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.