Back on April 8th, I showed off this. I've accumulated a lot of crazy stuff, but that's the best single piece that I have, or probably ever will have. I said back then I'd save the story of how I got it for later and this is as good a time as any.
Bookworms who have lived in the Southeast for a long time might remember the Goodwill book sale at Northlake Mall in Atlanta. This was a gigantic book sale right in the middle of the mall consisting of the books that Goodwill collected in donations throughout the year. This thing was absolutely massive. Huge bookshelves all up and down the aisles of the mall on the top and bottom levels. They had every kind of book there. Romance, horror, cookbooks, westerns, music, philosophy, art, business, encyclopedias, any kind of book you could think of they had a shelf or table filled with 'em. There was even some oddball stuff like collectibles, rare first editions, comics and even some records and magazines. I would go with my grandmother every year and I would usually stock up on humor, horror, sci-fi and sports books. Goodwill moved the sale to their distribution plant in the 90's and discontinued the sale altogether in favor of selling books at their retail outlets a few years ago. I still miss that sale, I had a lot of good times picking thorugh books for hours on end.
One time in the '80s, maybe around '87 or so, I was at the sale and I started picking through a box full of sports magazines. I liked reading magazines when I was a kid, I got used to them with Mad Magazine and never really stopped reading them until the internet came along. I had a subscription to Sports Illustrated back then and I liked looking through old issues for cool covers. I found one magazine with a really cool cover - Hank Aaron and a little dude. I snagged that one right off without even looking inside it. I got it home and found out it contained all this. And yes you have to click on that link, I'm not going to spoil the surprise just for lazy people who couldn't bother to click on it the first time. I have no idea how that ended up getting donated to Goodwill, packed up in boxes, shipped to the mall and displayed without all that stuff being discovered or falling out along the way. Anyway, that's the best thing in my collection and I got it for twenty-five cents at the Goodwill book sale in the late '80s.
That's the best thing in the collection, but it's not really the centerpiece. It's not even about cards, really. That's more like a secret special collector porn stash that I only take out when my closest friends come over so we can gawk at it and drool. No, a centerpiece is something that you place right in the middle of the dining table when you invite everyone over and they all ooh and ahh over how pretty it is. It's a central unifying principle. That for me is a nondescript while three inch binder with nothing on it and some ominous cracks starting to show in the seams. I took a picture of it, but it was boring. I'll show off some of the stuff inside instead. It's my vintage Braves binder. Here's a scan of the first page:
There's not much there on the first page so you can actually see back to the fourth or fifth page. This book has all my Braves cards from 1909 to 1969 save a few oddballs that live in the oddball binder. Here are my three T206es, two T205's, a couple of strip cards and a Caramel card from the '20s. That reminds me, I have a couple more strip cards that belong in here. I'll put them in later tonight. I consider this to be the centerpiece for a couple of reasons. It embodies the two things that really kept me in this hobby when there were times I could have gotten out: Braves cards and vintage cards. I've always been fascinated by old stuff and vintage cards hit the sweet spot of cool and old that I like so much. The Braves, well, you know about that already. The other reason is this the one thing I would really have a hard time getting over if it were lost. I've lost cards before, that's not that bad. My 1995 Topps set is still missing from a move in college. My box of Fleer Ultra cards from 1991-2005 got slightly water damaged by a leak. Not bad enough that they were ruined, but they sure ain't mint no more. This summer a can of soda exploded in my car and wiped out about a blaster and a half of '08 Upper Deck cards (that I thankfully had already taken the good cards out of). None of these things fazed me, but losing this thing would likely cause me to seriously think it was time to switch to some other hobby. This is the one part of my collection that I've really invested some serious time and money into and it would be hard to give up.
Here's a page of '33 Goudeys. No, I don't actually have all those cards. The Brandt, Zachary and Maranville cards I ganked images off of eBay, printed them on my color printer and cut out to use as fillers. It's cheating, sure, but I think it looks nice and it really feels good to replace them with a real card. The first page in the book actually filled with real cards is the next one in the book.
Yeah, that's all vintage, baby! No color copies there! Ok, so a few look like hell, the Hargrave is a disaster and Shanty Hogan has no back to his card, but who cares. If I wanted all PSA 8s, I would have bought PSA 8s. The Russell Rollings card is the only one in the binder who is not a Brave. He's actually the only Atlanta Cracker card in my collection but he's allowed in the Big Book. That Indian Gum card I got at the card show lives in the book as well:
As you can see some of the cards I haven't managed to find a good image online yet, so they have a slip of paper indicating what goes in that slot. When I put the binder together I didn't think about the '49 Leaf cards so I had no slot assigned for poor Bob Elliott. I put the Elliot and the Indian card in those slots for the '41 Goudey card because I will probably never even see those two short printed cards from a notoriously tough set, let alone be able to buy one. I might move them up front with the Caramel card where there's more room but I'm picky about keeping things in their own eras. I'll probably just shuffle around the cards one rainy afternoon eventually anyway to fit in the Goudey and the Leaf cards. For the record the two Al Lopez Heads up cards are fake place holders.
The binder far precedes the color printer so a lot of the place holders are in black and white. I don't mind this for the postwar cards as it's a reminder to me that I should go out and find these suckers. Cards from the '50s and '60s are much easier to find than ones from the '30s and '40s. It provides a visual aid, but isn't as pretty so I don't get complacent. The binder originally was only for my Topps cards but the Bowmans and the Pre-war cards snuck in there eventually. To save space, I started the '48 Bowmans at the top of a 9 pocket page and continued the '49s on the same page so there wouldn't be a lot of empty pockets and extra sheets. As a result, there were two empty packets at the end of the '52s when Bowman went to the large size in 1953. My Berk Ross Hit Parade of Champions cards (yep, the ones in this year's Goudey) filled that space nicely.
The Topps cards are really the focus of the binder though. Another indicator on how this and not my vintage Topps collection is really the centerpiece of my collection is evident in the fact that the Braves cards ended up in here and not with the 6 monster boxes that hold all my Topps sets. I've got all the large size sets from 1952-1956 in pages in their own binders and to fill out the holes in those books I made color copies of these sheets and cut them out for placeholders. I don't only use copies for placeholders though as you can see from the Chrome Hank rookie reprint I have in his spot. That is the only card I need for the full 1954 Braves Team set, which will likely not get completed unless I find another Goodwill miracle somewhere. Of course I could always look to upgrade the ones I have like poor Jim Pendleton with a hole punch through his face.
One good thing about being a Braves fan is that it is challenging for a team collector, but not impossible. there are cards of Braves (or Red Stockings back in those days) dating back to the late 1800s, but reprints are readily available of many of them. They are an original National League club, so you can find old tobacco and gum cards of Braves. When Topps came into the mix, the Braves were really good so there are stars like Aaron, Spahn and Mathews, but they played in Milwaukee and not New York so they aren't prohibitively expensive. I don't think I paid more than 30 bucks for any single card in this binder and the vast majority cost under a buck or two. If I grew up a Yankee fan, my collecting habits would like be vastly different. Just try to find a vintage Mantle card on the cheap, I dare you. Like this dang Aaron/Mantle combo card that is going to be the bane of my '58 team set. Dangit Mickey!
Like I said, this binder is all about the Topps, so Fleer and Leaf get short shrift. I didn't even bother to straighten the scan. I'm obsessive about eras though so these '60-'63 Fleer and '60 Leaf live inbetween my '60 and '61 team sets.
1961 high numbers and a weird Billy Martin insert from that year make up the most desolate page in the book.
Most of these cards I've picked up here and there in the past 10 years or so but a lot of them I've had since I was a little kid. This Tommy Aaron card was one of the first vintage Braves I ever had. I was fascinated by the name AARON even if it was Hank's brother and not Hank. Topps really liked that photo too, they were still using it in 1969. And yes, I do include multi-team rookies, League Leader cards and subsets when considering something a 'true' team set. If it's got a Brave on it somewhere, it goes in the Braves team set. On an unrelated note, that goddamn Bob Uecker card is going to haunt my soul for eternity. I passed it up one time when I was a kid. Later on I went back to the card shop asking about it and the guy behind the counter looked at me like I was speaking Russian. Bob who?? Since then I have bid on the damn thing a dozen times and had my bids all blown out of the water. I can't even win the reprint. I don't mind not having his rookie card since that's a '62 high numbered card and impossible to find, but this one really burns me.
Here's some more Topps oddball cards who have made their way into this binder. This page is right after the '64 set. Joe Torre is actually a '64 Topps Giant card. The rest are Topps Supers from '70 and '71 and shouldn't even be in this binder. Joe must have invited them over for a poker game and they just never left.
See? Here's Tommy again. The '53 and '69 team sets are the only ones I have completed in this book. This bugs me. I should have had a few more of them completed by now even with Aarons and high numbers to chase. The '68 set is really shameful, how hard is it to find a '68 Felipe Alou? I'll bet if I check out the local card shops one of them has one hiding somewhere. Still, It's something to work on in the future. There's plenty of holes in this binder so I'll have a good chase for a long time to come. And the chase is half the fun...
Well, there's my centerpiece. It just occurred to me that this is probably the most I've shown it off on this blog. Maybe I'll have to work on changing that in 2009.