Saturday, February 18, 2017

#288 Chet Nichols


#288 Chet Nichols
Progress: 1st of this card
209 of 407  51.3% complete 
How acquired: 99¢ on ebay
Condition: Poor
When I started this effort, I envisioned a scenario in which nearly every card I picked up would look like this.  That hasn't been the case.  Not for lack of trying or a change in philosophy regarding standards (I'm quite pleased with this Nichols), there just aren't that many of them.  Cards in this rough of shape just don't show up for sale very often, and when they do, they're often not any cheaper than cards in significantly better shape.  And I'm not actively trying to get the worse looking cards I can find, I'm just trying to do this on a budget.  So if it's a difference of 50¢ to a $1, I'm going to go with the nicer card.  

I have a couple theories regarding why finding these cards in extremely poor condition is more difficult than expected.  The first is that the type of people who saved these cards back in 1952, were the type of people who were going to take care of them.  I imagine that the most serious collectors were probably left with cards damaged by tape and glue stains, and the high end Mantles and such that show up in auctions, probably belonged to kids to who didn't really care, and tossed them in a shoe box and forgot about them.  Kids willing to let a card deteriorate to this condition, probably didn't mind tossing them in the trash, or had parents who didn't.

The other working theory I have is the owners of large numbers of cards like these are just sitting on them.  "They're not worth anything in that shape, it's better to just to keep grandpa's cards for sentimental reasons."  I don't like this explanation as much, but I'm sure it's a factor.  A card this well worn, obviously received a lot of handling.  It's a bit of a tongue in cheek cliche we use, "well loved," but these cards really were "well loved." And if they survived in a closet for 60+ years, someone cared about them a lot.  So I can see why kids and grand kids would be reluctant to sell them off, especially given the nominal financial gains to be found.

While I think the first theory is the better explanation, I can relate to the second on a personal level.  My father's cards survived my grandmother's spring cleanings.  It runs from about 1958-1966 on a bit of a bell curve as far as the numbers go.   It's by no means a huge collection.  My own vintage collection from that era has exceeded what he had.  But I keep his cards separate.  On my checklist of set needs, his aren't included.  His cards are in very nice shape (not NM, but VG/EX), but the idea is the same.  Those were his cards.  They're not just vintage Topps cards to be used to complete a set.  Selling them is never going to be an option.  I get a bit of a chuckle at the idea of my theoretical great grand kids trying to decide what to do with 50,000 meticulously organized, worthless Tim Wallach cards fifty years down the road.

Stats: 9 seasons, 34 wins, 36 losses, 3.64 ERA, '51 AL ERA (2.88) Champ , finished 2nd in '51 NL Rookie of the Year voting to Willie Mays

Best Hall of Fame Showing: N/A

Thursday, February 16, 2017

#273 Erv Palica


#273 Erv Palica
Progress: 1st of this card
208 of 407  51.1% complete
How acquired: $8.49 on ebay
Condition: Very Good
I'm not going to deny it, I like the Brooklyn Dodger and New York Yankee cards more than the other cards in this set, at least in a general sense.  I'm not the only one.  The fact that a lot of the big guns from those teams are unattainable hi-numbers for most (PeeWee Reese, Campanella, Robinson, Bill Dickey, Mantle) or more than I want to pay for Hall of Famers (Yogi, Billy Martin, Rizzuto), makes the "commons" that much more desirable.  I think it's a common thought process, which leads to dropping nearly $10 on the likes of Palica.  But unlike a few other cards I've blown past the $5 mark on, there was no sense of disappointment or regret when this Palica arrived in the mail.  It's a really cool card in hand.  If you're a younger collector who found this blog by accident (or even an older one) and has never bought a card from the 50's or earlier, against my own self interest, I encourage you to pass on the next $10 Topps Now offering commemorating some #3 starter's 12 strike-outs on a Tuesday for a third place team, and instead drop it on a '52 of a random guy from your favorite team.  If you don't like it, it'll be easy enough to get rid of, but it's worth a try.

Stats: 9 seasons, 41 wins, 55 losses, 4.22 ERA, 20 CG, youngest player in baseball in 1945 (17 years old) when he appeared in two games as a pinch-runner.

Best Hall of Fame Showing: N/A


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

#310 George Metkovich


#310 George Metkovich
Progress: 1st of this card
207 of 407  50.8% complete
How acquired: sent by reader Dave
Condition: Excellent
Dave correctly pointed out in a note that he included with the cards that he sent, that this Metkovich gets me very close to the Mantle, at least in a numerical sense.  It's also as close as I've come to picking up a hi-number card as #310 is the last card in the 5th series.  Everything beyond that, 311-407, are the elusive hi-numbers.  I don't think there's any math or reason to justify it, but cards #301-310 sell for more than they should.  The published print runs don't put any huge scarcity on them, but the buying public seems to disagree, and they tend to effect prices more than the magazines.  So it was a welcome surprise to see this Metkovich fall out of Dave's generous offering of cards.

Stats: 10 seasons, 934 hits, 47 homer runs, .261 avg.

Best Hall of Fame Showing: N/A

Thanks again Dave.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

#266 Murry Dickson


#266 Murry Dickson
Progress: 1st of this card
206 of 407  50.6% complete
How acquired: sent by reader Dave
Condition: Near Mint
This is another fantastic looking card sent by blog reader "Dave."  This card looks brand new, even the printing on the back looks fresh, or at least as fresh as a 65 year old card can look.  Dickson's stats are worth a click.  He put together 18 seasons on the mound and lost two to military service.  The poor guy was a work horse on some truly abysmal Pirates teams.  Case in point, in 1952 the Pirates went 42-112 finishing 54.5 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Dickson went 14-21 with 21 complete games and a 3.51 ERA (and finished 13th in NL MVP voting).  The rest of the starting pitchers on the Pirates managed to combine for 15 wins.  The back of this card speculates that he "probably has lost more one run games than any pitcher in baseball today," and I'm not going to argue with that speculation.  This card also shows he won 20 games in '51, it doesn't show that the Pirates went 64-90 finishing 32.5 games behind the New York Giants.  Dickson for his efforts was able to lead the NL in losses three straight seasons from '52-54 (21/19/20) and had 8 straight seasons of losing at least 14 games (10 straight of at least 11).  If this guy had spent his entire career with the Yankees he'd probably be a 300 game winner and A-List Hall of Famer.  As it stands, I had never heard of him before this card arrived.

Stats: 18 seasons, All-Star, 172 wins, 181 losses, 3.66 ERA, 149 complete games, 253 hits and .231 avg. as a hitter, went 2/5 with 2 doubles, a run and RBI in '46 WS w/Cardinals (14 IP in 2 GS, 3.41 ERA)

Best Hall of Fame Showing: N/A

Thursday, February 2, 2017

#240 Jack Phillips


#240 Jack Phillips 
Progress: 1st of this card
205 of 407 50.4% complete
How acquired: Sent by reader Dave
Condition: Near Mint
I have no idea what these cards looked like coming out of packs in 1952.  I imagine paper, ink, printing, packaging, etc, wasn't what it was in 1987 when I was opening wax packs with reckless abandon.  But I don't think those cards I was pulling out of packs in 1987 were that much nicer than this Jack Phillips is today.  You have to be a real nit-picking one upper to find anything wrong with this card.

Two things jump out at me about this Phillips.  One is that Jack went to Clarkson College.  Clarkson athletes typically don't end up on bubble gum cards unless they're wearing skates.  I've noticed a lot of these cards list college's that wouldn't be considered baseball facotries today.  Which sort of facinates me (how did scouting work back then?) but is a project for another day.  

The other, and completely unreleated thing that jumps out is his middle name, "Dorn."  I never miss a chance to argue on the internet about the best baseball movie whenever it comes up (FYI, it's Field of Dreams), and as one of those people, have a deep love of Major League, and all the fictional Indians, "yes, even you Dorn."

Stats: 9 seasons, 343 games, 252 hits, 101 RBI, .283 avg., 5 IP, 7.20 ERA, World Series Ring with Yankees in 1947

Best Hall of Fame Showing: N/A

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

#170 Gus Bell

#170 Gus Bell
Progress: 1st of this card
204 of 407  
50.1% Complete
How acquired: sent by a reader
Condition: Excellent

Awhile back, I was sent an envelope with four '52 Topps from a reader named Dave.  I don't solicit cards on this blog, I'm happy to try to work out trades, but I've never asked for people to just send me cards (nor I am doing so now), they're just too expensive.  On my other blog I ask for Tim Wallach cards.  I don't feel guilty about it, as more often than not, a trashcan is the alternative to my collection.  No one is throwing away '52 Topps.

Especially not ones in as beautiful of shape as the four Dave sent.  By time I post all four the counter on the right side of the page will show 231 cards.  The four he sent me are probably all in the top 5 of my 231 as far as condition goes.  These cards could have been easily submitted for grading and flipped for a healthy profit.  They're in the type of condition that I usually just ignore on ebay.  All of them are going to be really fantastic additions to my '52 binder.

Speaking of my '52 binder, with this Gus Bell, I have now crossed the 50% mark on completing the set.  It's kind of a shocking development that I didn't really expect to ever see happen.  About nine years ago I bought my first '52 because I felt like I should have at least one card from every Topps set.  This blog started as sort of a lark.  I've reached a point, where I feel confident I will complete the non-hi number portion of the set, cards 1-310.  As it stands, I'm 65.8% of the way to that goal.  Willie Mays looms large, and Yogi Berra, Andy Pafko, Phil Rizzuto, Richie Ashburn, and Warren Spahn are going to dent my budget as well, but it's starting to feel possible.  

As to the specifics of this Gus Bell, it's a great looking card, and in great shape.  The yellow has maintained all it's glow and really compliments the Pirates uniform.  I believe it's also the first card I've seen where the name box isn't centered on the card.  By moving it to the right, it has the effect of centering the old Pirates logo on the card, and I have zero problems with that awesome looking logo being featured front and center.  Bell wasn't a name I was familiar with, and after looking him up, feel kind of stupid.  He was an everyday starter for the better part of his 15 year career and had a run with the Reds where he made four All-Star teams in a five year stretch.  A stretch that also included a three year run of at least 100 RBI's and 180+ hits (I still love my counting stats, and no one will ever convince me otherwise).

Stats: 15 seasons, 4x All-Star, 1,823 hits, 206 home runs, 942 RBI, .281 avg. 

Best Hall of Fame Showing: N/A

Below is the note from Dave.  His script is really very nice, and I feel like it just looks like the handwriting that should belong to someone with a box full of extra '52 Topps lying around.  I try to write in script as much as possible, but it's no where near as nice.  Thank for the cards Dave.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

#177 Bill Wight


#177 Bill Wight
Progress: 1st of this card
203 of 407  49.8% complete
How acquired: $2.29 on eBay
Condition: Excellent
I read an article recently about the spike in vintage card sales numbers.  A '52 Mantle graded PSA something (7 I think), sold for 13K back in 2008.  The same card,  the exact same card, sold for 113K in 2016.  I started this blog back in 2008, and early on, I was pretty picky.  I picked up a good number of cards for around a dollar.  I've felt for a few years now that the prices have risen quite a bit.  That article made me feel like I wasn't crazy.

Granted, low grade commons, or really any non-high, graded hi-number isn't in the same universe price wise as the Mantle, but I've still felt the effect to lesser degree.  "Wins" have been much tougher to come by.  Begrudgingly posting a max bid of $6-11 on cards I need has become the norm.  Just eight years ago I was refusing to go over $3 unless it was a name I had heard of and it was in decent shape.  So picking up this Wight for $2.29 at this juncture is a "win."  It's in great shape and is a very nice addition.  

Stats: 12 seasons, 77 wins, 99 loses, 3.95 ERA, 66 CG

Best Hall of Fame Showing: N/A