Saturday, April 30, 2016

1985 St. Louis Cardinals Postcard Set

Team-issued baseball postcards that were given away and sold during the 1960s-1980s era are all but impossible to checklist accurately. There are a few reasons for this. For starters, many teams would add or subtract players from the sets as needed during the season. This was usually done informally, with few efforts made to alert collectors of any changes. Often the basic design of these sets would not change for several years, meaning a team could carry over their remaining postcard inventory to their next set the following season. Yet another twist is when a team would run out of a player's card in the middle of the season, and order up new cards that were different than the previous ones.

A collector who ordered their set in May might receive a set that was significantly different than one ordered in September.

Consider the above writing a disclaimer; I have no way of knowing if I am indeed presenting the complete 1985 St. Louis Cardinals team-issued postcard set. But here goes nothing.

My set consists of 32 black and white postcards, featuring a manager, six coaches and 25 players.  Each measures approx. 5-1/2 by 3-1/4 inches and the backs are blank. A facsimile autograph is featured at the front bottom, just below the large, posed portrait of the subject. Regarding the design of this set, this is a perfect example of a team that used the same look for several years (and has undoubtedly caused much collector confusion for over 30 years). 

The '85 Cards were a heck of a baseball team, as evidenced by their appearance in the famous "I-70 Series" versus the Royals that October. Their postcard set does not disappoint, including all the starters and stars such as Ozzie Smith, Vince Coleman, Tom Herr, Andy Van Slyke, John Tudor and NL MVP Willie McGee.

Speaking of the base-swiping Coleman, he is pictured here during his rookie season and would not appear on a major card release until the late-year update sets were printed. Infielder Terry Pendleton is pictured the same year as his Topps, Donruss and Fleer rookie cards. On the flip side, light-hitting veteran infielder Ivan DeJesus is pictured during his lone year with the Cardinals, where he managed to spray a mere 16 hits in 78 plate appearances. 

My postcard set features pitcher Neil Allen, who was sold to the Yankees on July 16, but does not have outfielder Lonnie Smith, who was shipped to the Royals on May 17 (I'm not sure whether Lonnie was in the set or not prior to that date, but he was the starting left fielder). 

One can see how  frustrating it may be to research postcard sets.  I'm aware of a few collectors back in the 1970s and '80s who attempted to chronicle them, but I've never been privy to their work... It would be nice to see the fruits of their labor published online.

I'd estimate the value of the 32-card set to be in the $20 to $30 range.

(1) Ozzie Smith, IF
(2) Red Schoendienst, CO
(3) Dave Ricketts, CO
(4) Mike Roarke, CO
(8) Hal Lanier, CO
(8) Johnny Lewis, CO
(9) Terry Pendleton, IF
(11) Ivan DeJesus, IF
(12) Tom Lawless, IF
(13) Neil Allen, P
(15) Darrell Porter, C
(16) Nick Leyva, CO
(18) Andy Van Slyke, OF
(19) Mike Jorgensen, IF
(21) Tito Landrum, OF
(22) Jack Clark, OF
(23) Tom Nieto, C
(24) Whitey Herzog, MGR
(25) Brian Harper, OF
(26) Steve Braun, OF
(28) Tom Herr, IF
(29) Vince Coleman, OF
(30) John Tudor, P
(31) Bob Forsch, P
(32) Jeff Lahti, P
(34) Danny Cox, P
(39) Bill Campbell, P
(46) Ken Dayley, P
(47) Joaquin Andujar, P
(49) Ricky Horton, P
(50) Kurt Kepshire, P
(51) Willie McGee, OF

Thursday, April 21, 2016

1989 Upper Deck Baseball Randy Johnson Proof Card

Collectors who are interested in oddball cards may also have a natural interest in collecting proof cards. To be clear: over the years, several insert and parallel sets have used the "proof" name in their title, but this is nothing more than a title... True proof cards are printed for the purpose of in-house analysis; colors are checked, designs and photos are approved, and paper stock is tested.

Proof cards, and other production items like original artwork and player contracts, first became widely available to the market in 1989 when Topps teamed with the Guernsey auction house. In an unprecedented move, Topps opened their virtually secret archives and released several hundred items to a hungry hoard of sports and non-sports card collectors (the proceeds were donated to various charities). 

In the modern internet age, proofs from all the major cardmakers of the 1980s and 90s have found their way into the market, with some examples being scarcer than others. One random example comes from Upper Deck, who released their inaugural baseball set to much fanfare back in 1989. This particular proof card features rookie fireballer Randy Johnson on the front, and fellow Hall of Famer Paul Molitor on the back. 

I no longer collect proofs per se, and actually sold most of my proof collection a few years back when I decided to focus on collecting oddball cards... But every now and then a proof will catch my eye, and if the price is right, I might just add it to my cardboard compendium. This Johnson/Molitor proof is one such instance, which I snagged off of eBay for a very reasonable sum.

I have closely examined both the front and reverse, and both sides appear to be similar to their issued versions. One difference I did notice, though, is how dark the Molitor graphics appear on the back. While a shadow already darkens most of Molitor's face and chest in his photo, the deep and heavy application of color on the proof renders his face almost featureless. The proof is also missing the hologram that should be found on the back of an issued card. 

The Johnson/Molitor pairing is a fortunate combination for the card owner, but isn't totally random. Randy Johnson's card is number 25 in the 1989 UD set, while Paul Molitor takes card number 525. Upper Deck's uncut sheets featured cards printed in numerical order, with each sheet containing 100 cards. Therefore, if Johnson did not have his own reverse, he'd likely share it with Bob Horner (#125), Bert Blyleven (#225), Don August (#325), Kevin Bass (#425) or Paul Molitor (#525).

Proof cards are a great way to supplement a player or team collection, and anyone looking to add a truly rare item to their archives needs to be diligent with their eBay search... It will surely pay off over time.

Monday, April 18, 2016

2005 X Concepts Professional Bull Riders Set

The Professional Bull Riders circuit has had it's share of fans over the years, and is the type of sporting event that just about anyone would enjoy watching in person. The popularity of the sport, however, has never translated into the lucrative memorabilia market. The major leagues for baseball, football, basketball and even mixed martial arts all supplement their bottom lines nicely with the income made from toys, posters, cards, photographs, and just about any other item that a sports logo can be slapped on to. 

The PBR does make the occasional deal with toy companies, as was the case in 2004 when they partnered with California toy maker X Concepts to produce a line of miniature bull and rider figurines (X Concepts is best known for their "TECH DECK " line of miniature skateboards). Each retail set featured one bull, rider and a trading card that had a design very similar to a set of PBR cards they would release the following year.

The PBR set that X Concepts released in 2005 was issued in sealed boxes that contained 24 packs. Each pack featured seven cards (six base cards and an insert). The base set is complete at 100 cards, with 50 of them featuring riders (with at least one bullfighter and barrel man thrown in for good measure) and 50 featuring bulls. Half of the cards portray action shots, while the other half portray closeup portrait-style shots.

In addition to the 100 base cards, there's a 23-card insert set of PBR event winners that is found one per pack. The insert set has a nice uncluttered design, with the PBR logo embossed on the front of each. A glossy coating covers the PBR logo and subject's name across the right side, as well as the bull and rider in the photo. The background of the photo is rendered in muted grey tones, with a matte finish that gives the card an impressive contrast when viewed near a light.

The second insert set is much harder to find. The box states that it's a set of six "cards featuring PBR highlights." Oddly enough, the card I found in my box featured rider Adriano Moraes, with nary a highlight mentioned whatsoever. These six cards have color photos imposed on a colorful prism background (the 1990s definition of a prism). 

My box of 24 packs contained a complete set of the 23-card event winners, as well as the Moraes highlight card from the chase set that is apparently seeded one per box. Surprisingly, the base cards were not collated nearly as well as the inserts; of the 144 base cards found in the box, I managed to get just 83 different of the possible 100. A whopping 61 of the cards were duplicates, and a bull named "Hell's Bells" showed up five times. 

As much as I like the designs found within the insert sets, I have to say I'm indifferent when it comes to the base cards. Each front has a cowhide border design, along with the PBR logo, subject's name, job description and card number. Backs contain some biographical data and more cowhide borders. The high-tech/cowhide motif doesn't quite seem to work.

You can still be an oddball card collector if you decide to pass on these cards. But if you know someone who interested in pro bull riding, or would otherwise like a card featuring a glamour shot of "Hell's Bells," a box of these may just be the unique gift you're looking to give. Factory sets were also printed, and feature all 129 cards in one whack. An unopened box should trade in the $10 range today, while a factory set will cost $20 to $30.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Results of the Topps NOW Baseball Alert

The window for ordering yesterday's four Topps NOW cards is closed. I felt the offering of four cards in one day was an interesting scenario, seeing as how none of them featured a rookie, and I loosely guessed what the production numbers would wind up being.

For starters, I pointed out that two of the cards pictured superstar players; Bryce Harper and Jackie Robinson. I predicted that Topps would sell several hundred of each player, and indeed, 759 of Jackie Robinson's cards were sold. Bryce Harper surprised me a bit, as a whopping 1,286 of his cards were ordered (by far the largest print run for a veteran)... When you compare that to the 782 examples printed of Harper's first card just ten days before, one starts to see that this Topps NOW program is really gaining some steam.

Phillies pitcher Vincent Velasquez and Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia were the two other players featured on NOW cards yesterday, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to know that their cards would be ordered in smaller quantities. I felt that Velasquez' card would have a higher print run than Garcia's, because Velasquez is a strikeout pitcher near the beginning of his MLB career; Garcia, on the other hand, has been in the league since 2008 and has yet to achieve All-Star status. Predictably enough, Velasquez' print run was 557, while Garcia's was right at an even 300. Yesterday, I felt that Garcia had the potential to be at or near the lowest print total for all NOW cards, and my guess wasn't too far off. Garcia's print run of 300 cards is a tad bit more than the four lowest; Albert Pujols (244), Chris Davis (266), Francisco Liriano (266) and Nolan Arenado (268).

Ten of those 300 Jaime Garcia cards are mine. It will be interesting to see how low-printed cards like this fare over the next several months, and I have a feeling that set collectors will be the primary force to drive up their value. At a cost of five dollars per card, I'm really not too worried!


Friday, April 15, 2016

2016 Topps NOW Baseball Alert!

Here at the Oddball Card Collector Blog, we're not really in the business of tracking breaking hobby news. We did notice today, however, that Topps has decided to release four new NOW cards in one day! Phillies pitcher Vincent Velasquez, Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson are each the subject of their own NOW card, available for sale on the Topps website over the next 24 hours.

As we mentioned in our previous Topps NOW post, the rookie cards are the ones being purchased in the largest quantities. As of today, the four cards with the lowest print runs feature four veteran players: Albert Pujols (244), Chris Davis (266), Francisco Liriano (266) and Nolan Arenado (268). 

Getting back to the four cards that were released today, none of them are rookies. Bryce Harper and Jackie Robinson both reside in the superstar category, and Topps will probably sell several hundred of each. The most intriguing cards today, regarding their possible small print runs, are pitchers Vincent Velasquez and Jaime Garcia. The Phillies' Velasquez will potentially be a great strikeout pitcher for years to come, and has pitched almost flawlessly in his first two starts of 2016. His Topps NOW card is not branded as a rookie because of his inclusion in the 2015 Topps Update and Heritage High Series sets. While I believe the number of NOW cards sold of Velasquez will suffer because they lack the rookie designation, I reeeaally think the Jaime Garcia cards will be overlooked.

I'm going out on a limb by predicting that today's Jaime Garcia card has the potential to have the lowest print run of all the NOW cards thus far. This limb is only about six inches above the ground, I believe, and is a pretty safe bet. I certainly don't see the print run being anything above 300. Garcia is a solid pitcher, but is not an All-Star and is already playing his eighth season in the Majors. 

I'll revisit this post tomorrow to update how my predictions fared. Stay tuned, NOW fans!