iconic sets ever, and the Cobb is second in the set only to Shoeless Joe Jackson.
1919 W514 Shoeless Joe Jackson – I reached out to the owner of this when it wasn’t for sale last year. We couldn’t come to a deal, but several months later out of the blue, he reached out and we made a deal. I found out later that the deal was made on the 100 year anniversary of the last game of the infamous 1919 World Series…to the day! How crazy is that?!
1910 E90-2 Honus Wagner – Truth be told, I didn’t even know this card existed until last year. When I started looking at vintage cards, this popped up, and my jaw dropped. It is strikingly similar to the T206, yet more colorful and beautiful. The colors and jersey actually more accurately match Wagner and the Pirates better than the T206. I dubbed this the “Candy Wagner”, and is one I can’t stop looking at…even after all these months! Interestingly enough, the PSA POP report is not too terribly higher than T206: 55 to 33. This card was part of a set commemorating the Pirates’ win over Ty Cobb’s Tigers in the famous 1909 World Series. It is so beautiful!
2011 Topps Update Diamond Mike Trout PSA 10 – This is my only big modern non-Canseco card. I’m actually looking at moving it either by selling, or trading for super key vintage.
It didn’t take long for me to realize how much I missed old cardboard, and in the same week of selling, I actually bought some of my old cards back! (Where have we heard that from before?) At the top of the list was this:
1887/88 Allen & Ginter N28 Complete Baseball Set – displayed with a tobacco tin of the same era. Like many of the Canseco cards I got back into my collection, I was more excited about these the second time than I was the first! Once I displayed them like this, I was hooked all over again. They feel like they should be in a museum – I literally don’t feel worthy of owning them. That may seem a bit over-dramatic, I guess, but it is true. The neat thing about these, is that they are original works of art – they were made by hand and hand made tools. To me, this makes them extra special, when compared to the way cards were produced in the 20th century. It is quite possible that these were stuck in an album together over 125 years ago, and kept in this super nice pack-fresh condition on the front, with damage on the back from the glue.
Like the Allen & Ginter cards above, 1888 Goodwin was created in the same way – by hand / hand made tools. I LOVE the Goodwin set, because it is so colorful. Check out the stippling up close … they truly feel like works of art.
I ended up picking up these guys here:
Timothy Keefe (HOF) – The 2nd 300 game winner in baseball history. I lost out on this card in PSA 4 form exactly a year to the day I purchased the one shown below. It went for over $1,500 – I’m glad I didn’t win, because the eye appeal front the front is very similar!
Dan Brouthers (HOF) – Brouthers is considered to be baseball’s first slugger. It is hard to believe, but back then, chicks didn’t dig the long ball like they do now. Nicknamed Big Dan, Brouthers was 6’2, which was tall compared to the average male height back then of 5’7. I missed out on this card on eBay last year, and settled for one I didn’t care too much for, then eventually sold. Then I got this one, and am very happy with it!
FUN FACT! Who is this man?
This is a picture of my 1874 Woodcut of Boston. Among various pioneers of the sport we all love such as Spalding, Harry Wright and Deacon White is a man who is looking off to the side. Who is he? He is none other than the man who his the first home run. Roscoe Barnes!
While these cards are nothing short of exciting for me, I am super excited to say I was able to pick up the entire 1888 Goodwin set! Shown below are the big guns – the other 3 cards are behind these.
Here are my favorites: I consider the Glasscock to be the most beautiful 19th century card ever made (bare hands and fielding on … what is that, a beach? Park?) Cap Anson with the orange colored sky, and King Kelly, with the storm brewing in the background. The artist did that allegedly because of his stormy personality. The condition is superb when compared to their numerical grades, and the coloring is off the charts! I actually had a Glasscock and Kelly already, sold them and bought them back, but they were graded by SGC, so I decided to get rid of them AGAIN so I could have everything in PSA.
Is it me, or does Anson appear to be related to Van Gogh? Fun fact: Cap Anson was born *before* Van Gogh (1852 vs 1853).
The 19th century fun didn’t stop with the Allen & Ginter / Goodwin complete sets. I was also able to reel in this one … and it’s a biggie:
The PSA POP report shows only 6 others out there, with this being the only one stating his bare head! 1887 Old Judge King Kelly portrait denoting “$10,000 Kelly” in the picture.
Kelly is the man who was the subject of the first record American pop hit Slide, Kelly, Slide. His picture hung in every bar in the 1800s and was the first to make autograph seeking popular. His nicknames were The $10,000 beauty, $10,000 Kelly & King Kelly. It has been said that his exploits would have filled more than three books. He was the inventor of the hook slide, and the most popular baseball player in the 19th century. For aesthetic purposes, I put the SGC in the middle, but make no mistake: The biggest card of the three below is the Old Judge portrait.
My love affair with the game that we have no video footage of continues to grow, but truth be told, I love all pre-war baseball, which is why I’m so excited about the following. The biggest pickups for me thus far are easily from the Cracker Jack set. The mystique and beauty of Cracker Jacks cannot be understated. The deep red backgrounds perfectly showcase the players depicted on each card. I remember Field of Dreams showing off some mock Cracker Jack cards in the beginning of the movie, and each time I think of them, I think of the verse that speaks of them in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”.
I was nothing short of flabbergasted when I picked up the Ty Cobb shown above. So when I saw the one below, I was intrigued. It was initially meant to be a card I was buying to get a bigger deal done, but things changed when it came in. I love EVERYTHING about it. The caramel staining, coloring … everything. It is just so beautiful, and carries with it just enough staining to tell a story, while not detracting from its eye appeal. No wrinkles, no horrible stuff … just perfection. (Well, technically SGC 50/4 … but way nicer than I ever though I would get!)
But that’s not all.
This next card is one that I’ve dreamed about. It (and the Cobb above) likely would not have happened had I not gotten rid of the vintage cards I collected from the last year. It is among the most important and iconic cards in the hobby. (At the moment, the PSA Cobb Authentic shown at the top of this post is for sale/trade.)
On a whim, I recently ran a poll on Twitter asking what people would prefer: a ’15 Cracker Jack Shoeless Joe Jackson or a ’52 Topps Mickey Mantle. To me, it is clear: The Shoeless Joe, but the Twitterverse didn’t agree with me. Mantle won 67% to 33%. I didn’t think it was terribly odd though, given the ’52 Topps Mantle’s notoriety of being the 2nd most popular card ever made. Nevertheless, I’m team CJ Shoeless Joe all the way.
Unbeknownst to me at the time of the poll, this monster was right around the corner and ready to become a part of my collection.
The eye appeal is absolutely off the charts! Without a doubt the biggest card I have ever owned in my life (with the second being the Cobb above it.) I made the decision to move my W514 Jackson since I now have this, but this is truly a dream come true. Frankly, I’m not sure there is another card I’d want more at this point. In the not too distant future, I do hope to land some cards that I used to have … a 1933 Goudey Ruth #144, 1934 Goudey Gehrig Yellow, 1938 Goudey DiMaggio Comic bg, 1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson and yes … 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. But to me, this one trumps them all.
Phew, what a whirlwind of a month it has been! I’ve gone from boiling Albert Pujols cards ….
…so I could make test customs for my collection …
… to selling off most of my vintage, and finding vintage pieces for my collection fit for a museum. I think that’s why I’m so hooked on this hobby…it is so deep.
I’m still looking for the following in auth/1/2 grade – the main criteria is that the fronts have to be clean:
Various key 19th Century HOFers (Roger Connor being at the top of my list)
1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #144
1934 Goudey Lou Gehrig (Yellow Background)
1938 Goudey Heads Up Joe DiMaggio (cartoon background)
1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson
1952 Topps Mickey Mantle
Even with baseball out of commission for the foreseeable future, I’m addicted to cardboard with pictures of the men who have played the game. Here is a pic of my top 10 … errr … 11 non Canseco cards in my collection: (one of these things is not like the other!) Crazy to think many of the cards shown below depict people who lived through the Civil War! It is *so* hard to not include the rest of the cards from the Allen & Ginter and Goodwin sets below, because there are so many other Hall of Famers and should-be Hall of Famers, but to keep it concise, here are my absolute favorites:
BTW … got any rare Canseco cards? 🙂
PS: I have done a lot of April Fools posts in the past. Thankfully, this is NOT one of them! If you want to relive the laughs, here are a few links for you.