Sunday, October 15, 2017

Noticeably Absent

In 1913, the Ligget and Myers Tobacco Company of New York issued a sweet set of baseball cards. Catalogued as 1913 T200 Fatima Team Cards, the set consists of 16 team cards, one for each of the 8 NL and 8 AL teams in 1913.

According to Chuck Paris' excellent T200 page, the set depicts a total of 369 players, managers and mascots. That's a huge number of players for only 16 cards. Probably wouldn't be cheap, but putting together this set would almost give you the whole league! At 2 5/8" x 4 3/4, I can't help but wonder if some of the details of the team photos are tough to make out, but I've never so much as seen one in person. Still, I wonder how cool this set would look displayed all together. If you have the money and the patience, there's also a premium version of this set, which is the same images but in a much larger premium format.

When I first started to compile an extensive list of George Gibson cards many years ago, I just assumed the T200 would be on the list. I looked forward to being able to add the Pittsburgh Club card to my collection.

And then I found a scan of the card, and, well, look at this:

Noticeably absent from the team picture, after batting .240 and leading all NL catchers with a .990 fielding percentage in 1912, none other than George 'Moon' Gibson.


Yep, you read that right. No Gibson. This was a disappointing discovery. It still is.
Gibby was on the Pirates in 1913, but he only caught 48 games. Mike Simon (yep, that Mike Simon), played in 92 games.

For a long time I wondered why Gibson would be missing. Eventually I learned that Gibson broke his ankle early in 1913 and missed a couple of months of the season. Since I don't know when this photo was taken, I can't say for sure that the broken ankle is the reason Gibson is missing, but it's a simple enough explanation to bring closure to this for me. And besides, whether I have the sure answer or not, Gibson will remain noticeably absent from the team picture, and that card will remain noticeably absent from my collection.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Things that make you go hmmmm.... T207 Edition

When it comes to old tobacco cards, I don't think it's unfair to say that George Gibson is well represented. He's got a T3, a T201, 6 T202s, a T205, T206 (more than one if you count the backs), T216s and even some stamps (T330-2 and T332).

But one set whose checklist does not contain Gibby is the 1912 T207 Brown Backgrounds. And while you might expect that he'd be in the set because he's in the T205 and T206 set, to expect that is to not fully understand the T207 set. Which isn't to say that anyone really understands the T207 checklist.

The T207 Brown Backgrounds are interesting. After the colourful T205 and T206 issues, the T207 set might be considered bland, by some. They are, well, very brown. This isn't to say they aren't popular, they're nowhere near as popular as T206s to be sure, but there are some die-hard T207 collectors out there. While some argue that the colour palette a little bland, others believe that it's part of the set's charm.

At 200 cards, the T207 set is about the size of the T205 set, but less than half of the size of the T206 set. For some, the checklist lacks the appeal of other sets of the era. The T207 issue is a chance to build an early set without having to buy a Honus Wagner, an Eddie Plank, or 4 Ty Cobb cards. In fact, this set is missing many of the major stars of era. Walter Johnson is probably the key to the set. Tinker and Chance are here, but Evers is missing. So is Mordecai Brown. McGraw and Bresnahan are present, Mathewson is absent. Tris Speaker and Eddie Cicotte got cards, Jake Stahl got left out. The list goes on.

The Pirates representation is particularly interesting.
Based on numbers from, here are the Pittsburgh players that played the most at each non-pitching position in 1911:

C      100   George Gibson
1B    104   Bill McKechnie
2B    137   Dots Miller
SS    130   Honus Wagner
3B    153   Bobby Byrne
OF    129   Max Carey
OF    110   Fred Clarke
OF    148   Chief Wilson

And for 1912:

C      95    George Gibson
1B    148   Dots Miller
2B    111   Alex McCarthy
SS    145   Honus Wagner
3B    130   Bobby Byrne
OF    77     Mike Donlin
OF    152   Chief Wilson
OF    150   Max Carey

Here are the position players represented in the T207 set

Bobby Byrne
Max Carey
Mike Donlin
Ham Hyatt
Billy Kelly
Alex McCarthy
Bill McKechnie
Dots Miller
Tommy Leach
Mike Simon
Chief Wilson

Between 1911 and 1912, the most active players, by position, not included in this set are:

George Gibson
Honus Wagner
Fred Clarke

Wagner missing is probably expected. For whatever reason you believe he was pulled from the T206 set, he was likely also left out of T205, and, had bigger stars been included, would have likely been passed over in T207. Clarke is in both T205 and T206, but didn't actually play any games in 1912 as his career was winding down. I suppose it's possible that American Tobacco knew he wouldn't play (ie. I don't know if anything was announced to that effect), so maybe his absence makes sense.

But what about Gibson? He is in the T205 set. He is in the T206 set. In 1912, he is at the height of his stardom, and, in 1911 he caught more Pirates games than backup catchers Mike Simon and Billy Kelly combined. Combined!

And in case you didn't scroll back up to check, both Kelly and Simon are in this set.

Here are their cards:

Now the fun part -- and the reason for this whole post. I got a text from my buddy Marty yesterday telling me to check out the back of Simon's T207 card.

Check this out:

The back of Simon's card labels him as "George Gibson's efficient understudy". The bio mentions Gibson twice more. Is this the back of a Simon card, or the back of a Gibson card?

Once Marty put this idea in my head, I went and checked out the back of Bill Kelly's T207.
It's not quite as Gibson-oriented, but his name gets dropped here too. Look at this:

"Before the season of 1912 was two months' old Kelly had supplanted the veteran Gibson as leading receiver for the Pirates."

I've not checked the numbers to see if this is true, but if you look at the numbers for the entire season, nobody supplanted Gibson. He appeared in 95 games, compared to 48 by Billy Kelly, 42 by Mike Simon and 1 by Earl Blackburn. Just like in 1911, Gibson caught more Pirates games than all of Pittsburgh's other catchers combined.

The American Tobacco Company, and more specifically, those that put together the T207 set in 1912, are obviously aware that Gibson is the catcher in Pittsburgh, why didn't they include him in the set?

And secondly, how do I not add these cards to my collection?

Thanks for the post idea, Marty!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Here's something you don't see every day

Summer is flying by, and I've spent very little time here on the blog. Best laid plans, I guess.

Now that I'm sitting down to post something, I figured I could play off of my own scarcity, and show you something else you don't see every day: 1972 Classic Cards.

This set consists of four series, each of 30 cards. They are catalogued as a 1972 issue. The cards themselves, are on a thin, cream coloured cardboard, and were issued by a company out of Flint, MI. And honestly, that's nearly everything I know about them. You can find a checklist online easily enough -- the set contains a lot of pre-war hall-of-famers.

And of course, the set contains George Gibson.

I added this one to my collection sometime back before 2008 -- back when Yahoo had an auction site (I'm assuming they no longer do). Cost me $15 to buy the entire series and I couldn't have been happier at the time. This series came with Wagner, Lajoie and a few others. I kept Gibson and Bill O'Hara (another Canadian), and sold/traded/gave every other card away.

And that was the last time I saw a 1972 Classic Cards Gibson for sale. Actually, that's the only time I've ever seen this card for sale. At times I have seen other cards from the set for sale, but not often. I'm sure this card isn't that rare -- I'm sure it's just one of those sets that nobody figures anyone wants, and they don't bother to try to sell them. But honestly, I don't know.

If you have any of these cards, or know more about the set, drop a line in the comments. I'd love to learn more.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

On this day...

Today is July 22, 1917.

One hundred and thirty-seven years ago, today, George Gibson was born in London, Ontario (or at least that's the most commonly accepted place; there are some that disagree, claiming he was born in one of the surrounding towns).

He would remain in that area, working construction, and playing baseball on various town and picked teams. In his early twenties, he ventured off to Buffalo, and played the end of the 1903 season in the Eastern League for George Stallings' Bisons. In 1904, he was acquired by Montreal, where he played for the Royals of the Eastern League until mid-1905. That's when Barney Dreyfuss bought his contract and made him a Pirate.

George made his major league debut on July 2, 1905, in Cincinnati. The Pirates lost that game, 4-1. Gibson would go on to play 44 games, but bat only 0.178 in his rookie season. Dreyfuss and Pirates Manager Fred Clarke had seen enough to know they had something, though.

From 1907-1910, Gibson caught more games than any other NL catcher (from 1907-12, Gibson averaged 124 games).

In 1909, Gibson set career highs in hits (135), doubles (25), triples (9), RBIs (52) and stolen bases (9). His 150 games caught was a record, and lead the National League in fielding percentage (0.983) and caught stealing percentage (52.9). In the World Series that year, Gibson backstopped the Pirates to a title in over Ty Cobb's Detroit Tigers. For the first time in World Series history, it took the full seven games to decide the winner. Gibson caught every inning for the Pirates without a single error. He held Ty Cobb to only 2 stolen bases, and stole just as many himself.

Gibson remained among the elite defensive catchers, again leading the National League in fielding percentage in 1910 (0.984) and 1912 (0.990). Gibson was second in 1911 (0.979).

In 1913, Gibson suffered a broken ankle and only played in 48 games (his lowest by far since his rookie year). Gibson was back in 1914 and 1915 playing 101 and 118 games respectively, but his fielding percentages dropped off. Part way through 1916, Gibson was released, and his contract was purchased by John McGraw, of the New York Giants. Gibson refused to report, and instead went back home to his farm in London.

By the time the 1917 season rolled around, McGraw and Gibson had worked things out, George was re-instated (he had been banned from baseball for not honouring the 1916 release purchase), and he joined the Giants. There he remained for two seasons, helping manage the pitchers and play the odd game (Gibson appeared in a total of 39 games in 1917 and 1918). When the Giants played the Chicago White Sox in the 1918 World Series, Gibson coached but was not part of the playing roster.

At the end of the 1918 season, McGraw released Gibson so that he could manage the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League for the 1919 season. The team finished with a 93-57 record, good enough for second place, but still 8 games behind the powerful Baltimore Orioles.

In the Winter of 1919,  Barney Dreyfuss came calling. He was in need of a Manager. Gibson ended up joining the Pirates, and from 1920-1922, he managed the big league club. In the middle of the 1922 season, Gibson resigned his position, handing the reigns over to future Hall-of-Famer, Bill McKechnie.

In 1923, when Donie Bush joined the Washington Senators as their manager, he hired George Gibson to be one of his coaches. Gibson was fired before the end of the season. In 1925, Gibson joined the Chicago Cubs as a coach. When Cubs Manager Rabbit Maranville was fired near the end of the season, Gibson took over as Manager. He did not return in 1926.

Gibson remained largely out of baseball until 1931, when Dreyfuss again came calling. From 1932-34 George served his second tenure as Pirates coach, until he was fired mid-season. Another future hall-of-famer took over for him again, this time it was Pie Traynor.

George returned home to London, and remained active in baseball locally.

In 1948, Fred Lieb, in his book, "The Pittsburgh Pirates", labelled Gibson as, "Pittsburgh's greatest all-time catcher."

In 1958, Gibson was named Canada's baseball player of the half century, and was the first baseball player elected into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

George Gibson died on January 25, 1967 and is buried at Campbell Cemetery in Komoka, Ontario.

In 1987, he was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 2001, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract ranked Gibson 95th all-time among catchers.
In 2002, he was posthumously inducted into the London Sports Hall of Fame.

When David Finoli and Bill Ranier released the second edition of "The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia", George Gibson was still ranked 78th all-time in Pirates history.

The entrance to the main grandstand at Labatt Park in London, prominently displays a commemorative plaque in Gibson's honour.

Happy Birthday, George.

Sources: Wikipedia, Baseball-Reference, and years of reading about George Gibson and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Maybe as close as I'll get to owning a W600

Every now and again (read: late at night when the house is quiet, and I'm too tired to do anything productive, but too stubborn to just admit that it's time to go to bed), I'll end up on eBay or Google searching things that are only peripherally related to Gibson in hopes of finding something unique.

More times than not, I come up very empty. And even if I do, I'm okay with it, because I feel like I've accomplished something by confirming there is positively nothing Gibson out there that I can add to my collection. But every once in a while, I find something.

Two weeks ago was that once in a while.
While searching for just anything and everything Pittsburgh Pirates related, I happened upon an issue of Sporting Life Magazine, and on the cover, was a composite of the 1905 Pittsburgh Pirates. The actual issue was dated November 5, 1905. Since Gibson made his major league debut in 1905, I guess that technically would make it a rookie year issue. It ended up going for nearly $150, far more than it's worth to me, so I didn't get it. I did, however, grab an image of it to share:

Gibson, in case you can't see him, is located in the second row from the top, third from the left.
The seller claims to be selling thousands of issues of Sporting Life over the next little while (The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown digitized their copies, let the "digitizer" keep them, and now, through, they are selling them all). This was enough to pique my interest. I started looking through their other auctions, and low and behold, if I didn't find this beauty:

The best part? No mention of Gibson anywhere in the auction listing! But, it wasn't a BIN, so I had to wait for about 4 days for the auction to end. When it did, I came out victorious -- with an opening bid of $19.97! And while it's not a 1905, it is from August of 1906, and features *just* Gibby on the cover! The magazine, if I can call it that, is very brittle, so I'm afraid to even try to scan it (took this image from the auction listing), but I'm very excited to have this in my collection. This page is about 11x14, so pretty giant compared to my usual pick-ups, but man is it awesome.

Adding this magazine/newspaper to my collection is probably as close as I'm going to get to ever owning a W600 Gibson. It's the same image, the same issuer, and almost the same issue date. I don't even know what a W600 Gibson would cost if one came up, but I imagine it's north of $1000. So to get this as an alternative, for 1/50th of the price, suffice it to say I'm happy. This is probably as close as I'll get to owning a W600.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Ever heard of a U1?

In my last post, I talked about B18 Felt Blankets. It's an issue I had not seriously considered collection previously, but ended up picking up because I could on the cheap.

Today, I want to show you an other fairly obscure issue. 1934 U1 Diamond Matchbooks. Diamond Matchbooks were issued in 5 distinct sets over a 4-year period (1934-1937). The subsequent years are catalogued as U2, U3 and U4, but it's not a one-to-one match between the year and the "U-number". The matchbooks were issued in 4 different colours: red, green, blue and orange, but not all colours are available for all years. I would classify Diamond Matchbooks as one of those sets where it's easy to find an example, but not necessarily easy to find a particular player/colour combination. If you search eBay, you'll find plenty of these Matchbooks on any given day, and you can easily get an example of one for under $20, but a particular player/colour combination isn't so easy.

For George Gibson specifically, he's only available in the 1934 U1 set. In theory, you can get matchbooks of Gibson in red, blue, green and orange. In practice, orange seems to be the most common, in my experience. After orange, is green, which shows up, but not quite as often. Then there is a sharp drop-off. I've seen exactly one blue matchbook cover, and I've never ever seen a red.

Here are a examples of the two Gibson matchbooks in my collection. Just like the felts, these are not something I had really considered adding to my collection, but when the well runs dry, you gotta drink something, right? For the right price (I paid under $20 for each of these), I'll happily add these to my collection. Truth be told, now that I have them, I hope to find the blue and red, and preferably with the striker still on them.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

So. B18s. Are these things cards?

Had a friend over last weekend to catch a local ball game. Given that he is also a Gibson enthusiast, it was a perfect opportunity to bust out my George Gibson collection to show off. Most people don't even know I collect baseball cards, so showing old cards to people isn't something I do often. Ever, really.

One thing we ended up talking about briefly was B18s. I figured it might be a good "card / non-card" item to post about. Until recently, they weren't even a part of my collection. I consider myself a card collector...and I don't really see B18s as cards. They're made of felt after all, so they can't be cards, right? The things is, it's been increasingly difficult to add Gibson items to my collection as of late, so when I was able to grab the "purple pennant" variation for less than $30 a few months back, I jumped at the chance. And I didn't really know what to expect when I got it in the mail. I was pleasantly surprised.

As somebody who always targets "cardboard", it was neat to see and be able to actually handle this issue. Compared to tobacco cards, these things are huge. They measure just over 5 inches by 5 inches. They are a really thin fabric. If you look closely at them, you can see the individual stitching that makes up the image, borders, etc.

B18s, according to, were issued in 1914 by the Egyptienne Straight Cigarettes company. I believe they were folded in half and inserted into the packs. There are 90 players in the set (9 players from each of 10 ten major league teams), but there are variations.

Not more than a few weeks after I picked up the "purple pennant" version, a "red pennant" version showed up on eBay as well. Again, normally I don't go after this kind of stuff -- but after the first one, I was kinda intent on completing the pair. I got this for a minimum bid of like $25, I think. As you can see, there is a bit of fraying on the "third base corner" of it, but it doesn't take away from the overall aesthetic if you ask me. The only real difference between the two is the replacing of purple with red. I'm not actually sure if any of the players in this set have more than two variations -- but now that I've got this pairing, I wish there were more than just two Gibsons in the set.

Even if they're not cards ;)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Never judge a card by its corners

In a perfect world, every card in my collection is flawless.
Sharp corners, no creases, no writing, crisp images. Of course, in that perfect world, I already have every George Gibson card, because I also have unlimited funds, and a time machine. And right now we're talking about how awesome my seats were at the 1909 World Series.

Alas, this is the real world.
In the real world, I collect cards that are over 100 years old. And in that world, there are cards that I just don't expect to be able to add to my collection, either because they are too rare or too expensive (often both). In the real world, though, there are collectors that are just as interested as helping a fellow collector add a card to their collection as they are in adding cards to their own.

Such is the case with this card. A long-time collector over on the Net54 Baseball Forum, had this card as a type in his collection. He and I have traded in the past. It's not uncommon for a collector to offer of a specific type in their collection to a collector wanting that specific player. It usually just comes down to finding a comparable card from that set to trade (ie. same issue, comparable calibre player, comparable condition). Truthfully, I've had many collectors make me this offer. But many times the issue is just too tough, or expensive, that making the trade work is difficult. That's why this deal was unique. Realizing the difficulty of making that trade, but understanding how well this card would fit into my collection, he was willing to sell me the card (at a very fair price), realizing it would put a hole in his type collection, but allow me to fill one in my Gibson collection.

So what card is this? The ACC designation is T216 Peoples Tobacco. The cards feature white borders and tobacco ads on the backs like T206 White Borders, but were issued later. The SGC slab that this card sits in attributes it as a 1911-16 issue. Other sources say 1911-14. I do not know which range is correct. Some things I do know: This set features three different ad backs: Kotton Cigarettes, Mino and Virgina Extra. The set also features Federal League players in addition to American and National League players. Oh, and this issue is very tough! Finding them at all is a challenge.

So to add this card to my collection, in any condition, is awesome. I'm thrilled with it, to say the least! I realize there are some creases, and the top right corner is missing, but really, the creases don't take too much away from the image and the ad on the back is complete even with a partially missing corner. Considering I never ever thought I'd own a T216, to add this to my collection at all is a miracle, but the details on how that miracle came about make this card the leading contender for pick-up of the year!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Strike a pose

One thing about a prewar player collection that I've noticed: Eventually you'll run out of cards or you'll run out of money. George Gibson, thankfully, has quite a few cards, many of which, are affordable. But if you collect him long enough, you'll eventually pick up most of the common/inexpensive stuff. That can lead to long gaps in between pickups.

And if you're a collector, then you understand what that's like.
In order to keep adding to the collection you might find yourself expanding the definition of "card".
In my case, I started to collect felts, which I had never really been that interested in. I find myself looking at pins and discs and chips a little more often now, too.
Postcards have always been on my radar, but they are rather expensive and show up rarely.

And then there are photos.

Photos can be an interesting way to expand the player collection, and can be affordable. In the case of Gibson, that doesn't really apply to photos of his playing days, but if you're willing to collect photos from his managing days, then you might be surprised what you can find.

Below is the photo that I most recently added to my Gibson collection. I found it on a photo dealer's site while searching Google for...I don't even remember what ;)

This is, hands down, my favourite Gibson photo of my collection. The back has a Central News Photo Service stamp and the caption that was included with the photo says:
Specially posed picture of Gibson, manager, taken in the "dug-out" at the Polo Grounds, Ny., Aug 25.
Oddly, it doesn't have a year. Gibson managed the Pirates from 1920-22 and again from 1932-34. At some point I'll go hunting through some New York papers to try to put a year on this. It shouldn't be too difficult, but for now I'm willing to let it remain a mystery.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Almost got rained out ... but didn't

Wednesday was a particularly gloomy day here. It was overcast all day. And given that it's rained off-and-on all week, it wasn't a big deal -- or a big surprise -- that the forecast was predicting an 80% chance of rain.

But I work inside, so as long as I don't have to shovel snow or worry about road conditions to drive to work, I don't pay much attention to the weather. I only really noticed the weather yesterday three times. The first two times were when it was raining so hard that you could hear it banging on the roof of the building that I work in.

Otherwise, I was pretty much oblivious. See, I won a new Gibson card at auction at the beginning of the month, and got the email that it had shipped a few days ago. By yesterday, it was close enough that it could arrive "any day", so really, that's where my attention was. I probably checked the USPS site 8 times waiting for an update. Finally, after work just before heading home, I got the status update I wanted: "Package delivered."

As I pulled into my driveway, I was scanning the mailbox and front porch for signs of my new acquisition. All I could see was some flyers hanging out of the mailbox, and they were soaked. It wasn't until I actually walked on to the porch that I noticed a small white parcel sitting out in the open. It wasn't in the door; wasn't in the mailbox; wasn't under the overhang of my roof. It was just sitting there. And that was the third time I noticed the weather yesterday.

Instant panic turned into instant relief though, as somehow, the parcel was totally dry. Not so much as a raindrop had touched it. I have no idea how the mail carrier timed it to get it there in between rainfalls -- and truthfully, the card was well packaged and protected inside anyway -- but the box was fine. Reusable, even. Until I failed so miserably at opening it.

Wanna know what was inside?


Might not look like much, but I'm thrilled to have it. That is a 1909 E92 Croft's Candy George Gibson. The pose is referred to as the "back pose", as there are some candy issues that contain 2 Gibson cards, the other being the "front pose".

I'm particularly happy to acquire this card as I've never owned a Croft's Candy back before. I currently have a Dockman back, and once upon a time owned a Croft's Cocoa back (the toughest of the four by far). But this is the first time I've owned a Crofts Candy. The black ink on the back is probably the more common variation. Some Croft's Candy backs can be found in blue and red ink though I don't believe the red ink variation has been confirmed for Gibson.

This exact image can be found on Gibson's E101, E105 and T216 cards as well. I have an E101 in my collection and used to have an E105. I'd like to get one again, but they don't come up often and when they do, they are anything but cheap. And the T216s? A whole other level of tough!

But that's part of the fun. If I already had them all what would be left to collect?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bison or Bisons?

Last weekend, a friend was heading to a Buffalo Bisons game, and allowed me to tag along (and thank you for that, Marty, I had a blast). Going to a baseball game is always a welcome adventure in my world. Having only ever driven past Coca-Cola Field, I was excited to get to step inside and see the facility. I was also excited to watch the Blue Jays farm team, and having recently learned about the Sports Museum inside the stadium, I was curious to check it out on the off chance there might be something Gibson in there.

I'll spare you the suspense. There was no Gibson to be found on this day. It was a long shot at best as Gibson is but a minor footnote in Buffalo Bisons history. He played in 6 games near the end of the 1903 season and that was it. Nonetheless, it was still worth checking. The museum had more than just baseball too. Much more, actually. Football, hockey, boxing, concerts that have taken place at the assorted sports venues, etc. Just no Gibson.

And the game? It was great. What should have been the third game of the series ended up being the season & home opener for Buffalo on account of weather conditions the previous two days. The forecast was cold, but the sun was not to be outdone. I still managed to get a mild sunburn. It was well worth it, though, to watch the Junior Jays topple the Junior Yankees by a score of 4-2, which included Rowdy Tellez hitting home runs in each of his first two at bats of the season.

The stadium is nice. I'm horrendous when it comes to picture taking; I took none. But our seats were up behind the 3B dugout, and the view was great. For a home opener, I'm surprised the crowd wasn't larger, but that just meant shorter lineups for the beef on weck ;)

In the week that has passed since that game, the Bisons have won another 6 games against 2 losses and find themselves first in the International League with a 7-2 record.

But I'm left pondering two things: Is there anything out there besides newspaper accounts documenting Gibson's time with Buffalo -- like a cool RPPC or something? And second, are they really the Buffalo Bisons or should they be the Buffalo Bison?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Blog bat Around: T205 Gibson Back Run

A few weeks ago, Chris over at the blog Nachos Grande, tossed out a suggestion for a 'Blog Bat Around' topic: In this case, the hardest set you/we/I have tried to complete, am trying to complete, etc. Seemed liked a cool idea, so I figured I'd use it as a chance to show off my quest to complete a T205 back run of George Gibson. Here is my post about the T206 back run, if you're interested.

First, a bit about the T205 set.
The set was issued in 1911 by the American Tobacco Company (same company behind T206s).
The card are about the same size, and do feature assorted tobacco brands on the back, but unlike the T206s, they have gold, instead of white, borders, and the logos on the back are much smaller. Filling that extra space is a brief bio of the player, and a few years of stats.
And though the T205 set does have some short prints that can be difficult, the set is less than half of the size of the T206 set. A couple of great sites for info about T205s can be found here:


 So, Mr. Gibson.
As far as I can tell, there are 8 backs available for Gibson in this set.
They are:

American Beauty
Honest Long Cut
Piedmont (Factory 25 and 42)
Polar Bear
Sweet Caporal

When I first started assembling this back set (about 10 years ago), nobody that I talked to (including some advanced T205 collectors) had any record of their being a Piedmont 42 or American Beauty of Gibson. The Hassan or Honest Long Cut was unknown, too, but I can't remember which.

The five cards shown above are the five I have, so far. Actually, I have an Honest Long Cut too, but don't have a scan handy. That leaves me needing three: Sweet Caporal, the American Beauty and the Polar Bear.

Neither the Sweet Caporal nor the Polar Bear are particularly though, though the Polar Bear seems to be susceptible to staining, so finding a decent one for a fair price can be tough. With a bit of luck, and some timing, I am confident I can grab a Sweet Caporal and a Polar Bear this year.

The American Beauty, on the other hand, is a whole other level of tough. I have seen two or three in over 10 years. The first one I saw was on eBay when the AB was not a confirmed Gibson back. It was listed at a price that I was uncomfortable taking a risk at, at the time. It got re-listed multiple times before finally selling. I'd gladly buy the card today at any of those eBay prices I saw. A chance late last year to get one slipped through my fingers by a matter of a day; I'm not optimistic I'll see another chance anytime soon.

But that's part of the fun! I'm in no rush to complete this back run, but that's a good thing, because it may not matter if I am ;)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A look at the B-R Homer Log

George Gibson was known for being a defensive catcher. He was known for his ability to develop and handle pitchers. He was not known for being a home run hitter.

In his brief minor league career, there was some thought that he might be able to be a very successful major league batter. But it didn't pan out. In 1905 and 1906 he batted an identical, and unflattering, .178. In his next 10 seasons in Pittsburgh, Gibson would remain north of .200, but in his first season in New York, in 1917, he batted only .171. He'd end his career with a .236 average for his 16 seasons. Gibson clearly remained in the league for is other skills.

But back to home runs.

I was perusing Baseball-Reference recently (I spend more time on that site that I am willing to admit), and while there was reminded of the homer log.

I thought it might be interesting to look at some of Gibson's homers.
I won't talk about all of them, but here are some things that stood out to me:

According to the homer log, Gibson's first career homer came off of none other than Christy Mathewson. It was inside the park homer at the Polo Grounds on July 18, 1905. That's not even 3 weeks into Gibson's big league career; 4 days before his 25th birthday.

His next one came just about a month later, August 24, 1905. This time, it left the yard, and the victim was future teammate Vic Willis.

Gibson went homerless for all of 1906, and then hit 3 inside-the-park in 1907 within about six weeks: May 2nd, June 6th and June 10th. Gibson also hit 3 home runs in 1910, after hitting 2 in each of 1908 and 1909.

In 1913, Gibson hit his 13th career home run off of Rube Marquard.
George hit one other home run in 1913, and then his last career home run on August 19, 1915.

When it was all said and done, Gibson his 15 career home runs off of 15 different pitchers.
Seven of the fifteen were of the inside-the-park variety.
Six of the eight that left the park were hit in Boston.
Only one was hit at home (at Forbes, in 1909).

And maybe the most fun, is that 3 of the 15 home runs were hit off of pitchers that would eventually join the ranks of the hall of fame. In other words, 20% of Gibson's career home runs were off of hall-of-fame pitchers.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

For the rookie card collectors ...

Image courtesy of
In my last post, I touched on the end of George Gibson's career, in a way. The culmination of years of playing, managing, teaching and treating wounded fingers was his induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. This week, let's go back to the beginning. Or at least, closer to the beginning.

If you collected baseball cards in the 80's and 90's, then you almost certainly remember the rookie card craze: The hoarding of thousands of Donruss Rated Rookies or Topps Traded cards of a certain player and just waiting to cash in and retire to a life of luxury. Of course we know now it didn't play out that way. At least not for the majority; I'm sure somebody made some pretty good money off of those cards, though I'm guessing they cashed out like 30 years ago. My guess is that most people that invested in 1000 Gregg Jefferies or 500 Kevin Maas cards are still waiting for the right time to cash out.

Now, if you're like me, then even though you aren't looking to hoard and retire on rookie cards, you do still have some appreciation for them.

When it comes to pre-war baseball cards, labeling a rookie card becomes a bit of an challenge. For starters, what defines a card? Is it the dimensions? The material? Does it have to be available nationally? How is it packaged? Can it be round? What if it's mounted on something? Can it be a team photo? And once those questions have answers, we have to ask about the league. Can a rookie card be from the player's minor league team or does it have to be their major league? And what defines a major league? What if the player's major league debut was in that awkward 1901-03 era when the American League was forming? Or what if it was during the Federal League era between 1913-15?

To re-iterate the point: defining the rookie card for prewar players is tough. What card that I currently consider to be George Gibson's major league rookie card is the 1902-11 W600 Sporting Life Cabinet. It seems to be generally accepted that this card was issued in 1905. These cards could be ordered directly from Sporting Life Magazine; I assume researchers have noted that Gibson shows up as early as 1905 in the list of players that could be ordered. That's pretty good reaction time by Sporting Life, considering Gibson didn't debut with the Pirates until July 2, 1905.

Without knowing the first date Gibson's W600 became available, there might be one other contending issue for Gibson's rookie card as well. A 1901-17 Police Gazette Supplement was issued on August 12, 1905 of the Pittsburgh Pirates team. So it's possible that Gibson's rookie card was issued less than 6 weeks after he made his debut -- BUT -- that's only if Gibson is in the picture. I have yet to see a good, clear, scan of this issue to even confirm if Gibson is in it.

And again, all of this is really dependent on how you define a rookie card.
There are a few, extremely rare,  issues that feature George Gibson while he was still playing with the Montreal Royals in the Eastern League. If you're definition of rookie card includes minor league cards, then all of what I've just written is moot.

If you know of another issue featuring George Gibson that you would classify as his rookie card, share your thoughts, I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

1987: The year the ball hall called

When he was at his best, George Gibson was the best. From 1908-1912, Moon was among the premier catchers of the league -- a who's who of National League catchers with the likes of Kling, Meyers and Bresnahan.

Of the four men, Gibson yields the lowest career batting average and RBI total; anecdotally, it is said that Gibson could be counted on for hits when they counted, however. It was, of course, Gibson's defense and ability to handle pitchers that kept him in the conversation. From 1907-10, Gibson led the NL in games played by catcher. In 1909, 1910 and 1912 he was tops in the NL in fielding percentage. In 1909 and 1910 he caught the most base stealers in the NL (while also allowing the most base stealers in 1910). For his career, he's 10th for base stealers caught and 33rd among catchers in double plays turned.

Interestingly, from 1905-1913, one of these four men backstopped the National League representative in the World Series.

Of the four, only Roger Bresnahan has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (a quick read on Wikipedia has a quote from Bill James suggesting that his election was a mistake).

But the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame wasn't about to forget about George Gibson. He was inducted post-humously, in 1987, along with Fergie Jenkins, Rockey Nelson and Russ Ford. The image included in this post is the cover of the program from Gibson's induction. I picked it up recently and it's in very good condition. I was hesitant to scan any of this inside because I didn't want to crack the spine -- the contents are mostly ads, with a one-page bio of each player. Gibson's page contains the same information that is on his plaque at the hall...which you can see if you're ever in St. Mary's. Seriously, it's not a huge museum, but if you're ever in the area it's worth the visit. If you have some time right now, actually, it's worth visiting their site to check out what they've got going on, including their plans for a new, bigger, museum.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Gibson more rare than a Gibson more rare than Wagner

In the last post, I briefly spoke about the 1913 Voskamp's Coffee Pirates set. There are a lot of cool things about that set, and I'm sure the lack of information and overall rarity of the set only adds to the mystique. It's one of many very popular prewar card sets that are exclusively Pirates players.

Today, I'm going to talk about another set that isn't short on rarity -- both in terms of finding the cards, but also in terms of finding information about them.

Enter the 1909 Colgan's Square Proofs set.

The best description of these sets that I've seen comes from the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards:
"Though widely identified as being connected to the Colgan's Chips disc issues of 1909-12, there is nothing to tie these square cards to the gum company except for the shared use of player photos. The squares measure about 1-3/8" x 1-3/4" and are blank-backed. Black-and-white player portrait player portrait photos have a last name and team identification beneath. Many, but not all, of the surviving specimens have paper and/or glue residue on back, leading to speculation they may have been part of an advertising piece. The extent of the checklist is unknown, with verified examples listed here."
The book goes on to list 51 different examples covering 50 different players.

The player that appears twice?
George Gibson!

There isn't much difference between the Gibson examples in the set. The photos are the same, but the alignment of 'Gibson' and 'Pittsburg' relative to each other between examples is different.

I should note at this point, that the SCD guide doesn't tell the whole story. SGC's population report shows that they've graded two different Matty McIntyre cards, one with Detroit and the other with Chicago. That is particular baffling, though, as this set is obviously not just a 1909 set though that is how it's commonly catalogued. I suppose that's a discussion for another day.

Despite doing it for the second post in a row, I do hesitate to use population reports as a definitive measure of rarity. But as a general guide, well, I'm about to do it again, so I guess I'm saying it's okay!

The example shown here is one of the two graded by SGC. According SGC's population report there are only 2 Gibson examples graded (out of 52 graded by SGC for the entire set). PSA has never graded any Gibsons, but has graded 3 others (all different), and Beckett has graded 6 (no Gibsons) for a total of 61. Of those 61, 26 are the only one for that particular player. The other 35 cover 13 players, meaning at least 13 of the cards in the confirmed checklist have never been graded at all. The most commonly graded player is Dode Criss, with 4.

Last week I suggested that if only 25% of Voskamp's have been graded they're still more rare then the T206 Wagner. I really have no idea how accurate that guess is, so what follows will continue to remain highly unscientific ;)

There are 4 graded Voskamp's Gibsons between PSA and SGC, which means I'm suggesting there are 16 surviving Voskamp Gibsons.  The Gibson I showed last week is actually in a GAI holder, and over the years I've definitely seen a few raw examples. Surely there are some in collections that simply aren't public and/or haven't seen the light of day in years. 16 is a relatively safe estimate.

With the Colgan Square Proof, SGC says they've graded two. I have seen one raw one in 10 years (the variation I mention above). I have no idea if it's now the other SGC-graded Gibson, but if we say it's not, we're talking about a total known (by me) population of 3. I assume there are some in private collections still.

The truth is, you can find a Colgan Square Proof relatively easily. It's one of those sets that finding an example is easy, but finding a particular player isn't always so simple. Having seen 2 or 3 Gibsons in 10 years, and seeing that at least 1/4 of the set has never been graded even once, has me comfortable suggesting that more 20% of the surviving Square Proof Gibsons have been graded.

If that suggested assumption (see, very scientific) holds, then there are fewer than 15 surviving Colgan Square Proofs, and I'm counting both variations in that total, which is clearly fewer than my suggested 16 Voskamp's.

So there you have it. A Gibson more rare than a Gibson more rare than Wagner.

Oh, in case you were thinking about it, worry not, I am not a teacher, so my crazy methods are not being taught regularly to the leaders of tomorrow!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Gibson more rare than Wagner

In 2016, Marketside Pizza inserted baseball cards in pizzas they sold at Walmart in the USA. The move was a hit among bloggers and modern collectors, and was a bit of a throwback to something baseball card collector's haven't seen in a while.

In the 1980's and 1990's, baseball cards being distributed with food products was quite common. Cereal, bread, soft drinks and snack foods of all kinds ran promotions containing sports cards. As you work backwards from there, baseball cards being distributed with some product becomes more and more common. Though I am not clear on the exact method of distribution, a card set associated with food items that you may not be aware of is the 1913 Voskamp's Coffee Pirates, a regional 20-card set released by B.H. Voskamp's Sons Inc Wholesale Grocers.
It may be difficult to tell from the photo, but each card features a black/white posed image over an off-white background. The back contains the checklist for the 20-card set and the following note:
"When you have a complete set bring them or send them to us. We will return the photos to you and furnish you with one reserved base ball seat, Grand Stand, Forbes Field, or two general admission seats, or four bleacher seats."
Below that note is the B.H. Voskamp's name and their address in Pittsburgh, PA. There are surely earlier examples of this type of promotion using some kind of collectible set, but I can't name it right off of the top of my head. The formula was pretty simple: Entice people to buy your product and collect some cards, and then trade the complete set of those cards for some type of goods or service. It was also common to make the task of actually completing the set particularly difficult by including a 'chase' card.

In the case of this set, the chase card must be that of Ed Mensor, as the card has simply never been confirmed to actually exist. Hank Robinson also used to be considered 'unconfirmed' until recently, meaning the population of that card is exactly one.

Considering the cards were to be returned upon set completion, one would expect that even if rare, a few Mensor and Robinson cards would have survived. Surely more than just one Robinson, at least. Of course the set is over 100 years old, and it was only a regional promotion, so the quantities of the entire set is certainly much lower than any national promotion or collectible card of the time.
Prior to the internet, there probably weren't too many people outside of the Pittsburgh area with any experience with Voskamp's. Even with the internet, finding examples of this set isn't the easiest thing to do, though a few will sell at major auctions, and even on eBay, every year. Just how rare is this set, though?

Realizing the flaws in relying on SGC and PSA population reports (not every card has been graded, how reliably does either company remove cards from their reports when they are re-submitted or crossed-over, etc), consider this: To date, PSA and SGC have graded a combined total of 79 1913 Voskamp's Coffee Pirates cards (of those 79, 8 are Marty O'Toole). By contrast, the two grading companies have graded a combined 44 T206 Honus Wagner cards. In other words, for every 2 Voskamp's that have been graded, 1 Honus Wagner T206 has been!

Now, I think it's safe to assume that the T206 Wagner is probably more likely to be graded than a Voskamp's Coffee card. But even if only 25% of Voskamp's are graded and 80% of Wagners are, then even the most common 1913 Voskamp's Pirate has a smaller population than a T206 Honus Wagner!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mr. Wagner, will you kindly step outside for a moment?

As a George Gibson fan, I find myself reading a lot of books about the Pittsburgh Pirates. Inevitably, you'll cover much of the same games and seasons, but I do find it interesting to read from the perspective of different players. Plus, each new book seems to find one or two things that were completely unknown to me previously.

Last year, I finally got around to reading a biography about Honus Wagner. It's been on my to-do list for awhile. This past Summer, I was ordering some books from McFarland Publishing (I get a lot of baseball books from these guys; they're an awesome company to deal with) and decided to finally pickup the Wagner bio. They actually had a couple to choose from and for reasons I don't actually remember I went with Honus Wagner - The Life of Baseball's "Flying Dutchman" by Arthur D. Hittner.

In short, I really enjoyed the book. For anyone looking to read a biography of one of baseball's all-time greats, you won't go wrong with this one. This post isn't a book review, to be clear, but there was a particularly interesting story covered in the book that I wanted to share.
Here's a snippet of the book from page 192:
    For the first time in three years, Wagner attended the Pirates' training
camp in Hot Springs. He arrived late, his brother Al in tow. Now over 40 and
out of the game for two years, the elder Wagner worked out with the club and
played a creditable shortstop for the second stringers.
    Wagner disliked the public attention which he inevitably attracted at the
Arkansas resort. One day a photographer sought him out at the hotel. A clerk
directed the young man toward Wagner, who was chatting in the lobby with
teammate George Gibson. Uncertain which of the two was the legendary Pirate
star, the photographer took a chance. "Mr. Wagner," he inquired tentatively,
"will you kindly step outside for a moment? I want to take your picture."
Instantly, the camera-shy Wagner turned to Gibson. "Go ahead, John," he
motioned to Gibson. "All right," smiled Gibson picking up on the ruse, "come
on, take my picture until you drop." The Pittsburgh backstop then escorted
the photographer to the lawn outside the hotel where he posed for several
pictures as the Pirate shortstop. The cameramn returned the following
day with a cache of "Wagner" picture postcards, which he offered at a nickel
This story, regardless of who played the role of Wagner during the photo shoot, is amusing. Given the focus of this blog, it's that much more interesting that Gibson was doing the posing. And clearly required at least a little further investigation.

In the chapter notes, Hittner referenced an early 1911 edition of The Sporting News for this story, so I tracked down that copy of The Sporting News to read more.

Apparently, the story goes that a Pittsburgh newspaper ordered a photographer to head to Hot Springs in March of 1910 to take action photos of all of the Pirates. Absent that day were Gibson and Wagner, so early the next morning, the photographer headed to the hotel to complete his assignment. There is no mention of Gibson ever posing "as himself" for the photographer, but The Sporting News version of the story continues that when the "Wagner" photos of Gibson were being sold the next day, "Some of the players, to help the joke along, purchased, and it was not until several days had elapsed that the [illegible] learned of his 'mistake'."

The Sporting News copy that I'm reading (courtesy of is difficult to read, and what I am able to read does not mention the actual name of the photographer.

But suffice it to say, I'm now extremely curious if any examples of this postcard survived. Maybe more than any other season, it seems there are a number of 1910 Hot Springs photos of the Pirates in personal collections, on the internet and occasionally at auction, so it's not a complete impossibility, right? And if the photographer figured it out after a few short days, did he simply start to sell Gibson postcards?

Does anyone out there know more about these postcards?
Anyone out there have one in their collection that they can share a photo of?

That'd be awesome to see.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Enthusiastic about Coca-Cola

So it's well documented that Ty Cobb was a wise investor. And if you read past the claims that he was mean, dangerous, grumpy and all that, you'll find many examples of his generosity and willingness to help out old ballplayers who were down on their luck, or struggling financially. I doubt it's documented anywhere what his net worth was, or what his stock portfolio looked like, but there are two stocks he is very regularly associated with. It seems his Georgia roots allowed him to get involved with the Coca-Cola company relatively early on, and his ties to Detroit connected him to the Ford Motor Company.

If you read about the relationship between Cobb and other players, those that considered him a friend have been quoted saying that he handed out investing advice to anyone that would listen -- sometimes right in the middle of a baseball game.

How many players actually took that advice is obviously unknown.

One thing I have always wondered, though, is what Cobb's involvement was in recruiting ball players to appear in the series of Coca-Cola ads that ran in newspapers from at least as early as the 1910s and at least into the mid-1920's. Here's an example of George Gibson's ad below:

The top of the ad reads: "George Gibson of the Pittsburg Nationals (Champions of the World) let the League as catcher with a percentage of .983 and caught more games than any other catcher last year. He writes us that he is enthusiastic about Coca-Cola."

The image, in case you don't recognize it, appears to have been cropped from George's M101-2, as shown below:

To the best of my knowledge, nobody has documented the full checklist of players that can be found promoting Coca-Cola, but some of the big names of the day are available, including Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner, Frank Chance, John McGraw and Eddie Collins.  The set isn't all hall-of-famers, though. In addition to Gibson, Charles Dooin and Owen Bush are featured in ads, among many others.

Finding these ads isn't terribly difficult. They are regularly available on eBay and other sports forums and can be found in quite good condition for a very fair price (read: much cheaper than the tobacco and caramel cards of the era in many cases).

It's an easy way to add a period piece to a collection.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Beauty of a Back Run: T206

If you are ever thinking about dipping your toes into the waters of prewar baseball cards, then one set you should consider is the 1909-11 T206 White Borders set. Now, I should qualify that statement. At just over 500 cards (between about 514-523 depending on how you count some of the variations), it may not sound like a big set if you're in for the long haul, but some of the cards within the set are pretty far out of reach for most collectors. This is, after all, the set that features the famed Honus Wagner card. Even if you tell yourself you don't need that card, then you still have to deal with Eddie Plank.

Then there are the variations -- Magie, Doyle, O'Hara and Demmitt, among others.

The T206 set was released in packs of cigarettes by the American Tobacco Company between 1909 and 1911. Among the brands of tobacco produced by the ATC, 16 were chosen to contain the cards that Burdick would ultimately define as the T-206 set. The brand of cigarette that any given card was distributed with can be determined by simply flipping over the card and looking on the back. There are some really excellent sites on the internet that can you can visit to read about the different brands, and difficulties of collecting each back.

Within the brands, there are also different series. They are defined as the 150 subjects series, the 350 subjects series, the 350-460 subject series and the 460 series. Some of the more common brands (Piedmont, Sweet Caporal, Soveriegn) included the specific series within the branding on the back. This creates additional variety for player collectors or series collectors. For more information about the different series' and brands of T206, you should check out these, two, particularly good sites: and

Because there are so many ways to slice and dice this set, there are many ways to collect it. Some collectors just want one of each brand, others one of each brand from each series. Some collect just the minor leaguers, some focus on a specific brand or series, others on a team, and some on just one player.

As you may have predicted, the rest of this post will talk about doing a player collection from the T206 set.

The image above shows the George Gibson "back run". Included in this back run there are 10 different backs -- Piedmont, Sovereign, Sweet Caporal, El Principe De Gales (EPDG), Hindu and Old Mill (OM). Because Gibson was issued in the 150-350 series, you can also see that some of the backs mention '150 subjects', others mention '350 subjects' and some don't mention a quantity at all.

The nice thing about this grouping is that they range in difficulty (and therefore, price). You can pick up the Piedmont and Sweet Caporal backs with relative ease. The 150s are generally easier than the 350s. The Sovereign is a little more difficult, but not impossible, the EPDG is tricky, but it's out there, and the OM and Hindu, while not down right impossible, will require a bit of luck and timing.

And depending on how strict you are with your back collecting, you don't even have to stop here. There are all kinds of print defects floating around out there (also known as 'freaks'). A few years back, a George Gibson T206 was auctioned off that had a mostly blank back, except it had a few colour passes of Gibson on the back creating a ghost effect.

There is also such thing as a wet sheet transfer, where the back of the card is faintly visible on the front, presumably because sheets of the cards were stacked on top of each other after being printed but while the ink was still wet. You can also find proofs of the cards, cards that still have some of the lines for cutting, and others that have been cut poorly to the point they contain parts of another card. One such example is the T206 Gibson shown here, that has is name printed on the top and the bottom of the card. This leads to the possibility that there's a T206 Gibson out there with no name on it whatsoever. There are other cases still where the top and bottom names don't match (I have never seen a Gibson like this).

Because the T206 set has been reprinted so many times, you can even collect reprinted versions of a given player. Admittedly, while I doubt most people add these cards to their collection, it is one way to add a few additional brands or unique backs to a T206 collection as the reprints don't always respect what print combinations truly were made available to the public.

When Topps started issuing their own modern-day T206 sets, they included buybacks of actual T206s, so there's that option as well. That I am aware of, there are 4 different Topps "frames" that contain T206s. George Gibson can be found in all four.

If that *still* isn't enough variation for a back collector, you can *still* keep going. The ATC not only issued the T206 "white borders" set, they issued some other sets that are very similar to T206s but do have key differences. As catalogued by Burdick, they are T213 Coupon Cigarettes, T214 Victory Tobacco and T215 Red Cross Tobacco. These three sets share a lot of the same images, allowing the "back run" to continue. If you want to see this kind of collection in action, then I encourage you to check out The Greatest T206 Back Run Ever Assembled.

In closing, I'll simply say this: If you want to further investigate T206s or putting together a T206 back run of your own, then I encourage you to check out these three links below. All three will give you more than enough info to get you going, while providing you with some entertaining reading:

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A quick talk about The Conlon Collection

If you're looking to dip your toe into the waters of pre-war baseball cards, but aren't interested in having the era engulf your wallet, then you should check out The Conlon Collection.

The 5-series set was issues from 1991-95, and as the name may suggest, features the work of legendary photog Charles Conlon. The photographs are stunning. The set is numbered 1-1430. The backs are just jammed with information. Check out the two sample Gibson cards (his only two in the set) and you'll see what I mean. Career stats on his player card, and a giant amount of writing on his manager card; one he happens to share the photo with the legendary Honus Wagner.

Because the set was issued during what was probably the peak of the junk wax era, most of it can be had for relatively cheap. A 36-pack wax box (remember those?!) for either 1991 ro 1992 can usually be found for $10 or less. When I built the 1991 set, I got within 2 cards of completing the 330-card issue, which leads me to believe the collation was pretty good. By 1992, Megacards (also involved in the issue, though I don't know the exact relationship) and TSN seems to have figured out that good collation  may not lend itself to increased sales. When I bought the 1992 box, I didn't even crack the 300 mark (again, a 330-card issue). Actually, if memory serves, card # 297 was the last card I needed, and it turned out to be more difficult than I would have expected to find.

To this day, I've never even seen wax boxes for 1993 or 1994. I bought both of my sets as, well, sets. The 1993 version came in a blue "collector's tin", and again, followed the 330-card format. The 1993 set is a little more difficult than 1991 and 1992, but is still very attainable at a good price.

The 1994 set got a little different. I think there *is* a black-bordered version of the set, but mine came in burgundy. No big deal to me, though, the photos were still black-and-white, and incredible. Yet again, the set followed the 330-card format. To be honest, I don't recall what this set cost me, but it was more difficult to track down than the previous three years. It still wasn't outrageous.

If you stick with this set after 1994, that's when things get tough. I believe the story goes that a 330-card set was planned for 1995, but Megacards went bankrupt mid-production. Honestly, I have no idea if that's the truth, but it lends itself well to the scarcity of the issue. The 1995 issue is 1/3 of the size of the previous 4 editions, but at 110-cards, it's not easy to track down. The only way I've seen this set issued is in a single "retail-looking" package. The card borders are forest-green, with a bit of gold. Large lots, or the entire set, will cost you a bit of cake, and even the individual singles will run as much as $3-4 per. If you're lucky, you can grab lots of a few dozen cards at a time for a better price (notice I didn't say "good"!).

And of course, there's more. I've never personally gotten into them, but there are colourized promos you can collect (6 of them, I think), 8x10s of some issues, and on it goes.

Honestly, if you're fan of baseball photography or want to learn about the early game, you should check out this set.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

DA Fletcher's 1910 All-Star Series

In 1910, Daniel A. Fletcher, a promoter from Cincinnati, set out plans to conduct an "All-Star Series" that Fall. The plan was to sign the biggest stars he could and then essentially barnstorm following the completion of the World Series.

As one would expect from a promoter, Fletcher did everything he could to draw attention to the series of games he had planned -- 10 games in total. And he succeeded in garnering a lot of attention. One party that followed him very closely was the group of Major League club owners. At first, they watched from a distance and really didn't take him too seriously.

Fletcher signed players to contracts for between $500 and $1000 for the series, and claimed to have succeeded in signing Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and Nap Lajoie. Also signed to a contract for the series was the Pirates' premier backstop George Gibson.

Once the public learned of the calibre of play expected for the series, Fletcher began to gain real momentum. The magnates could remain quiet no longer. Organized baseball argued against the series claiming concerns over player injuries, and fears that the series would tarnish the glamour of the World Series[1]. One also wonders if they were unhappy with somebody coming up with a way to profit off of their players without cutting them in for a share.

Eventually the National Commission, "set forth a ban of all organized baseball stadiums to allow Fletcher's games to be played within." [2] They went one step further and threatened to ban any player that participated in Fletcher's series from participating in the World Series.

Eventually, the commission succeeded in squashing Fletcher's plan.
Players were asked to return their cheques and Fletcher was forced to cancel the series.

In November, 2011, Hunt Auctions, included assorted correspondence and signed contracts in their Louisville Slugger Auction. Among the items auctioned was a signed contract between George Gibson and D.A. Fletcher that would have paid Gibson $500 to participate in the series. An image of that contract is included in this post.

In a classic case of coulda-woulda-shoulda, I found out about this auction after it had completed, and immediately wished I had known about it in time to participate. This contract is an incredibly significant document. And as much as I'd love to say I own it, it really belongs in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Since I don't believe it is there (didn't see it on my last visit), I am left wondering who actually does have it. I wonder if some other museum bought it and actually has it on display for the public to see. Does anyone out there know if this item landed in a public collection?

[1], [2]

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2013 Historic Autographs

In 2013, The Historic Autograph Company released a set called 'Historic Autographs Originals, 1909-12'. According to the sell sheet [1] the 88-card checklist consists of 68 original 1909-11 American Tobacco T206 cards and 20 original art cards. The cards were distributed by the box, with each box promising the following:
  • (1) Original 1909-11 Tobacco Card or (1) Historic Autograph Original Art Card; each displayed with (1) Player Cut Signature
  • (1) Complete Art Card Set (note: packaged separately)
  • (1) SP Card
  • (1) Checklist
Boxes were available in cases of 5, and only 180 cases were produced (900 boxes). Among the original Tobacco Cards in the set, was Pirates backstop George Gibson. In fact, Gibson was available numbered to 5. Since the set was issued in 2013, 3 of the 5 have been made available at public auctions. Posted below, are those three:

If you are aware of what the other 2 look like, please contact us, so that we might post images of them here to complete the set.

[1] -

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Do these cards exist?

If you swing by the checklist, you'll see that George Gibson has appeared on a lot of baseball cards.

By collecting his cards, you will get a lot of variety. You can spend just about what you wish, and target your collection for your budget, your preferred "type" (ie. tobacco cards, candy cards, etc), or how much you like the 'thrill of the hunt'. In general, the cost of any given Gibson card is relative to the challenge to find that card even for sale!

You can collect more common issues like T206 White Borders, T205 Gold Borders and T202 Hassan Triple Folders, unique issues like P2 Pins, B18 Felts or U1-U4 Matchbooks. If you want something a bit more challenging, but not that difficult, then you might consider D322 Tip Top Bread, E90-2 American Caramel Pirates or maybe one of the various M101-4 issues featuring various backs. If difficult is more your game, then consider going after a 1910 Orange Border, a W600 Sporting Life Cabinet or a Voskamp's Coffee Pirates card.

And if you're really a sucker for punishment, here's a list of cards that are probably best classified as impossible. While all of these cards exist in modern checklists, none of these cards have been confirmed by modern collectors. If you take on the challenge of collecting any of these cards -- and succeed in finding them out there in the wild -- please let us know.