Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mike DeNero's Neighborhood: March 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 - March 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!

La Demi-Grade Ne Peut Faire Une Différence

(Translation: The half-grade can make a difference)

Bonjour, collectionnuers de cartes! It’s me again, Leela, and I’m gonna give ya some vintage cardboard education … my tip o' the month. Voilà!

For those of you who send your cards into grading companies for “grading, authentication, and encapsulation,” I have some free advice for you. If you do not have a strong preference for a particular grading company and are undecided as to whether to send your cards to PSA or SGC, for example. Take a look at your cards with a critical eye. If your cards are likely to grade 3s and 4s, you’ll probably want to send them to PSA because they now offer half-grades (e.g., 3.5, 4.5). While SGC offers half-grades for some grades, they do not offer 3.5 or 4.5. Therefore, if you send them to PSA, you might get some 3.5s and 4.5s on cards that would grade 3 or 4, respectively, with SGC. Excellente idée, non? Qui mieux que moi? Personne!

Now, with that said, PSA only started using half-grades fairly recently, presumably in an effort to gain extra revenue from collectors and dealers by grading cards a second time that they’d already graded once, but that’s besides the point, right? Pas très cool, PSA; pas très cool.

Gotta go ... I just got a call from my dry cleaner. They’ve had my vintage red wool Maurice "the Rocket" Richard #9 Montreal Canadiens hockey sweater since Monday night and promised me it’d be ready by Tuesday (after 5 pm, of course). But it’s now Friday and they finally called to tell me it’s ready to pick up. I swear I saw the dry cleaner guy wearing it the other day – when he saw that I spotted him, the little rat ducked into an alley. When I told my mommy to run him down with the car, she told me that he was a Maple Leafs fan and that “no self-respecting Toronto Maple Leafs fan would ever steal a little girl’s Rocket Richard sweater.” Little does my mom know … all Leafs fans secretly wish they were Candiens fans. Silly mere … elle ne sait rien sur le hockey!

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

In Between Naps - March 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.

Thanks for the Memory

By Rob Dewolf

If ever a scene from a movie hit home with me, it's one from City Slickers, the 1991 comedy that stars Billy Crystal and tells the story of three men in their late 30s, each of whom have reached various crossroads in their lives.

The character Bonnie Raybern (played by Helen Slater) comments about the details men can remember when it comes to baseball.

"I've been to games," she says, "but I don't memorize who played ... third base for ... Pittsburgh in ... 1960!"

Almost simultaneously Mitch Robbins (Crystal), Ed Furillo (Bruno Kirby) and Phil Berquist (Daniel Stern) blurt the answer: Don Hoak.

Bonnie was spot-on: Most longtime baseball fans I know possess an ability to recall facts and figures that leaves non-fans scratching their heads -- and in the case of the females in my house, rolling their eyes. I think collectors are like that, too. The memories of treasures landed and lost remain vivid for years after the fact.

Being both a baseball fan and collector, I feel lucky to have this total recall.

There's just no possible way that it was more than 30 years ago when I bought my first prewar baseball card. Mid July. Hartville Flea Market in northeast Ohio. The dealer was set up in the smaller lot off the side of the building that is home to the Amish restaurant and high-end gift shop that sells Hummels, Royal Doultons and other figurines that are utterly useless to a 14-year-old boy.

His tables were crowded with a mish-mash of inventory. Piles of Life Magazines. Boxes of postcards. A conglomeration of salt-and-pepper shakers, cereal bowls and other kitchen utensils. A baby bathtub nearly full of used golf balls, a few of which looked like they'd been struck by Old Tom Morris himself. Behind the horseshoe configuration of this display, propped up against a van whose open side door provided access to a dozen unpacked boxes, were two rusted bicycles, one without its seat.

And amongst all this mess were a few three-ring binders.

Having learned at a young age that a table with such a hodgepodge of offerings is worth a second look, I flipped open the cover of the top notebook and momentarily froze. Staring back at me were nine baseball players, their faces having rested on colorful backgrounds and framed by gold borders for six decades.


The next page offered more of the same. As did the next. And the next. There were about 20 plastic sheets, all of which held baseball cards. T cards in the front, Goudeys and Play Balls in the middle, some 1950s Topps in the back.

I never even made it to the back for a close look (no doubt missing out on an Aaron rookie for $3). Instead, I regrouped from the momentary shock of having stumbled upon this oasis in the midst of the early afternoon, 90-degree heat and 80 percent humidity and redirected my attention to the T205s.

As I began to search for Cobbs, Speakers and Mathewsons, I was filled with a sudden dread: Having been at the flea market since just after daybreak, I had made quite a few purchases that had left my wallet nearly empty. Worse yet, none of these bargain buys were of the baseball card variety. Instead, I had added new additions to my other collecting passion at the time: beer cans. Yep, I was part of that generation. (Six large boxes in my parents' attic today serve as proof. E-mail me if you're interested in a deal.)

Some quick mental math told me I had enough money to buy one, maybe two, cards. So it was just as well that all of the T205s in the book were of common players. Had there been a Cobb for $10 when I had only $3, well, that would have been too much to bear.

Surprisingly, it didn't take long to make a decision. I pointed to a card of Jimmy Dygert, glanced up at the man behind the table and asked, "How much?"

"$3," came the reply.

"Will you take $2?"

"I suppose."

Why Jimmy Dygert? Simple. Dygert's team, The Philadelphia A's, were represented in the upper-left corner of the card by an elephant. Pretty cool. Plus, the A's no longer were in Philly. Those two facts were reason enough. Remember, I was 14.

Negotiating the reduced price gave me another dollar to spend. Seeking a little variety, I ventured to the middle of the book and picked out a 1940 Play Ball of Dutch Leonard, for no other reason than I thought the nickname "Dutch" on the front of the card was -- you guessed it -- cool.

Not wanting to push my luck, I paid the $1 asking price and slid the two cards into an envelope I brought just in case I got lucky that day.

That Dygert card was my pride and joy for many years. Eventually I either lost it or traded it, I don't remember which (of course, the beer cans I still have). Not long ago I came across a graded example, one that is much nicer than my original. I bought it, thinking that it would help me reconnect to that magical day. And though I'm glad that a T205 Dygert once again is part of my collection, I discovered that I didn't need a a replacement to rekindle those memories.

More than three decades later, my luck is holding.

The Amazing Spider-Man and Me

The Amazing Spider-Man and Me

By Bob Sayn

Two people in my life are responsible for the humongous stack of Spider-Man comic book boxes in my basement: my best friend and my son, who is now 7-years-old. I blame them because we addicts never blame ourselves for our addictions. How could we? We are simply powerless to do anything about them.

It all started twenty years ago. I was seventeen and had just started a new part-time job at local chain store called Maijer’s, making minimum wage ($3.35 per hour) for the arduous task of accepting bottle & can returns and giving refund slips to the interesting folks who returned them. One of my co-workers (who is now my best friend going on twenty years) suggested we head out to lunch together. Little did I know, that a little stop we made at Palmer’s (Canton, Michigan’s finest and only hobby shop) after lunch would change my life forever. Palmer’s was a typical small town hobby shop: model cars and planes mixed in with a bunch of other rubbish ... and back issue comic books. As my friend thumbed anxiously through a box containing his favorite comics, I aimlessly strolled over to the first comic box in a row and rummaged through it. The boxes contained comics arranged alphabetically, so I was in the "A" box; was it destiny that I would shortly set my hands on my first Amazing Spider-Man comic? Within moments, I spotted the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man #48 and bought it for $5. Later that night, I started to read the comic and so began the greatest journey of my life.

As I approached its final pages, I wondered how Spider-Man would get out of the trouble he was in with the Vulture. Just as Spider-Man was about to bite the dust, I turned to the final page and was smacked with three seemingly innocuous little words that hooked me forever: "To Be Continued."

As soon as I awoke the next morning, I sprang out of bed to venture to Palmer’s once more to grab issue #49 -- I needed to know if Spider-Man got out the jam he was in with The Vulture! Luckily, Palmers had a copy, so I bought it and continued my journey. Shortly thereafter, I decided to assemble a run of Amazing Spider-Man comics. Aided by the huge inventory at local comic book conventions, I compiled a straight run from #40 to #100. In those pre-Internet years, that was quite a feat for a collector on a student's budget.

Like many addicts, I somehow managed to take a hiatus from collecting during my college/young-professional/married/early fatherhood years. But then, my five-year-old son pulled me back in! One day, as he pretended to be Spider-Man, I decided to read one of my old comics to him -- The Amazing Spider-Man #54. It still had a $13 sticker on it, presumably purchased by me for such amount at a local comic book convention years ago. My son loved the comic, of course -- he's a chip off the old block!

I then searched the Internet to see if I could find an approximate value for my $13 investment -- I was shocked to see that it was worth over $100, given its condition. Not too shabby of an investment. At that point, I only let him play with my dupes, and only then if they were in poor condition [note to reader: insert your favorite smiley emoticon here]. It was then that I decided to what any other addict would have; finish off my collection of Spider-Man comics and only let my son play with Web of Spider-Man comics because those are still cheap to buy.

Recently, I completed my full run from #1 to the present day (a massive 600+ comics). Wednesday is new comic book day, so each humpday, I go to the local shop to check out what's new. Of my 600+, my favorite comic is Amazing Spider-Man #33, which is the last of a three-part series, an ordeal that changed Spider-Man's life forever. I suppose, it changed mine as well. I guess Spidey and I have something in common. Hmm, I wonder if he'd ever think about collecting The Amazing Bob Sayn, volumes 1-600?

Tony & Bernie's "Big Apple" Stash - March 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, Tony takes a stab at waxing poetic about one of his all-time favorite players. Unlike Bernie, Tony’s spelling skills are well honed, especially for a 5-year-old. Enjoy!

The Good Ol’ Days

You heard from my twin brother, Bernie, in last month’s e-Newsletter. Bernie wrote (and I use that term loosely) about one of his favorite cards depicting Phil "the Scooter" Rizzuto; to be specific, the Scooter's 1949 Bowman example. Today, I'll tell you a story about one of my favorites. By the way, in the coming months (if not sooner, such as after reading this introductory paragraph), you will notice that I write more eloquently (and spell better) than my brother Bernie.

My tale begins in my house one morning -- one typical of any weekend day. I rise during the 5 o'clock hour and give my stuffed Tigger, Pooh, and Handy Manny a collective huge hug. As my twin brother, Bernie, continues to snore, I tear off into my mommy and daddy's room, arrive at my daddy's side of the bed, and put my smiley little face right up to his. Just before he finishes the waning seconds of his weekend slumber, I grab his cheeks to wake him up and blurt "say cock-a-doodle-dooo!" He obliges and within minutes, I drag him from under the covers and into the basement where he, as always, plays me an episode of my favorite cartoon, Kipper, that we've previously recorded and stored on our DirecTV HD DVR and hands over the powdered doughnut and cup of orange juice he poured me during our brief pit stop to the kitchen. As soon as Kipper begins, I realize that it is one I have seen once too often and blurt to my daddy, “Wanna skip it?,” in my typical half-request, half-demand manner. After daddy obliges by choosing another Kipper for me to watch, lays out a couple of the dozens of boxes of graded vintage sportscards he's collected over the years (many of which he purchased at our local shop, Mike DeNero's), and props himself onto the couch, I look at him with a smile and say, "Faaan-tastic!"

As the Kipper theme plays in the background, I grab the box thinking that it held my daddy's 1950 Bowman football cards. But, as I open it, I quickly notice that there are no '50 Bowmans as I'd expected, but 1966 Topps football cards instead! "Boo-hoo-hoo," I whine to my daddy as he laughs and replies, "Take a look at 'em; some of 'em are kinda cool."

Sure enough, my daddy is correct. As I thumb through the box, I stumble onto the 1966 Topps #96 Joe Namath, "Broadway Joe's" second year card. I love Joe Namath! This card is particularly cool because Joe looks as if he’s looking at me through an old television set. I then ask my daddy why the back of the card is white, pink, and black, and he responds that the “King of Rock ‘n Roll,” Elvis Presley designed the card backs and that pink was Elvis’ favorite color. While I suspect that my daddy is trying to pull the wool over my eyes, I feign my understanding and belief of his statement and move on to inspecting the rest of the card.

The cartoon on the back has a cool drawing of Joe lugging his 1965 Orange Bowl MVP Trophy toward an old convertible with an admiring girl (what else?) sitting in the passenger seat. That was back in the good ol’ days when cars were cool, football players were the good guys, Alabama was coached by a legend named “Bear,” and the Orange Bowl didn’t have the ridiculous “FedEx” in front of its name.

Ah, the good ol’ days …

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Bob Lemke's Cool Custom Cards: March 2010

My Favorite Player on a Favorite Format

By Bob Lemke

As a kid my favorite player was Milwaukee Braves' back-up first baseman George Crowe.

As is often the case, pinning down why he was my favorite is largely conjectural. It may have stemmed from seeing Crowe up close and personal at my first big league game, when we got to use my uncle's box tickets at County Stadium that were just a few rows behind the Braves' dugout on the first base side.

It may be that Crowe wore glasses, one of the few major leaguers to do so at a time when I was struggling to come to terms with being the first "four eyes" in my kindergarten class.

In any event, as an adult collector I have always been a sucker for Crowe's cards. And, since I've begun making my own custom cards, I'm now able to fill in some of the gaps in Crowe's baseball card legacy.

Crowe never appeared on a Bowman card. He was in 1952 Topps (an expensive high-number series card) and 1953 Topps, but not 1954 or 1955. He was back with Topps for a final year as a Brave in 1956, before showing up in 1957 with the Reds.

Crowe's only 1955 baseball card was in the Johnson Cookies regional issue shown here. Truth be told, the '55 Johnston card of Crowe is one of my all-time favorite baseball cards, so it's no wonder I stole that image to use when I made this 1955 Bowman "Color TV" card.

The background for the front of my 1955 Bowman-style card was taken from Jim Wilson's card in that set. I'm not sure why, but I always felt that Wilson's photo in the 1955 Bowman set was a photo that had been taken at night; it may be the dark stands in the background or the strange green color of the grass. I think Jim Brosnan's card in the same set has a similar feel.

In any event, my first effort at recreating a 1955 Bowman-style card was very satisfying for me. I don't really have any plans to do another at this point, but there were a lot of big stars in '55 that didn't get onto a Bowman card, so someday I may try another. Stan Musial? Roberto Clemente rookie?


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