Friday, September 24, 2010

1951 Fischers Bread label data sought

As mentioned in a previous posting, veteran collector Larry Serota is a frequent contributor both to this column and to the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards.

For years he has unselfishly shared his research and "finds" with the rest of the hobby, so when he recently asked for our help on one of his collecting projects, it was a pleasure to accomodate him.

Larry is deep into what the hiobby used to call "oddball" issues . . . collectibles that are outside the norm of bubblegum cards.

One of his on-going quests is the completion of a master set of 1951 Fischer's Bread labels. Back in the early days of sliced bread, before plastic bags and twist ties, loaves were sold in colorful waxed paper wrappers that were sealed on the ends by a square of gummed paper. These end labels were often decorated with images of baseball and football players, Hollywood celebrities, Disney characters, etc., giving them a collectible aspect that it was hoped would entice children to ask their mom to buy one brand over another.

Because these labels were theoretically capable of surviving numerous openings and closing over the life of a loaf, they are ususally found today (if they are found at all) in wretched condition. Heavy multiple creases, tears, even missing pieces are the rule, rather than exception. And even at that, the early 1950s baseball bread end labels readily sell for $100+ for even "common" players.

One of these regional issues is known within the hobby as Fischer's Bread labels, though that name does not appear anywhere on the 2-3/4" square (except for the bobbed corners) labels. The labels have a red panel at bottom with "Bread for Energy" and they carry a B.E.B. copyright.

Thirty-two players are known in the Fischer's Bread label set, but there are 48 pieces in a master set. The labels are found with backgrounds of either red, blue or yellow, but 16 of the players can be found with two different colored backgrounds.

Larry's research shows there are eight players found only on yellow backgrounds, and four each that are exclusively red or blue. Eight other players can be found on both red and blue backgrounds, and four each are known in both red and yellow or blue and yellow types.

He has identified five players each in the red and blue subsets that are candidates to also exist in yellow. He believes only one player from each list will be found in yellow. From among the red-background labels, he's looking to ascertain which of these players also exists in yellow: Harry Brecheen, Billy Goodman, Cass Michaels, Andy Pafklo or Roy Smalley. The roster of blue-background labels that should yield one yellow version is: Ned Garver, Willie Jones, Eddie Joost, Roy Sievers and Earlky Wynn.

If you can help complete this master checklist by sending a scan of one of those elusive yellow-background labels, please contact me at

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

1951 Cubs regional reported

Regular contributor Larry Serota has tipped us off to a previously uncataloged regional issue of 1951 Chicago Cubs promotional player pictures.

I'm frequently amazed at the breadth and depth of Larry's vintage "card" interests. He obviously spends untold hours scouring eBay for the type of collectibles that veteran collectors used to label as "oddball."

Even more important, he is willing to share what he finds with the rest of the hobby by presenting the information to the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards.

Larry's latest report is of a trio of Cubs player pictures issued by a Chicago area clothing emporium. This type of premium was often issued in conjunction with player autograph appearances at retail outlets in a by-gone era when a ballplayer was willing to spend a couple of hours meeting and greeting the fans in exchange for a new suit.

The premium pictures are 5-1/2" x 8," printed in black-and-white on semi-glossy thin cardboard stock. Backs have year-by-year stats. Each photo has a facsimile autograph. Printed in the wide bottom border is "COMPLIMENTS OF HIRSCH CLOTHING STORES".

The players known to date are: Hank Sauer, Johnny Schmitz and Bob Schultz. Whether this trio represents the entirety of the issue, or there are players yet to be reported, is not known.

Check back in a couple of days for your chance to help Larry with one of his collecting endeavors with another scarce 1951 baseball issue.

Monday, September 20, 2010

1981 FBI Discs set discovered

While my official responsibilites with the Standard Catalog of Baseball cards only cover the vintage (pre-1981) major league and minor league sections, I'm always willing (time permitting) to work with collectors to enhance the more modern listings.
Thus I hope to see added to the 2012 edition a newly reported regional disc set: 1981 FBI Discs.
Among the many types of 2-7/8" discs issued in the 1970s and 1980s, the currently listed 1982 FBI Discs are probably the rarest. These were issued in pairs on the bottoms of cardboard six-pack contains of Bantam (and possibly other brands) soft drinks in Canada. Because of their appearance on the bottom of a box, most discs suffer from scuffing on the front, or show indentations from the soda.
The 1982 discs are so rare that we recently were informed that the catalog's checklist of 30 players is incomplete by at least two. A panel of the 1982 discs has recently been offered at an outrageous price on eBay. That panel adds Ron Guidry and Richie Zisk to the known 1982 checklist.
Now we learn that there was also a 1981 FBI issue. The Reggie Jackson from that set is pictured here. Like the 1982 discs, the earlier issue has black-and-white player portraits at center that have had the cap logos airbrushed away. A green-and-orange FBI logo is at top, with the player’s name at bottom.
Unlike the 1982 FBI issue, there is no copyright date on the 1981 discs. The MLB Players Association logo flanks the portrait at left, with the players position (in English and French) at right, along with his team’s city. The team nickname apparently appears only on those discs that have more than one team in a city. The unnumbered discs are checklisted here in alphabetical order. This list is certainly incomplete and the set probably comprises at least 30 discs.

Rick Bosetti 25.00
Warren Cromartie 25.00
Steve Garvey 35.00
Reggie Jackson 75.00
Nolan Ryan 400.00
If you can add any names to the list, please send a scan for verification to my e-mail address at

Thursday, September 16, 2010

1964 Mantle "no period." Variation or not?

A reader -- whose name and contact information I am embarrassed to admit I lost in my jumble of email accounts -- has inquired about a possible variation on the regular-issue (#50) 1964 Topps Mickey Mantle card.

On his card, authenticated by PSA (though not as a variation), there is no period after the "Y" in the team name at the upper-right on back. Typically, of course, a period appears there.

To try to get a feel for this anomaly, I contacted a major dealer in vintage cards, who has since asked that remove his name and findings, which were pretty much in line with my personal opinion of the status of the card in question. I believe the period disappeared as a result of over-inking of the red-orange background and/or deterioration of the printing plate. It is likely that many cards exist with not only this period, but also other punctuation is differing stages of being all there or not there at all. This result is typical of reverse (white on color) printing in that era.

For the present, I'm not going to add this to the checklist for 1964 Topps in the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, but I'm certainly willing to listen to pro-inclusion arguments, and will revisit the subject if it ever appears like the "no period" card is finding acceptance in the marketplace.

Friday, September 10, 2010

$500 for a pocket calculator?

Like many of you, the Great Recession hit me pretty hard. I had fully intended to be retired about this time (or at least as retired as I'll ever get), but when one-third of my retirement funds vanished into thin air, I had to replot my course.

I suspect I'm also like a lot of you in wondering whether we have seen the last or the worst of the recent financial problems. Now I understand why my parents, who lived through the Great Depression, remained frugal and fiscally wary to the end of their days; and they had the advantage of a defined pension plan, probably never (directly) owning a share of stock or a stake in a mutual fund.

Historians still debate how long the Depression would have lingered if a wartime economy had not intervened, but I'll bet that in the late 1930s and through the 1940s, most Americans would have rather slogged through another decade of Depression than the uncertainties of a world war.

In the midst of my personal pity party, it occurred to me that technology might be what pulls the world out of this latest downturn.

That thought struck when I was at the local dollar store and picked up a pocket calculator for $1. No batteries required. You'd have to be my age to realize what a bargain that seems.

As it happened, I was going through a copy of the September, 1973, Playboy a couple of days later and discovered empirical evidence of just how much of a bargain today's dollar calculators are.

As I've mentioned in this space in the past, I have a nostalgic interest in Playboy magazines of the 1950s-early 1970s, especially those issues that have the annual Pigskin Preview article on college football. Among the ads for Japanese import autos and checkered, bell-bottomed, Sansabelt slacks, and the nekkid pictures of Victoria Principal, there was an article reviewing the latest in then hi-tech calculators.
I was struck by the price of those models that seem upon casual perusal to be comparable to the calculator I had just bought for a buck. They were priced at about $100. A quick google search of the historical value of the dollar tells me that 100 of 1973's dollars is the equivalent of about $508 today, given the average annual 4.49% inflation rate.
That suggests to me that if left unfettered by big government, mankind's natural inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit may yet get us out of the current economic troubles through the application of technological breakthroughs in virtually every field of endeavor.

Friday, September 3, 2010

1967-style Red Sox Rockers custom card

My list of pending custom card projects is likely to outlive me. I've got dozens of baseball and football player photos squirrel away in files both physical and electronic. My custom card output has slowed some in the past year or two, probably averaging something less than one new card a month. And that doesn't include my "rehabilitation" projects, remaking some of my earlier cards from a time when my skills weren't as far along as they are now, or in cases where clearly superior player photos have become available.

But while my to-do list is seemingly perpetual, I can never seem to strictly adhere to it. Something frequently comes along that strikes a chord and I drop everything else to take it on.

That was the case a month six weeks back when I found on eBay a very sharp photo of the Red Sox outfield of 1967 -- Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Smith and Tony Conigliaro. The image of that photo on a late-Sixties style multi-player feature card (a term I invented for a Baseball Cards magazine article in the early '80s) leapt to mind and I was hooked.

I was the successdul bidder on the photo and while I waited for it to arrive, I did my homework. I quickly determined that the format for the card should be 1967. That's the year Tony C. was beaned and he didn't play at all in 1968. The trio was back in the Fenway outfield for 1969, but I decided to go with the '67 style.

Putting the back together was a challenge because of the space limitations and the necessity of covering three players. As always, I printed out stats from the SABR data base, then tried to copy the spirit of Topps writers of that era, who were writing for 10-year old boys, not adult card collectors.

My original version of the card front had the "RED SOX ROCKERS" in red type, matching that on the Boston uniforms in the photos. When he viewed the prototype on my computer, SCD editor T.S. O'Connell, himself a baseball artist, pointed out the card title seemed hard to read, with the black-outlined red letters largely coming out from the navy blue sleeves.

My next choice was to go with a light blue, picked out of the sky in the photo, and that seems to have been a great improvement. Maybe the red letters caused the eye to strain too much towards the title in an effort to read it, but to me, the blue letters at bottom, along with the blue sky above, seem to better frame the players and allow the eye to be drawn to that central element. I hope you agree.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How I got into All-American customs

This is a column that I wrote for a recent issue of Sports Collectors Digest. That issue had a feature on the original Topps 1955 All-American football cards.

When editor T.S. O’Connell invited me to create a column for this issue of SCD in which the 1955 Topps All-American college football card set was going to be featured, I knew I had to participate.
It has probably been two years or more since my own “updates” to that set outpaced Topps’ original production.
As of now I have created 122 cards in that format. My homage to the ’55 AA set includes 121 different players (I created two different Troy Aikman cards, Oklahoma and UCLA) representing 73 different colleges.
Many of my custom card creations have been featured in these pages in the past seven years since I began making my own “cards that never were.”
Once I realized that modern technology had created the tools to allow me to fulfill my childhood ambition of making my own cards, it was virtually a no-brainer to begin with the 1955 All-American style.
That was one of my favorite bubblegum card sets as a kid, and provides one of my earliest childhood memories. I have a firm recollection of sitting on the floor of my kindergarten classroom opening a red-white-and-blue wax pack of All-Americans during afternoon recess while the rest of the kids were outside playing. I was inside while they were outside because health issues often limited my mobility, even as a four-year old.
I don’t remember who I got in that pack, but I do remember that the Army players were my favorites, probably due to a combination of the martial sword-and-rifle logo and the players’ gold helmets. (I have created three Army cards in my own series: Glenn Davis, who Topps did not include in 1955, probably because he was under contract to Bowman, a Glenn Davis-Doc Blanchard combination card titled “Mr. Outside & Mr. Inside,” and a card of quarterback Arnold Tucker, who directed the offense of those USMA powerhouse teams of the 1940s.)
When my card collecting interests were revived in the mid-1970s, the first football card set I wanted to reclaim was the All-Americans. By then, through the courtesy of Larry Fritsch’s checklist books, I knew that there were 100 cards in the set, including a Four Horsemen of Notre Dame card that I know I had never encountered in my childhood.
By about 1982 I had completed a set of the originals in what I recall as high-grade in those pre-slab days. I wrote a heavily illustrated article about the set for one of the early issues of Baseball Cards magazine, then sold the set.
Around 2003 when I began my card creation efforts, I began piecing together another set of the 1955s. I needed the originals so that I could copy school logos and the cartoons on the backs. This time I endeavored to put the set together in at least Ex-Mt condition, as certified by PSA, SGC and SCD, though I removed each card from its plastic tomb and inserted it into a binder after scanning.
During this process I discovered that while some of the cards in the set were merely expensive (Thorpe, Horsemen, Grange, Rockne, etc.), others were truly hard to find in Ex-Mt or better condition, usually due to centering issues. Such cards were among the last to find their way into my current set. Besides cards #1 Herman Hickman and #100 Fats Henry, they included #3 Ed Weir, #24 Ken Strong, #28 Mel Hein, and, the last card I added to my second set, #99 Don Whitmire.
I believe the only cards in my current set that aren’t Ex-Mt are the Whizzer White and Gaynell Tinsley error version, which I have in VG-Ex or EX.

Since beginning my custom cards hobby with the 1955 AA style I have expanded my repertoire of baseball and football cards to about two dozen formats, but I don’t think I’ll ever be “done” with my ’55s. While I have done nearly 125 cards in that design, I still haven’t completed what I have named by Second Series (I consider the Topps originals to be the First Series). I’ve left card #152 unmade. On the checklist cards I have created in a Fifties Topps format, that card is listed as Randy Moss.
Long ago I acquired some nice images of Moss from his days at Marshall, but have delayed putting together his college card. I originally did so because I wasn’t sure he was going to be remembered for anything beyond his faux mooning of Packer fans in the end zone after a touchdown a few years back. Now, his legacy as one of the greats is assured, and I’m just waiting for his NFL career to end so that I can craft an appropriate biography for the back of his card.
I’m already 22 cards into a Third Series of All-Americans, and I don’t see a Fourth in the offing. My pace of All-American creations has slowed considerably from more than one per month when I first started to six or eight per year now.
My to-do list of All-Americans consists of cards for which I have appropriate photos and just the lack the impetus to see them through. Besides three of four of my existing cards that’s I’d like to someday “rehabilitate” by using more recently acquired superior photos, the Top 10 on my list of cards to add include former NFL greats Earl Campbell, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Joe Perry, Ollie Matson and Ray Guy. Also on the drawing board are 1950s baseball stars Ted Kluszewski, Moose Skowron and Jackie Jensen, and actor Tommy Lee Jones.
I also maintain a wish list of players whose cards I’d like to do, but whose photos in college uniform have thus far eluded me.
The “most wanted” on that list is Donald Driver. My efforts to acquire a reproducible photo of the great Packers receiver and fan favorite in an Alcorn State uniform have been unavailing.
Two former NFL stars of whom I’d like good college pictures are Jim Taylor from LSU, and Rocky Bleier at Notre Dame.
Surprisingly elusive has been a photo of future baseball Hall of Famer Frank Thomas in an Auburn football uniform.
Actors Dean Cain, Carl Weathers, Woody Strode and Johnny Mack Brown all played college ball, but I haven’t yet been able to find football photos for them.
One player you’ve never heard of is a personal project of mine. I went to grade school and high school with Jim Bond in Fond du Lac, Wis. After high school he received a scholarship to Michigan State. When that signing was announced, the local paper ran a photo of Jim and some MSU dignitaries in which Bond is holding up a Spartans jersey with the number “007”. This was in 1969, at the height of the first popularity for Sean Connery James Bond movies. Bond injured his knee early on and didn’t have much of a college career, but it would be fun to do a card of someone from my old neighborhood.
As you can see from my wish list and checklists, my All-American series encompasses a wide variety of players from college stars to NFL and MLB stars, TV and movie actors, presidents, personal friends and relatives of friends, and even a few fictional characters. That’s part of the appeal of making you own card set, you get to create the line-up.
If any of the readers are able to provide or direct me to a good photo of any of these players, please contact me at, or write me at P.O. Box 8, Iola, WI 54945. I always offer to share my first printing with those who provide photos I need.
And, unlike many other custom card creators, I do actually print my cards, front and back, and cut them into single cards. I’ve done as few as six cards of a player (that’s how many fronts or backs in the classic Topps size of 3-3/4” x 2-5/8” I can fit onto a sheet of 8-1/2” x 11” label paper on which I print before sandwiching them to a cardboard core) to as many as perhaps two dozen.
There are currently only four complete sets of my custom All-American cards in existence. I maintain two sets, and two collectors have prevailed upon me to provide them with complete sets. Of the single cards, I have given away some and sold some.
Early on I found out it’s much easier to offer cards for sale than to explain to a dedicated Alabama fan why I can’t get him a Bart Starr college card because of the time and handwork involved in printing and cutting the cards.
While the occasional sales help keep me in special paper and printer ink, the real reason I make my All-Americans (and all my other custom cards) is to satisfy a deep creative urge that, as mentioned, has been with me since childhood. I relish the challenge of colorizing or otherwise revamping a photo to make it fit my format. And I greatly enjoy the research that goes into getting the 90 or so words I need to write the backs. I once spent an entire afternoon in the library scouring biographies of JFK to gather the details of his undistinguished football days at Harvard.
Ever since I sold most of my card collection to Alan Rosen in 1993, I haven’t been much of a card collector. I seldom buy a card these days for any purpose other than to provide a template for one of my customs. Making and sharing these cards has become my real hobby.
You can see color galleries of many of my All-American cards and most of my other football and baseball creations in my Photobucket albums at