Monday, February 22, 2010

Mike DeNero's Neighborhood: February 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 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.

Leela's Tips & Tricks - February 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!

Pouvez-vous l'accent, s’il vous plaît?

(Translation: Can you focus, please?)

Bonjour, collectionnuers de cartes! Leela here to provide ya with some vintage cardboard education -- in other words, here's my tip o' the month.

For those of you who can't keep (or never had) some focus in your collection -- overflowin' boxes o' rubbish commons all over the basement, have ya? -- next time you think of buyin' another card, wait 'til you ID three different ones you wanna buy. Then, only buy the one card you want most and to heck with the other two. If you take that advice over the next year, by New Years Eve, you'll have picked up fewer cards, but each one ya get will be a card ya really want! Excellente idée, non?

Gotta go ... it's time for me to go pick up my vintage red wool Maurice "the Rocket" Richard #9 Montreal Canadiens hockey sweater at the dry cleaner before they close up la boutique for the night. I hope they hang it on a real hanger this time, rather than one of those cruddy wire jobs wrapped in that crap paper.

'Til next time -- Vive Les Habitants! C'est tout!

Tony & Bernie's "Big Apple" Stash - February 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, Bernie takes a stab at waxing poetic about one of his all-time favorite Yankees. Please pardon his spelling skills and the liberties he takes with his recollections – he’s only five-years-old. Enjoy!

My Man, “da Scooter”

Hey everybodee! Dis is Tony here – da best Yankee fan on da east coast. I wanna thank my man Mike DeNero for lettin’ me and my twin bruddah Tony write dis column every month. I mean, since he’s lettin’ Leela write hers, it’s only fair we get one too, right?

Dis month, I wanna tell ya about my main man Phil “da Scooter” Rizzuto. He was da best shortstop da Bronx Bombers ever had. Now I know all yous guys out there think Derek Jeter is da best, but lemme tell ya, I seen ‘em both play. Now don’t get me wrong, they’re both great, but “da Scooter” was better (I mean, did Derek Jeter win da A.L. MVP Award in 1950, huh?).

I also like “da Scooter” because when he used to do the WPIX (channel 11) Yankee broadcasts, he would talk about anything but da game – canolis, birthdays, bakeries, Italian food, old stories, his aches and pains. You name it and “da Scooter” talked about it.

My favorite story about “da Scooter’s” ailments happened back in 1989. I was with one of my pals at his summer pad on the beach and it was rainin’ outside, so we couldn’t go to da beach. We stayed inside and watched da Yankees play in Detroit against da Tigers. Da game went extra innings, so for a few innings, “da Scooter” was broadcastin’ by hisself (no Frank Messer, no Bill White). He was talkin’ and all of a sudden, he yells “AAAAHHHH! Holy cow! I just got a pain in my knee!”

Anyway, dat’s a funny story about “da Scooter” as an old man. Here’s one of my favorite cards of him, a 1949 Bowman #98 (da “no name on front” variety). I picked dis one up off Mike DeNero a couple years ago. I carry it around school with me and show it to everybody in “show and tell.” It’s a cool card, just like “da Scooter” was a cool guy. Da best shortstop da Bombers ever had, I tell ya.

In Between Naps - February 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 and their miniature dachshund, Abby.

Technically, This Is A Great Time To Be A Collector

Like many folks this time of the year, I find myself wondering what the next 12 months will bring. Quite naturally -- for me, at least -- that includes daydreaming about what might happen in my world of collecting. This year, a nice surprise between Christmas and New Year's Day had me looking further into the future.

I received an e-mail via my Web site from a gentleman who was researching a Nap Lajoie postcard. The card, issued by the Raymond Kahn Co. in the early 1900s, had been in his possession for a number of years. A former postcard dealer, he bought it as part of a collection years ago but never got around to adding those cards -- including the Lajoie -- to his "for-sale" inventory. Thankfully.

The e-mailer found an image of a similar Raymond Kahn postcard of Lajoie on my site and was curious about what I knew about the issue. After trading a couple of e-mails, I was thrilled to discover that the postcard he had, while similar to mine, was definitely a different variation. A half-hour phone call later, we had struck a deal for me to buy the card. A few days later the card was in my collection.

Day I received his first e-mail: Wednesday.

Day I received the postcard: Monday.

Elapsed time to complete the transaction: five days.

In today's world, I suppose the quickness in which a buyer and seller are able to seal a deal isn't that noteworthy. E-mails, digital images and PayPal have reduced collectors' reliance on the postal service, Polaroids and checks. That's not news.

But what amazes me is how quickly we've come in such a short time. I don't consider myself an "old-timer" when it comes to collecting baseball cards and memorabilia. I'm still closer to 45 than I am to 50. I work on a Web site for a living, so it's not like I'm oblivious to the advances in technology that seemingly are made on a daily basis.

Yet it seems staggering that it wasn't THAT long ago that collectors traded by mail want lists and for-sale newsletters that were crammed with black-and-white, fuzzy, Xeroxed images of cards. If a possible deal was really a whopper, the buyer and seller might use fax machines to expedite the process. But the bottom line was, adding items to your collection took time and patience. Heck, even figuring out what cards you were missing from a particular set could be a challenge.

If you had told your collecting colleagues in the mid-90s that the day wasn't far off when you could sit down in front of a portable computer in your kitchen and peruse full-color, vibrant images of hundreds of thousands of baseball cards that were for sale from countless sellers worldwide -- and you could pay for them instantly and have them in hand within days -- well, you know that their reactions would have been.

Heck, if you were around during the early days of eBay, you remember when 95 percent of the listings had no images with them because so few sellers had a scanner or digital camera. That changed pretty much overnight.

OK, enough of me sitting in my virtual rocking chair, whittling a stick and reminiscing about the good old days. What the heck lies ahead for collectors?

Will we see a day when we can send actual cards -- not just images but the cards themselves -- cross-country or around the world? I'm no scientist (flunked biology my sophomore year in college, as a matter of fact), but I wonder whether someone will figure out how to break down the molecules of a card and transport them to a destination, where they'll be reconstructed in their original state. Talk about card alteration!

A far-fetched idea? Of course it is. Right now.

Or what about ways to find all those unknown cards that remain hidden in attics and basements? One day will we all have hand-held devices that we can set to detect any pieces of 100-year-old cardboard in a 5-mile radius? Who needs a metal detector when you can have a T206 detector?

Collectors today should never forget how lucky they are to have so many tools to educate themselves and build their collections, tools that as recently as 15 years ago would have seemed as outrageous as the Baseball Card Molecular Transporter 1000 -- available soon on at 20 percent off.

I can't wait to see what else is in store.

Keith's Key Kard Korner: February 2010

1948 Leaf #54 Chuck Bednarik (Rookie Card)

Chuck Bednarik was one of the most feared and crushing tacklers in the history of professional football. Born to Slovakian emigrants, Charles Philip Bednarik played football with the University of Pennsylvania after he returned from World War II. He became a “60 Minute Man” at Penn, playing both sides of the ball – center and linebacker. Appropriately, he sported the #60 jersey, as the Philadelphia Eagles selected him as 1949’s #1 Overall NFL Draft Pick.

Hard-hitting Charlie developed a nickname, “Concrete Charlie.” Despite public perception that the nickname derived from Bednarik’s rough-tackling style, it is actually a moniker that came from his off-season occupation as a concrete salesman. As it turns out, the name fit appropriately on the field – never more so than when he made his notorious tackle on New York Giants running back Frank Gifford. Bednarik struck him so hard that “The Giff” missed the next 18 months of his career, and was never the same player again.

Chuck’s athletic abilities and inspirational play became particularly distinct in 1960 when injuries forced the Eagles to ask their 12-year veteran to again play both sides of the line, just as he had in the early part of his career. “Concrete Charlie” again fulfilled 60-minute duties terrifically. He finished the season by capping the Eagles' 1960 NFL Championship Title win over the Green Bay Packers with a last-second, title-saving tackle. With just seconds remaining, the Packers' Jim Taylor appeared to be heading for a winning Packers touchdown until the last Eagle in his path, Bednarik, wrapped him up and slammed him to the ground. In fact, Bednarik stayed on top of Taylor for a few seconds so that the final seconds ticked off the clock, making sure that the Packers could not run another play.

In retirement, Chuck’s relationship with the Eagles has been...well...pretty weird, dude. His on-again-off-again feud with current Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie stemmed from Lurie’s refusal to buy copies of Bednarik’s book for the entire team – an act that would have actually violated league rules. Bednarik’s grudge continued for years to the point where Chuck openly rooted for the Patriots to beat the Eagles in the 2005 Super Bowl! Bednarik has also openly criticized Deion Sanders when he played both sides of the ball, stating that Bednarik played tougher positions when he accomplished the feat with regularity. Chuck has since apologized and reconciled for many of the above incidents.

What kind of legacy do Chuck Bednarik’s fourteen NFL seasons leave behind? Here in 2010, the College Defensive Player of The Year Award is named “The Chuck Bednarik Award”, and Bednarik’s vintage memorabilia – along with much of vintage football memorabilia at large – has surged in value and popularity in recent years.

His 1948 rookie sports card issued by the Leaf Gum Company is enormously popular with collectors. Why would that be? Many collectors curry aesthetic favor with the sweeping artistry of the early 1950s Bowman Football cards, issued just a few years later. Comparably, it can be opined that 1948 “Leafs” simply don’t look as good with their monochrome backgrounds and the odd dichotomy of players depicted in color uniforms with black-and-white flesh portions of their body showing.

So then why is this card so popular? It’s the perfect storm of scarcity, Hall of Famer, a popular card issue, and rookie. The lack of artistic quality seems to be replaced by the quirky sort of caricature-like charm that the simple Leaf design exudes. Further, the fact that the Bednarik card is often cut “off-centered” such that the white frame surrounding the card has varying widths only heightens the pursuit of better-centered examples. It is also characteristic of any 1948 Leaf cards to have extraneous print marks and ink stains, further amplifying a hunter’s pursuit of a presentable example. The fact that Bednarik is donning his collegiate Penn Quakers uniform on the card does not at all diminish the desirability. An example graded PSA 8 brought over $38,000 in 2007. Whether seeking the Yellow Background or Orange Background variety, finding a pristine, high-grade example to surface can take years.

Concrete Charlie may not have won a lot of friends, but he won nearly everything else – two NFL Championships, a Pro Football Hall Of Fame induction, eight All-Pro Selections, 1950s All-Decade Team honors, a spot on the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and, finally, his the retiring of his trademark #60 by the Eagles. His inaugural sports card has also won lasting adoration from modern football memorabilia collectors – one that is as hard to find as ... well ... concrete.

So who would really pay thousands for an example of a card that many concede is not aesthetically fulfilling. Well, I can think of one person who is typing on a computer right now. His initials are “KW.”

Super Sales?

Super Sales?

By Mike DeNero

If someone told me two year ago that I would be totally ginned-up about our online sportscards shop offering a new non-sports related product line, I would have told them they were bonkers (or ginned-up themselves … in the literal sense, of course). But that is exactly what has happened here at Mike DeNero’s Vintage Sportscards over the past couple of years … twice.

Last year, we began the long and arduous process of generating a sizable inventory of 1930s European cigarette cards featuring famous movie stars of the day (e.g., Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, aka the “Weimar Vamp”). We were so ginned-up about these cards that we began to look beyond their gorgeous appearance to learn more about them. In the case of the 1934-1937 Garbaty sets particularly, the historical tale behind the cards – that of the film and tobacco industry in pre-war Nazi Germany – was even more colorful and vibrant than the images of the Hollywood actresses that grace the cards’ surfaces. That discovery started me down the path of co-authoring with my sister, an art history scholar (pen name Kyleigh Spencer), our first (dare I say it) “scholarly” card-related article titled, Cigarettes, Starlets, and Nazis: The Historical Tale of the Garbaty Film Stars Sets, originally published in the Spring of 2009 by Classic Images movie magazine, subsequently published in two-parts by the London Cigarette Card Company’s Card Collecting News this fall, and is scheduled to appear in the immediately forthcoming issue of Collector magazine (formerly SGC Collector). Those publications have helped bring new customers to our online shop and eBay store as well as sportscard collecting veterans who have just begun to discover the unique and exquisite quality of many of the 1930s film stars card issues, including the Large 1935 Ardath Film, Stage & Radio Stars 25-card set, the various aforementioned Garbaty issues, the 1939 Rothmans Beauties of the Cinema, and 1936 Godfrey Phillips Screen Stars sets, to name a few.

Today we officially unveil our newest addition to our product offerings: vintage Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman comic books graded by CGC (to view all of the comics in our collection, click here). Why comics? Why only Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman? Are we getting out of the sportscards business in favor comic books and non-sportscards, such as the 1930s movie star cards and the 1940 Gum Inc. Superman cards? The answers to those three questions are simple: 1) Why not?; 2) Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are the three greatest comic book characters of all time; and 3) Nope, just expanding our scope a bit.

You might ask why we are choosing to expand our scope of product offerings yet again. I would answer that it is solely due to my evolving collecting interests. If you take a look at the inventory in our store, regardless of the product line, you will notice that it displays more like a collection that “inventory.” For example, you will notice that a trend develops among our sportscards – we generally offer only hall of famers (and various other great players) depicted on cards released during the earlier years of their careers that (here’s the most important part) are visually appealing. Thus we typically carry the 1954-1957 Hank Aaron cards, but do not typically offer the 1959 Topps (terrible card design; lame portrait) or the 1969 Topps (nice card design and photo, but Hank was starting to get long in the tooth and larger in the waistline). In other words, we are trying to say that we are largely addicted to the sportscard collecting hobby due to its visual nature.

Such explains our foray into the 1930’s film stars sets and now vintage Golden Age and Silver Age Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman comic books graded and encapsulated by CGC. Take a look at some of those we have to offer (click here) – just get a look at those covers!

Bob Lemke's Cool Custom Cards: February 2010

T202 Hassan Triplefolders – Honus Wagner & Max Carey

By Bob Lemke

As I promised on one of my blog entries several days ago, here is my latest custom card creation. It's done in the style of the 1912 Hassan Triplefolders that have been known to generations of collectors as T202, the set's number in the pioneering American Card Catalog by Jefferson Burdick.

There were 132 different cards in the original T202 set, comprised of 110-120 or so black-and-white center panels with various combinations of color end panels featuring teammates or rivals. For the most part the end panels were cropped versions of the players' cards from the previous year's T205 Gold Borders set.

My T202 homage features a couple of Pittsburg (that's how it was spelled at the time) Pirates who did not appear in the original T202s. Max Carey was only in his first full major league season in 1911 when the T205s were issued. His "rookie card" appeared in 1912 in the T207 Brown Background set. The portrait I used for this card is that used on his T207, though I tweaked the color a bit and "flopped" it to have him facing the center panel.

Wagner, of course, had made his displeasure at being pictured on a cigarette card known to the tobacco company in 1909, when his card was pulled from the T206 set. The picture I used on my T202 is one that appeared on a circa 1910 celluloid pinback.

The central action photo is something I stumbled across on the Internet. It is so close to the one used on the classic T202 card, "Ty Cobb Steals Third," that when I first saw it, I knew a T202 creation was in my future.

Despite having collected baseball cards for decades, I've never owned an original T202, so I had to solicit a lot of help from the experts to broaden my card making into this format. Most instrumental was T202 guru Lee Behrens who provided some original scans and some valuable critique as the project developed. Thanks, Lee!

Another collector, on viewing my T205 versions of the Carey and Wagner cards, told me something I never knew about T205s (and, by extension, T202). The National Leaguers in those sets feature the first use of a facsimile autograph on a baseball card. At least I always thought about it as a facsimile signature. It turns out that the signatures on the cards made no attempt to replicate the players' actual autographs; they were just identification applied by some long-gone commercial artists working on the T205/T202 issues.

By the time I found that out, I'd already become attached to the actual signatures of Carey and Wagner, so I decided to go with those for my cards.

You'll notice that the signature on the Wagner reads, "John H Wagner." In reality, his name (as shown on my card back) was John Peter Wagner. My best guess is that by the 1910s, Wagner had capitulated to popular demand and that the "H" on this version of his signature was intended to represent his universally known nickname of Honus. In fact, I've seen later Wagner autographs that are signed, "J. Honus Wagner."

I have one more T202-style card on my immediate to-do list of custom card projects. Be sure to watch my blog for it.


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

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