Friday, April 2, 2010

Mike DeNero's Neighborhood: April 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.

Novacent Partners Assumes Role as Publisher of SGC Collector Magazine

Novacent Partners Assumes Role as Publisher of SGC Collector Magazine

by Mike DeNero

Novacent Partners (“Novacent”), a marketing and advertising agency located in New Jersey has enjoyed a long history in the sports collectibles hobby – for example, it has produced SGC Collector magazine since 2005. In late 2009, Sportscard Guaranty, LLC (“SGC”), the hobby’s most prolific grading company, approached Novacent about assuming the role as the magazine’s publisher, and Navacent was, in the words of Al Crisafulli (one of Novacent’s principals), “thrilled” to oblige.

According to Crisafulli, shortly after assuming the role of the magazine’s new publisher, “we’ve changed [the magazine’s] name from SGC Collector to simply Collector … to reflect the broader hobby, which includes not just graded cards but all cards – and not just cards, but all types of memorabilia and collectibles.”

In his Forward to Collector’s first issue (see scans of the cover and table of contents page displayed throughout this article), Crisafulli also noted that the new magazine’s content will reflect “deeper, more detailed articles on all facets of the hobby from the obscure to the common.” The magazine’s new publishers also hope to make the magazine “larger” and publish it “more frequently.”

It’s first issue, which arrived in subscribers’ mailboxes just last week, includes a sneak peek at the soon-to-be-auctioned “Merkle ball,” an article written by me, Mike DeNero, and my co-author, Kyleigh Spencer, about the 1934-1937 Garbaty Film Stars sets, which were released in pre-war Nazi Germany (which can also be found on our blog by clicking here), a piece about collecting sports books by Max Weder, and a truly enjoyable article written by Chris Stufflestreet about collecting “the beater.”

We truly urge all collectors to become a subscriber to Collector magazine, which is released quarterly – it and Old Cardboard are the two best sportscard collecting magazines in print. Subscriptions are only $20 and can be done online through a page on SGC’s website dedicated to Collector magazine by clicking here or by visiting SGC’s home page at and clicking on the link titled “Collector Magazine” near the top of the screen.

In the words of Al Crisafulli, “curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee and enjoy [the] new issue of Collector. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.”

In Between Naps - April 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.

For Openers, Ticket Stubs Can Be Fun To Pursue

by Rob Dewolf

Plenty of writers over the years have waxed philosophically about the magic of the start of another baseball season. So there's really no need to pile on.

That being said, the allure of opening day has been a driving force within my collection of Cleveland Indians memorabilia. One of my best memories from growing up an Indians fan came in 1975, when Frank Robinson became the first black manager in the major leagues. On April 8, against the Yankees, Robinson not only made his debut as the Tribe's manager, he also homered in his first at-bat. Even more stunning, the Indians won the game.

I remember coming home from school and playing Strat-O-Matic baseball on a card table in my bedroom while listening to the game on the radio. Years later at a small baseball card show in Canton, Ohio, I picked up a program from the game. After returning home I looked through the program more closely and found a bonus tucked inside: a ticket stub from the game.

That discovery sparked a passion that has produced a collection of more than 50 Indians opening-day tickets and ticket stubs that date from 1921 to the present. Actually, to be more accurate, all but a few are Indians home-opener tickets, because for me the excitement of another season doesn't truly hit until the Indians play at home.

Collecting opening-day tickets is an interesting proposition. They're usually not very expensive, which can be nice. But they can be tough to find, because they're not high-profile items. Back in the days when you might find a card show within driving distance every weekend, it was rare to find a dealer who had opening-day ticket stubs on his table. If he had any regular-season ticket stubs at all, they likely were lying loose in his quarter or dollar box. Then, in the years that followed during eBay's heyday, sellers quite often would sell opening-day stubs without noting in their listings what they had, simply because they didn't know. Or care.

The history of major league baseball in Cleveland doesn't ooze success – two world championships since 1920. Five trips to the World Series during that span. Ouch.

But there have been memorable moments on opening day, which have produced some very desirable (and pricey) ticket stubs. Topping the list is the Indians-White Sox season-opener in 1940 in Chicago, where Bob Feller threw the only opening-day no-hitter in major league history. According to, only 14,000 were in attendance that day, which might explain why ticket stubs from the game are incredibly rare. Even though I favor opening-day tickets and stubs from games in Cleveland, the stub from Feller's opening-day no-hitter easily is my favorite. I was fortunate to pick up mine on eBay about 6-7 years ago, and it's one of only three or four I've seen.

Indians home-opener ticket stubs from the 1940s and early '50s are among the best-looking ones you'll find. They're typically oversized and colorful and have great graphics. My guess is much of the credit goes to promoter extraordinaire/team owner Bill Veeck. Not surprisingly, the fact that the Indians were "World Champions" in 1948 was heralded on Cleveland's home-opener tickets in '49. The image of Chief Wahoo wearing a crown almost is surreal.

Kind of surprising, though, is a ticket stub from St. Louis' home opener that same season. The opponent that day in Sportsman's Park happened to be the Indians, or the "World Champion Cleveland Indians" as the printing on the ticket stub reads. Then again, given that the history of the Browns is even more depressing than the Indians, maybe it makes sense that St. Louis management would promote the Indians coming to town.

On April 16, 1957, the Indians opened the season at home with a 3-2 loss to the White Sox. Batting fifth and playing left field for Cleveland that day was rookie Roger Maris, who was making his big league debut. This ticket stub finds its way on the want lists of Yankees collectors, and I've seen it sell in the $300 range.

These days, the popularity of TicketMaster tickets and ability of customers to print tickets on their own printers (for a fee, which still dumbfounds me) has put a bit of a crimp on collecting modern tickets and stubs. If a collector prefers the "old style" tickets that are on heavier stock, it's often necessary to find an example that was issued to a season-ticket holder in order to avoid the bland TicketMaster versions.

So, challenges remain in my quest to keep adding to this collection. In today's hobby, in which so often the emphasis is placed on high-value, professionally graded cards and big-money pieces of memorabilia, I've found this diversion to be just the ticket.

Mike DeNero’s Layaway Program

In a recent conversation with my aunt about our sportscards business, I mentioned that our company offers a layaway program. She sort of snickered at the thought. While it may sound a bit humorous, it has been our most successful program that we have offered to our customers to date. In fact, nearly half of our revenues for 2010 been generated through that program. Here’s how it works:

- Customers can purchase items for layaway through any of our channels: our website,, our eBay site, or over the telephone;

- We require a 10% deposit (or more, if the customer wishes) via PayPal, direct credit card payment, money order, or check;

- We provide the customer with six full months to pay off the balance and allow the customer to make as many payments during this time as he or she wishes;

- We email to the customer a brief 2-page layaway agreement that they can either sign and mail back to us or indicate their acceptance of the terms via a return e-mail; and

- We provide full insurance (at no additional cost to the customer) for the purchased products from the date of sale through delivery to the customer; and

If you have any interest in purchasing some of our products through our layaway program, please contact us by telephone at 571-449-3470 or by e-mail at We look forward to hearing from you.

Leela's Tips & Tricks - April 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!

What’s In A Grade?

(Translation: Qu'est-ce qu'un grade?)

by Leela

Bonjour, collectionnuers de cartes! It’s me again, Leela, and I’m not gonna give ya some vintage cardboard education … my tip o' the month. Voilà!

For those of you who collect vintage cards (et j'espère sincèrement que vous tous) and feel the need to buy them in a certain grade higher (e.g., “I only collect PSA 7s or higher.”), try lowering your “standards” by one whole grade. Often times, you can get a 6 that looks as good or better than a 7 – after all, the grading companies’ processes are not as strenuous as those of NASA, for example (les gars de la société de classification ne sont que les geeks carte, comme vous et moi (enfin, comme vous peut-être plus que moi). Seriously, take a good look at some of the 7s you have and then run an eBay search for the same cards in PSA 6 – I bet you find some that look better than your 7. Excellente idée, non? Qui mieux que moi? Personne!

Je dois y aller. I need to venture over to the dry cleaner to drop off my vintage red wool Maurice "the Rocket" Richard #9 Montreal Canadiens hockey sweater. On Monday night, I spilled some apple juice on the front of it while celebrating a Les Habitants goal. Then after I sat back down in my bean bag chair, I leaned back on some Lorna Doones and they left a little stain on the back. I hope that incompétents imbecile at the dry cleaner can figure out how to remove the stains without ruining my sweater! Dites une prière pour moi et Maurice Richard.

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

Tony & Bernie's "Big Apple" Stash - April 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!

The Good Ol’ Days

by Bernie

You heard from my twin brother, Tony, last month. I think he did a pretty good job tellin’ ya about dat 1966 Topps Joe Willie Namath. My turn again dis month – and boy, yer in for a treat! For dis month, I wanna tell you about one of my faves – the 1951 Bowman Yogi Berra.

Yogi is one of them Yankees who played a long time in the heyday of da National Pastime (the late 1940s through the early 1960s). Since he played in dat great time period, he’s got a lot of awesome and cool cards – the ’50 Bowman, ’53 Topps, ’53 Bowman, and so on. Too many to name, actually. Notice that I didn’t say his 1952 Topps cards was a good one – dat’s because dat card stinks. The picture is terrible. It don’t even look like Yogi. It looks like some dopey drunk with his pie hole open waitin’ to get a smack in da chops – but it don’t look like my man Yogi.

I think out of all da Yogi cards, the 1951 Bowman is da best. Take a look at that mug – he just looks like a Yogi! But even more important; he looks like a happy Yogi. Just one look at him and you think that he’s thinkin’, “Man, life is great – I’m Yogi Berra and I’m da best catcher in baseball, I play in Yankee Stadium in front of da best fans in da world, I’m a Yankee through and through, and I’m a winner!”

Yep, that ’51 Yogi is awesome. If you don’t have one in your card box, it’s time you parted with some dough and picked one up. I got this one a few months back off my man Mike DeNero. I haggled with him on price a bit and he let me Windex the card displays in his store for a little extra discount, but it was worth it. For dis card, it wouldda been worth washin’ his car – or even his dog!

Bob Lemke's Cool Custom Cards: April 2010

My Newest Custom Card Was a Co-Operative Project: the 1955 Topps Richie Ashburn

by Bob Lemke

My most recent custom card creation was more of a co-operative effort than any of my previous projects.

It all started when a long-time hobby colleague, Fred McKie of East-central Pennsylvania, contacted me after he had won a Topps Archives' auction for an original "flexichrome" that Topps had evidently created for use on a 1955 Richie Ashburn card that was never printed, perhaps originally having been intended as one of the four "missing" cards in the '55T high-number series. Cards #175, 186, 203 and 209 were never printed. It is usually believed that these were to have been cards for players that were zealously protected by Bowman, which exercised exclusive rights to their cards. Ashburn certainly could have fit into that scenario. Ashburn made his "rookie card" debut in 1949 Bowman, and appeared in every Bowman set through their finale in 1955. Along the way he also appeared in 1951 Topps (Blue Backs), 1952, and 1954 Topps.

We know Topps had intended to use Ashburn in its 1953 set, because artwork was created, though it was never made into a card until 50 years later when I used that artwork to create my own 1953-style Ashburn card.

Fred McKie is a die-hard Phillies fan and collector, and for many years was a frequent contributor of Philadelphia’s regionally issued cards and player memorabilia to the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards. When he saw my '53-style Ashburn, he inquired about availability and I sent him one.

When he purchased the 1955 flexichrome, Fred inquired about I'd be interested in doing a 1955 Topps-style card for him. A flexichriome, by the way, is how Topps colorized most of its 1952-1956) baseball card issues. It is a thin black-and-white photographic print to which color was painstaking hand painted. The finished artwork could then be made into the necessary color printing negatives. It's too bad that Internet images are so small and low-res. Up close and personal, the Ashburn portrait is stunning, right down to blazing hazel eyes.

Because I had not yet made the decision to cut back on my blogging in favor of putting more time into my custom cards, I quoted Fred a price for the commission that would have made it hard for me refuse.

He demurred, but dang it, he had his hooks in me. For the next several weeks I kept having flashed about how that portrait would look on the fading blue background that Topps used for virtually all of its 1955 Phillies. I was also somewhat rankled that my first attempt at a 1955 Topps baseball card creation had not turned out so well. In fact, I don't think it has ever been publically viewed . . . and likely never will be. About the same time, I decided that I wanted to do a 1955 Charlie Grimm manager's card, since I found a great portrait photo on the internet. I figured it would greatly ease the workload if I had a temple for the 1955 cards, so I proposed to Fred that we go ahead and do the Ashburn.

I had him send me the portrait scan, and asked him to work up the biography for the back. He accomplished that in short order, and even did the math to fill the stats boxes.

Fred chose #175 for the card number, since not only is it one of the missing 1955s, it was also the number of hits Ashburn had in 1954.

He also sent along a color image of Ashburn at bat. At first glance I thought it would work fine for the smaller "action" picture on the front, but it turned out the wide stance in the photo created some composition problems. If you study original 1955 fronts, you'll notice that with only two or three exceptions, the action photos are cap-to-toe images, filling the horizontal space to one side of the portrait or other.

The problem with the batting photo was that if we used it cap-to-toe, it was too wide, with the vertical bat obscuring too much of the team logo. A few of the "real" '55s have a small piece of the action photo either in front of or behind the logo, but in most cases the two elements do not intersect. If I moved the action picture towards the portrait in order to get the bat mostly off of the Phillies logo, too much of it intruded on the portrait, which was also something that was rarely seen in the originals.

I slept on the design for a couple of nights, and when I returned to it, I found I could live with it. I e-mailed Fred and told him of my quandary, and he responded with a trio of alternatives that were much more vertically oriented. He offered batting, throwing and leaping/fielding poses. I colorized the batting and leaping poses, plugged them into the front design and sent them to Fred for review. It turned out that we were in synch, both favoring the fielding pose as an homage to a Hall of Famer whose fielding skills were largely overlooked in the era because of a trio of New York centerfielders (Willie, Mickey and the Duke).

With that decision made, the card was quickly wrapped up. I decided that a 1955-style card should have a shiny front, so I printed the fronts on glossy photo paper. My first attempt to pair that in a sandwich with the matte back and a cardstock center proved too thick and I ruined the first sheet trying to cut it. I opted for a thinner center stock and got the look and feel I wanted.

As per our agreement, I sent Fred half of my six-card production, and he is now able to fill that hole in Richie Ashburn's Topps baseball card legacy. I got an addition to my custom card opus that I am very proud of.


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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