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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Actual Trading Card History - What the hell is this card supposed to be

Ok, This history lesson is for last week's giveaway card of Miguel Cabrera. Here it is:

The back of the card says it's from a 1940 card design. There are four types of cards from this set as far as I'm concerned.

1) The card has the name of the card issue on the back.
In this instance I usually say "cool card" put it in the binder and ignore it. Most of these cards are Topps designs and everyone knows what they are anyway.

2) The card does not have the name of the card issue on the back and I know what it is.
Usually these cards will say "1933 card design" when everyone bloody well knows it's a Goudey but Topps can't use the word lest Upper Deck's lawyers get enough overtime to buy that second Benz. These are on my short list to feature, but laziness/business has gotten in the way.

3) The card has a Brave on it.
Insta-Post. I pay the card shop owner to let me use his computer so I can have it online before he even hands me the card.

4) The card does not have the name of the card issue on the back and I do not know what it is.
Now we are at the group of cards that will make me post the sucker to the blog. What happens is I look at the card, think "wtf is that" and by the time I've figured out what the heck the design is from I have enough info on the thing that I may as well go ahead and write the post. This Cabrera is one of those cards.

Now, when I finally get around to writing up these posts, here's the methodology I use to figure out what kind of card it is:

First place I look is here. It's an old Baseball Card investment guide from the late 80's (5 Year Projection for 1988 Topps - Well Above Average) that lists out all of the major card issues and a lot of the oddball issues from the 1800's to 1988. It's not comprehensive, but there are tons of photos and usually at least a half page of information on each set. The best thing about it is that it's in chronological order going backwards. So if you're looking for an unknown card from 1940 you can head straight to that date and look it up. The only 1940 set in this book is Play Ball which this card is not. So now I look in here:

Ok, it's a little old, but it's got everything I need to look up obscure vintage cards. I have no idea how the air freshener sticker got on there and I'm not going to bother to take it off. The card set that this design comes from is in this book somewhere, I just need to find it. Unfortunately the book is arranged alphabetically and not chronologically, so it's time to hit the index.

Not many card sets were printed in 1940 so this should be a quick search. I'll have to go through the book and look up each one I'm not familiar with from the Associated Stations San Francisco Seals set to the Wheaties Champs of the USA set. So what do you do if you don't have all these fancy books? The same thing you do when you look through all thse card issues and don't find a single match like what just happened to me! Off to the Interwebs!

The stupid thing is that I recognize this design, I just don't know exactly what the thing is. It sure isn't a design from 1940, unless Topps unearthed an uncatalogued card issue. So where to start? Looking at my go to pages for vintage card info, Vintage Card Traders don't have a virtual set for 1940, Baseball Almanac only has Play Ball, and Old Baseball Cards has a list of sets, but not much more info than the SCD index. Old Cardboard also has a list of card issues with links to pics, but no matches among 1940 cards. Dave's Vintage has truckloads of picks but no way to figure out what 1940 issue we're looking for.

I struck out on my go to pages, so now Google is my friend. I do a search for "1940 baseball card" and get a lot of stuff. Since I don't know what I'm looking for, but I know what it looks like, Google Images is useful. Just make sure Safe Search is ON or you might get a nice surprise. The results aren't that specific though and I'm getting everything from Honus Wagner T206 cards to some dude's grandpa. For the record the first girl in a bikini is on page 4 of the results. So back to the links. A lot of the search results are cards for sale, but those are actually pretty useful. If a card exists, it's likely to be for sale somewhere. Google shopping is ok, but why not just go to the motherlode. EBay single cards, 1940-1949.

With the now standard gallery views on the side you can scroll through a lot of pages and get almost 99% cards from the 40's instead of Gramps. This has the added benefit, or disadvantage if you prefer, of being able to keep an eye out for cool cards to buy. I'm seeing a lot of Menko cards that are distracting me right now. So after following one false lead, putting a bunch of stuff on my watchlist and bidding on no less than THREE cards (someone stop me!) I still haven't figured out where this lousy card is from using my usual research steps. However sometimes lady luck is on your side.

While flipping through the SCD looking for the 1940 Buffalo Bisons minor league set, a set by Centennial Flour caught my eye. Here's the listing from the SCD:

That looks like the right stuff! Now that I know what I'm looking for, a Google search for "Centennial Flour Seattle Rainiers" makes things easy and I find what I'm looking for. That Old Cardboard link had what I was looking for, and I actually clicked on it but didn't scroll down to see all the cards. I only saw the 1943 version and passed before finding the rest of the designs on the bottom. FKW Century Old Cards has an example from 1947 as well, and I think we've found our card. According to the SCD the '45 version is blue and white and Miguel's card is black (well, kind of sepia actually, but I'll let it slide) and white. Both sets have the same style black bar with the player name in caps and the team name in italics. Success! The Topps Trading Card History card of Miguel Cabrera, card number TCH43, is using the design from the 1947 Centennial Flour Seattle Rainiers minor league set.

So Topps for their Trading Card History set - which is supposed to celebrate the history of trading cards - used the design of an obscure minor league set from the 40's and didn't identify the set or discuss the set at all in the copy on the back of the card. Plus they GOT THE FREAKING DATE WRONG as well. Good Job Topps! Way to celebrate history! With proofreading like this, I'm looking forward to pulling a 1960 Presidential Campaign insert card of Terry Kennedy and Mojo Nixon. Even Miguel looks disgusted by the whole thing. All shall be forgiven if I win one of those auctions I bid on though. There are some really neat cards from the 40's out there!


Steve Gierman said...

Nice sleuthing! I hate when that happens to me. It gets very annoying when I can't identify cards right away.

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Anonymous said...

That's a helluva post. Great work! I might need to get my hands on some of those texts you have.


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