Thursday, August 6, 2015

Vintage Mania at the Card Show

It's not a stretch to say that it is probably easier to find and buy cards from 1953 at a card show than it is to find and buy cards from 1993 or 2003. There's a lot higher demand for the 1953 cards, first of all, and they are easier for dealers to find on their secondary market as well. 

As a result, I find it far easier to come home from my local shows and start crossing Braves off my want lists that it is for me to find a random vein of Pinnacle or Fleer Metal Brewers. Throw in the fact for me that the cards I am chasing from the vintage era between 1953 and 1965 are Braves -- and that a lot of Atlanta Braves collectors do not have a problem with collecting Milwaukee Braves (or, indeed, chase the cards) -- and you can easily see why my purchases tend to be older, grayer cardboard.

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I picked up some cheap Gary Carter cards and a Ted Higuera Desert Shield card from a dealer whose table I frequent at these shows. I always seem to forget that he brings along probably a dozen or more 3000-count boxes filled with cards dating from 1952 to 1976 or so. This past weekend, though, I felt bad about perhaps spending $3 at his table, and I didn't feel like wandering a ton at that point, so I decided to dig into his vintage boxes.

Before I did it, he told me that so long as the card wasn't marked differently, each card in the vintage boxes would be $2.  That's not super cheap, to be fair, but it's also not that terrible when you get to the end and the guy knocks more off the sticker price in the end. What did I get?  

Literally everything I bought from him was issued before 1960.

Let's start with my first two 1953 Bowman Black & White cards.  On the left is Ebba St. Claire (misspelled as St. Clair on the card), and on the right is the Wisconsin-born great, Andy Pafko.  

Ebba played just 164 games in the major leagues starting at the age of 29 in 1951 with the Boston Braves and ending in 1954 with the New York Giants.  While Eddie Mathews was the only player to play for all three incarnations of the Braves, St. Claire was one of the first to play in all three cities -- suiting up for the Atlanta Crackers from 1948 to 1950 before the Boston Braves picked him up.  He spent one year in Milwaukee before being traded to the Giants.  After he retired, he fathered a son named Randy who went on to pitch for Montreal, Minnesota, Atlanta, and Toronto from 1984 to 1994.

If you want to know who Andy Pafko is, ask the Andy Pafko supercollector, Matt F. from Heartbreaking Cards.

Del Crandall is still alive and hopefully well at the age of 84 in California. He was the Brewer manager who gave an 18-year-old kid with only 64 games in professional baseball a chance to be the starting shortstop in 1974. In the interview I've linked to, he raved about how great Robin's makeup was even as an 18-year-old.  The talent wasn't obvious (though it was there), but the professionalism was.

Danny O'Connell is known as the answer to an odd trivia question: he scored the first run in a major league game held on the West Coast. Unfortunately, he died in a car accident at the age of just 42 years old in 1969. The 1955 Topps Conley and the 1956 Topps Tanner are just nice cards -- even if some kid in 1957 or 1958 decided to update that card to provide Tanner's then-current team of the Cubs. 

The last of the pre-1957 cards was also the most expensive one, and for good reason. A 1956 Topps Warren Spahn card was never going to come too cheaply. It was listed at $20 on the sticker on the card, but, as I said, I got these all as a package deal, so I paid a little bit less than that.

Now, bring on the 1957s!

Of these cards, the two that were not just $2 cards were the Braves team card (my apologies for a poor job scanning that one) and...of course, Taylor Phillips.  Wait, what? For some reason, that card just seems scarcer than others.  The PSA write-up on the set (though it has a few mistakes in it, such as saying that Lew Burdette's card has his name spelled "Lou" on, no, it doesn't) notes that just 166 total copies of Phillips's card have been graded, and just 1 PSA 9 has been awarded. Trust me -- mine won't ever be graded, and it wouldn't get a 9 in any case.  But, I've got one in my Braves collection.

Did I get some 1958 cards? Um, a few.


I did not get the Mathews 1958 regular card from the same guy as these other cards -- that one came from my first transaction of the day with Frank Moiger, the man who organizes these shows. I always stop at Frank's table, and I always find at least a few cards that I need for either a condition upgrade, a team set, or a player collection.  The Mathews All-Star was bought with the other ones, though.

As an aside, I'm just about complete with re-reading Jim Brosnan's book about the 1961 season in which the Cincinnati Reds won the National League called Pennant Race, the follow up to his groundbreaking book, The Long Season.  Joey Jay features prominently in Pennant Race, as Jay won 21 games for the Reds that year, was an all-star, and finished fifth in the MVP race -- all at the age of 25.  

Before that, as Jay's SABR Biography mentions, he was the bonus baby on the Braves who was resented by a lot of the veterans due to the money. Jay has been a massive success in his post-baseball career as a businessman in drilling oil wells and oil fields in Oklaahoma and West Virginia. Yet, he doesn't live the "old ballplayer" life -- he doesn't go to fantasy camps or card shows and calls it "infantile" to "keep thinking about the game." But, he says he's happier than ever since he left, asking the SABR interviewer to do him a favor and "don't mention where I live."

After that little downer, how about one more group of cards -- the 1959s?


Some great 1959s popped up as well.  I really like the Frank Torre card. The background makes it look like the photo was taken in the underbelly of the stadium, and the look on his face make it appear as if someone interrupted him in the middle of the Joe Pesci-getting-killed-in-Casino scene.

Don't watch if you have problems with guys getting beaten with baseball bats...

Now, there were a few more cards that I picked up.  They will be presented without comment here:

For the team collection

For the team collection

For the Spahn collection. Need one for Burdette and for the team collection.

I got the Spahns and the Gus Bell from a guy I don't believe I've ever bought from before, while the other cards were all from Frank Moiger.

So, which one of these cards is your favorite?


  1. Definitely the 56 Spahn. I have the 55 Conley in my collection as he also played for the Celtics. Good day at the vintage table I would say

  2. Awesome cards, probably like the 57s best !

  3. Nice haul. Personally I'm partial to the '53 Bowman Ebba St. Claire, since Bowman is still Bowman.

  4. The Del Crandall card is one I'd consider adding to my collection, but I wouldn't throw any of these out of bed for eating crackers (so to speak).

    The 1993 cards are too busy in the repacks to be at any card shows...

  5. Nice Pickups. Love the Vintage.

  6. A ton of fantastic pieces of cardboard here, but I love, love, LOVE that "Mound Magicians" card. I think it's my favorite of the post, but the '53 Bowman Pafko and the '56 Spahn aren't far behind. Looks like you had a successful show, to say the least!