Tuesday, September 23, 2008

1956 Topps Baseball Cards

The 1956 Topps set is an exciting set to collect. Topps purchased rival Bowman after the 1955 season and brought all the Bowman-contracted players to Topps. Thus, the 1956 Topps set contains 340 cards and an incredible 34 Hall of Fame players! Although Stan Musial’s contract with Rawlings prevented his inclusion, many other notable Hall of Famers are included: Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline, Ted Williams, and many more!

The 1956 Topps baseball card set features dual images in a horizontal format. Because Topps possessed only one part-time photographer on its payroll, the company used some of the same player portraits as in the 1955 Topps set. The cards measure 2-5/8” x 3-3/4” and have three-panel cartoons on the back portraying significant moments in the player’s career along with statistics below and biographical information above.

The 1956 Topps Baseball Card Set is the first to include team cards as part of the set and there are two unnumbered checklist cards. Six of the team cards (Cubs, Phillies, Indians, Braves, Reds, and Orioles) were issued with the team names plus dates, or with the team names to the left, with either white or gray backs, or with team names centered with both back colors. Duplicates of team cards were easy to part with via flipping or bike spoke noise enhancers; therefore, given the lesser quantities of each of the varieties, and the fact that the cards were not highly treasured, putting together high grade sets with all the team card variations is a significant challenge.

Both Yankees and Dodgers team cards are also highly valued, selling for several hundred dollars in top grades. A master set contains cards #1-180 either white or gray backed, two unnumbered checklists, 15 additional team varieties (including the white and gray cardboard versions), plus cards #181 to 320. Therefore, there are 537 cards, not counting the print-flawed varieties, that can be collected.

The most popular card in the set is #135 Mickey Mantle. This beautiful version of the Mick represents his Triple Crown MVP season, when he batted .353, slugged 52 homeruns, and drove in 130 RBI. Also, popular from this set are #240 Whitey Ford, the American League E.R.A. leader, #31 Hank Aaron, the National League Batting Champion, #332 Don Larsen, winner of the only Perfect Game in World Series history, and #30 Jackie Robinson, his last card (after the season, Robinson would be traded to the New York Giants. Rather than play for his rival team, Robinson decided to retire).

Other players of note who appeared on the first Topps cards in 1956 were Luis Aparicio, Rookie of the Year, Don Larsen, Don Newcombe, Herb Score, Elston Howard, Lew Burdette, and Frank Torre.

Purchase 1956 Topps Cards Here!

1909-11 T-206 Tobacco White Border Set

The T206 (T-206) set is one of the most cherished among baseball card collectors. Also known as “The Monster” and the “White Border Set,” the T206 set contains 523 cards and over 30 different variations of card backs. The set also contains the “Holy Grail of Baseball Cards,” the T206 Honus Wagner, which recently sold at an auction for $2.8 million! Also included in this fantastic set are Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Tris Speaker, Christy Mathewson, Mordechai “Three Finger” Brown, “Wee” Willie Keeler, Napoleon Lajoie, and more!!

Among these cards are 389 Major Leaguers and 134 Minor Leaguers. Taking into account the possibilities of over 520 different player poses on the fronts, and 16 different advertisement backs, there are thousands of permutations of cards to complete a "set". There are also multiple cards for the same player in different poses, different uniforms, or even with different teams after being traded (since the set was issued over a period of several years). The cards measure 1-7/16" x 2-5/8" which is considered by many collectors to be the standard tobacco card size.

The card fronts feature a color lithograph of a player surrounded by a white border. A few cards were printed in a horizontal format, but almost all of the 523 cards in the set were oriented vertically. Card backs do not contain any statistics; instead, an advertisement appears for the cigarette brand the card was packaged with. The cards were printed on sheets by one factory, and each brand was allowed to place its ad on the backs. Some of the card backs include: Piedmont, Tolstoi, Sweet Caporal, Cycle, Drum, Old Mill, Polar Bear, Sovereign, Hindu, Lenox, Uzit, El Principe, and even a Ty Cobb version. Additionally, some blank-backed cards have been found.

The Honus Wagner card is the most rare of all. It is estimated that between 50 and 200 of the Wagner cards were ever distributed to the public, and fewer still have survived to the present day. Several theories exist as to why the card is so scarce. One theory is that the printing plate used to create Wagner's card broke early in the production process. Another theory is that there was a copyright dispute between the American Tobacco Company and the artist who created the Wagner lithograph which resulted in a reduced production.

The most commonly accepted theory is that the card was pulled from production because Wagner himself objected to the production of the card, but his motivation is unclear. Reports at the time indicated that Wagner did not wish to associate himself with cigarettes, possibly because he did not want to encourage children to smoke. However, some collectors and historians have pointed out that Wagner, a user of chewing tobacco, allowed his image to appear on cigar boxes and other tobacco-related products prior to 1909 and objected to the card simply because he wanted more financial compensation for the use of his image.

Purchase 1909-11 T206 Cards Here!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

1954 Bowman Baseball Cards

At only 224 cards, 1954 Bowman is a unique set. Due to Bowman’s fierce competition with Topps, Bowman established exclusive contracts with Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle, Roy Campanella, Robin Roberts, and Pee Wee Reese. Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Whitey Ford, and Bob Feller are also found in the set, as well as the rookie card of Yankee favorite, Don Larsen.

However, the one that got away was Ted Williams. After returning from the Korean War, Williams signed an exclusive contract with Topps. As a result of this contract, Bowman was forced to pull card #66 of Williams from its set and replace it with a card of Jimmy Piersall (who was also featured on card #210). This short-printing of the Ted Williams card created one of the most sought-after cards of the hobby's modern era.

As with the 1953 set, 1954 Bowman cards measured 2-1/2 by 3-3/4 inches. The card fronts feature a color photo as in the 1953 sets, but they were accompanied by a small color box at the bottom corner which housed a facsimile autograph of the player. The only other element featured on the front of the card was a white border. On the back, Bowman added a trivia question across the bottom of each card, as had been done with the 1953 Topps set. The answer to the question ran just below the player’s statistics.

Interestingly, Bowman numbered all its 1954 cards based on the player’s team. A rotation was used where every sixteenth card in the set featured a player from the same team. For instance, the Yankees had card 1, 17, 33, 49, etc; the Red Sox were on cards 2, 18, 34, 50, etc. Each team set has fourteen cards.

Due to competition with Topps, the 1954 Bowman set was printed so fast that almost 20% of the cards issued had statistical errors. Bowman later corrected these errors. Thus, there are a large number of variations in the set. In addition to the Ted Williams card, there are several other variations worth noting as well:

  • Cards #33 Vic Raschi and #163 Dave Philley mention that the player was traded, while others do not. To add to the confusion, there is a third Philley card which mentions the trade and also credits him with having played more games the previous year (157 rather than 152).

  • After the 1953 season, the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore, and Bowman's artists had no idea what the Oriole uniforms would look like. So they simply made the uniforms up.

Purchase 1954 Bowman Cards Here!