Friday, October 8, 2010

Mike DeNero's Neighborhood: October 2010

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 may have already 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, October 7, 2010

Mick the Quick, My Aunt, and My 1977 Kellogg's Set

Mick The Quick, My Aunt, and My 1977 Kellogg’s Set

by Mike DeNero

A few years back, I crossed the line between being a collector and a dealer. I have often heard you can’t be both, and since the day that, I have subscribed to that belief, until recently.

While I no longer purchase sportscards or memorabilia for my own collection, I do maintain those that I own, many of which I attained as a kid, in one way or another (e.g., buying packs, getting free 1977 and 1978 Burger King Yankees cards with my Whopper, fries, and a Coke, to name a few). One such item I have held onto since my childhood is my 1977 Kellogg’s 3-D Super Stars Baseball Set (card #1, George Foster, sporting his trademark California sideburns, through card #57, Steve Carlton, sporting a baby-blue Phillies jersey along with his 1970’s-style moustache). It was the first complete set that I ever owned. It was given to me by one of my favorite people in the world, my Aunt Robin.

In 1977, I was a seven year-old Yankees fan who lived in the North Jersey town of Lodi. While I started collecting cards at the age of three (to read the story of my first pack, click here), I (and my beloved Yankees) were just starting to hit our strides – me as a card collector, they as Major League Baseball’s most exciting team (to read the story of me pulling my first Reggie Jackson card from a wax pack, click here).

While I spent all of my fifty cents allowance each week at the local five-and-dime on 1977 Topps baseball cards and began to amass a pretty decent selection of the set, it was nowhere near complete – surely an impossible task, given my measly four-bits allowance, yielding me one rack pack (49 cents), if I had some extra pennies on me, or two wax packs (if I am not mistaken, they were 25 cents each).

But one day during the middle of the Summer of 1977, my Aunt Robin (who lived in Virginia) called my mom and told her that she was going to order me the complete set of Kellogg's 3-D baseball cards, a single card of which was included in each box of Kellogg’s cereal, and that it would arrive by the time we made our next visit to Virginia. I was ecstatic to hear that I was getting a complete set of baseball cards (and as a gift, no less – all the better). But, I had no idea what 3-D meant, as I’d never seen a 3-D baseball card, nor had I ever seen a 3-D movie. Regardless, I was excited.

A couple weeks later, my family and I arrived at my Aunt’s house for our typical summer stay. Upon our arrival, she presented me with the prize – all 57 3-D cards, which were the coolest looking cards I’d ever seen! The colors were vivid, the pictures incredibly sharp and detailed, and the 3-D effect made the players jump right off the surfaces of the cards!

I carried the set around with me everywhere – of course with Mickey Rivers, known affectionately to Yankees fans as “Mick the Quick,” on the top of the pile. Many of my favorite players at the time were included – the aforementioned Mick the Quick, Mark “the Bird” Fidrych, Steve Garvey, George Brett, Dave Kingman, Thurman Munson, Rod Carew, Big Dave Winfield, to name a few. The cards were so vibrant and awesome that I never noticed the absence from the set of Reggie Jackson, Nolan Ryan, and Tom Seaver, to name a few, until I sat down to write this tale. Regardless, the set includes seven Hall of Famers and countless stars of the 1970s.

If you don’t own the set, pick one up – it will only cost you $50-$150, ungraded, depending upon condition. I’ve had my complete set graded by SGC (see scans scattered throughout this article). The cards still look fabulous … and, of yeah, they are not for sale!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tony & Bernie's "Big Apple" Stash - October 2010

In an effort to avoid being bested by their pal Leela, Tony and Bernie (the lovable twins from Mike DeNero’s Neighborhood) allow me to present Tony and Bernie’s “Big Apple” Stash. As the lads are twins, and are usually forced to share, why stop at toys, snacks, and sportscards? They will also take turns authoring this column, a monthly ode to their favorite vintage sportscards picturing New York legends. This month, it’s Bernie’s turn.

My 1969 Topps Nolan Ryan and 1969 World Series Game 3 Ticket Stub

by Bernie

Since I’m a Yankee fan through and through, I usually don’t waste my time on the Mets, but Nolan Ryan is the exception. Born January 31, 1947, twenty-eight years to the day that Jackie Robinson was placed onto this Earth, Nolan Ryan is pictured on his 1969 Topps card, presumably as a twenty-one year-old fireballer (I assume the photo was taken in ’68). The photo is great, a follow-through pose, taken at a time when young Nolan was wearing the number 30 and had pitched less than the 137 MLB innings the 1968 season with. Of course, he had 144 strikeouts – more than one per inning.

Later in the 1969 season, as the Amazin’ Mets cruised to the NL East division title, thanks to their skipper, Gil Hodges guiding them to a 100-62 record, young Nolan had yet to crack the Mets’ starting rotation, which included the legendary Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Carl Gentry. That didn’t stop him from performing admirably in the NLCS versus the Braves in Game 3, when he pitched seven innings in relief to get the win (it would take him twelve years to earn his next postseason victory) and provide the Mets with their first trip to the Fall Classic.

In that series, Ryan earned the save in Game 3, pitching 2 plus shutout innings against the Baltimore Orioles. The Game 3 victory gave the Mets a 2–1 lead in the Series, which they later went on to win in five games. That Game 3 appearance would be Nolan Ryan's sole World Series appearance.

Take a look at that card – what a beauty! Nolan Ryan pictured years before accumulating seven no-hitters, twelve one-hitters, 324 wins, and 5,714 strikeouts. An amazing record for an Amazin’ Met!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

In Between Naps - October 2010

One of Rob Dewolf's passions is collecting cards of Cleveland Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie. A former minor league baseball player who advanced to Triple-A in the Padres organization, Rob's current job in the newspaper field requires him to get up at 4 a.m., six days a week. Hence the name of his column, which happens to be when he finds time to write about various aspects of the hobby. Rob lives in central Ohio with his wife and daughter.

Rarity doesn’t always mean that value is in the bag

by Rob Dewolf

Every so often I'll look at a card or piece of memorabilia in my collection and think, "Man, that should be worth more than it is."

This thought isn't sparked by regret, disgust or even puzzlement. I understand why the level of value often pales in comparison to the level of scarcity. Yet sometimes I'm left shaking my head.

Case in point: One of the coolest Cleveland Indians items I own is a shopping bag from Fishers Foods, a small grocery chain in my hometown in northeast Ohio. The brown bag is probably from the late 1960s or early '70s and features drawings of a full-size Chief Wahoo. It's in wonderful condition, and every time I look at it I marvel at how it survived.

I LOVE this thing. Ever since I bought it from another collector about 20 years ago, it's been one of my favorite Indians items. I'm pretty sure there can't be many around -- I mean, come on, a 40-year-old grocery bag? In near-mint condition? I ought to get it slabbed.

It's so "rare" and hard to find that I bet if I put it on eBay I'd get ... maybe $20? That's what I paid for it back in 1991, and I know the seller wasn't letting it go just for what he paid. My guess is he had $5 in it.

So how can such a rare, possibly unique item not be the cornerstone of the Dewolf retirement fund? Sadly, there's just not much demand for a decades-old brown-paper bag that features a drawing of a politically incorrect Native American.

Rarity is only half the equation when trying to figure out the value of a collectible. You've got to have demand, too. That's a pretty simple concept, one that I first learned in my eighth-grade General Business class when we covered the laws of supply and demand. Simple, yes, but still easy to forget and sometimes hard to accept.

Sellers often are most likely to develop amnesia when it comes to establishing the price of an item, choosing to remember only the rarity aspect.

"You know there can't be many of these out there," is a common refrain.

"You're right," I sometimes reply," and there probably is an even smaller number of buyers."

But again, I understand how easy it is to get caught up in the lure of scarcity.

I'm a sucker for Indians items that originally were sold as souvenirs. I don't know why, I just like them. Sometimes, though, you wonder what the manufacturer was thinking.

Case in point II: a balloon in the shape of a dirigible that was sold during the 1948 World Series. The one I have is unused and in the original packaging, leading me to believe that someone brought it home from the game as a present for his kid, who looked at it and immediately tossed it into the toy box.

Again, pretty rare item and very unusual. And worth probably less than an old grocery bag.

That's not to say that there's little to no value in a collectible when demand isn't terribly strong.

Case in point III: The pride and joy of my Indians collection is a 1948 World Series ring. My guess is no less than 50 and no more than 100 exist.

Rarer than the ring, though, is the original artwork for the award. The former Balfour executive who sold it to me explained that the company typically would draw up a handful of possible ring designs and present them to the management of that season's World Series champ. The brass would pick a design from the presented artwork, and the chosen one would be kept in Balfour's files.

The ratio of artwork to actual rings is at least 1 to 50. Yet a ring ($3,000-$4,000) will sell for seven or eight times what the artwork would. Why? Because it's not cool to wear an 14 x 18 drawing of a World Series ring on your hand. Even though the artwork is worth more than, say, a souvenir balloon from the same year, the value just isn't proportionate to its rarity.

Long ago I adopted a philosophy that if I wake up tomorrow and my baseball collection is worthless, I'll still be happy that I own each and every card and piece of memorabilia. Because of this, it's easier to focus on compiling and enjoying a collection rather than worrying about its value. So the whole "This should be worth more than it is" thing is more of a musing and less of a malady.

That said, I'll still look at my 1950s Chief Wahoo yellow necktie and wonder how I was able to buy it for only $30. There just can't be many of them "out there."

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Leela's Tips & Tricks - October 2010

Leela’s Tips & Tricks is Leela’s first foray into writing a monthly column – she usually just appears in Mike DeNero’s Neighborhood. As such, she does not have an impressive resume … yet. But give her a break; she’s only five-years-old! We hope you find her vintage collecting tips useful, her butchered attempts at composing sentences in what she calls “Canadien-French” amusing (if not refreshing, albeit confusing), and her unabashed love for her Montreal Canadiens admirable. Enjoy!

Buy Cards, Not Bags

(Translation: Cartes d'achat, pas des sacs)

by Leela

Bonjour, collectionnuers de cartes! It’s me, Leela, providing you with some vintage cardboard education … my tip o' the month. Voilà!

Well, my beloved Canadiens are no longer playing golf in the off-season – we are now officially eight days 'til next year! (Attendre l'année prochaine!)

My tip is that you should only buy cards, which are not a pain in the rump to store in your house, or a closet, or even a cabinet. I mean seriously – look at Rob DeWolf’s article on that Indians stuff he collects. Nuts, huh? Where exactly would you store a brown paper bag? Un sac en papier brun appartient sous l'évier, au mieux, oui? I myself only collect cards (except for all of my wire photos of Maurice “the Rocket” Richard, of course! Je ne peux pas oublier de mentionner ceux-ci.

Gotta go now – and please heed my strong advice. My dry cleaner just called to say that my vintage red wool Maurice "the Rocket" Richard #9 Montreal Canadiens hockey sweater is ready for opening night! Ce nettoyeur à sec est un sot, mais au moins il devient mon chandail proper. Tout va bien dans le monde quand je peux porter mon chandail avec fierté Richard.

Au revoir … Vive Les Habitants! C'est tout!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bob Lemke's Cool Custom Cards: October 2010

1967-Style Red Sox Rockers Custom Card

by Bob Lemke

My list of pending custom card projects is likely to outlive me. I've got dozens of baseball and football player photos squirrel away in files both physical and electronic. My custom card output has slowed some in the past year or two, probably averaging something less than one new card a month. And that doesn't include my "rehabilitation" projects, remaking some of my earlier cards from a time when my skills weren't as far along as they are now, or in cases where clearly superior player photos have become available.

But while my to-do list is seemingly perpetual, I can never seem to strictly adhere to it. Something frequently comes along that strikes a chord and I drop everything else to take it on.

That was the case a month six weeks back when I found on eBay a very sharp photo of the Red Sox outfield of 1967 -- Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Smith and Tony Conigliaro. The image of that photo on a late-Sixties style multi-player feature card (a term I invented for a Baseball Cards magazine article in the early '80s) leapt to mind and I was hooked.

I was the successdul bidder on the photo and while I waited for it to arrive, I did my homework. I quickly determined that the format for the card should be 1967. That's the year Tony C. was beaned and he didn't play at all in 1968. The trio was back in the Fenway outfield for 1969, but I decided to go with the '67 style.

Putting the back together was a challenge because of the space limitations and the necessity of covering three players. As always, I printed out stats from the SABR data base, then tried to copy the spirit of Topps writers of that era, who were writing for 10-year old boys, not adult card collectors.

My original version of the card front had the "RED SOX ROCKERS" in red type, matching that on the Boston uniforms in the photos. When he viewed the prototype on my computer, SCD editor T.S. O'Connell, himself a baseball artist, pointed out the card title seemed hard to read, with the black-outlined red letters largely coming out from the navy blue sleeves.

My next choice was to go with a light blue, picked out of the sky in the photo, and that seems to have been a great improvement. Maybe the red letters caused the eye to strain too much towards the title in an effort to read it, but to me, the blue letters at bottom, along with the blue sky above, seem to better frame the players and allow the eye to be drawn to that central element. I hope you agree.


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