Friday, December 25, 2009

Mike DeNero's Neighborhood: Christmas 2009 & New Year's Day 2010

For this month’s installment(s) of Mike DeNero's Neighborhood, we thought you’d like to see what Bernie and Tony were up to on Christmas morning (see above) as well as how Leela will be pestering Mike on New Year’s Day (see below). Happy New Year!!

Mike DeNero's Neighborhood was created by superstar cartoonist Jim Hunt – check out his website at To view a synopsis of the comic strip, past months’ strips, and sketches of the four characters with whom you will soon become quite familiar (Bernie, Tony, Leela, and, of course, Mike), please visit our custom eBay page dedicated to Mike DeNero's Neighborhood by clicking here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Keith's Key Kard Korner: January 2010

The 1952 Bowman Large #30 Slingin’ Sammy Baugh

Sammy Baugh’s 1952 Bowman football card represents his sport card “Swan Song” as the last card issued during the Washington Redskins quarterback’s playing days (1937-1952). The card, produced at the Bowman Gum Corporation in Philadelphia, produced a portrait that displays fantastically. The background’s hues mimic that of rainier cherry skin as the background’s orange and yellow tones transition through a brilliant range of hues.

The absence of a facemask in 1950s professional football allowed observers to have a good look at helmeted players faces. The card’s Native American logo depiction was more functionally important as a team identifier because it would be another twenty years before the Redskins placed the Native American logo on their helmet. Bowman makes use of a pennant-style namebox. The artistry, color, and design of the 1952 Bowman football cards have made them one of the most popular and desirable cards among any sport.

Not only do they not make cards like this anymore, they don’t make players like this anymore either. “Slingin’ Sam” – a name he earned not while playing football but while playing third base for the TCU baseball team – played quarterback, punter, and defensive back in the NFL. In fact, in 1943 he led the league in passing, punting, and interceptions. In one game against the Lions, Baugh threw for four touchdown passes and notched four interceptions in perhaps his greatest single-game performance ever. On another occasion, Baugh suffered a concussion while tackling Bears QB Sid Luckman. Can you imagine Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick putting QB Tom Brady on defense to blitz Donovan McNabb?

Baugh is worth celebrating because he was an integral part of forward pass development. He made the forward pass a formidable weapon rather than a tool of last resort. In the 1940s NFL, that was not so easy. The ball was rounder at the ends and fatter in the middle then, making it harder to throw. Resultantly, Baugh was not able to throw for a Brady-esque number of touchdowns.

Otherwise, where has this early football innovator made news or pop culture reference lately and how is he is remembered? First of all, with Jay-Z in a rap video. Yes, Baugh had the King Of Hip-Hop harkening back to hallowed antiquity. Earlier this decade, Mista S-Dot-Carter paid homage to Sammy Baugh by sporting Baugh’s maroon #33 Mitchell & Ness throwback jersey in his “Girls, Girls, Girls” video. A fan of both Jay-Z and early football myself, this act is what showed me that Jay-Z finally won the longtime beef with Nas convincingly.

Coincidentally, Baugh passed away exactly one year ago today from the time I write this column, and his passing was reported through all major sports media outlets. Baugh was the last surviving member of the Pro Football Hall Of Fame’s inaugural Class of 1963 and truly among the last of a bygone gridiron era. When naming the greatest football player of all-time, Slingin’ Sammy Baugh’s name is usually in the conversation. When naming the most beautiful football cards of all-time, Baugh’s 1952 Bowman rendition is in the conversation too.

Bob Lemke's Cool Custom Cards: January 2010

The 1955 Topps All-America Football Billy Clyde Puckett

By Bob Lemke

This is another in a semi-regular series of blog postings about my custom card creations. For more than six years now, I have been creating "cards that never were" in the formats of some of favorites from the 1950s as well as some of the card hobby's most popular designs of the last century. I have now completed something like 125 different cards in a dozen or more designs, but the format that started it all was the 1955 Topps All-American Football set, a childhood favorite.

As much as possible when creating fantasy cards, I stick to the real world of actual ballplayers and classic designs. Early on, though, in my "update" to the All-American set, I stepped outside the box to create a football card for Billy Clyde Puckett.

Billy Clyde is a fictional football hero who starred for the TCU Horned Frogs and the New York Giants in several novels by Dan Jenkins: Semi-Tough, Life Its Ownself, Rude Behavior and You Gotta Play Hurt. He also pops up in cameos in some of Jenkins' other works.

If you've ever read Dan Jenkins, you understand why I made a Puckett card. If you haven't, you really should start. Jenkins' books are simply among the funniest I have ever encountered. I began reading him in college and have never stopped. I've read of them two or three times. They are laugh-out-loud funny, decidedly politically incorrect and whether he's writing about football, golf (e.g., Dead Solid Perfect), or the worlds of big "bidness" or magazine journalism, his characters, insights into human foibles and, especially to me, his turns of phrase, made him one of my all-time favorite authors. I see that he has also authored, co-authored or edited quite a number of non-fiction books as well, including biographies of several football stars.

Anyway, back to my Billy Clyde card. Recognize him? That's actually Burt Reynolds in a photo from his football days at Florida State. Since Burt played Billy Clyde in the movie version of Semi-Tough, he seemed like the natural choice to embody Puckett on my card. Reynolds is also included among my '55-style cards on an FSU card of his own. You can see that, and many of my other creations, in my Photobucket albums at


Bob Lemke is a collector of bubblegum cards in the 1950s-1960s, Bob Lemke's hobby today is creating cards of current and former “players” in those "golden age" styles. He currently edits the vintage sections of the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards and maintains a hobby blog at

Our Consignment Program: We offer our consignors affordable and fair consignment rates and the ability to sell their sportscards, ticket stubs and memorabilia through one, two, and/or three channels: our eBay store, our eBay auctions, and our website.

Contact us today to discuss your collection. You can call us at (571) 213-4713 or e-mail us at We look forward to speaking with you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009 Year In Review & Thank You


Year In Review (2009) & Thank You

By Mike DeNero

We’d like to end 2009 one a high note by thanking everyone who helped make 2009 our most successful year ever (bad economy and all!), providing you with a brief preview of our next e-Newsletter, and displaying a collage of some of our favorite items that we sold to collectors this year.

Thank You!

First, we’d like to thank all of our customers, especially those who originally found us through our eBay store and who have since become regulars to our website, Second, we’d like to thank Lilly Star Design for designing all aspects of our custom eBay store (including our custom comic strip and library pages) and for providing the finishing touches on our website and blog. Third, we’d like to thank our wonderful guest columnists, Keith Weinhold (Keith’s Key Kard Korner) and K. Aaron Cohen (Confessions of a Vintage Cardboard Junkie). Their tireless work (for ZERO pay, I might add) and attention to detail has helped make our e-Newsletter and blog more intelligent and fun! Fourth, we thank the legendary Bob Lemke for allowing us to use his awesome custom cards (and typically, his accompanying blog entries) for our monthly feature, Bob Lemke's Cool Custom Cards.

And finally (last, but certainly not least), we’d like to thank our brilliant, wonderful, artistic, and multi-talented cartoonist, Jim Hunt, who not only creates our monthly comic strip, Mike DeNero’s Neighborhood, but he also designed our silly food/drink product advertisements (e.g., Cap'n Mike's Cereal above) and each of the custom column headers that appear in our e-Newsletter (e.g., Mike DeNero's Pontifications above)! I wish I could have provided him the type of introduction that Bruce Springsteen lavishes upon Clarence (the "Big Man") Clemons at his concerts, but I'm no Boss and Jim Hunt doesn't need such an intro -- the brilliance of his work speaks for itself.

Preview of Next Month’s e-Newsletter

In next month’s e-Newsletter, we will reveal a new (additional) product line as well as a new monthly columnist. We don’t want to spoil the surprise … so we won’t! You’ll just have to wait until next month’s e-Newsletter …

2009 In Review

We wanted to end 2009 by providing a very brief review of some of the beautiful sportscards (and ticket stubs) that collectors purchased from us throughout the year. While we originally intended this to be a “Top 10 List” – one displaying each card as well as accompanying self-indulgent commentary -- it quickly became apparent to us that it would be nearly impossible to boil down our year to ten sportscards. Plus, since this is a visual hobby more than anything else, we’d let the images, rather than me, tell the story. So, without further adieu, here are some of our favorite “sold sportscards” (and ticket stubs) from 2009 …

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mike DeNero's Neighborhood: December 2009

Mike DeNero's Neighborhood was created by superstar cartoonist Jim Hunt – check out his website at To view a synopsis of the comic strip, past months’ strips, and sketches of the four characters with whom you will soon become quite familiar (Bernie, Tony, Leela, and, of course, Mike), please visit our custom eBay page dedicated to Mike DeNero's Neighborhood by clicking here.

Boys Trip Destination: Texas

Boys Trip Destination: Texas

By Mike C. DeNero

Our new feature, Mike DeNero's Storytime, will be kicked off by Mike C. DeNero, my business partner (I am Mike DeNero -- no middle initial). Actually, neither of us is "named" Mike DeNero, but since we've adopted that name for our card business, we figured it would be best to use the Mike DeNero moniker for our pen names as well, especially since Benjamin Franklin already used "Silence Dogood," which I wanted, but I deferred to ol' Ben! Anyway, enjoy the story!


Each year, two of my groomsmen and I say adieu to our families for a weekend to attend a Dallas Cowboys road game. Like our hero, Bob Lilly, we still bleed silver and blue. And unlike our beloved team, we have terrorized opponents’ stadiums for the last several years and forged solid-gold memories along the way. Making an exception this year to our traditional road game selection, we decided to attend the inaugural game at the new $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium, where the Cowboys hosted the New York Giants on September 20th.

Most of us in the group now have children, and our hall passes are limited. Our wives characterize these weekend getaways as “boondoggles,” and when we return they exact punitive comeuppance. Our road trips, then, don’t just include Cowboys games. We build in other sporting events to maximize our opportunity. In 2007, for example, we scheduled the following lineup: Pirates vs. Cubs (Wrigley Field); Michigan State vs. Notre Dame (South Bend); and Cowboys vs. Bears (Soldier Field). This year we had a comparable theme: Angels vs. Rangers (Ballpark at Arlington); Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Texas Longhorns (Memorial Stadium, or whatever they call it these days); and Giants vs. Cowboys (Cowboys Stadium).

In the eyes of Texas, football ranks close to the Alamo in importance. It starts in Pee-Wee league and the intensity grows at each stage. Football even played a tactical role in George W. Bush’s ascension to the presidency of the U.S. In 1998, incumbent Texas governor Bush and Karl Rove needed a big re-election victory to propel Bush into the national spotlight before the 2000 Presidential election. Bush was polling well ahead of his challenger, Gary Mauro, and didn’t want to debate. Rove ensured that Bush debated Mauro one time. The venue was the sleepy West Texas town of El Paso. National media were not allowed. The debate occurred on a Friday night.

By most accounts, neither candidate did well at the debate. But it didn’t matter: no one was watching. As Rove knew well, on Friday nights Texas voters are at the local high school football game. Bush went on to blow away Mauro for the Texas governorship. Riding the tide of success, he became the top Republican candidate for President. The rest is history.

As fate would have it, my road trip to Texas started with the governor. On my way to my departure gate at Reagan National Airport in D.C., I ran into Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, whom I had met years ago. The consummate politician, he walked over to me, security detail in tow, and asked if I was going home (to Texas, where I was born and raised). I said yes, and informed him of my schedule (outlined above). He replied that he would miss the Texas Longhorns game, but would attend the Cowboys game on Sunday. After that exchange, I immediately sat down and emailed my boys: “Guess who I just spoke to at the airport?” Republican or Democrat, that’s good karma. Or so I thought.

After arriving in Dallas, our team assembled at Mustard’s house. (Mustard obtained his nickname in the Yankee Stadium bleachers after eating a bloated pretzel with mustard.) Mustard got married in August, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that he now had a cat named Austin. We all hate cats and know that he once shared our sentiment. “The cat came with the package,” he said despondently. The unbridled hazing then commenced, and as expected Austin the cat would be a continued theme throughout the trip.

As Mustard defended his masculinity, we hopped in the King Ranch Edition F-150 and headed for the Ballpark at Arlington, which is adjacent to Cowboys Stadium. On the way, we tuned-in to Cowboys radio and joined the decade’s long debate over whether Jerry Jones should have fired Tom Landry. (Yes, it’s still raging.) The debate within the truck lasted until we saw what looked to be a mushroom cloud on the horizon. (“That’s not a planet. That’s a space station.”) Upon closer examination, it turned out to be – you guessed it – our final destination in two days.

For now, Cowboys Stadium would have to wait. The Texas Rangers were still in the playoff hunt, and could have made up significant ground against the division-leading Angels. But the ballpark wasn’t even full (Friday night = high school football), and those who cared to show up were listless. So were the Rangers. They lost the game (and the season). Not to worry. We really didn’t care much for the Rangers, and this game was just a primer for a weekend of football.

We woke up early Saturday morning, attached the Freedom Grill to the rear bumper of the truck, and left one Austin (the cat) for another (the Texas capital). Before leaving town, we patronized a Mexican michoacana and stocked up on fresh tortillas and a bunch of marinated meat of different species. It took us three hours to reach Austin, and on the way we passed Troy, Texas, which the city council renamed Troy Aikman, Texas during the glory years. (It has since been renamed Troy.)

Outside Memorial Stadium, we claimed a good piece of real estate, and set up our oversized Texas Longhorns tent. We then hooked up the flat-screen television to the DirecTv satellite dish and – voila! – started watching the noon college football games. We then fired up the grill, tossed the pigskin around, and prepared for the 7pm kickoff. When the food was ready, Mustard asked: “Does anyone want vegetables?” The perplexed reply was: “You mean, like, onions?”

The Longhorns disposed of the Red Raiders in front of 101,297 people, the largest audience in the history of Texas football. When they announced the record, Mustard turned to me and said, “That record will stand for one day.”

On Sunday, we returned to Dallas in time to tailgate again. Same set up. Same food. Coolers still heavy. After we sat down, we noticed that a few Rangers fan were sulking back to their vehicles after another demoralizing loss. Many of them stopped in their tracks at the site of the satellite dish and Freedom Grill. I learned that day that people are more intrigued by professional tailgating than the White House.

As I reach the end of my word limit, my business partner, the other Mike DeNero (the one without the “C.” middle initial) is anxiously awaiting the part where I describe how his New York Giants pulled out a lucky victory over my Cowboys. But I will give him no such satisfaction. So I’ll end with this. The stadium reminded me of Thunder Dome. It was gigantic; so big that when you think you’re about to enter, you still have fifteen minutes of walking remaining. The inside is cavernous, immaculate, and intimidating (at least for the fans). Really, you have to see it to believe it.

And yes, we broke the Texas football record for largest audience, set the previous night in Austin. The record now stands at 105,121.

Now that’s the cat’s meow. Right, Mustard?

Bob Lemke's Cool Custom Cards: December 2009

The 1952 Red Man Tobacco Mickey Mantle

By Bob Lemke

I've expanded my custom card repertoire with this latest creation. It's a “what might have been” fantasy card of Mickey Mantle in the format of the 1952 Red Man tobacco cards.

My custom Mantle is in the original 3-1/2" x 4" format. To better replicate the original Red Mans, I used a thinner cardboard stock for this one. It really has the “feel” of the originals.

As opposed to most of my custom cards, on which the back -- which usually has biographical details, stats, cartoons, etc. -- takes more time to create than the front, this one was a snap. Since the backs of 1952 Red Mans (and 1953, 1954, 1955, as well) were “generic,” I only had to scan an original and clean it up a bit.

The front is essentially a mashup of three elements. The background is from the front of a 1955 Red Man Whitey Ford card. With one click in my Photochop Elements graphics program, I flopped the image and moved the Yankee Stadium details from the left to the right side of the card.

The coupon at bottom started out on a scan I found on an auction site of a 1952 Red Man Ted Williams card. I changed the card number and cleaned up the typography and color bars.

Mantle's picture came from the cover of the 1953 Dell Baseball Annual. I had to do a lot of trial-and-error cutting and pasting to find a size and positioning that would allow for maximum detail yet still leave room for the text box.

I've always been frustrated that the Photoshop Elements program doesn't have the ability to create justified text . . . at least not that I've ever been able to find on my ancient 2.0 version.

After giving the matter some thought and trying a few workarounds, I determined that if I wanted to create justified text such as usually found on baseball cards, I'd just have to bite the bullet and do it the hard way. After writing my text in the designated space, I nudge every single word of it into a position that creates a pretty good approximation of justified type.

There's currently one more Red Man-style card on my to-do list, though I don't know when I'll actually get it into production. You'll see it on my blog ( before you'll see it anywhere else.

As always, you can access images of many of my custom card creations at If you think you'd like any of the actual cards as holiday gifts, contact me for details at


Bob Lemke is a collector of bubblegum cards in the 1950s-1960s, Bob Lemke's hobby today is creating cards of current and former “players” in those "golden age" styles. He currently edits the vintage sections of the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards and maintains a hobby blog at

Keith's Key Kard Korner: December 2009

The 1951 Bowman #4 – Norm Van Brocklin (Rookie Card)

A bubble gum production factory is a most unusual place in which to produce enduring artistic works. However, in the early 1950s, the Bowman Gum Company of Philadelphia dropped some sick-looking cardboard rectangles depicting NFL players that may very well fit that description. At that time, an unwary public had more infatuation with baseball’s Golden Age. Hence, relatively few football cards were produced. Kids collected sports cards. The product of those facts is that exceedingly few examples of these smartly designed and brilliantly colored images have endured. Their desirability today is only heightened by the fact that the popularity of the modern football game has surged.

Bowman issued more Spartan releases in 1948 and 1950 with obverses devoid of player name and team logo. In 1951, Bowman tweaked their card size to 2-1/16” x 3-1/8” from the more square designs used previously. Both portrait and landscape-oriented designs were employed. Also, a name box and team logo were added to the card. The football logos used in those days were more detailed so Bowman had to incorporate a large size logo. On some cards, this works well and on others the big logo seems to dominate one quadrant of the card.

Some player cards of the 1951 Bowman Football set have a number of the above ingredients working well. One special card exists within this set benefits from a remarkable confluence of all characteristics of a classic and desirable sports card; and effectively a miniature work of art. Card #4, Norm Van Brocklin is simultaneously a Rookie card, a Hall Of Fame card, a low number card, a quarterback card, an attractively-logoed card, a depiction of a championship winner, and a well-designed card with chromatics ablaze that belongs to a highly popular vintage set. Not coincidentally, it’s a very desirable card today.

On the card, the 1949 NFL Draft pick appears to be doing what he does best – leaning back away from the defense with a mild competitive grimace while using his renowned keen insight and decision-making ability to find an open receiver. Van Brocklin was known for his field generalship rather than scrambling ability. In this pose, one can imagine the nine-time Pro Bowl player keeping away from a Sam Huff pass rush while peering for one of his two Hall Of Fame receivers Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch or Tom Fears.

The card design benefits from the fact that the Los Angeles Rams were the first professional football team to use logos on their helmets, separating early Rams cards from their plain-helmeted contemporaries. The background color of the Van Brocklin card is similar enough in color to his cobalt jersey to offer compliment, yet contrasting enough to distinguish the player. A feature common to the issue is the “glow” or angelic “aura” cast around the athlete’s body.

The card background is a sweeping display of artistry. As the color palette distances itself from the iridescent glow and away from the player’s body out to the card border, the effect is a breathtaking transition of azure hues – periwinkle, sky blue, beryl, indigo, violet, and midnight blue.

It is of this author’s personal opinion that this may be the most aesthetically pleasing sports card ever produced. The fact that the artistry reaches a high level is paradoxical considering that it depicts the ultimate hard-hitting man’s game. However, it is no more paradoxical than the fact that this artwork is found on a football card produced in a humble bubble gum factory.

Our Consignment Program: We offer our consignors affordable and fair consignment rates and the ability to sell their sportscards, ticket stubs and memorabilia through one, two, and/or three channels: our eBay store, our eBay auctions, and our website.

Contact us today to discuss your collection. You can call us at (571) 213-4713 or e-mail us at We look forward to speaking with you.