Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Proof Is In The Cutting

The semi-annual offerings from Robert Edward Auctions are always two of the most anticipated hobby events of the year.  This year's recently concluded spring auction was proof of that many times over. REA offered the beginnings of  a major postwar baseball collection that has, as the pitching coaches say, breadth and depth.  Case in point, the three short printed 1951 Topps Major League All Star cards in proof form.

All three players have a Philadelphia connection.  Jim Konstanty pitched for the Phils for seven seasons and would have been referred to as a relief specialist back in the day:


Wrinkly, no?  The key to the whole set of course, is Robin Roberts, Hall of Famer and all time Phillie:



Not a Philllies player but definitely a Philly native, The Pest:


All three backs are blank:




The handcut nature of these proofs is obvious.  There's only one or two other examples known of each from what I can determine and of course the legend is that Frank Nagy, one of the first big time postwar collectors, got wind of the short prints and wrote to fellow collector and Topps consultant at the time Woody Gelman, who got him an example of each.  Since each of these three proofs are described as being from Woody's personal collection, that story seems plausible.

In any event, these were clearly never released to the public and their yanking, no doubt due to contractual wranglings with Bowman, likely killed off the larger, over-arching Baseball Candy issue the MLAS (and Connie Mack All Stars) were a part of, just like Red and Blue Backs and the Team cards. In fact, the MLAS standups only came with Blue Backs in a five cent configuration.  All of the MLAS cards are difficult but these three are impossible. Personally, I don't consider them part of the set.

As you can see from the link above, prodigious pricing prevailed!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Stamp Act

Among the myriad wonders offered in the Spring 2018 Robert Edward Auctions catalog, I think we can all say there was one that got away. In my case there were many more than that, although I did catch a big fish.  Of particular interest to me were the two 1955 Topps Baseball Stamps, surfacing after many years of being landlocked in a private collection.

In addition to producing the 1954 and 1955 paper inserts for four issues of Sports Illustrated magazine, Topps produced what I believe to be a 40 subject sheet of baseball stamps that were never released to the public. These were direct copies of the 1955 Baseball cards that were perforated on at least one side and had gummed, blank backs.  A sister internal sheet of the same year's Rails & Sails stamps was also produced, which was, you guessed it, 40 subjects long.

The known checklist is 24 subjects, 23 of which have been sighted and/or previously checklisted by Beckett or the Standard Catalog.and are listed below.  All appear in both the regular Topps issue plus the Double-Header set as well and I've included the corresponding numbering for both.

REG. DH
"CORKY" VALENTINE REDLEGS 44 46
"RUBE" WALKER" DODGERS 108 15
ALEX GRAMMAS CARDINALS 21 107
BILL SKOWRON YANKEES 22 21
BILL TREMEL CUBS 52 102
BOB SKINNER PIRATES 88 56
BOBBY HOFMAN GIANTS 17 96
CHARLIE WHITE BRAVES 103 18
CHUCK DIERING ORIOLES 105 2
DAVE JOLLY BRAVES 35 95
DON MOSSI INDIANS 85 84
HARVEY HADDIX CARDINALS 43 42
HOWIE POLLET CUBS 76 31
JACK SHEPARD PIRATES 73 23
JIM DAVIS CUBS 68 28
JIM PENDELTON BRAVES 15 33
JOE CUNNINGHAM CARDINALS 37 38
KARL SPOONER DODGERS 90 19
RAY BOONE TIGERS 65 113
RAY JABLONSKI REDLEGS 56 51
RUBEN GOMEZ GIANTS 71 89
STAN HACK CUBS 6 24
TED KAZANSKI PHILLIES 46 5

The 24th subject is Hank Aaron, "confirmed" by some prominent hobbyists but not yet in scanned form or on the major checklists. It is thought all of these came from Woody Gelman's personal collection. In addition to the Rails & Sails stamps being 40 in number, another reason I think this set is also comprised of 40 subjects is the way the regular issue cards were laid out. The usual orientation is off because of the horizontal printing but you can see where all subjects were taken from a chunk of the 110 card uncut sheet that runs from columns 2-5 and down rows A-E. (U) means unconfirmed of course and Hammerin' Hank gets an asterisk):




Some observations are in order.  There is another 40 subject section of sheet real estate that has Wally Moon at B5 and Hank Sauer at C5 but since both those slots are occupied by confirmed stamps, I think this is the proper array.  As you can see, each row and column has at least one confirmed stamp as do all "borders" so the 40 stamp universe seems highly likely to me. And that lower right corner, which is an entirely missing quad-save possibly for Aaron-can you imagine what a Ted Williams stamp would be worth?!

Two of the stamps made it into REA, Jack Shepard and Bob Skinner. I was underbidder on the Skinner (a PSA 1) but didn't go after the Shepard (a PSA 3). I'm showing the backs so each can be identified in the future if another comes up (it's not 100% confirmed but there may actually be two of some subjects out there in the wild).







The lot description has that little curl at the bottom of the Skinner reverse as "excess paper." The ink spray and off-registration on the fronts doesn't surprise me as I think these were a materials test as Topps was very much putting a lot of effort into alternate media at the time, something that was killed off forthwith once they purchased Bowman in early 1956.

Ironically, the first mention of these I ever saw was from a Rob Lifson ad in the January 31, 1986 issue of Sports Collectors Digest, where he had four for sale. I am hoping more pop up down the road as I would very much like to have one for my collection. Kudos to whoever won these!


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Wackadoodle Too

Well, well...hot on the heels of last week's post about the 1966 Topps Wacky Labels Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins sent along scans of five more subjects.  I'm still hoping more come in from other sources but this is a massive increase in the known checklist. There's hints in Lonnie's scans too as to why the set may be so scarce. Here goes!


This one is a little snarky but ultimately I think it's pretty tame:


This one however, may have caused some parental consternation:


Too far?  Very possibly.  Meanwhile:


OK, here's another problematic label for the mid 60's adult:


If Junior slapped one of these somewhere around the house or on a school book, I can see a complaint being made to Topps. Execs were sensitive to such things and it would be quite possible to my mind they would have stopped the set in its tracks in that scenario.  It would certainly explain how scarce these things are.

There are more benign entries though:


More of these are known and I'm trying to get the appropriate scans.  I can't say if more than one of any subject is out there though.  The ones above look like there's no perforations, but Lonnie points the bottom edges indeed have perfs-tabs would have been below those edges but it's strange there's no side nubs. Maybe they were just printed in a long roll. It looks like two distinct styles exist: either humorous or deceptive, the latter using a word or phrase in tiny letters to drive the joke home.

Hopefully more to come on these.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Wackadoodle

I had a rare bird fly into coop the other day, namely a 1966 Topps Wacky Label, one of the rarest issues of the 1960's.  In Chris Benjamin's The Sport Americana Price Guide to The Non-Sports Cards Number 4, he had identified one lonely label and an associated wrapper. In the years since a small handful of wrappers have surfaced and, if my count is correct, a total of two more Wacky Labels have popped since.

Benjamin's sole subject was illustrated in the book identified as "Earn Extra Cash...Blackmail Your Friends".  I can now add:


You will note the bottom is perforated.  That's because a small tab was originally there (shown by Benjamin), which also held the small black bar used by the cutting machine.  The top of mine isn't perfed though, it likely was in the topmost row of the printed sheet. The back is gummed, whereas Benjamin incorrectly had it as a peel off. It measures 2 9/16" x 1 1/8" without the tab.

The third positively identified subject unrelated to the small find (see below)  is not yet known to me.

An old Topps Vault auction yielded a wrapper:




And Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins sent along a nice box proof scan:



That's it!  I'm aware of a small find of a dozen or so Wacky Labels at some point in the past and am hoping to get details on the subjects involved but a lot more information is needed on this obscure and rare set!